After what many perceived as a down year for the league, the Big East will be back in a big way in 2019-20. More than half the league could find themselves in the Top 25 at some point this upcoming season due to a combination of strong returning talent, hyped freshmen classes, and impact transfers. While Villanova is considered the favorite by many, there are a half dozen other teams that could win the conference title if all breaks right.
With key draft decisions still looming, here’s an early look at the Big East conference:
Likely NCAA tournament teams
Definitely gone: Phil Booth (18.6 ppg), Eric Paschall (16.5), Joe Cremo (4.0), Jahvon Quinerly (3.2)
Maybe gone: None
Key returnees: Collin Gillespie (10.9), Saddiq Bey (8.2), Jermaine Samuels (6.4), Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (5.1), Cole Swider (3.5)
Key newcomers: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Fr.), Bryan Antoine (Fr.), Justin Moore (Fr.), Eric Dixon (Fr.), Chris Arcidiacono (Fr.)
The Wildcats enter 2019-20 as one of the harder teams to predict in the country. The key pieces of the two title runs are all gone, but there’s still plenty of talent in-house, as Villanova returns five rotation pieces and brings in at least three impact freshmen. On talent alone, this is the top team in the conference. The question marks include who will be the go-to scorers, and who can handle the ball?
Definitely gone: Kaleb Joseph (4.3 ppg)
Maybe gone: Martin Krampelj (13.5), Sam Froling (3.6), Davion Mintz (9.7)
Key returnees: Ty-Shon Alexander (15.7), Mitch Ballock (11.1), Marcus Zegarowski (10.4), Damien Jefferson (6.2), Jacob Epperson (4.8), Christian Bishop (4.1)
Key newcomers: Denzel Mahoney (TR), Shereef Mitchell (FR), Jalen Windham (FR)
While a few players are in the draft pool, no team is set to return more offensive punch in the Big East than Creighton, which should still bring back nearly its entire rotation. After just missing the Big Dance last year, that shouldn’t be a concern in 2019-20, as Greg McDermott may just have his best ever team in Omaha. Defense is always a concern with the Jays, but their offense, size, and experience make them a legit threat to win the league title.
Definitely gone: Michael Nzei (9.0 ppg)
Maybe gone: Myles Powell (23.1)
Key returnees: Myles Cale (10.2), Quincy McKnight (9.4), Sandro Mamukelashvili (8.9), Taurean Thompson (4.6), Jared Rhoden (3.4), Anthony Nelson (2.4)
Key newcomers: Ike Obiagu (TR), Tyrese Samuel (FR)
Seton Hall entered the offseason with two big questions: will coach Kevin Willard return, and will top scorer Myles Powell return? Willard is back, but the jury is still out on Powell, whose NBA draft decision could sway the Big East title race. If he’s back, which is likely, Seton Hall is likely a Top 25 squad and NCAA tourney lock, but without him, they may struggle to finish with a winning record. Aside from Powell, as usual the Pirates possess some gritty guards, good defense, and intriguing size.
Definitely gone: Zach Hankins (10.6 ppg), Ryan Welage (6.7), Kyle Castlin (4.3)
Maybe gone: Naji Marshall (14.7), Paul Scruggs (12.3), Tyrique Jones (11.3), Quentin Goodin (11.0)
Key returnees: None
Key newcomers: Jason Carter (TR), Bryce Moore (TR), Dekeyvan Tandy (FR), Dahmir Bishop (FR), Zach Freemantle (FR), Dieonte Miles (FR), Danny Ramsey (FR)
The Musketeers should pick up where they left off last season and challenge for a Big East title. The four NBA draft entries are all likely to return, and the freshman class is the second-best in the conference behind Villanova. Carter and Moore are impact transfers too, so Xavier should have plenty of depth and scoring, although team size may be a bit of a concern. In short, this can be a second weekend NCAA tournament team.
Definitely gone: Sam Hauser (14.9 ppg), Joey Hauser (9.7), Joseph Chartouny (3.0)
Maybe gone: None
Key returnees: Markus Howard (25.0), Sacar Anim (8.3), Ed Morrow (5.6), Theo John (5.5), Greg Elliott (4.5 in 2017-18), Brendan Bailey (3.3)
Key newcomers: Koby McEwen (TR)
What looked like a consensus Top 10 squad and Big East favorite is now possibly an NCAA tournament bubble team after the unexpected departure of the Hauser brothers. Howard is back and Utah State transfer Koby McEwen should emerge as the second option, but beyond that there are a lot of unknowns. With zero impact recruits, don’t be surprised if the Golden Eagles pick up a transfer as they desperately need size and more scoring.
