Finally, Big East Media Day 2013 is here. It will take place tomorrow (October 16th) at the Chelsea Piers in New York City. And while we are still over three weeks away from any official games being played, Media Day provides us with some juicy content to whet our appetites.
But before that takes place where the Coaches Poll and preseason awards will be announced, I wanted to make public my preseason rankings and awards so that they aren’t influenced by the people who actually know what they are talking about (the coaches).
And before I begin I want to admit how difficult such a simple process was. I have been giving this some thought for some five months now. And even after writing blogs on every team’s roster, the new comers, and evaluating charts and trends amongst many other topics, I’m nowhere closer to being confident in my picks. Why? Because I believe the Big East has seven high quality teams. The team I have ranked 7th could win the league and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit. That’s how competitive I expect this 10-team league to be. And with that, I expect many of these teams to have similar records come March where the outcome of one or two possessions could determine if you win the league or finish 5th. I wish I could pick all seven of these teams to finish in the top three, but I can’t. So this is my best educated guess and I’m sure there won’t be a single person who agrees with me. But honestly, you could pretty much pick this league from a hat right now and I’d have no problem with your rankings; unless you pick DePaul that is.
So without further ado…
Projected Order of Finish:
Marquette is my favorite (and I won’t be alone here) to win the Big East. They have the best coach (Buzz Williams), potentially the best front court (Davante Gardner, Chris Otule, Jamil Wilson and JUCO transfer Jameel McKay), the most depth of any team in the conference and a talented incoming recruiting class (JaJuan Johnson, Deonte Burton, Duane Wilson and John Dawson) that is ranked in the top-10 by most publications. Could this be Williams’ most talented team yet? It could be. But nonetheless, the combination of size, experience, options and talent makes the Golden Eagles the best team in the Big East.
The Hoyas return a deep and talented team that was co-Big East champions last year. Yes, the loss of Otto Porter to the NBA is significant and the season ending injury to Greg Whittington is noteworthy. But Whittington barely played last year and Georgetown seemed to be just fine without him. The senior trio of Markel Starks running the point, Nate Lubick at forward and Moses Ayegba providing front court depth is experience many teams don’t have the luxury of. And JT3 welcomes Josh Smith, the talented big man from UCLA. If he can get his act together – which is a big if – he could be the most significant new comer in the Big East.
If you didn’t already disagree with these rankings after two teams, I’m sure you do after three. But the Friars are talented and they showed some good signs last year. Yes, they lost Vincent Council, but Kris Dunn in his second year, healthy, and with full control of the point guard position, shouldn’t be much of a drop-off if any. Bryce Cotton returns to defend his Big East scoring title from last year. The front court of Kadeem Batts, LaDontae Henton and highly touted freshman Brandon Austin can line up with anyone in the Big East. And for the first time ever at PC coach Cooley should actually have some depth with the sharp-shooting sophomore Josh Fortune and a pair of transfers in Carson Desrosiers (7-foot) and Tyler Harris (6-foot-9). If this team could go .500 in last year’s Big East they should be able to be better than .500 in this year’s Big East.
The Bluejays will be some people’s pick to the win the league – or at least finish top 3 – and that’s understandable. They have one of the best players in the country in Doug McDermott and have been a top-25 team more or less for the last two seasons. But they lose Gregory Echenique and will be playing against better competition on a more consistent basis. Creighton beat Cincinnati in a close game in the NCAA Tournament last season which showed they could hang with the Big East. But Cincinnati was a middle of the pack Big East team last year, and I can see the Bluejays struggling with middle of the pack Big East teams on the road more times than none in this upcoming season.
The Musketeers had the 14th ranked recruiting class in 2012, but two of those four players in the class weren’t eligible last year and Xavier struggled in their final season in the A-10. However, Coach Chris Mack gets those two players in the rotation this year (Jalen Reynolds and Myles Davis) to pair with point guard extraordinaire Semaj Christon – last year’s A-10 Rookie of the Year. X also welcomes Matt Stainbrook, a 6-foot-9 transfer from Western Michigan, who led his team in rebounding his sophomore year. Coach Mack’s team isn’t shorthanded this year, and it should show with a much improved season in their first year in the Big East.
The Wildcats surprised a lot of people last year by making the NCAA Tournament, especially after their rocky start. This year coach Jay Wright will be looking to expand upon that success with further improvements. Ryan Arcidiacono and JayVaughn Pinkston return to form a solid core. And if Arcidiacono can improve his shot making he could become one of the more lethal players in the league. Wright also gets two top-100 recruits in Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart to add to the mix. The one concern with this team is their size, which means 6-foot-11 sophomore Daniel Ochefu will need to step up.
7. St. John’s
This is how deep the Big East is: I’m ranking St. John’s 7th and they might have the most talent of anyone in the conference. If I was confident that Rysheed Jordan (the top ranked incoming recruit in the Big East), would come in and make an impact right away, I’d be more bullish on this team today. But all indications point to him being eased in, which ultimately could prove beneficial to him and the team come conference play. Coach Steve Lavin returns everyone but Amir Garrett from last year’s team including Big East Rookie of the Year JaKarr Sampson and the shot blocking machine Chris Obekpa. However, this squad was very inefficient on offense last year (ranked 214th in the country) and will need to clean that up if they are to have more success this season.
8. Seton Hall
Last year the Pirates were riddled with injuries, which derailed their season before even getting to Big East play. Better health will be the key for this year, but so will solid point guard play. Seton Hall couldn’t hold onto the ball last year and now they will be without Aaron Cosby who opted to transfer. Coach Kevin Willard welcomes point guard and top-100 recruit Jaren Sina, who will likely split the duties with Tom Maayan and incoming transfer Sterling Gibbs. Someone needs to step up because Fuquan Edwin can’t do it all by himself.
Butler is the first team in the rankings where my initial thoughts aren’t positive thoughts. The Bulldogs lost their elite head coach in Brad Stevens, Rotnei Clarke graduated, and their best player entering this season, Roosevelt Jones, is out for the season with an injury. That is a lot to overcome, and I don’t believe that Kellen Dunham, Khyle Marshall and the rest of the squad has enough firepower to be a conference contender this year. But it shouldn’t take the Bulldogs long to rise in the Big East as they have already put together a talented recruiting class for 2014.
The Blue Demons have won six conference games in three years under head coach Oliver Purnell, which is rather terrible. The senior duo of Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young is solid, but they need help in a big way. Maybe some of the incoming freshman (DeJuan Marrero, Billy Garrett Jr., R.J Curington and Tommy Hamilton Jr.) will provide the spark that gets this program turned around. But first this team needs to learn to play defense, and until we see any glimpses of improvement it’s impossible not to place them last.
My Preseason All-Big East Team:
G: Semaj Christon, Xavier
G: Bryce Cotton, Providence
F: Doug McDermott, Creighton
F: JaKarr Sampson, St. John’s
F: JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova
My Preseason Big East Player of the Year:
Doug McDermott, Creighton
He’s a two-time first team All-American. There’s no other choice here.
My Preseason Big East Rookie of the Year:
Brandon Austin, Providence
I’ve heard only good things about ESPN’s 87th ranked prospect and Austin figures to play a key role for the Friars by starting from day one. He should be one of the major reasons why Providence will be better than most anticipate.
Topics: Basketball, Big East, Brandon Austin, Butler Bulldogs, Creighton Bluejays, DePaul Blue Demons, Doug McDermott, Georgetown Hoyas, Marquette Golden Eagles, Predictions, Providence Friars, Seton Hall Pirates, St. John's Red Storm, Villanova Wildcats, Xavier Musketeers