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Big East Preview: Marquette, UConn, and Creighton Set the Pace as the League Looks Strong

On3 imageby:Jamie Shaw10/23/23


The college basketball season is right around the corner. On3 is going to go through each of the Power 6 conferences to preview the upcoming 2023-24 season. This week, we are diving into the Big East.

Big Ten Preview | Big 12 Preview | ACC Preview

The top of the Big East will be very interesting. Looking at Marquette, even with losing first-round NBA Draft pick Olivier-Maxence Prospect, they are deep, unique, and talented. They return proven experience and back it up with young talent.

UConn also returns starters off the National Championship team. However, they also lose two first-round NBA Draft picks as well as NCAA Tournament MVP Adama Sanogo. Similar with Creighton, they return a strong core of starters, but Ryan Nembhard and Arthur Kaluma were valued pieces. They are the second tier here, with hopes of an Elite Eight-type season.

Tier three the waters get a little more murky. All three programs have a chance to make a run, but they all have some questions too. Rick Pitino is back at a Power Six school, and he retooled his roster with talent, depth, and experience. How quickly can they gel? Villanova is led by Kyle Neptune and Providence with Kim English, both have intriguing rosters to make noise in the league.

Just below them are Xavier and Seton Hall. Both teams could play their way into the tier above, but have real questions. Xavier was hurt by injuries to their starting frontcourt, and will need for freshmen to step into key roles. Seton Hall added some shot making, and we know they are going to bring it on defense. What does that look like?

The bottom three in the league are interchangeable. They each have some talent on the roster. There is no true bottom-dweller, as each of these teams, if things go right, could compete in one game with each team in the league.

Let’s take a look through the basketball preseason power rankings for the Big East in 2023-24.

1. Marquette

Head Coach Shaka Smart (career 320-162)
2022-23: 29-7 (17-3, first in Big East)

PG 6-3 Sr. Tyler Kolek
G 6-3 Jr. Stevie Mitchell
G 6-5 Jr. Kam Jones
F 6-8 Jr. David Joplin
F 6-11 Sr. Oso Ighodaro

The Bench: 6-5 So. Chase Ross, 6-4 Fr. Tre Norman, 6-5 Fr. Zaide Lowery, 6-11 So. Ben Gold, 5-10 So. Sean Jones

The Buzz: This Marquette team is filled with depth and experience. They return Tyler Kolek, the 2022-23 Big East Player of the Year after averaging 12.9 points, 7.5 assists, and shot 39.8 percent from three. They also return second-team All-Big East winner Oso Ighodaro. Ighodaro is one of the more unique players in the league, able to initiate from different levels on the court while possessing a unique defensive upside. Shaka Smart also has wing depth, with Stevie Mitchell, who is the team’s top perimeter defender, and Kam Jones, last year’s leading scorer. Ross will look to make a push into significant minutes. Jones provides a steady hand as Kolek’s backup for this season. David Joplin shot 39.9 percent from three last season and looks to step into minutes vacated by first-round NBA Draft pick Olivier-Maxence Prosper. Lowery and Norman are talented freshmen. Gold looks to take a step from year one to year two, providing frontcourt depth with his size and skill. 

2. UConn

Head Coach Danny Hurley (career 255-160)
2022-23: 31-8 (13-7, fourth in Big East)
*National Champions

CG 6-5 GR Tristan Newton
CG 6-6 Fr. Stephon Castle
G 6-4 GR Cam Spencer
F 6-8 RS-So. Alex Karaban
C 7-2 So. Donovan Clingan

The Bench: 6-2 Sr. Hassan Diarra, 6-3 Fr. Solomon Ball, 6-7 Fr. Jaylin Stewart, 6-10 Jr. Samson Johnson, 6-7 Fr, Jayden Ross, 6-10 Fr. Youssouf Singare

The Buzz: This iteration of UConn has talent, the questions might come with the experience. The Huskies will return two starters from their National Championship team. Guard Tristen Newton and forward Alex Karaban both started 38 of 39 games last season. Newton is a combo guard, that is comfortable on the ball or scoring. Karaban is a skilled forward who shot 40.2 percent from three. The Huskies add five-star McDonald’s All-American Stephon Castle, who should take over some on-ball duties with Newton. How quickly will the freshman transitions to the college game could be huge for this team. Donovan Clingan built a lot of buzz in his 13.1 minutes per game last season. The 7-foot-2 center shot 65.5 percent from the field and averaged 17.1 rebounds and 5.5 blocks per 40 minutes. He is coming off a preseason foot injury. Cam Spencer, a Rutgers transfer, shot 43.4 percent from three last season. The grad transfer is a career 40.5 percent shooter from three on 442 attempts. Diarra and Johnson should step into prominent roles off the bench. There will be an opportunity for each of the freshmen to step into important roles this season. The growth of the freshmen will be big for this team. Also, will Clingan take the expected steps in year two?

