It's late June, and while most of the sports world has come to a dead stop (unless you love regular season MLB!) - here at AT Online we never stop talking college hoops.
Which is why over the next six weeks, we are about to rip off our "Mid-Summer, Unofficial, Power Rankings" for all six of the major conferences.
Now to be clear, these power rankings are again unofficial, and stuff may change between now and the first games in November. But with the NBA Draft deadline behind us, and most of the major transfer portal activity in the rear-view mirror, it's time to look at all these conferences and where they stand heading into the 2022-2023 season.
Now it's time to look at the Big East, where one legend retired (we'll miss you, Jay Wright!) and three other schools are breaking in new coaches.
Oh, and with a surprise at the top:
1. Creighton Bluejays
The Jays were picked eighth to start last season in the Big East, after losing five starters off a 2021 Sweet 16 team - and then spent the entire 2021-2022 season defying expectations. With a team composed mostly of freshmen and newcomers, the Creighton finished the regular season winning seven of their last nine games and made it all the way to the Big East Tournament title game. This was without the services of point guard Ryan Nembhard, who suffered a broken wrist in late February. Then, star center Ryan Kalkbrenner went down in Round 1 of the NCAA Tournament - and the Jays still pushed eventual champion to the wire before losing by seven. Heading into 2022-2023, the Jays will return four of their six leading scorers, with three heading into their junior seasons. Arthur Kaluma and Trey Alexander are both former Top 100 recruits, who showed flashes last season of being great players, including when Kaluma dropped 24 points on Kansas in the tournament. With another year under their belts, a breakout is coming. In addition, Creighton brought in South Dakota State transfer Baylor Scheirman, a player who averaged 17 points and shot 46 percent from behind the three-point line last season - and who everyone in college basketball recruited out of the portal, including Kentucky and Duke.
2. Villanova Wildcats
While it will surely be odd not seeing Jay Wright roam the sidelines, Villanova should be in for another very good season. The Wildcats bring in former Fordham Head Coach and Villanova Assistant Kyle Neptune, who might have been one of the more successful first year coaches last season, leading Fordham to their most wins in a season since 2015, with 16. In addition, the Wildcats will be returning a nice core from last year's Final Four team, headlined by Caleb Daniels, Eric Dixon and Brandon Slater. Any of those three guys can take a significant step forward and will provide valuable experience, which the Villanova program has historically thrived with. Daniels emerged as one of the more underrated players in the Big East last season, averaging 10.3 points per game and shooting 37.3 percent from three, while coming off the bench as the sixth man. Despite the departure of Wright, Villanova also brings in a very good recruiting class, headlined by Cam Whitmore and Mark Armstrong. Both players shined for Team USA, in the U18 Tournament held earlier this month, and should be able to contribute right away for the Wildcats.
3. Xavier Musketeers
Heading into last season, Xavier had a legitimate argument as the most talented team in the Big East. The Musketeers primary eight-man rotation was composed of players proven at the college level, and had many excited about Xavier heading into the year. Unfortunately for the third consecutive year under Travis Steele, Xavier fell apart late and missed the NCAA Tournament. Now Xavier has a real coach in Sean Miller, who has been to four Elite Eight’s and six Sweet 16’s throughout his career. Miller did a great job convincing several key pieces from last year's team to stay, including leading scorer and rebounder Jack Nunge (13.4 ppg and 7.4 rpg), Colby Jones (11.6 ppg), Zach Freemantle (10.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Adam Kunkel (8.8 ppg). One of Xavier’s biggest downfalls last season was playing Zach Freemantle and Jack Nunge together on a frequent basis, and it was evident that the two big lineups were not going to work. Following the dismissal of Steele, interim head coach Jonas Hayes brought Freemantle off the bench, which was one of the key factors in Xavier’s run to an NIT Championship. Jones and Nunge have a legitimate argument as one of the best inside/ outside duos in all of college basketball, and with the dynamic shooting of Kunkel in the mix as well, Xavier should be at the top of the Big East heading into next season.
4. UConn Huskies
Despite last season ending in somewhat disappointing fashion with an opening round NCAA Tournament loss to New Mexico State, Dan Hurley’s Huskies should have a big year in store. UConn will return one of the best players in the Big East in big man Adama Sanogo, along with some other players who should be in for a big jump. Jordan Hawkins is a former Top 50 recruit, who showed flashes of greatness last season, but should be a more consistent contributor this season. The freshman shot 33.3 percent from three last season, and that number should only improve. In addition, Andre Jackson is back for his third year in the program, as one of the top highfliers in the sport, with his overall offensive game set to improve.
