LWOS coverage of the NCAA basketball season continues with the Big East basketball preview. New this year, the Big East welcomes back the Connecticut Huskies after a seven-year absence in the American Athletic Conference. As has been the norm, this conference is top-heavy with teams such as the Villanova Wildcats, Creighton Bluejays, and Seton Hall Pirates. How does newcomer UCONN fit in this mix and how will the rest of the conference shake out?
2020-21 Big East Basketball Conference Preview
11. DePaul Blue Demons
Key Returners: Charlie Moore, Romeo Weems, Jaylen Butz
Key Losses: Paul Reed, Jalen Coleman-Lands
Key Newcomers: Javon Freeman-Liberty (Valparaiso), Ray Salnave (Monmouth)
Once again, the Blue Demons round out the bottom of the Big East. Last year, DePaul finished 3-15 in the Big East. And since 2009, DePaul and has finished last in the Big East ten different times. Shockingly, head coach Dave Leitao currently has a top-10 recruiting class in-store after the 2021 season. However, the Blue Demons are still bound for the bottom of the Big East.
10. Georgetown Hoyas
Key Returners: Jahvon Blair, Jamorko Pickett, Qudus Wahab
Key Losses: Mac McClung, Omer Yurtseven, Terrell Allen, Jagan Mosely
Key Newcomers: Jalen Harris (Arkansas), Tyler Beard
The Hoyas are still in rebuild mode under head coach Patrick Ewing. Georgetown lost McClung and Yurtseven, two players that averaged more than 15 points per game last season. But, Ewing added some talented newcomers. Harris is a speedy and talented transfer guard from Arkansas. Beard is a solid recruit. Still, the Hoyas shouldn’t expect a ton of winning in 2020-21.
9. St. John’s Red Storm
Key Returners: Rasheem Dunn, Julian Champagnie, Marcellus Earlington, Josh Roberts
Key Losses: LJ Figueroa, Mustapha Heron
Key Newcomers: Posh Alexander, Arnaldo Toro (George Washington), Vince Cole (JuCo)
Figueroa is a huge loss for the Red Storm. Above all, he was the program’s leading scorer over the past two seasons and a versatile defender. Notably, it will be interesting to see head coach Mike Anderson, in his second season, begin to fill out the roster with his own recruits. Alexander is the point guard of the future. The Red Storm also added Cole, a JuCo All-American. Anderson will expect a lot from Dunn and Big East All-Freshman Champagnie. Yet, the losses of Figueroa and Heron are too much to replace.
8. Butler Bulldogs
Key Returners: Aaron Thompson, Bryce Golden, Bryce Nze
Key Losses: Kamar Baldwin, Sean McDermott, Jordan Tucker
Key Newcomers: Mike Parker (Salisbury), Jair Bolden (South Carolina), Jakobe Coles
Butler lost its three top offensive weapons from last year in Baldwin, McDermott, and Tucker. But, the Bulldogs return Thompson and add Bolden, a transfer from South Carolina, in the backcourt. Thompson is more of a defensive-minded guard. Bolden will hold a lot of pressure to score in this offense. Nze and Golden started in all 31 games in the frontcourt last season. Butler possesses a nice mix and youth and veteran but is still lacking.
7. Providence Friars
Key Returners: David Duke, AJ Reeves, Nate Watson
Key Losses: Alpha Diallo, Luwane Pipkins, Kalif Young
Key Newcomers: Jyare Davis, Jared Bynum (St. Joseph’s), Noah Horchler (North Florida)
Head coach Ed Cooley and the Friars lost three starters from last year’s squad. However, Providence still possesses one of the most interesting backcourts in the country. Duke and Reeves, both juniors, will carry the load in the backcourt. The Friars also added Bynum, an uber-quick transfer guard. Watson and North Florida transfer Horchler are both back-to-the-basket forwards with decent size.
6. Marquette Golden Eagles
Key Returners: Koby McEwen, Jamal Cain, Theo John
Key Losses: Markus Howard, Sacar Anim
Key Newcomers: D.J. Carton (Ohio State), Dawson Garcia
Marquette is another team in the Big East replacing a huge senior loss. This loss came in the form of Howard, the nation’s leading scorer last year and one of the best players in program history. Luckily, head coach Steve Wojciechowski added coveted Ohio State transfer Carton. Therefore, look for the Golden Eagles to display a more balanced attack.
