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94 Feet in Under 94 Minutes: Big East Preview

Last year Creighton won the Big East by default after the Creighton-St. Johns game was cancelled at halftime during the Big East Tournament. Creighton had some losses due to seniors graduating last may, as well as Ty-Shon Alexander leaving for the NBA draft last spring, but Marcus Zegarowski has looked very solid over the first few games for the Blue Jays. All that being said, Villanova looks to retake their crown with their impressive play over their first eight games. Here’s how we expect the Big East to break down:

(Villanova, Creighton, Xavier, Providence)

Villanova: Nova is currently the number four overall team in the country according to the AP Poll, and for good reason. They currently sit 8-1, with their one loss coming from the 24th ranked Virginia Tech in their third game, which was an overtime thriller. Led by Jay Wright, Villanova is one of the best coached teams in the country. Nova has a nice blend between offensive and defensive firepower, that makes them one of the most complete teams in the nation, which tends to be their MO. Collin Gillespie is the leader of that team, and has built on his solid season last year, by putting up 15.3 PTS- 4.2 AST- 2.9 REB- 1.2 STL per game this season. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, last year’s Newcomer of the Year, has also taken some big steps this year, Averaging 16.2 PTS- 7.6 REB- 2.0 AST so far. This year’s Big East is very top heavy this year, and with Nova being the most well-rounded, they are my favorites to win the conference.

Creighton: Some people say Creighton had a miracle season last year, but that is far from the case. Losing Alexander was a big loss for this team, but Zegarowski has really stepped up his game since being forced into the spotlight in his junior season. The Blue Jays currently sit as the 11th overall team in the country, and hold a 7-2 record, suffering a devastating loss to Marquette and a one-point loss to the country’s number three overall team Kansas. The best trait Creighton has is that they play team basketball very well, which is expressed by the fact that they have five players averaging over 10 points a game. While Zegarowski (13.8 PTS- 4.0 REB- 5.0 AST- 1.3 STL.) has stepped up to be their main option, Denzel Mahoney (15 PTS- 5.1 REB- 1.7 AST) has started to come onto the scene as well. Overall, Creighton poses the biggest threat to the Wildcats to the Big East Crown.

Xavier: Next up we have the Xavier Musketeers, who currently sit 8-1, and are ranked as the 22nd overall team in the country. Their only loss came in their last game to Creighton, where they lost by five points. Xavier lost their star player in Naji Marshall to the NBA draft, as well as six other players for various reasons. The two players who needed to step up for this team, Zach Freemantle and Paul Scruggs, have done so in a phenomenal fashion. Freemantle is averaging 16.3 PTS-7.6 REB-1.4 AST per game, while Scruggs averages 15.8 PTS- 4.0 REB- 6.7 AST per game. This high-powered duo is having Xavier outscore opponents 734-616, making them a threat to make a push for the Conference Championship.

Providence: After a fourth-place finish last season, the Friars had the tools to be a top Big East threat. Cooley lost Alpha Diallo, Luwane Pipkins, Maliek White and Khalif Young to graduation, ouch. But, Providence retained talent in guards David Duke and A.J. Reeves, as well as Center Nate Watson. Although Duke (19.7 PTS-5.6 REB -3.9 AST) and Watson (19.7 PTS-7.0 REB- 0.4 AST) are playing out of their minds, the Friars suffered difficult losses to Indiana, Alabama and Butler. The team will have adjustments in order to play catch up with the other three teams in this section, but the Friars are a stone’s throw away from being in contention for the conference, and my dark horse to win the conference.

Middle of the Pack:
(Seton Hall, St. John’s, UConn, Butler, DePaul)

Seton Hall: With the departure of Myles Powell, Quincey McKnight, and Romaro Grill, everyone expected Seton Hall to take a step back. To a certain extent they did, as they currently sit 6-4. The Pirates have had some tough games, losing to Louisville, Rhode Island, Oregon and Providence, but there is still some hope for them. They have talented player in Sandro Mamukelashvili, Jared Rhoden, and Myles Cale, they just need to find production off their bench if they are looking to get back on track.

