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2017-18 Big East Conference Primer

11/02/2017, 4:00pm EDT
By Austin Petolillo

Jay Wright (above) has guided Villanova to the last four Big East regular-season championships. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

Austin Petolillo (@AustinPSports)
 
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(Ed. Note: This article is part of our 2017-18 season coverage, which will run for the six weeks preceding the first official games of the year on Nov. 10. To access all of our high school and college preview content for this season,click here.)

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Since the conference re-aligned back in 2014, the Big East had arguably its best year in terms of talent last season.

Four of the ten teams tied with a 10-6 conference record at the end of the season causing absolute mayhem leading up to the Big East Tournament, which was won by Villanova.

Seventy percent of the league earned a bid to the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Villanova earned the overall number one seed and Xavier reached the Elite Eight as an 11 seed.

It’s safe to say that the 2016-17 season will be hard to top, but the upcoming 2017-18 season might be even deeper with eight of the ten teams looking like potential suitors for an NCAA Tournament bid.

Here’s a look at how we see the Big East Conference shaping up in 2017-18:

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COBL’s Preseason All-Big East
Trevon Bluiett
(Sr./Xavier)
*Jalen Brunson (Jr./Villanova)
Khadeen Carrington (Sr./Seton Hall)
Angel Delgado (Sr.Seton Hall)
Marcus Foster (Sr./Creighton)
Kelan Martin (Sr./Butler)

* = Preseason Player of the Year

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1. Villanova Wildcats
Coach: Jay Wright
, 17th season (386-161, .706)
Last Year: 32-4 (15-3 in Big East), won The Big East Tournament against Creighton (74-60), lost in NCAA Tournament second round to Wisconsin (65-62)
Key Departures: Josh Hart (18.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.6 spg), Kris Jenkins (13.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.1 spg), Darryl Reynolds (4.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
Key Returnees: Jalen Brunson (14.7 ppg, 4.1 apg), Mikal Bridges (9.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.7 spg), Donte DiVincenzo (8.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg), Phil Booth (5.7 ppg, 2.0 apg), Eric Paschall (7.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Omari Spellman (R-Fr./ St. Thomas More, Conn.), Jermaine Samuels (Fr./ The Rivers School, Mass.), Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (Fr./ Neumann-Goretti, Pa.), Collin Gillespie (Fr./ Archbishop Wood, Pa.)
Outlook: The Wildcats have big shoes to fill with the departures of Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins.  Hart was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder last season and earned Big East Player of the Year honors along with being a unanimous All-Big East first team selection, a consensus first team All-American selection, a Julius Erving award winner (nation’s best small forward), and a Wooden Award finalist. Jenkins was a lethal threat from downtown, shooting a career 37 percent from three and will be known for his buzzer-beating shot in the 2016 NCAA Championship game that lifted the Wildcats to their second NCAA Championship in school history. Even though the Wildcats are losing two very talented players, they are adding three highly touted recruits to the rotation. Omari Spellman, a five-star prospect is finally able to suit up for the Wildcats after being ineligible to play last season. Both Jermaine Samuels and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree were four-star recruits and give Villanova depth at the forward positions. The Wildcats are set at the guard position with unanimous All-Big East first team selection Jalen Brunson running the show alongside Phil Booth and Donte DiVincenzo. DiVincenzo took a huge step forward in his redshirt freshman year after being sidelined with a foot injury the in 2015-16. He ended the season averaging 8.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg and 1.7 apg in 25.5 mpg. DiVincenzo saw the floor a ton thanks to Phil Booth’s knee injury that had him sidelined the majority of the season. If Booth can’t stay healthy this season, look for Collin Gillespie to see his minutes increase.

2. Seton Hall Pirates
Coach: Kevin Willard
, 8th season (128-102, .557)
Last Year: 21-12 (10-8 in Big East), lost in Big East semifinals to Villanova (55-53), lost in NCAA Tournament first round to Arkansas (77-71)
Key Departures: Madison Jones (5.8 ppg, 3.2 apg, 1.8 spg)
Key Returnees: Angel Delgado (15.2 ppg, 13.1 rpg), Khadeen Carrington (17.1 ppg, 2.9 apg, 1.2 apg), Desi Rodriguez (15.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Myles Cale (Fr./ Appoquinimink HS, Del.), Jordan Walker (Fr./ The Patrick School, NJ.), Sandro Mamukelashvili (Fr./ Montverde Academy, Fla.)
Outlook: Angel Delgado was an absolute monster last season, earning unanimous All-Big East first team honors. The 6-10 forward hauled in an NCAA leading 13.1 rebounds per game. Delgado put up 27 double-doubles in 33 games played, good for second place behind Purdue star Caleb Swanigan. Delgado was one of the headliners in a very talented 2014-15 recruiting class for the Pirates that included Isaiah Whitehead (entering his second season with the Brooklyn Nets), Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Ismael Sanogo and Michael Nzei. With all but Whitehead entering their senior seasons at Seton Hall, the Pirates are primed for their third straight trip to the big dance. Freshman contributions from four-star recruits Myles Cale and Jordan Walker should help give the Pirates a strong presence off the bench.

