Men’s Big East Conference outlook

Xavier will be competitive in a conference forecasted to be up for grabs

By Luke Feliciano | Sports Editor

The Musketeers closed out the regular season on a 6-1 run — including a victory against Villanova. Xavier was picked to finish third in the Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll, which brings positive vibes to the upcoming season.

Seton Hall was selected at the top of the poll, and for good reason. The Pirates return star sharpshooter Myles Powell, who was selected as this year’s Preseason Player of the Year.

The 6-foot-2 guard’s potential to put up 30 points on any given night will put opposing teams on notice this season, and his ability combined with newfound depth will make Seton Hall a tough team to beat this year.

Just because Villanova wasn’t No. 1 in the conference this season doesn’t mean they should be counted out. The Wildcats may have a more difficult time clinging to the top spot in the Big East. They are right up there with Seton Hall and have won five out of the last six regular season titles. The Wildcats lost some key players after last year’s second round exit, but there is still something to be said in  head coach Jay Wright’s ability to create NBA talent with the group of players he has.

This will largely surface in what improvement junior guard Collin Gillespie will make. The former three-star recruit can become the primary ball-handler for the Wildcats.

Marquette had a rough offseason after a disappointing first round exit in the Big Dance last season. Brothers Sam and Joey Hauser, their second and third top scorers, decided to transfer out in the spring. While elite senior guard Markus Howard returns along with two other starters, the question for the Golden Eagles this year will be if they can continue on their strong defensive play that took them to March last year.

Georgetown led the Big East in scoring last year by averaging 79.5 points per game in conference play. While Patrick Ewing’s Hoyas found offensive success, there is still room for improvement on the opposite side of the ball. Georgetown gave up a conference worst 80.6 points per game. Georgetown will also have to incorporate six new players and fill the void left by four-year starter Jessie Govan.

Creighton’s smaller-sized team may be the weakpoint that opponents will exploit this year. Despite this, its offense should continue to make strides this season. They finished second by eight total three-pointers (behind Villanova) last year, so look for the Bluejays to continue with their lethal long-range shooting.

Providence had high expectations last season but ultimately fell short by going 7-11 in Big East play and only made the NIT. The Friars bring back their key players in Alpha Diallo and Nate Watson, and hope that their core has enough to make a renewed push towards the top for this season.

Butler returns three starters from last season, but lost Big East Sixth-Man of the Year Paul Jorgensen and its second leading scorer in Nate Fowler. They also lost Joey Brunk when he transferred to Indiana, but retained preseason First-Team All-Big East selection Kamar Baldwin.

 The Bulldogs ranked next to last with 71.9 points per game on the season. This will need to improve for Butler to find success in a packed Big East.

St. John’s made it to March last season, but a return is in jeopardy this season. After Chris Mullin left along with the Big East Defensive Player of the Year Justin Simon, the Red Storm have a fresh start for this season.

New head coach Mike Anderson and his seven new players will have quite the road in front of them to repeat last year’s trip into March.

DePaul had their best season in a long time last year, but after taking one step forward, the Blue Demons might be taking two steps back. Losing top scorers Max Strus and Eli Cain won’t help.

However, there are some bright spots on the roster including Big East Most Improved Player Paul Reed.