Hurley also did a really good job taking advantage of the transfer portal, bringing in guys like Tristan Newton (East Carolina), Nahiem Alleyne (Virginia Tech) and Hassan Diarra (Texas A&M), set to make an immediate impact. At times UConn lacked that go scorer last season, but with Hawkins and Jackson set to break out and some other really good transfers, that hopefully won’t be a major concern. Sanogo’s play however, especially in big games is what will put this Huskies team over the top. The big man seemed to struggle a tad as the season went on, only shooting 4 of 9 from the field in UConn’s NCAA Tournament loss and not playing particularly great overall in the last month and change of the season. With a motivated Sanogo, the Huskies could be in for a really nice season at the top of a loaded Big East Conference.
5. Seton Hall Pirates
It is a start of a new era in South Orange, as the Pirates welcome in former Saint Peter’s head coach (as well as former Pirates guard) Shaheen Holloway into town, fresh off leading the Peacocks all the way to the Elite Eight. Holloway will replace Kevin Willard, who did a great job in turning around the program, who is now off to Maryland. Although the Pirates lost many key contributors from last year's squad that made the NCAA Tournament, a solid nucleus is intact to get back to the Big Dance this season. The Pirates will return Kadary Richmond, Jamir Harris, Tray Jackson, Tyrese Samuel and Alexis Yetna who all played consistent minutes last season, alongside key transfers including KC Ndefo who came with Holloway from Saint Peters, Dre Davis from Louisville, Al- Amir Dawes from Clemson and Femi Odukale from Pitt. Richmond showed flashes last season and was great at Syracuse in their 2021 NCAA Tournament run to the Sweet 16. In addition, Jackson could be a breakout player with more of a consistent role, considering he averaged 6.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in only 18.1 minutes per game in 2022. Holloway schemed up brilliant game plans throughout the NCAA Tournament last season, and will have a legitimate chance to be one of the rising young stars in the industry, being back at his alma mater.
6. Providence Friars
Fresh off leading Providence to their first Big East regular season title in school history, Ed Cooley has his team in position for another big season. Providence does lose a handful of key contributors from the magical season of last year including Al Durham, Nate Watson, Justin Minaya, AJ Reeves and Noah Horchler, all of whom did something really well and fit in perfectly. Despite losing those key pieces Providence will return Jared Bynum and Ed Croswell who were both consistent rotation players and could be in store for major jumps with bigger roles. Cooley also dominated the transfer portal, bringing in Devin Carter from South Carolina, Noah Locke from Louisville, Bryce Hopkins from Kentucky, Clifton Moore from La Salle and Corey Floyd Jr. from Providence. Carter has the potential to be one of the better transfers in the country, after he averaged 9.0 points per game in only 18.7 minutes per game last season. In addition, Hopkins is a former Top 40 recruit, Locke has made over 250 threes in his college career and Moore was a very productive player at La Salle. Ed Cooley has done a phenomenal job building a culture at Providence and is perfectly suited for the job.
7. St. Johns Red Storm
There is some pressure on Mike Anderson heading into his fourth year in Queens, considering St. Johns hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament yet under his watch. Last offseason, the Johnnies added a ton of talent from the transfer portal, and had two of the best players in the Big East in Julian Champagnie and Posh Alexander returning, and it didn’t translate to wins. Heading into 2022-2023, there is still plenty of talent on this roster for a successful season even if the Johnnie's lost two of their top three leading scorers (Champagnie and Aaron Wheeler). The big piece St Johns added was Illinois transfer and former Big Ten Sixth Manof the Year, Andre Curbelo. Curbelo was also a former top 40 recruit but failed to live up to hefty expectations at Illinois last season and was way too erratic with the ball in his hands (he averaged 2.6 turnovers per game). Although he is again, a little erratic, Curbelo has plenty of upside too - and can also really make things go at times and is one of the most exciting players in the country to watch when things are going right. St. Johns also added DePaul Transfer David Jones, who broke out last season, averaging 14.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game as a sophomore. With these two dynamic players in the back court alongside Alexander and contributing players like Dylan Addae-Wusu, Montez Mathis and Joel Soriano returning, the expectation should be for St. Johns to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
8. Marquette Golden Eagles
Shaka Smart couldn’t have done much of a better job during his first year at Marquette, leading the Golden Eagles to the NCAA Tournament. This was with a team composed primarily of Justin Lewis as one of the sole returning players from the Steve Wojciechowski era, alongside a bunch of transfers and non-heralded players that Smart brought into the program. With Lewis departing for the NBA, Marquette will have some questions to answer, but there are a ton of guys with major opportunities to step up. Former George Mason transfer Tyler Kolek was one of the more underrated floor generals in the country a season ago, showing elite court vision and will now be able to score a tad more as a possible number one option. In addition, Kam Jones showed some real flashes as a guy that can be relied upon as a knockdown shooter during his freshman year and with more minutes, could be the guy to watch for this Marquette team. The Golden Eagles will also return guys like Olivier- Maxence Prosper and Oso Ighodaro in the frontcourt as experienced options. It was clear that Marquette was fully brought into the vision that Smart had and it was also refreshing to see Shaka at a place where he really fit nicely. Despite things not working out at Texas, it never felt right for him there from the start, and the fit for him at Marquette felt closer to his successful days coaching VCU in only one year, compared to his entire tenure at Texas.