3. Creighton

Head Coach Greg McDermott (career 449-281)
2022-23: 24-14 (14-6, third in Big East)

PG 6-1 Sr. Steven Ashworth
G 6-4 Jr. Trey Alexander
G 6-7 Sr. Baylor Scheierman
F 6-9 So. Mason Miller
C 7-1 Sr. Ryan Kalkbrenner

Bench: 6-8 RS-Fr Jasen Green, 6-6 So. Jonathan Lawson, 6-3 Sr. Francisco Farabello, 6-10 Fredrick King, 6-10 RS-Fr. Isaac Traudt

The Buzz: This team returns three starters from last season’s team that averaged 76.4 points and 15.7 assists on 27.4 made field goals per game. However, the two losses, Ryan Nembhard and Arthur Kaluma, who each decided to transfer with eligibility remaining are big losses. Trey Alexander, who decided to pull his name out of the NBA Draft and return, will take over some of the ball-handling duties vacated by Nembhard. He has good length and shot 41.0 percent from three last season. McDermott added Steven Ashworth from the transfer portal. He will look to share some lead guard duties with Alexander after averaging 16.2 points and 4.5 assists on 43.4 percent from three at Utah State last season. Baylor Scheierman is an excellent connecting piece, contributing across the board. He is a good team defender and averaged 12.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and shot 36.4 percent from three. Ryan Kalkbrenner is the anchor of the defense as the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. His 15.9 points led the team last season. Mason Miller, son of Mike Miller, could get the first crack at the four spot, vacated by Kaluma. However, look for King, Traudt, and Lawson to all get some time there as well, as the position could be held by committee. Farabello brings confidence and experience off the bench. The shooting reputation of this team is intriguing. Getting Kalkbrenner back, along with Scheierman should help smooth things out. How do the guards step up in place of Nembhard? 

4. St. John’s

Head Coach Rick Pitino (career 711-290)
2022-23: 1st year at St. John’s

PG 6-4 GR Daniss Jenkins
G 6-3 Sr. Jordan Dingle
G 6-7 So. RJ Luis
F 6-6 GR Chris Ledlum
C 6-11 Sr. Joel Soriano

Bench: 6-3 So. Cruz Davis, 6-4 GR Nahiem Alleyne, 6-4 Fr. Simeon Wilcher, 6-9 So. Zuby Ejiofor, 6-4 GR Sean Conway, 6-6 Jr. Glenn Taylor, 6-7 Fr. Brady Dunlap, 6-8 RS-So. Drissa Traore

The Buzz: Rick Pitino took very little time in building his roster, bringing in 12 new players. In Daniss Jenkins, he brought his point guard with him from Iona, Jenkins was second-team All-MAAC last year after averaging 15.6 points and 4.9 assists per game. Jordan Dingle, the son of former UMass starter Dana Dingle, was last season’s Ivy League Player of the Year. He has scored over 1,500 career points in his three seasons. RJ Luis, a transfer from UMass, could be one of the big sleepers in the league. He has great size and length, with comfort on the ball and defensive instincts. Joel Soriano is the lone returning starter who was second-team All-Big East last season after averaging 15.2 points and leading the league with 11.9 rebounds. Chris Ledlum was first-team All-Ivy last year after leading the league in rebounds (8.5) and finishing second in points (18.8). Alleyne, Conway, and Taylor will push for minutes in the backcourt. Traore and Ejiofor will provide depth in the frontcourt. This is a talented, and deep roster in year one for Pitino. What do the rotations look like? And it’s been six years since Pitino coached at a high major level, how quickly will the Hall of Famer get into his groove?

5. Villanova

Head Coach Kyle Neptune (career 33-33)
2022:23: 17-17 

PG 6-2 So. Mark Armstrong
G 6-5 GR Justin Moore
G 6-5 Sr. TJ Bamba
F 6-7 GR Tyler Burton
F 6-8 RS-Sr. Eric Dixon

Bench: 6-8 GR Hakim Hart, 6-9 Sr. Lance Ware, 6-4 So. Brendan Hausen, 6-9 Jr. Trey Patterson, 6-4 GR Chris Arcidiacono, 6-9 Jr. Nnanna Njoku

The Buzz: This Villanova team has experience and it has depth. The two-guard lineup with Justin Moore and Mark Armstrong could make things tough for opponents to defend. While different players with different skill sets, they both can initiate and put pressure on the defense. TJ Bamba finished top ten in scoring (15.8) last season in the Pac 12. He is a career 38.5 percent three-point shooter. Tyler Burton, a graduate transfer from Richmond, withdrew his name from the NBA Draft. He has scored 1,634 career points while averaging 6.7 rebounds through 94 starts. Eric Dixon was last season’s leading scorer (15.4) and rebounder (6.6). With Hart on the roster, they might have six starters. He has a reputation as a stopper on the defensive end. Hausen is a note sharp-shooter who could be a breakout candidate. Patterson has a lot of upside; he, Njoku, Ware, and Arcidiacono should provide solid depth. This roster is upgraded, and how quickly everyone buys into their roles and the rotations play themselves out will be worth watching. 

