Between losing and leaving behind schools like UCONN, Syracuse, Pitt and Louisville combined with the early entries of several players into the NBA Draft, there will be plenty of opportunities for players to step up and become the new faces of a born-again conference.
Here are five players to watch next season who could very well rise to the top of the talent pool in the Big East and stake their claims as premier players in the nation.
Bryce Cotton, Guard, Providence
Cotton is the leading returning scorer from the Big East conference last season. He’s a Trey Burke-type of guard who can run the point if he needs to but is at his best when taking the ball to the rim. There won’t be many guards in the conference who will be able to guard him one-on-one, which will in turn free up other Providence players and create open shots.
Kadeem Batts, Forward, Providence
Joining Cotton in a dangerous starting five for the Friars is Batts, the Big East’s most improved player last season. The 6’10, 245 pound forward should be the premier big man in the conference. I’d look for him to improve on the 14.8 ppg and 7.2 rpg he averaged last season, helping Cotton lead the Friars to the top of the Big East standings by season’s end.
D’Angelo Harrison, Guard, St. John’s
Harrison seems to have learned his lesson and responded well to a suspension at the end of last season by Coach Steve Lavin. He’ll return to the court after averaging 17.8 ppg last season, joining a loaded St. John’s roster that should contend for the conference title and be a player on the national scene.
JayVaughn Pinkston, Forward, Villanova
It looks like Pinkston’s legal troubles will be behind him by the time the season starts, allowing him to lead Villanova on their quest to return to the NCAA tournament. At 6’7, 260, there won’t be a lot of guys in the conference who will be able to push him around down low, which should make repeating his 13.3 ppg, 5 rpg performance last season a realistic possibility.
Doug McDermott, Forward, Creighton
Everybody’s All-American returns for his senior season to lead his team into a new frontier. McDermott will be hard pressed to put up the numbers he did during the 2012-2013 season (23.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg), but he’ll be one of the premier players in the conference nonetheless. With multiple ways he uses to find the basket, it’s likely he’ll lead the conference in scoring.