College Basketball 2014-15: Big East Predictions and Awards

Georgetown's D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera leads the All-Big East team

The first year of the new Big East alignment brought a little bit of everything: a national player of the year and one of college basketball’s all-time greats (Creighton’s Doug McDermott), a national top 10 team (Villanova) and one surprising NCAA participant (Providence).

 

At the same time, the new league also showed its limitations. None of its four teams in the NCAA Tournament advanced beyond the first weekend. And after the season, arguably the league’s best coach at one of the Big East’s top programs left for a middling ACC team.

 

Even if Buzz Williams’ departure from Marquette to Virginia Tech was as much a product of internal politics as anything, the move wasn’t a great sign of health for the league.

 

The Big East may enter the 2014-15 season with same kinds of highs and lows. Villanova returns the core of a team that was a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Georgetown and Xavier continue to be NCAA contenders.

 

But the Doug McDermott Show is gone, putting Creighton into a rebuilding year along with Marquette, under new coach Steve Wojciechowski, and Butler.

 

That leaves teams like Providence, Seton Hall and St. John’s — also-rans at the end of the previous Big East era — making up the depth of the league.

 

Previews of every Big East team and more are available in the 2014-15 Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview.

 

Big East 2014-15 Preseason Picks

 

1. Villanova (team preview)

Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16

The clear-cut favorite to win the league, the Wildcats could be poised for a deep NCAA Tournament run. Can Josh Hart replace James Bell?

 

2. Georgetown (team preview)

Postseason projection: NCAA round of 64

Despite the loss of Markel Starks, John Thompson III will have this team in the mix. The key could be Joshua Smith: Will he stay healthy and eligible?

 

3. Xavier (team preview)

Postseason projection: NCAA First Four

Had everyone returned, the Musketeers could have competed for a league title. Jalen Reynolds is ready for a breakout season up front.

 

4. St. John’s

Postseason projection: NIT

There is still plenty of talent and athleticism on the roster, and Rysheed Jordan and D’Angelo Harrison form a dynamic guard duo.

 

5. Providence

Postseason projection: NIT

Life without Bryce Cotton begins for Ed Cooley. LaDontae Henton and Tyler Harris will score, but Kris Dunn needs to stay healthy.

 

6. Seton Hall

Postseason projection: NIT

The most intriguing team in the league. Isaiah Whitehead can score, Angel Delgado is a dominant rebounder, and Sterling Gibbs is back.

 

7. Butler

Postseason projection: NIT

Roosevelt Jones’ return from injury will be the biggest key. He and Kellen Dunham will form a terrific – and productive – perimeter tandem.

 

8. Marquette

Steve Wojciechowski enters his first season with very little up front — but plenty of perimeter punch, including Todd Mayo and Matt Carlino.

 

9. Creighton

A rebuilding job begins for Greg McDermott. His son and three other starters have moved on, and big reinforcements are a year away.

 

10. DePaul

Oliver Purnell has won nine Big East games since joining DePaul four seasons ago. Could this be his last go-round in Chicago?

 

2014-15 Big East Superlatives

 

Player of the Year: D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown

Smith-Rivera will shoulder more of the load with the departure of do-it-all point guard Markel Starks. His 17.6 points per game suggests Smith-Rivera is ready. The junior also averaged 87.3 shooting from the free throw line.

 

Best Defensive Player: Chris Obekpa, St. John’s

Obekpa has twice led the Big East in blocks, topping out at 2.9 a year ago.

 

Most Underrated Player: Darrun Hilliard, Villanova

Hilliard was one of the most improved players in the league last season, improving from 31.5 percent shooting from 3-point range to 41.4 despite taking 45 more shots last season.

 

Newcomer of the Year: Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall

If Seton Hall is going to make a long-awaited rise, the arrival of Whitehead from Brooklyn will be a big reason why. The McDonald’s All-American should offer a scoring boost to an experienced backcourt.

 

Top coach: Jay Wright, Villanova (full Big East coach rankings)

 

First-Team All-Big East 

G D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s

G Kellen Dunham, Butler

G D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown

F LaDontae Henton, Providence

F JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova

 

Second-Team All-Big East

G Darrun Hilliard, Villanova

G Rysheed Jordan, St. John’s

G Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall

F Roosevelt Jones, Butler

C Matt Stainbrook, Xavier

 

Third-Team All-Big East

G Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova

G Matt Carlino, Marquette
G Sterling Gibbs, Seton Hall

G Billy Garrett Jr., DePaul

C Joshua Smith, Georgetown

 

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