6. Providence

Head coach Kim English (career 34-29)
2022-23: 1st year at Providence

PG 6-2 So. Jayden Pierre
G 6-5 Fr. Garwey Dual
G 6-3 Jr. Devin Carter
F 6-7 Jr. Bryce Hopkins
C 6-9 GR Josh Oduro

Bench: 6-7 GR Ticket Gaines, 6-5 So. Justyn Fernandez, 6-4 RS-So. Corey Floyd, 6-11 RS-So. Rafael Castro, 6-8 Fr Donovan Santoro

The Buzz: Bryce Hopkins is an All-Big East candidate. He is a strong and explosive player who makes his presence felt on defense and around the paint. While Hopkins is the best player, Jayden Pierre’s play as the point guard could be the x-factor for this team. He should be in line for a lot of minutes. While there are a lot of expectations for Garwey Dual, Pierre’s play on the ball will help the freshman build up to the speed of play. Dual is a paint-touch guard with good length. Devin Carter is a sturdy wing, adept at getting downhill and drawing contact. His production could push for All-League-type honors. Josh Oduro has earned back-to-back first-team All-A10 honors. He has started 94 career games and scored 1,371 points and 721 rebounds. Gains and Floyd should push for good minutes at the guard spot. They need a step from Pierre and the freshmen to be ready. 

7. Seton Hall

Head Coach Shaheen Holloway (career 81-70)
2022-23: 17-16 (10-10, sixth in Big East)

G 6-6 Sr. Kadary Richmond
G 6-2 Sr. Al-Amir Dawes
F 6-4 Sr. Dylan Addae-Wusu
F 6-6 Sr. Dre Davis
C 6-11 Jr. Elijah Hutchins-Everett

Bench: 6-7 Fr. David Tubek, 6-10 So. Sadraque NgaNga, 6-10 Fr. Arda Ozdogan, 6-4 So. Jaquan Sanders, 6-10 GR Jaden Bediako, 6-5 Fr. Isaiah Coleman, 6-3 So. JaQuan Harris

The Buzz: This team has forged an identity of toughness. They will play physically, and it will not be an easy night when you line up against the Pirates. Kadary Richmond is a senior. He led the team in assists (4.1) and steals (2.0) last season. His 10.1 points were also third on the team. He will start beside Al-Amir Dawes, the team’s leading scorer (12.6) last season. He shot 38.2 percent from three and averaged 1.1 steals per game. Dre Davis is back after playing 23 games and averaging 9.6 points. Dylan Addae-Wusu started 34 games over the past two seasons at St. John’s. He shot 37.2 percent from three. Elijah Hutchins-Everett averaged in double figures in each of his two seasons at Austin Peay, while shooting 49.4 percent in 60 games. At 6-11 and 270 pounds, he has a physical presence. Bediako should push for minutes at the five. Tubek is a physical forward. Harris missed last season with an injury. Can Sanders take a step? Ozdogan and Coleman each have skills. NgaNga has a fluid and lengthy physical makeup. Even with the physicality, will the shot makers make shots?

8. Xavier

Head Coach Sean Miller (career 449-166)
2022-23: 27-10 (15-5, second in the Big East)

PG 6-0 Sr. Dayvion McKNight
G 6-3 Sr. Quincy Olivari
G 6-6 So. Desmond Claude
F  6-10 Fr. Lazar Djokovic
C 6-10 Sr. Abou Ousmane

*Zach Freemantle and Jerome Hunter would both be in the starter conversation if not for injuries that could keep them out for the season. 

