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2022-23 Villanova Big East schedule preview (Part 3): St. John’s, Seton Hall, Xavier

Wrapping up our look around the conference with the last couple of teams in the Big East.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-Villanova vs St. John Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2022-23 season just around the corner, Villanova is looking to take the Big East once more, this time under Kyle Neptune.

But just as everybody knows, there are no days off in this conference.

Here is the final part in our preseason look around the Big East.

St. John’s Red Storm

Head Coach: Mike Anderson (4th season as head coach)
Last Season’s Record: 16-14, 8-11 in Big East
Key Returners: Posh Alexander (6-0, Jr, G), Joel Soriano (6-11, Sr, C), Montez Mathis (6-4, Sr, G), Dylan Addae-Wusu (6-4, Jr, G)
Key Departures: Julian Champagnie (6-8, F), Aaron Wheeler (6-9, F), Stef Smith (6-2, G), Tareq Coburn (6-5, G)
Key Transfers/Newcomers: David Jones (6-6, Jr, F, transfer from DePaul), Andre Curbelo (6-1, Jr, G, transfer from Illinois), A.J. Storr (6-6, Fr, G)

Outlook: The post-Julian Champagnie era for St. Johns is officially underway and everyone’s watching. The former leading scorer for the Red Storm is now a member of the Philadelphia 76ers as part of a two-way contract and will have the opportunity to see some decent floor time during this season.

Champagnie’s 19 points a night will be missed, along with the six rebounds and two steals he averaged.

However, St. Johns will still have a foundational piece to build around in Posh Alexander. Now entering his junior year, the six-foot guard averaged 14 points and 5.5 assists last year, and he’s also active on the other end of the court, with his two steals a game that will now forge him into the team’s primary defensive options around the perimeter.

The Red Storm is snagging two transfers from big programs. First, is David Jones from DePaul, who put up 14.5 points for the Blue Demons and had a well-remembered 20-plus point triple-double against Georgetown. Now entering his junior year, he’ll be able to step right in and provide an experienced perspective in a room looking for new leadership.

The other big acquisition is Andre Curbelo from Illinois, who’s returning home to the New York area. After failing to meet his All-American ceiling expectations, Curbelo lost his spot in the rotation in what was already a stacked Big 10 roster filled with talent. Red Storm fans are hoping that Mike Anderson’s tough culture will get him back into the confident shape he needs to be in to contribute regularly.

Under Anderson, St. John’s has always played tough and fast — they’ll push the ball the whole game and aren’t afraid to either. They’ve always poked at the sides of the contending teams every year but just haven’t been able to produce the record to show for it. Expect the underdog mentality to continue under Anderson and for the Red Storm pull off big upsets.

Seton Hall Pirates

Head Coach: Shaheen Holloway (1st season as head coach)
Last Season’s Record: 21-11, 11-8 in Big East
Key Returners: Kadary Richmond (6-6, Jr, G), Alexis Yetna (6-8, Gr, F), Tyrese Samuel (6-10, Sr, F), Tray Jackson (6-10, Sr, F)
Key Departures: Jared Rhoden (6-6, G/F), Myles Cale (6-6, G/F), Ike Obiagu (7-2, C), Bryce Aiken (6-0, G)
Key Transfers/Newcomers: KC Ndefu (6-7, Gr, F, transfer from Saint Peter’s), Tae Davis (6-9, Fr, F), Al Ahmir Dawes (6-2, Sr. G, transfer from Clemson), Abdou Ndiaye (6-9, RS Sr, F, transfer from Illinois State), Dre Davis (6-6, Jr, G/F, transfer from Louisville), Femi Odukale (6-6, Jr, G, Pitt), Tae Davis (6-9, Fr, F)

Outlook: Shaheen Holloway is everyone’s favorite Cinderella story coach after his historic Elite 8 run, with 15th-seeded Saint Peters, and now he’s everyone’s favorite sleeper candidate for Big East Coach of the Year if he can parlay that March magic into immediate success. He returns to try and jumpstart a program that has felt oddly flat since the glory days of Myles Powell.

