Big East basketball may not be the 500-lb gorilla of the sport anymore, but the conference is still one to be reckoned within the college hoops landscape. Alongside traditional powers such as Georgetown and Villanova, the league adds three high-level newcomers this season in Butler, Creighton and Xavier.
The Blue Jays bring one of the nation’s best offenses to a league that’s traditionally been dominated by defense. All-American Doug McDermott is the most unstoppable scorer in the country, but how high can he lift his team in its first year of power-conference action?
Herein, a closer look at Creighton’s prospects, along with previews of all nine other Big East squads, presented in order of their projected finish. You’ll also find projections for some of the league’s award winners (including Player of the Year) and a pick for who will be crowned Big East tournament champion.
Top Newcomers: F Sandi Marcius, G Billy Garrett Jr.
Key Losses: G Worrel Clahar
Outlook: DePaul has a wonderful 2-on-2 team with Brandon Young outside and Cleveland Melvin inside, but that duo is in for another year of playing 2-on-5 once the season starts.
Marcius, a 6’10” Purdue transfer, will add needed toughness, but there are far more holes in this roster than he and freshman PG Garrett can fill.
Top Newcomers: G Rene Castro
Key Losses: Coach Brad Stevens, G Rotnei Clarke, C Andrew Smith, G Roosevelt Jones
Outlook: Butler was already in for a rough year before top returnee Jones was lost with a wrist injury.
Sophomore Kellen Dunham will provide some scoring, and the defense will be solid, if not quite up to the high standards of the departed Stevens. Nevertheless, this team doesn’t have the offensive firepower to make much noise in a strong league.
Top Newcomers: G Sterling Gibbs, G Jaren Sina
Key Losses: G Aaron Cosby
Outlook: SF Fuquan Edwin can do it all, but few of his teammates can do much of anything.
Incoming transfer Gibbs will likely step in for outgoing transfer Cosby. However, unless the ex-Longhorn starts playing like older brother Ashton (a former Pitt star), the Pirates’ offense won’t improve much on last year’s disappointing showing.
Top Newcomers: F Brandon Austin
Key Losses: G Vincent Council
Outlook: After being far less than the sum of their parts in 2012-13, the Friars will try to pull it together without graduated PG Council.
They’ve got lots of weapons—burly forwards Kadeem Batts and LaDontae Henton, scoring ace Bryce Cotton and sophomore playmaker Kris Dunn—but proving they can turn their potential into victories is another question entirely.
Top Newcomers: C Matt Stainbrook
Key Losses: F Travis Taylor
Outlook: Stainbrook, a 6’10” Western Michigan transfer, should cover for most of Taylor’s production, leaving the Musketeers with, in essence, a more experienced version of last season’s 17-14 squad.
The question now is how much better Semaj Christon—an NBA point guard in the making—can get after his multi-dimensional star turn as a freshman.
Top Newcomers: F Kris Jenkins, F Josh Hart
Key Losses: C Mouphtaou Yarou
Outlook: Sophomore PG Ryan Arcidiacono leads an experienced lineup that scored big home win after big home win last season with clutch shooting.
Even with sophomore Daniel Ochefu stepping in for the graduated Yarou, this year’s squad should be more consistent—and more of a threat away from the Pavilion.
Top Newcomers: G Rysheed Jordan
Key Losses: G Phil Greene IV
Outlook: A deep, athletic roster gets even deeper with the return of 6'8" forward God’sgift Achiuwa from a redshirt season.
More importantly, the Red Storm finally add a bona fide point guard (5-star freshman Jordan) to a collection of offensive weapons that already includes D’Angelo Harrison and Jakarr Sampson.
Top Newcomers: F Zach Hanson
Key Losses: C Gregory Echenique
Outlook: The unexpected return of PG Grant Gibbs (who got an extra year of eligibility) and the less-surprising one of All-American Doug McDermott will give Creighton one of the nation’s scariest offenses yet again.
Echenique’s graduation will hurt an already weak defense, but few teams in the country will put points on the board as well as the Blue Jays.
Top Newcomers: F Reggie Cameron, C Josh Smith
Key Losses: F Otto Porter Jr.
Outlook: Four starters return, but Porter (now of the Washington Wizards) was the one who carried the offensive load.
The D will be tough enough to contend, but with Greg Whittington out indefinitely with a torn ACL, scoring will be at a premium. The best bets to take over as the primary offensive option: guards Markel Starks or D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera.
Top Newcomers: G JaJuan Johnson, G Duane Wilson, F Deonte Burton
Key Losses: G Vander Blue, G Junior Cadougan, G Trent Lockett
Outlook: The starting backcourt is gone, and with it a big chunk of the offense, but Buzz Williams’ defense will keep the Golden Eagles (17th in the preseason poll) in the national rankings.
Scoring will depend partly on the trio of freshmen on the perimeter, but mostly on mammoth center Davante Gardner, the best big man in the conference at 6’8”, 290 lbs.
Nowhere is the decline of the Big East more obvious than in the dearth of instant-impact recruits for 2013-14. The one shining counter-example is Rysheed Jordan, the best point guard prospect at St. John’s since the great Omar Cook a decade ago.
The athletic Jordan steps into a near-ideal situation as he joins a veteran starting lineup that loves to run.
He’s not quite as polished as a half-court distributor yet, but with backcourt mate D’Angelo Harrison to lean on, he’ll do more than enough to run away with this award.
At this point, replacing the entire offense is becoming almost routine for Buzz Williams. Year after year, his top scorers bolt for the NBA (or graduate), and year after year he finds ways to win.
The explanation lies mostly, of course, with the hard-nosed defense that’s been a hallmark of Williams’ Golden Eagles teams.
If this year’s offense falters enough to knock Marquette out of the top spot in the standings, Steve Lavin of St. John’s could snag this prize instead.
For the second year in a row, Doug McDermott is the only first-team All-American who didn’t leave immediately for the NBA. For the third year in a row, Creighton’s super-scorer will place in the nation’s top three in scoring and earn his All-America stripes.
McDermott averaged 23.2 points per game last season while maintaining the kind of shooting accuracy most players can’t even manage in practice (.548 from the floor, .490 from three-point range).
He’s also a legitimate factor as a rebounder at 6’8”, having grabbed at least 7.2 boards a night in each of his three collegiate seasons.
Without an unbeatable team at the top of the standings, the new Big East figures to mimic the old in at least one respect: A must-watch conference tourney loaded with close games and upsets.
The reconstituted league is still holding its tournament at Madison Square Garden, too, and that means a huge boost for the Red Storm.
Perennial Garden favorites Syracuse and UConn are gone from the conference, meaning that St. John’s will benefit from a virtual home crowd against whatever opponents it may face.
The Red Storm are well equipped to feed off that kind of energy, buoyed by a fast-breaking offense and Chris Obekpa's momentum-changing rejections. Look for freshman PG Rysheed Jordan to reap particular benefits from the charged atmosphere.