Bench: 6-6 So. Kam Craft, 5-11 Fr. Trey Green, 6-7 Fr. Dailyn Swain, 6-7 Fr. Reid Ducharme, 6-9 Fr. Kachi Nzeh

The Buzz: This team does not lack talent, and they do have some experience in the lineup; however it is all new to the Musketeers. With injuries to Freemantle and Hunter, Desmond Claude is the only player on the roster who has started a game for Xavier. He started one game as a freshman. Claude is a combo/connecting guard, able to score or initiate with good size, he could be a breakout candidate. Dayvion McKnight averaged 16.5 points, 3.8 assists, and 1.8 steals at Western Kentucky last season. He is a point-of-attack guard. Abou Ousmane comes from North Texas where he averaged 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks last season. Quincy Olivari has scored 1,487 career points while shooting 37.8 percent from three in 113 games. Lazar Djokovic is very skilled with good size at 230 pounds. Losing Freemantle and Hunter is a blow, Miller will need the five-man freshman class to step up quickly. They have talent at the guard spots, but need the bigs to step up and rely on freshmen to be the source of depth this season. 

9. Butler

Head Coach Thad Matta (career 453-172)
2022-23: 14-18 (6-14, ninth in Big East)

PG 6-0 Sr. Posh Alexander
G 6-1 Sr. DJ Davis
G 6-3 Jr. Pierre Brooks
F 6-7 Sr. Jahmyl Telfort
C 6-10 GR Jalen Thomas

Bench: 6-8 Fr. Augusto Cassia, 6-4 Fr. Finley Bizjack, 6-10 So. Connor Turnbull, 7-1 Sr. Andre Screen, 6-11 Fr. Boden Kapke, 6-10 GR John-Michael Mulloy

The Buzz: The addition of Posh Alexander brings one of the league’s better point-of-attack defenders to Butler. DJ Davis shot 40.1 percent from three while averaging 15.0 points at UC Irvine earning first-team All-Big West honors last season. Jahmyl Telfort padded the stat sheet at Northeastern scoring 1.093 points in three seasons. He is a solid passer and defender as well. Jalen Thomas is a solid shot blocker with good size. He should share time with Screen, a Bucknell transfer, at the five. Pierre Brooks came to college with a big reputation, could this be the year the former four-star finds his footing? Mulloy is back from foot injuries. Looking to see a step from Turnbull. Keep an eye on Cassia, Kapke, and Bizjack to see how quickly the talented freshmen can get acclimated. 

11. Georgetown

Head Coach Ed Cooley (career 334-222)
2022-23: 1st year at Georgetown

PG 6-2 So. Jayden Epps
G 6-3 Sr. Jay Heath
F 6-6 Jr. Dontrez Styles
F 6-9 GR Ismael Massoud
C 6-9 Sr. Supreme Cook

Bench: 6-3 RS-Fr. Rowan Brumbaugh, 6-6 Sr. Wayne Bristol, 6-6 Jr. Donovan Grant, 6-10 Fr. Drew Fielder, 6-3 GR Cam Bacote

The Buzz: Jay Heath and Wayne Bristol combined to start 21 games for the Hoyas last season. Ed Cooley retooled the roster, bringing in four new projected starters. Jayden Epps, a transfer from Illinois, built a reputation as a high-scoring lead guard in high school.  He averaged 9.5 points and 1.5 assists as a freshman last season. Heath averaged 12.3 points on 37.3 percent from three with 1.1 steals. Dontrez Styles is a strong and explosive forward who showed flashes in his two seasons at UNC. Supreme Cook earned third-team All-MAAC last season. He averaged 13.1 points and 8.5 rebounds. Ismael Massoud is a graduate transfer who shot 41.8 percent from three last season. Bacote, Bristol, and Brumbaugh will be asked to step into backup guard roles. Fielder could be in line to get minutes in the post as soon as he is ready. 

11. DePaul

Head Coach Toby Stubblefield (career 27-51)
2022:23: 10-23 (3-17, tenth in Big East)

PG 6-5 Sr. Caleb Murphy
G 6-0 Sr Jalen Terry
F 6-6 So. Elijah Fisher
F 6-9 Sr. Jeremiah Oden
C 6-9 Fr. Churchill Abass

Bench: 6-2 GR Chico Carter, 6-3 Sr. KT Ramey, 6-7 So. Jaden Henley, 6-9 Jr. Keyondre Young, 6-10 RS-So. Mac Etienne, 6-8 Sr Da’Sean Nelson, 6-5 Fr. Dramane Camara 

The Buzz: DePaul upgraded their talent from last year as they brought in nine new players; seven transfers and two freshmen. Caleb Murphy and Jalen Terry each return from last year. Terry is a quick-on-quick guard. Murphy is a strong-framed lead guard who struggled through injury last season. Churchill Abass is a strong and explosive freshman from the NBA Academy in Africa. The hope is for Jeremiah Oden to be able to stretch the floor. Elijah Fisher came to college with a big reputation. He is a strong and explosive wing who DePaul needs to take a big step forward. Carter is a proven scorer with instant offense capabilities off the bench. Henley, Nelson, and Etienne should push for minutes up front.