3. Xavier Musketeers
Coach: Chris Mack, 9th season (187-91, .673)
Last Year: 24-14 (9-9 Big East), lost in Big East semifinals to Creighton (75-72), lost in NCAA Tournament Elite Eight to Gonzaga (83-59)
Key Losses: Edmond Sumner (15.0 ppg, 5.0 apg, 1.3 spg), Malcolm Bernard (6.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.0 spg)
Key Returnees: Trevon Bluiett (18.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg), J.P. Macura (14.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.4 spg), RaShid Gaston (7.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg)
Key Additions: Paul Scruggs (Fr./ Prolific Prep, Cali.), Naji Marshall (Fr./ Hargrave Military Academy, Va.), Elias Harden (Fr./ Pebblebrook HS, Ga.)
Outlook: Xavier got hot at the right time last season. After losing six straight games before defeating DePaul in their last regular season game, the Musketeers defeated DePaul again in the first round of the Big East Tournament, then upset Butler in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament before losing to Creighton in a tightly contested battle in the semifinals. That victory over Butler probably earned them a bid to the NCAA Tournament as an 11 seed, an 11 seed that pulled off three straight upsets in the big dance. The Musketeers upset No. 6 Maryland, No. 3 Florida State, and No. 2 Arizona before falling to the top seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs in the Elite Eight. Much of this was thanks to All-Big East first team selection Trevon Bluiett. The 6-6 guard averaged 21.3 ppg over those four games, his most being 29 against Florida State. Xavier will look to sophomore Quentin Goodin to take over the point guard role left by Edmond Sumner after Sumner decided to go pro. Sumner currently plays for the Indiana Pacers. Xavier also brings in a talented freshman class that was ranked 11th according to 247Sports, the highest in the Big East. The class is headlined by 6-3 point guard Paul Scruggs, 6-5 shooting guard Elias Harden, and 6-7 forward Naji Marshall. All three are four-star recruits.

4. Providence Friars
Coach: Ed Cooley, 7th season (123-80, .606)
Last Year: 20-13 (10-8 Big East), lost in Big East quarterfinals to Creighton (70-58), lost in NCAA Tournament “First Four” to USC (75-71)
Key Departures: None
Key Returnees: Rodney Bullock (15.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.2 spg), Emmitt Holt (12.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Kyron Cartwright (11.4 ppg, 6.7 apg, 1.1 spg), Jalen Lindsey (10.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Makai Ashton-Langford (Fr./ Brewster Academy, N.H.), Nate Watson (Fr./ Bishop O’Connell, D.C.)
Outlook: Since taking the Providence job back in the 2011-12, Ed Cooley has led the Friars to the NCAA Tournament four out of the six years he has been at the helm, with all four berths coming in the last four seasons and it looks like Cooley and the Friars will be making a trip back to the big dance in the 2017-18 season. Losing only two players, one of them a walk-on and the other being Ryan Fazekas (3 ppg, 1.1 rpg in 11.8 mpg) as a transfer, this might be Cooley’s most talented team yet, even better than the 2014-15 team that included Kris Dunn, Ben Bentil and LaDontae Henton. Cooley returns all five of his starters, including two All-Big East second team honorees in Rodney Bullock and Kyron Cartwright, and brings in two four-star recruits, most notably Makai Ashton-Langford, who was the 26th overall prospect and 11th best point guard in the 2017 class according to ESPN and was the 22nd overall prospect and 10th best point guard in the 2017 class according to Scout.com.

