2015-16 Big East Basketball Preview

After a disappointing showing in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, many Big East teams are looking to turn things around in 2015-2016. Here is the 2015-16 Big East basketball conference preview.

2015-16 Big East Basketball Preview

  1. Villanova Wildcats

Last season, Villanova ran away with the Big East title, losing only two games in the regular season. This season figures to be a lot tougher for them as they try to deal with the departures of leading scorer Darrun Hilliard II (14.3 PPG), big man JayVaughn Pinkston (9.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG) and utility guard Dylan Ennis (9.9 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.5 APG). In their absence, look for Ryan Arcidiacono (10.1 PPG) and Josh Hart (10.1 PPG, 46% 3pt) to lead the offense. Leading rebounder Daniel Ochefu (8.5 RPG) will need to stay healthy and out of foul trouble because Villanova lacks any serious interior depth. Jalen Brunson, the No. 2 PG recruit, may be asked to play big minutes early in the season, but that trial by fire should lead to greater success when it counts in March. Even though Villanova loses 3 of 5 starters, their pass first offense and swarming defense should allow them to hang onto the crown for another year.

  1. Georgetown Hoyas

Georgetown will go as D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera goes this year. The senior led Georgetown in scoring at 16.3 points per game last year. Smith-Rivera was initially headed to the NBA, but withdrew his name, meaning the Hoyas will only lose 3 starters from last year’s team that bowed out in the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament. Georgetown will look to LJ Peak and budding sophomore Isaac Copeland to shoulder some of the load with Smith-Rivera. The Hoyas have three 4-star recruits joining the squad this year, with 6’10” center Jessie Govan the most likely to make a big impact. While Georgetown might not have great depth off the bench this year, their talented starting lineup should be able to do enough to possibly challenge for a Big East title.

  1. Xavier Musketeers

Xavier will look to build off the success of last season, which ended with a disappointing loss to Arizona in the Sweet 16. They were the only Big East team to make the Sweet 16 last year, but the heart and soul of the team, Matt Stainbrook graduated, leaving the Musketeers with some unproven players who will be forced to play big time minutes in the frontcourt. Four-star commit Kaiser Gates will look to make an early impact and help minimize the loss of Stainbrook. The trio of Trevon Bluiett, Myles Davis and Remy Abell will lead a more experienced backcourt. With head coach Chris Mack leading Xavier, the Musketeers will try to surprise everyone and come out on top of the Big East.

  1. Butler Bulldogs

It seems like just yesterday Butler was a half-court shot away from an NCAA title. Butler loses two starters from a team that pushed #2 Notre Dame to the brink in overtime in the NCAA Tournament last March. Butler will have a tough time replacing the presence of Kameron Woods in the paint, who averaged 7.8 points per game and 9.9 rebounds per game. At 6-9, four-star recruit Nate Fowler will be called upon to help shore up that area, but nearly every other big man on Butler played sparingly last season. Tyler Lewis will step into the spot vacated by Alex Barlow, and he will hope to improve upon his 4.4 ppg and 3.8 apg in the 2013-2014 season at NC State. Overall, this young Butler team has plenty of talent, but will need some leaders to step up this season.

  1. Providence Friars

Providence will have a tough go of it after finishing 4th last season in the Big East. They lose three of their top four scorers: LaDontae Henton (19.7 ppg 6.5 rpg), Tyler Harris (9.9 ppg), and Carson Desrosiers (6.7 ppg 40% 3pt). Kris Dunn returns and brings his gaudy stat line of 15.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 7.5 apg and 2.7 spg. Help is on the way for Dunn, although it will be fairly inexperienced. Power forward Ben Bentil will lead the frontcourt, and 7’2” Paschal Chukwu has worked a bunch on his post moves and should have improved greatly from last season. Providence also has a trio of incoming 4-star recruits, but the only one likely to provide an immediate impact is Alex Owens, who will probably be the first or second guy off the bench to begin the year. In a rebuilding year, Providence will go as far as Kris Dunn can carry them.

  1. Marquette Golden Eagles

Marquette had one of the most disappointing seasons last year, finishing last in the Big East. They lose three starters, including leading scorer Matt Carlino (15.0 PPG) and leading rebounder Juan Anderson (5.7 RPG). However, the Golden Eagles hope to get a full season from Luke Fischer, who missed a critical part of last season due to injury. The biggest reason for a Marquette improvement this season lies squarely on the shoulders of one man: 5-star recruit Henry Ellenson. Ellenson will be an absolute terror on the interior and should give Marquette a good inside-out option on offense. While the Golden Eagles may not make the leap into the top half this year, they have only one senior on the team and should be primed to make a run at the title in years to come.

  1. Creighton Bluejays

Creighton had 10 players average double digit minutes last year, and even though they lose five of those players, they should be able to improve upon last year’s finish where they tied for last with Marquette. The Bluejays want to see a full season from Isaiah Zierden, who missed 13 games last season, but averaged 9.5 points per game and shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range. F/C Toby Hegner will be the go-to person in the frontcourt, although expect much of the same offense by committee from the Blue Jays this year. If incoming Freshman Justin Patton and Khyri Thomas can live up to expectations, Creighton will have their eyes set on an at-large birth to the NCAA tournament.

  1. Seton Hall Pirates

Seton Hall thought their prayers were going to be answered when star guard Sterling Gibbs and his 16.2 ppg decided against the NBA Draft. Unfortunately for the Pirates, Gibbs headed to Connecticut where he will finish off his eligibility. In his absence, Isaiah Whitehead (12.0 PPG, 3.5 APG, 1.4 SPG) will have to lead the offense. Derrick Gordon, a transfer from UMass will provide much needed leadership for this young squad. Power forward Angel Delgado will once again be the go-to-guy on the inside for the Pirates, but will also try to add on to his 9.3 points per game and 9.8 rebounds per game from last season. Ultimately, it will most likely be a trying season for Seton Hall as they try to put together the pieces and make a run for the NCAA tournament.

  1. St. John’s Red Storm

St. John’s is going to find life in the Big East difficult this year. They lose all five starters from last season, and these five happened to lead the team in scoring and rebounding.  The Red Storm squeaked into the NCAA tournament last year, but this year, it looks like the fight will be to avoid the cellar of the Big East. St. John’s has a solid 6 man recruiting class, but asking them to fill in for all five starters immediately is absurd. While this team has untapped potential, it appears this season will be one to forget for St. John’s as they try to rebuild around new coach Chris Mullin.

  1. DePaul Blue Demons

DePaul only loses 3 out of 8 players who played significant minutes last season. The problem for the Blue Demons is their lack of depth. Their recruiting class is subpar and outside of the five returners with experience, the bench is unproven. Billy Garrett Jr (12.3 PPG, 3.9 APG) and Myke Henry (12.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG) will pace the offense, while Tommy Hamilton IV with anchor the defense inside. Although DePaul lacks depth, they could sneak into the top half of the conference if their starting rotation stays healthy.