When the old Big East became the new Big East in 2013, there were questions about how viable a basketball-only league could be in the greater college basketball landscape. Since then, the Big East has produced a national champion (Villanova in 2016), National Player of the Year (Doug McDermott), two No. 1 seeds (Villanova in 2015 and 2017) and sent seven teams to the NCAA Tournament last season.
The league’s coaches are the targets of constant rumors every spring. Ohio State hired away Butler’s Chris Holtmann in June after pursuing Creighton’s Greg McDermott. Xavier’s Chris Mack is mentioned in virtually every coaching search, and Ed Cooley will be a big name if he keeps exceeding expectations at Providence.
It’s fair to say that any questions have been answered.
The 2017-18 campaign will be an interesting one for the league. Gone are All-American Josh Hart and national title game hero Kris Jenkins. In comes Patrick Ewing to rejuvenate the Georgetown program he helped bring to national prominence in the 1980s. St. John’s enters the season with its most hype in the Chris Mullin era, possessing enough talent to make noise. Xavier is coming off an Elite Eight appearance and brings in the best recruiting class in the league. Seton Hall and Providence will once again be tough foes.
There might not be a clear-cut national title contender or Player of the Year candidate in the group, but the league is experienced and has multiple teams that can win a couple games in March.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
The losses of Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins will no doubt hurt, but Jalen Brunson is one of the best point guards in the country, and Mikal Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo could be poised for breakout seasons.
Trevon Bluiett’s decision to return gives the Musketeers one of the best players in the nation. Chris Mack also brings in a high-level recruiting class featuring top-60 players Paul Scruggs and Naji Marshall.
3. Seton Hall
There’s not a better trio in the league than Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez — plus Kevin Willard preaches toughness and defense. This could be the program’s best team since the P.J. Carlesimo years.
Ed Cooley has now led the Friars to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances. The return of Kyron Cartwright and Rodney Bullock and arrival of Makai Ashton-Langford should make it five for this surprisingly consistent program.
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5. St. John’s
The Red Storm have as much talent as anyone in the Big East. Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett form a dangerous backcourt, and Arizona transfer Justin Simon impressed during his redshirt season. It’s time for Chris Mullin to break through.
Marcus Foster might be the best scorer in the league, and Khyri Thomas makes a case for the best defensive player. Greg McDermott will need role players to step up to provide support, though, to get this team back to the NCAAs.
There’s no shortage of offensive firepower on the Golden Eagles. Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey both return, while Sam Hauser is ready to take the next step. Improving defensively is the key.
The June departure of head coach Chris Holtmann was a surprise, but former Bulldog LaVall Jordan should keep The Butler Way intact. Kelan Martin is a difficult scorer to stop, and Kamar Baldwin will assume a bigger role.
Despite finishing in last place in seven of the last nine seasons, there’s some reason for optimism with the Blue Demons. Eli Cain is back, and several incoming transfers should upgrade the talent as DePaul moves into a new facility.
This is going to be a transition year in the nation’s capital. Patrick Ewing is taking over at the helm, and he comes without any college coaching experience. He won’t turn things around right away.
Player of the Year: Jalen Brunson, Villanova
Best Defensive Player: Mikal Bridges, Villanova
Most Underrated Player: Khyri Thomas, Creighton
Newcomer of the Year: Omari Spellman, Villanova
ATHLON SPORTS’ ALL-BIG EAST FIRST TEAM
Trevon Bluiett, Sr., G, Xavier
Mikal Bridges, Jr., G/F, Villanova
Jalen Brunson, Jr., G, Villanova
Angel Delgado, Sr., F, Seton Hall
Marcus Foster, Sr., G, Creighton
ATHLON SPORTS’ ALL-BIG EAST SECOND TEAM
Khadeen Carrington, Sr., G, Seton Hall
Kyron Cartwright, Sr., G, Providence
Markus Howard, So., G, Marquette
Kelan Martin, Sr., F, Butler
Khyri Thomas, Jr., G, Creighton
ATHLON SPORTS’ ALL-BIG EAST THIRD TEAM
Kamar Baldwin, So., G, Butler
Rodney Bullock, Sr., F, Providence
J.P. Macura, Sr., G, Xavier
Shamorie Ponds, So., G, St. John’s
Desi Rodriguez, Sr., G/F, Seton Hall