We’re back to take a look at three more Big East teams.
Here we have a storied program coming off their worst season in 50 years, the defending Big East champions from the venue formerly known as the Dunk are covered, then there is Shaka Smart who led Marquette back to the tournament in his first year.
Let’s see what Villanova will have to contend with against these squads.
Head Coach: Patrick Ewing (6th season as head coach)
Last Season’s Record: 6–25, 0–19 in the Big East
Key Returners: Dante Harris (6-0, Jr., G), Ryan Mutombo (7-2, So., C)
Key Departures: Aminu Mohammed (6-5, G), Donald Carey (6-5, G), Kaiden Rice (6-7, G/F) Colin Holloway (6-6, F) Jalin Billingsley (6-8, F), Tyler Beard (6-2, G), Malcolm Wilson (7-0, C)
Key Transfers/Newcomers: Brandon Murray (Transfer from LSU 6-5, Sr., G), Primo Spears (Transfer from Duquesne 6-3, S0., G) Jay Heath (Transfer from Arizona St, 6-3, Sr., G) Akok Akok (Transfer from UCONN 6-9, Sr., F), Bryson Mozone (Transfer from USC Upstate, 6-6, Sr., G/F), Qudus Wahab (Transfer from Maryland 6-11, Sr., C)
Outlook: Not a single game — that was Georgetown’s story in the win column last season in the Big East. There is no place to go but up after 0-19. Ewing has only had one winning season in his five seasons in charge of Georgetown. Over the last couple seasons there have been a number of high-profile coaching hirings in the Big East. This could potentially be a prove-it year for Ewing to keep his position for the Hoyas.
Ewing returns two solid players in Harris and Mutombo. Harris is a point guard who has started 50 games over the last two seasons. He led the Hoyas in assists last season at 4.1 a game in a little over 32 minutes a game. Mutombo is the son of legendary player Dikembe. He had a promising game against UMBC last December with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks in just 18 minutes. Mutombo’s minutes were decreased towards the end of the season but I’m not sure how relevant that was to his actual play. Overall, it was a good year of experience for the 7-2 big.
The biggest factor in Georgetown’s season is the same biggest factor in all of college basketball, the transfer portal. There are six transfers that will decide if Georgetown has any shot at winning games let alone dancing.
Brandon Murray and Primo Spears come in from LSU and Duquesne. Both are at their best getting in the paint. Murray is a really strong guard and contact doesn’t bother him at all when trying to make something happen. Spears has great pop in his quickness and can really weave in and out of the paint to try and make something happen at the rim.
Heath and Mozone come in as absolute knock down shooters. Mozone has shot 38.7 percent from three the last three seasons with over two makes a game. Heath averages two makes from distance for his career and averages 38 percent from three for his career.
If these four, plus Harris, can develop rhythm and tempo together, then Georgetown could have a combination of downhill attacking and high level jump shooting. Even with the loss of leading scorer Aminu Mohammed, Georgetown should be improved on the perimeter.
The Hoyas also bring in help on the front line with Akok Akok coming over from UConn and Qudus Wahab transferring from Maryland. Akok had an explosive freshman season at UConn, averaging 2.7 blocks per game. He had five games of at least five blocks that season with a seven-block game and a six-block game. His freshman season ended with a torn Achilles tendon. If Akok can get close to that form, he will be a difference maker on the front line.
Speaking of difference maker, Qudus Wahab returns to Georgetown for his second run with the Hoyas. Wahab averaged 12.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game in his second season with Georgetown during the 2020-21 season. He went on a tear in the 2021 Big East Tournament as Georgetown was the Cinderella in the Big East and won four straight games to snag a bid in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. His production last season at Maryland wasn’t the same but it wasn’t because his play dipped.
With Wahab and Akok, Georgetown has some real high end talent to play near the rim. If Ewing can figure out spacing with the weapons we mentioned in the backcourt and on the wing then Georgetown should have a considerably better season.
Marquette Golden Eagles
Head Coach: Shaka Smart (2nd season as head coach)
Last Season’s Record: 19–13, 11–8 in the Big East
Key Returners: Tyler Kolek (6-3, So., G), Oliver-Maxence Prosper (6-8, So., F), Oso Ighodaro (6-9, So., F), Kam Jones (6-4, So., G)
Key Departures: Justin Lewis (6-7, F), Darryl Morsell (6-5, G), Kur Kuath (6-10, F) Greg Elliott (6-3, G)
Key Transfers/Newcomers: Zach Wrightsil (Transfer from Loyola-New Orleans 6-7, Sr., F), Sean Jones (5-10, Fr., G), Ben Gold (6-11, Fr., F)
Outlook: Marquette returned to the NCAA Tournament last season under Shaka Smart’s first season as head coach. They had an impressive win against Illinois in a really good non-conference schedule. The highlight of their season was likely the season sweep of Villanova. Marquette held Villanova to under 40% shooting overall and under 30% from three in both wins. Justin Lewis and Darryl Morsell were Marquette’s best players last season and that was the same in both wins over Villanova. Lewis left for the NBA and Morsell graduated so there are holes to fill for the Golden Eagles. They also lost depth with Kur Kuath graduating and Greg Elliott transferring.