Seton Hall finished 21-11 overall last year with an 11-8 record in Big East play. However, they went just 1-5 last year against AP-ranked Big East opponents — they were never considered terrible in the ecosystem of the conference, but couldn’t quite get over the hump against better teams in Villanova, Providence, UConn, and Xavier. They were good enough to return to the Big Dance, but got trounced by TCU in what proved to be Kevin Willard’s final game.

Ten players from the 2021-22 roster will not be returning this year, leaving Holloway with an essentially clean slate to work with in terms of crafting his offensive identity and not breaking any key points of continuity. They lost four significant rotation players: two top scorers in Jared Rhoden and Bryce Aiken, a size provider and consistent glass presence on both ends in Obiagu, and a four-year starter and point of leadership in Myles Cale. All of their contributions will be missed by the Pirates and replacing them will be hard.

Because of the coaching change, Seton Hall is only getting one incoming freshman from high school Tae Davis, a 6-foot-9 forward who was ranked No. 148 on the composite rankings of 247

The Pirates will be getting five transfers to fill out the roster, including KC Ndefu, who is following Holloway from Saint Peter’s, where he was also a three-time MAAC Defensive Player of the Year. They will also be getting four solid players from notable programs who can compete for starting spots: Al-Amir Dawes (Clemson), Abdou Ndiaye (Illinois State), Dre Davis (Louisville), and Femi Odukale (Pitt).

Seton Hall will be an interesting team to watch. Holloway’s presence by itself makes the team worthy of discussion after what he was able to accomplish in last March. They’ll likely finish the year as a team no one will want on their side of the bracket as a potential upset special come Big East Tournament time.

Xavier Musketeers

Head Coach: Sean Miller (1st season as head coach)
Last Season’s Record: 23-13, 8-11 in Big East
Key Returners: Jack Nunge (7-0, Gr, C), Colby Jones (6-6, Jr, G), Zach Freemantle (6-9, Sr, F), Adam Kunkel (6-4, Sr, G)
Key Departures: Paul Scruggs (6-5, G), Nate Johnson (6-4, G), Dwon Odom (6-2, G)
Key Transfers/Newcomers: Souley Boum (6-3, Gr, G, transfer from UTEP), Kam Craft (6-6, Fr, G), Desmond Claude (6-5, Fr, G)

Outlook: Ladies and gentlemen, he’s back: Sean Miller is returned now for his second stint as head coach of the Xavier Musketeers. Miller’s first stop occurred in 2004 when he was promoted to head coach after being promoted as an assistant. He was head coach from 2004-09, then left for the Arizona Wildcats of the Pac-12. After being fired in 2021 after some ups and downs with the program, Miller is back where he started and looks to bring his old team back to the top of the Big East.

Paul Scruggs tore his ACL last season in an NIT game against Florida, causing an injury harsh enough for medical staff to officially declare that his basketball career is over. A brutal blow for the Musketeers. His consistent shooting and four years of experience will be greatly missed.

Xavier will also be losing two key rotational players. Nate Johnson, a consistent offensive option who could put up balanced stats on any given night, has graduated. Dwon Odom, a young guard who many Xavier students were very excited about, has transferred to Georgia State of the Sun Belt Conference.

There is some great news though, as the Musketeers are adding two freshmen ranked inside 247Sports’ top 100 prospects. Kam Craft (Chicago, Ill./Skill Factory) is a 6-foot-6 guard who was ranked 57th in the class of 2022. Desmond Claude (New Haven, Conn./Putnam Science Academy) is a 6-5 guard ranked as the 83rd-best prospect in the class of 2022.

Xavier will also be adding transfer Souley Boum, a graduate transfer from UTEP, who can provide experience and scoring.

The Musketeers were one of about a dozen teams who always flirted with the top 25 and broke it on many occasions but could never find themselves sticking there. Expect them to appear more consistently with Miller at the helm. Some outlets have high hopes for the Musketeers this season after a couple of underwhelming years to mark the end of the Travis Steele era, time will tell.