After winning the Big East regular season and tournament championships, it would be hard to place any team above the Wildcats, given what they have achieved in recent seasons with multiple March Madness runs and winning the National Championship in 2018. Even though they lost two leaders in recent graduates Phil Booth and Eric Paschall, the Wildcats had one of their best recruiting classes in recent memory, landing two five-star recruits, Bryan Antoine and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. With two freshmen joining the starting lineup, Villanova must rely on its veterans to step into larger leadership roles. In the frontcourt, sophomore Saddiq Bey looks to become a bigger threat in pick-and-roll situations after a turnover-prone freshman season, while junior Collin Gillespie will be asked to fill the role of starting point guard. Although they lack reliable experience, the Wildcats will still be the team to beat in the conference and a strong opponent down the stretch in March.
2. Seton Hall
With Myles Powell forgoing the NBA draft to play his final season with the Pirates and Kevin Willard returning to Trenton, Seton Hall is looking to have one of its best finishes in program history. Powell returns as one of the best scorers in college basketball and a contender for the Naismith Trophy. He has the demonstrated ability to score from anywhere on the court and carry the Pirates on offense at all times. Look for Powell and the rest of the Seton Hall squad to improve upon their 20-14 record from last season. Eight out of the nine leading scorers for Seton Hall from last season will return to fill out the roster, providing great continuity after a strong conclusion to last season, during which it qualified for March Madness as a No. 7 seed before being upset by the Wofford Terriers.
After a tough loss to Xavier in the Big East tournament and missing out on the tournament, despite a 20-15 record, the Bluejays will be playing with extra motivation this upcoming season. Junior guard Ty-Shon Alexander and 2019 Big East All-Freshman Team selection Marcus Zegarowski will lead a star-studded offensive cast aided by upperclassmen scorers Davion Mintz and Mitch Ballock. While the Bluejays are well-equipped on offense, they may struggle on the defensive side of the ball. With the graduation of big man Martin Krampelj, the Bluejays will have an increasingly thin frontcourt and a decrease in shot blocking ability. Despite these limitations, this Creighton team will be among the favorites in the conference this season and enters the season as a strong contender for March Madness.
After a strong push for the tournament at the end of last year, winning six of their final seven Big East regular season matchups, the Xavier Musketeers will be well-equipped to build off of their momentum heading into the 2019-20 season. Xavier will be led by potential All-Big East selections Naji Marshall and Paul Scruggs in the backcourt, along with the opportunity for highly ranked freshman KyKy Tandy to become an immediate impact performer. Like Creighton, however, the Musketeers will struggle to replace the loss of Zach Hankins, who graduated last spring, in the frontcourt. Xavier will need to find a way to compensate for his presence on the floor while simultaneously giving its stars space to work.
The Hoyas are ready to make a big jump in their play this season on the backs of sophomore standouts James Akinjo, Josh LeBlanc and Mac McClung. Akinjo and McClung proved to be a more-than-capable backcourt duo last season, leading the Hoyas to their first postseason birth since 2015, and LeBlanc stood out as an energizer for the team with impressive shot blocking ability and finishing touch. For these sophomores to take the next step, they all must become more efficient shooting the ball, and the guards must improve their play on the defense. With the departure of Jessie Govan, the fate of the Hoyas’ season lies in the hands of NC State transfer Omer Yurtseven. A former All-ACC selection, Yurtseven must match the play of Govan for Georgetown to reach its ceiling. This team has the potential to exceed expectations and make the tournament for the first time since 2015.
After the departure of the Hauser brothers to Virginia and Michigan State, Marquette will struggle to replace the brothers’ average 24.6 points per game. Reigning Big East Player of the Year Markus Howard remains on the roster, however, for his senior season and will serve as the go-to threat on offense. The Golden Eagles will look to underclassman and Utah State transfer Koby McEwen to fill in the gaps offensively. On defense, the Golden Eagles will be anchored by 6-foot-9 forward Theo John and his 2.1 blocks per game. Marquette must search for additional scoring to replace the Hausers, but it still has a balanced roster that can perform on the national stage.
Last season was a disappointing season for the Friars despite the offensive prowess of junior guard Alpha Diallo. With such consistent talent across the conference, the Providence Friars are another team that will look to move inside the bubble in March. The Friars return scorers with Diallo in the backcourt and with junior center Nate Watson in the frontcourt. Providence will also need transfer Luwane Pipkins to become an immediate impact player after averaging more than 15 points per game with UMass. Like Georgetown and Marquette, Providence’s play this season will be determined by new and young talent supporting it well-defined leaders.
After losing five of their last six games last season, the Butler Bulldogs will look to be more competitive down the stretch this year. With the return of Kamar Baldwin, an All-Big East selection who averaged 17 points last season, the Bulldogs will have a leader on the offensive side of the ball. The Bulldogs also added a Top 100 recruit in Khalif Battle, who looks to provide length at the wing. Defensively, Butler will rely on unproven transfers to solidify a defense that consistently let it down in close games throughout the 2018 season. If Butler can solve its problems on defense, it will be a tough opponent in conference play.
9. St. John’s
After the resignation of Chris Mullin and standout leading scorer Shamorie Ponds entering the NBA draft, the Red Storm will undergo a rebuilding process this coming season. Junior guard LJ Figueroa is a potential All-Big East performer that could make up for the absence of Ponds. The Red Storm had one of the weakest recruiting classes in the conference this season, providing them with minimal reason for optimism, as Figueroa is the only reliable player on the roster. Under the tutelage of new Head Coach Mike Anderson, the Red Storm will likely struggle this year despite having received an NCAA tournament bid this past March.
After finishing in a tie for last place in conference play last year, DePaul will lose three players that accounted for the bulk of its scoring. However, the team has already made progress in replacing its strong graduates, with the Blue Demons landing power forward Romeo Weems, a Top 100 recruit, and returning junior forward Paul Reed to create a dangerous frontcourt pair. Despite the talent up front, the Blue Demons lack star power in the backcourt and have failed to perform consistently in the Big East since joining the conference in 2013.