5. Xavier Musketeers
Key Returners: Paul Scruggs, KyKy Tandy, Jason Carter, Zach Freemantle
Key Losses: Naji Marshall, Tyrique Jones
Key Newcomers: Nate Johnson (Gardner Webb), Dwon Odom, Ben Stanley (Hampton), Adam Kunkel (Belmont)
Xavier will feature a bevy of newcomers in the backcourt this season. Odom highlights the Musketeers’ top-25 recruiting class, a freakishly athletic and touted guard. Xavier also adds Johnson, a transfer guard from Garder Webb. It should be noted, Johnson still awaits his NCAA waiver. Carter and Freemantle will roll the Musketeers’ frontcourt. Last season, the duo combined for 45 starts.
4. Seton Hall Pirates
Key Returners: Sandro Mamukelashvili, Ike Obiagu, Myles Cale, Jared Rhoden
Key Losses: Myles Powell, Quincy McKnight, Romaro Gill
Key Newcomers: Bryce Aiken (Harvard)
Head coach Kevin Willard has a big hole to fill with the graduation of Powell, one of the best players in program history. But, enter Aiken, a transfer from Harvard who hails from Randolph, N.J. The graduate transfer and two first-team All-Ivy selection is a prolific scorer and will help fill this gap. In addition, Mamukelashvili is the Pirates’ best option in the frontcourt. He’s a 6-foot-11 forward who averaged nearly 12 points and six rebounds per game last year.
3. Connecticut Huskies
Key Returners: James Bouknight, Tyler Polley, Josh Carlton, Jalen Gaffney
Key Losses: Christian Vital, Alterique Gilbert
Key Newcomers: RJ Cole (Howard), Andre Jackson
UCONN returns home to the Big East after a seven-year absence in the American Athletic Conference. And, in Dan Hurley‘s third year as head coach, expect this team to land at the top of the conference. The Huskies return sophomore guard Bouknight, a budding star. Bouknight added 13 points of electric scoring last season. UCONN also added Cole, a transfer from Howard. He was the MEAC Player of the Year last season and a two-time scoring champion.
2. Creighton Bluejays
Key Returners: Marcus Zegarowski, Mitch Ballock, Damien Jefferson, Christian Bishop
Key Losses: Ty-Shon Alexander, Davion Mintz
Key Newcomers: Antwann Jones (Memphis), Ryan Kalkbrenner
Creighton looks to build on an impressive end to last season. The Bluejays took home its first-ever share of a regular-season title. Zegarowski helped lead this team down the stretch, winning 11 of its final 13 games. He’s the most lethal three-point shooter in the conference and averaged 16.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 5 assists per game last year. Nonetheless, Creighton will go as far as its frontcourt allows. This smaller frontcourt is led by an undersized 6-foot-7 center in Bishop.
1. Villanova Wildcats
Key Returners: Collin Gillespie, Justin Moore, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Jermaine Samuels
Key Losses: Saddiq Bey
Key Newcomers: Caleb Daniels (Tulane), Eric Dixon
Villanova remains the premier product in the Big East. And, of course, Villanova is one of the better teams in the country. Despite losing Bey, the Wildcats return four players who averaged double figures in scoring last season. Villanova will also rely on its depth and guard play with Gillepsie and Moore. Last year, Gillepsie set career-highs in points (15.1), assists (4.5), and rebounds (3.7) Add in Daniel, a transfer from Tulane who averaged 17 points per game as a freshman. Villanova will compete for a national title.
2020-21 Big East Basketball Awards
Player of the Year: Collin Gillespie, Villanova
Gillespie should easily be the best player on the best team in the Big East this season. The guard will add on his career-high numbers from last season while Villanova will take home the conference title at the end of the year.
Freshman of the Year: Dawson Garcia, Marquette
All the polls consider Garcia the favorite to take home the Big East basketball Freshman of the Year award. Garcia is a consensus top-50 recruit and McDonald’s All-American. Of course, Marquette will call on his number a lot this season.
Coach of the Year: Jay Wright, Villanova
Villanova is the cream of the crop in Big East basketball, once again. But, with a huge loss, Wright will have some maneuvering to do. Nonetheless, Villanova should win the Big East crown if things go well.
First Team All-Big East: Collin Gillespie, Marcus Zegarowski, James Bouknight, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
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