NCAA tournament bubble teams
Definitely gone: Jessie Govan (17.5 ppg), Trey Mourning (6.3), Greg Malinowski (5.7), Kaleb Johnson (4.4)
Maybe gone: None
Key returnees: James Akinjo (13.4), Mac McClung (13.1), Josh LeBlanc (9.1), Jamorko Pickett (6.2), Jahvon Blair (4.1), Jagan Mosely (3.1)
Key newcomers: Omer Yurtseven (TR), Terrell Allen (TR), Galen Alexander (JC), Qudus Wahab (FR), Malcolm Wilson (FR), Timothy Ighoefe (FR), Myron Gardner (FR)
The Hoyas should be better, but it’s unclear just how good. Losing Govan is a big departure, but Yurtseven, a 7-foot North Carolina State transfer, should fill his shoes well. Add in the maturation of Akinjo, McClung and LeBlanc, and the Hoyas should boast one of the better starting fives in the conference. But there are more “ifs” on Georgetown than others, and in what should be a strong year for the league, the Hoyas look like a classic NCAA tournament bubble team.
Definitely gone: Isaiah Jackson (9.6 ppg), Makai Ashton-Langford (3.7), Drew Edwards (3.2)
Maybe gone: Alpha Diallo (16.0)
Key returnees: Nate Watson (11.7), A.J. Reeves (9.8), David Duke (7.1), Maliek White (6.7), Kalif Young (3.8)
Key newcomers: Luwane Pipkins (TR), Greg Gantt (FR)
Assuming Diallo returns, Providence has the look of an NCAA bubble team. Pipkins, a UMass transfer, will add some much needed scoring from the backcourt, but the team’s success likely hinges on the development of Reeves and Duke. If the guard tandem can make a huge leap in their second season, then the Friars should push towards the top of the conference. If not, they’ll be stuck in the middle to lower tier with an uncertain March future.
Definitely gone: Paul Jorgensen (11.7 ppg), Joey Brunk (7.6), Nate Fowler (5.5)
Maybe gone: None
Key returnees: Kamar Baldwin (17.0), Jordan Tucker (9.7), Sean McDermott (9.5), Aaron Thompson (6.3), Henry Baddley (4.4)
Key newcomers: Derrik Smits (TR), Bryce Nze (TR), Khalif Battle (FR), John-Michael Mulloy (FR)
Even with Baldwin back for his senior season, there are a lot of question marks with this Butler squad. First, the departures of Brunk and Fowler leave the team with a hole down low they need Smits, a 7-foot transfer from Valparaiso, to fill. Second, it’s unclear who can step up to be the second option behind Baldwin. Third, can the freshmen come along quick enough to give the team depth? The Bulldogs will still be tough to play because…they’re Butler, but they are nothing more than an NCAA bubble team at the moment.
Definitely gone: Shamorie Ponds (19.7 ppg), Marvin Clark II (10.5), Justin Simon (10.4), Mikey Dixon (5.9)
Maybe gone: LJ Figueroa (14.4)
Key returnees: Mustapha Heron (14.6)
Key newcomers: David Caraher (TR), Ian Steere (TR), Eli Wright (TR)
The messiest offseason of any team belonged to St. John’s, and while it is likely a stretch they’ll return to the NCAA tournament, this won’t be the train wreck most expect. Heron is back and Figueroa may return, giving the Red Storm some needed scoring punch. The rest of the roster is full of unknowns, but Mike Anderson’s style of play will help compensate for the lack of talent. St. John’s will be a tough team that isn’t fun to play, but an NIT berth should be considered a success.
Definitely gone: Max Strus (20.1 ppg), Eli Cain (13.1), Femi Olujobi (12.8)
Maybe gone: None
Key returnees: Paul Reed (12.3), Jalen Coleman-Lands (9.6), Devin Gage (9.1), Jaylen Butz (6.9)
Key newcomers: Carte’Are Gordon (TR), Darious Hall (TR), Romeo Weems (FR), Markese Jacobs (FR)
DePaul loses its top three scorers from last season, which is not ideal for a team that tied for last in the Big East. The returning talent, particularly Reed, shows promise, but it’s the newcomers that should excite DePaul fans the most. Gordon is one of the top transfers in the country, while Weems is a consensus Top 50 recruit. This is probably another year at the bottom of the league, but 2020-21 look bright for the Blue Demons.