Thad Matta returns to college basketball for the first time since 2017, after a great run at Ohio State Prior to that, he of course coached these Butler Bulldogs. There is no denying Matta’s resume as a head coach, as he went to two Final Four’s, won the Big Ten regular season title five times and the Big Ten Tournament four times. The question now will be is Matta still capable of getting Butler anything close to that success, after being away from the game for four years and dealing with health issues on the side.
So far, so good.
This off-season, Butler did a very good job of bringing in talent and convincing a handful of promising players from the Lavall Jordan era back to school. The most notable name being Simas Lukosius, who entered the transfer portal originally, but decided to return to school. Lukosius had some big moments this past season as a true freshman, including dropping 27 points in Butler’s Big East Tournament victory over Xavier. The Bulldogs will also return Chuck Harris, Myles Tate and Jaden Taylor, who have all been in the program for a handful of years now. Matta did good work in the transfer portal, bringing in guys that can all be productive based on their work at previous schools like Manny Bates from NC State, Eric Hunter Jr. from Purdue and Ali Ali from Akron. Butler has some talent here, but the question remains what Matta will ultimately look like coaching for the first time in years.
10. DePaul Blue Demons
It really felt for the first time in the past decade plus, that DePaul Basketball was really starting to build something last season. First Year head coach Tony Stubblefield led the team to some victories that not many thought were possible including beating Louisville at the KFC Yum Center and blowing out NCAA Tournament teams in Marquette and Seton Hall. Unfortunately for the Blue Demons, they lost both of their leading scorers in Javon Freeman- Liberty and David Jones who averaged a combined 36.2 points and 14.7 rebounds per game. Despite returning some other contributors from last year’s squad and adding transfers like Caleb Murphy from UCF and Umoja Gibson from Oklahoma, it is still a question mark how much this DePaul team can really compete in the Big East. Losing Freeman- Liberty to the draft was somewhat expected, but it is the loss of Jones, especially to a conference rival (as mentioned above, he's at St. John's) that is a massive loss. Having a player like Jones that could have been an all-conference performer would have been a huge boost, but instead he will be competing against DePaul in the same conference. Stubblefield is good enough to steal some games like last year, but it seems unreasonable to think this could be the first DePaul team to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.
11. Georgetown Hoyas
Following a 2021 season where Georgetown made the NCAA Tournament for the first under Patrick Ewing’s watch winning the Big East Tournament in the process, things couldn’t have gone much worse in 2022. The Hoyas finished 6-25 overall and winless during Big East Conference play with an 0-19 record. Georgetown had trouble capitalizing off their successful run considering they were picked to finish 10th in the preseason poll. This will be a big season for Patrick Ewing considering the last thing Georgetown wants to do is get rid of the guy that was the face of Georgetown Basketball in Ewing, but things really couldn’t have gone much worse last season. Georgetown does bring in some improvements in terms of overall level of talent, headlined by LSU transfer Brandon Murray. Murray averaged 10 points and three rebounds per game, earning All-SEC Freshman team honors a season ago. In addition, Georgetown welcomes back Maryland Transfer and former Hoya Qudus Wahab, who played the best basketball of his career in a Georgetown uniform in 2021 before deciding to leave last summer. He is now back on hte Hilltop. Despite these obvious talent improvements Georgetown hasn’t shown enough throughout the Ewing era to warrant any confidence of future success. In a deep Big East, fresh off a season of winning zero conference games, it is difficult to expect anything different in 2022.
To read Zac's Mid-Summer SEC power ranking, click here
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