5. Creighton Blue Jays
Coach: Greg McDermott, 7th season (166-82, .669)
Last Year: 25-10 (10-8 Big East), lost in Big East finals (Villanova, 74-60), lost in NCAA Tournament first round (Rhode Island, 84-72)
Key Departures: Justin Patton (12.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Cole Huff (9.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg), Maurice Watson Jr. (12.9 ppg, 8.5 apg)

Key Returnees: Marcus Foster (18.2 ppg, 2.4 apg), Khyri Thomas (12.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.5 spg)

Key Newcomers: Kaleb Joseph (R-Jr./ Syracuse), Ty-Shon Alexander (Fr./ Oak Hill Academy, VA.), Jacob Epperson (Fr./ La Lumiere School, Ind.), Mitchell Bullock (Fr./ Eudora HS, Kan.)
Outlook: When Maurice Watson Jr. went down with a torn ACL in their game against Xavier on January 16th, the then-ranked No. 8 Creighton Blue Jays looked lost in the following two games losing two straight games including a 20 point loss to a weak Georgetown team. But give credit to coach Greg McDermott for keeping his team’s composure after their star point guard went down and leading his team to the Big East Championship game and an NCAA berth. After losing three of its five starters, Creighton adds Syracuse transfer Kaleb Joseph to the team after sitting out a year and three four-star recruits to the squad. Joseph, Khyri Thomas and Marcus Foster give Creighton another strong backcourt . Thomas is a defensive stud. He averaged 1.5 spg last season and earned co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Foster led the Jays in scoring with 18.2 ppg and was a unanimous All-Big East first team selection.

6. Marquette Golden Eagles
Coach: Steve Wojciechowski
, 4th season (52-45, .536)
Last Year: 19-12 (10-8 Big East), lost in Big East Quarterfinals to Seton Hall (82-76), lost in NCAA Tournament first round to South Carolina (93-73)
Key Departures: JaJuan Johnson (12.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg), Luke Fischer (10.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.7 bpg), Katin Reinhardt (10.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
Key Returnees: Markus Howard (13.2 ppg, 2.3 apg), Andrew Rowsey (11.6 ppg, 2.3 apg), Sam Hauser (8.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Haanif Cheatham (8.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
Key Additions: Harry Froling (R-SO, SMU), Theo John (Fr./ Champlin Park HS, Minn.), Ike Eke (Fr./ University of Detroit Jesuit HS, MI.)
Outlook: Marquette was white hot from long range last season, shooting a NCAA leading 43 percent as a team. The Golden Eagles had three players finish with a three-point percentage above 40 percent last season including freshman point guard Markus Howard, who led the NCAA in three-point percentage, shooting an incredible 55 percent from beyond the arc. To go along with his NCAA leading three-point percentage, Howard led the team in scoring (13.2 ppg) and was also an All-Big East freshman team selection. The Golden Eagles will turn to SMU Transfer Harry Froling to fill the shoes left by former Marquette big man Luke Fischer. During his time at SMU, the 6-11 Aussie averaged 4.3 points and 3.2 rebounds in 14.6 minutes a game.

7. Butler Bulldogs
Coach: LaVall Jordan
, 1st season (0-0, .000)
Last Year: 25-9 (12-6 Big East), lost in Big East quarterfinals to Xavier (62-57), lost in NCAA Sweet 16 to North Carolina (92-80)
Key Departures: Andrew Chrabascz (11.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg), Tyler Lewis (6.6 ppg, 4.0 apg), Kethan Savage (8.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg), Avery Woodson (8.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
Key Returnees: Kelan Martin (16.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Tyler Wideman (7.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Kamar Baldwin (10.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Paul Jorgensen (R-Jr, George Washington), Christian David (Fr./ Vermont Academy, Vt), Jerald Gillens-Butler (Fr./ Calvary Christian Academy, Fla.), Aaron Thompson (Fr./ Paul VI Catholic, Va.)
Outlook: After former head coach Chris Holtmann left the program to take the Ohio State job, Butler turned to one of their former players and assistant coaches, LaVall Jordan. Jordan previously held the head coaching position at Milwaukee for one season, with an 11-24 record (.314). Jordan takes over a Butler squad which loses four key contributors from last year’s team, which earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Once again, the Bulldogs are going to rely heavily on their star, 6-7 senior forward Kelan Martin. Martin led the team in scoring and rebounding last season, which landed him on the All-Big East second team for the second straight season. Kamar Baldwin, a 6-1 guard, will take the keys to the offense in his sophomore season after having a stellar freshman year while earning unanimous All-Big East freshman team honors.