This will be an incredibly young team with lone transfer Zach Wrightsil as the only upperclassmen in the rotation. Kam Jones is their leading returning scorer at 7.4 points a game last season. Tyler Kolek, Oliver-Maxence Prosper, and Oso Ighodaro all return after all averaging less than seven points a game. There’s not much firepower coming back to Milwaukee. Kolek has potential to help alleviate some of this by influencing tempo and trying to set others up. Kolek had some elite performances last season in the passing game. He had an 11 assist and two turnover game, a 10 assist and two turnover game, and a 10 assist and zero turnover game. Marquette will need this kind of high level tempo setting from Kolek without any proven scorers at the D-I level.
Marquette does bring in a proven scorer from the NAIA level in the 6-foot-7 Wrightsil. He averaged 18.7 points per game for NAIA Loyola New Orleans. Another 6-foot-7 college played named Jimmy Butler made a similar jump, going from JUCO to Division I, and that worked out really well for Marquette. Wrightsil doesn’t necessarily play similarly but impacts winning plays in a variety of ways like Butler. It would be huge for Marquette if Wrightsil can develop chemistry with Kolek.
The X-Factor for the Golden Eagles could be New Zealand native Ben Gold. Gold is first Kiwi who made the NBA Global Academy branch in Australia. At 6-foot-11, Gold is a real threat down low. He keeps the ball high when he catches and often times will begin his post move as he catches it. Look for Gold to play big minutes as a frosh in Milwaukee.
Head Coach: Ed Cooley (12th season as head coach)
Last Season’s Record: 27–6, 14–3 in the Big East, Regular Season Champions, Lost in Sweet 16
Key Returners: Jared Bynum (5-10, Sr., G), Ed Croswell (6-8, Sr., F), Alyn Breed (6-3, Jr., G)
Key Departures: Nate Watson (6-10, C), Al Durham (6-4, G), Justin Minaya (6-7, F), Noah Horchler (6-8, F), A.J. Reeves (6-6, G)
Key Transfers/Newcomers: Devin Carter (Transfer from South Carolina 6-3, So., G), Noah Locke (Transfer from Louisville 6-3, Gr., G), Bryce Hopkins (Transfer from Kentucky 6-7, So., F), Clifton Moore (Transfer from La Salle 6-10, Gr., F/C), Corey Floyd Jr. (Transfer from UConn 6-3, Fr., G)
Outlook: They are the Big East champions. 2022 was the year that Providence made that statement a reality. They finally won it’s first ever regular season Big East title. Even though their home is no longer referred to as the Dunk, the die hard Providence fans will want more of the same. That may not be this season because no team in college basketball lost as much in their rotation from the previous season.
They lose their top four players in total minutes played and five of their top six in this category. Jared Bynum, Ed Croswell, and Alyn Breed is all that returns from the rotation that took Providence to the top of the Big East. Bynum was the only significant contributor of these three. How did Ed Cooley respond? He swung for the fences in the transfer portal, hoping to hit a few more home runs.
It’s well known that Ed Cooley has had success in the transfer game but whether he does it again will decide what kind of season the Friars have. Bryce Hopkins, Clifton Moore, Corey Floyd Jr., Devin Carter, and Noah Locke will look to continue the success that transfers have had in a Providence uniform.
Locke is a bit of a combo guard who is a former top 100 recruit. He’s played at Florida and Louisville with four years combined experience. He’s a great shooter from distance and will look to replace the shooting that A.J. Reeves and Noah Horchler provided. Devin Carter comes in from South Carolina and has Providence excited. You can see why when you see how explosive and crafty he is. He can play on or off ball and is always on the move. He will immediately put pressure on defenses when he’s on the court. We know how good Bynum is off the bounce so it will be interesting to see how much he and Carter play together. They would be undersized for sure but the versatility together could be explosive. They play so much alike and in theory could alternate roles on the fly if they share the floor.
Moore and Hopkins bring in some size. Providence is the third team for Moore after Indiana and La Salle. He was the leading scorer on La Salle and brings great efficiency in the paint. Hopkins is a mobile big who can face up from the high post and put pressure on other bigs off the bounce. There’s potential for Moore and Hopkins to create a balanced front line of brute and skill.
Expect to see a jump from Bynum but how Ed Cooley can help develop Carter and Hopkins will decide what kind of ceiling this Friar team has.