By: Kyle Isaacs
The inaugural season of the new Big East promises surprising results, intriguing new rivalries and a plethora of exciting intra-conference matchups.
This new basketball- centric conference will feature schools with impressive basketball resumes and universities with emerging basketball programs.
The combination of these two types of teams will enhance the league’s reputation and provide excellent competition during the conference season.
Led by head coach Buzz Williams, Marquette University is the early favorite to secure the league title by experts across the nation.
The Golden Eagles return one of the biggest space-eaters in the league in Davante Gardner, a senior forward who will be a tough matchup for any Big East player.
Marquette finished last season with a 26-9 record and they will undoubtedly challenge the newcomers with their physical style of play.
Another favorite this season is Georgetown, a defensive-minded unit that sometimes struggles to put up points.
The Hoyas will rely heavily on the front court combination of Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. Xavier Nation knows Smith- Rivera well. A former verbal commitment recruit for the Musketeers, the sophomore guard will look to build upon a solid freshman year. The Hoyas will feel the loss of junior forward Greg Whittington to injury, but their depth and ability to play strong defense (10th in the nation in scoring defense last season) should make up for this setback.
Despite relatively little success in the NCAA Tournament, Creighton has proved to be an impactful team, led by All- American senior forward Doug McDermott.
Son of the Blue Jays’ head coach, McDermott has the ability to hit long range shots or score from the post, making him a difficult player to stop.
St. John’s University, led by former ESPN analyst Steve Lavin, has the potential to turn heads in the league if certain players improve their level of play. In particular, junior guard D’Angelo Harrison was third in scoring in last year’s Big East, though he was suspended late in the season for violating team rules.
The Red Storm struggled to a 17-16 record last year, but could potentially be a tough team during conference play.
The Musketeers were predicted to finish seventh out of 10 teams. As many experts have noted, the transition from the Atlantic 10 to the Big East will be anything but easy for Xavier.
The success of the Musketeers’ season will rely heavily on sophomore guard Semaj Christon, who was selected to the preseason All- Big East first team.
The point guard will look to improve on his rookie campaign, where he averaged 15.2 points and 4.6 assists per game on his way to the A-10 Rookie of the Year.
If Christon and freshmen power forward Jalen Reynolds can produce consistently during the gauntlet-like conference schedule, Xavier will surprise some of the critics.
Another team that could surprise basketball fans is Providence College, led by Bryce Cotton and LaDontae Henton.
Though they do not receive much national attention, these two playmakers combine to create a formidable lineup for the Friars and could shock people in this new conference.
On the other hand, the Butler Bulldogs may see a decrease in wins following the departure of their wonder-kid head coach Brad Stevens, who departed for greener pastures in Boston.
The Bulldogs return some key players in Khyle Marshall and Roosevelt Jones, but may struggle to find their identity under a new head coach and could consequently play poorly in the new Big East.
With that being said, the Big East will be anything but predictable, so prepare for some action packed games once the first ball is tipped this fall.