St. John’s: It has been a down season for St. John’s, as it usually is. The Red Storm currently sit at 6-4, with losses to BYU, Seton Hall, Georgetown and Creighton. St. John’s lost seven players during the offseason, which has made it hard for the team to find chemistry. Returning guard Julian Champagnie has been balling out, averaging 20.3- 7.5- 2.0- 1.6 STL- 1.0 BLK, but he can’t always do it all himself, hence the reason the Red Storm have four other players averaging over 10 points a game. The only problem is, of those five players averaging over 10 a game, only one of them is not a guard. If St. John’s wants to get their season back on track, they need to start getting production out of their big men.

UConn: UConn is feeling the effects of the pandemic this year, as they have yet to play even five games this season. The Huskies currently sit 3-1, with their sole loss coming from Creighton in their last game. They put up a great fight, losing by just two points. The star guard for the Huskies is James Bouknight, who is averaging 24.0- 5.8- 1.5- 1.5 STL on the season. Everyone else on the team is playing well as well. The only reason we have them in the middle of the pack is due to the lack of games. Don’t be surprised if they move up my standings.

Butler: Like UConn, Butler has had implications due to the pandemic. On top of that, they had been without their main option in Aaron Thompson two games. The Bulldogs played five games, and currently sit 2-3. Their three losses came from Villanova, Indiana at the Crossroads Classic, and Southern Illinois. Butler has to play some more games and show that defense allowed an average of 62.1 points per game last season, for them to stand a shot at moving up my rankings.

DePaul: The Blue Demons have played three games this season due to the pandemic. With the last two teams on this list playing more games than them are being put in this section, then so is DePaul. This is a team that has some potential to be a mid-conference team, but don’t be surprised if they are in the bottom half.

The Rest:
(Marquette, Georgetown)

Marquette: The Golden Eagles lost Markus Howard in the offseason, who averaged 21.6 points a game in his four year career at Marquette, and things just haven’t been the same. Marquette holds a 5-5 record, with losses coming from Oklahoma State, UCLA, Seton Hall, Xavier, and Villanova. Marquette has four players averaging over 10 points a game, with Koby McEwen with 14.2. No one on this team is that inspiring to say they can come back from their .500 record.

Georgetown: Georgetown… had a difficult season last year to say the least. They lost Mac McClung in his transfer to Texas Tech, and he might’ve been their only hope in saving the season. The Hoyas stand 3-5, with losses to Navy, West Virginia, Villanova, St. John’s and Seton Hall. There really isn’t too much to be excited about, other than having four players averaging over 10 a game, led by Jahvon Blair with his 18.9 a game. Don’t expect them to turn this around this season.

Player of the Year Prediction
Conner Gillespie, G, Villanova– Gillespie is the heart and soul of Villanova, the best team in the conference. While Jeremiah Robinson-Earl may be leading in scoring, there is something to be said for leadership, and Gillespie provides just that. He will be the one to lead this team to another Tournament run, should there be one.

Newcomer of the Year Prediction
Jair Bolden, G, Butler– Butler has been relying on their slash-attack a lot this season, mainly because they don’t have a ton of guys who can shoot the three well. Bolden is on of the more consistent shooters in the Big East, and gives them a little ability to stretch out the floor. Bolden is shooting 41% from deep, and has been averaging 14 points a game this season. If he can keep up his performance, Bolden may earn himself Newcomer honors for the conference.

First Team All-Conference
James Bouknight, G, UConn
Collin Gillespie, G, Villanova
Marcus Zegarowski, G, Creighton
Sandro Mamukelashvili, F, Seton Hall
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, F, Villanova
Sixth Man: Bryce Golden, F, Butler

Follow me on Twitter @THB315

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