8. St. John’s Red Storm
Coach: Chris Mullin
, 3rd season (22-43, .338)
Last Year: 14-19 (7-11 Big East), lost in Big East quarterfinals to Villanova (108-67)
Key Departures: Malik Ellison (7.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Federico Mussini (7.9 ppg, 1.7 apg)
Key Returnees: Shamorie Ponds (17.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.1 spg), Marcus LoVett (15.9 ppg, 3.8 apg, 1.3 spg), Bashir Ahmed (13.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Justin Simon (R-So, Arizona), Marvin Clark Jr. (R-Jr, Michigan State), Bryan Trimble Jr. (Fr./ Sunrise Christian Academy, Kan.), Boubacar Diakite (Fr./ Our Savior New American, N.Y.)
Outlook: Just like Georgetown, St. John’s is coached by another campus legend and member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Chris Mullin. Mullin enters his third season with the Red Storm and while his team has not made an NCAA appearance since he arrived, this year’s team could get Mullin his first crack at the big dance. The Johnnie’s backcourt duo of Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett both have a year of game-action under their belt and both earned All-Big East freshman team honors last season. Justin Simon comes in from Arizona to help fill in the hole at the wing position left by Malik Ellison, who transferred to Pitt this past offseason. Simon averaged 2.3 ppg and 1.2 rpg in his freshman season at Arizona. Marvin Clark Jr. is another transfer St. John’s received from a big school. In his sophomore season with Michigan State, the 6-7 Clark averaged 3.9 ppg and 2.5 rpg.

9. Georgetown Hoyas
Coach: Patrick Ewing
, 1st season (0-0, .000)
Last Year: 14-18 (5-13 Big East), lost in Big East first round to St. John’s (74-73)
Key Departures: Rodney Pryor (18.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg), L.J. Peak (16.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
Key Returnees: Jessie Govan (10.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Marcus Derrickson (8.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Jagan Mosely (4.2 ppg, 2.5 apg)
Key Newcomers: JaMarko Pickett (Fr./ Massanutten Military Academy, Va.), Chris Sodom (Fr./ Tennessee Prep, TN), Jahvon Blair (Fr./ Athlete Institute Prep, ON, Canada), Antwan Walker (Fr./ Hargrave Military Academy, Va.)
Outlook: If Patrick Ewing can coach Georgetown as well as he played for Georgetown, expect the Hoyas to go undefeated and win the NCAA Tournament. Although that is virtually impossible, Ewing brings in a whole lot of talented freshmen such as four-star recruit JaMarko Pickett from Washington D.C, 7-3 center Chris Sodom and two three-star recruits, Jahvon Blair and Antwan Walker. The Hoyas suffer two tough blows to their team as the team's two leading scorers, Rodney Pryor and L.J. Peak are gone. Pryor, an All-Big East honorable mention graduated and Peak elected to keep his name in the 2017 NBA Draft Pool (He went undrafted and is currently on the Boston Celtics). You could argue that the Hoyas two best players this upcoming season will be Jessie Govan and Marcus Derrickson as they look to thrive and learn under one of the greatest big men and one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

10. DePaul Blue Demons
Coach: Dave Leitao,
6th season (76-79, .490)
Last Year: 9-23 (2-16 Big East), lost in Big East first round to Xavier (75-64)
Key Departures: Billy Garrett Jr. (14.9 ppg, 3.3 apg)
Key Returnees: Eli Cain (15.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Tre’Darius McCallum (9.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Brandon Cyrus (6.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Austin Grandstaff (R-So, Oklahoma), Max Strus (Jr, Lewis University), Marin Maric (Grad, Northern Illinois), Justin Roberts (Fr./ Findlay Prep, Nv.), Paul Reed (Fr./ Wekiva HS, Fla), Jaylen Butz (Fr./ North Side HS, Ind.) Outlook: Once again, DePaul finds itself toward the bottom of the Big East and will be looking for its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2004, the fourth longest tournament drought from the six power conferences. The head coach of that 2004? Current head man Dave Leitao, who is currently in the third season of his second stint at DePaul. Unlike the 2004 team, this squad is nowhere near as talented. After losing its second leading scorer and leading assist man in 2016-17, point guard Billy Garrett Jr., to graduation, DePaul is looking to fill the 2014 Big East Freshman of the Year’s spot with either sophomore Devin Gage, who averaged only 11.2 mpg, or freshman Justin Roberts, a 4-star recruit out of Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, Nevada.


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