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Will these Big East teams beat expectations? Pt. I

Updated: Jul 1, 2023



College basketball's offseasons have become more hectic than ever before thanks to an increase of player movement through the transfer portal. Thanks to Bart Torvik's website, we can track those roster changes and how they impact the landscape of college basketball in real time.


We pulled some of the projections the site makes about the Big East to give our takes on how these teams will finish next season.


Will Villanova finish higher or lower than 14?


Tommy Godin: Higher. The talent is there. The experience is there. The depth is there. A lot rides on Kyle Neptune's shoulders, but he has the keys to a Ferrari this season. I’m confident he’ll drive it in the right direction.


Michael DeRosa: When I’m looking at this Villanova team, I’m fairly confident they are going to be really good, but I don’t see them as a Top 10 team yet. I really buy their defensive versatility on the wings, I just want to see how much Mark Armstrong has improved and how effective Dixon/Ware will be inside before fully buying in. Currently, I’d have Nova in that 12-20 range, and with 14 being on the high end of that, I’m going to say they lower.


Thomas Cavanagh: Lower. This Villanova squad should be tournament-caliber because of a now-healthy Justin Moore forming a formidable scoring backcourt trio with incoming transfers Tyler Burton and T.J. Bamba, Kyle Neptune still has to prove he can be an effective coach in the Big East, let alone lead a team into the top 15.


Matt St. Jean: Lower. I like this Villanova group a lot, but 14 is very high. I think they end up finishing the season in that 15-20 range. Kyle Neptune is still a very young head coach, but the veteran experience of this team helps counterbalance that. The pieces fit together well, and this roster has a lot of good players. I'm just not sure they have that one guy who will take them into the top 14.


Will Marquette finish higher or lower than 18?


Tommy: Higher. Like Villanova, the talent, depth, and experience are there. I don’t know if I foresee them being frequent flyers in the top ten like they were much of last season (especially towards the end), but certainly higher than 18.


Michael: Higher. I think there’s a legitimate argument that Marquette hit their ceiling last year and that they won’t get much better from an analytical perspective, but the returning core should be more than enough to eclipse 18, even without OMax. David Joplin will slot into that starting five, and fit in very well. I do have some questions about their bench, but I think 18 is far too low for how good this team was last season.


Thomas: Higher. Shaka Smart has proven in his brief time in Milwaukee that he can build an offensively-dynamic team that can stand at the top of the Big East. With the exception of Olivier-Maxence Prosper, everyone from last season’s Big East champion squad that finished the regular season as the sixth-ranked team in the country will return. The major question mark is can they finally translate their regular season success to March?


Matt: Higher. Marquette stayed in the top 18 since before Christmas last year, and having the Big East Sixth Man to replace your first-round pick is as good of a replacement situation as you'll find. Shaka Smart is one of the best coaches in the game, especially when it comes to player development, and he has another year to work with this group. Barring injury, Marquette should easily be in the top 15 all season.


Will Providence finish higher or lower than 42?


Tommy: Higher. This one was very close for me. Kim English is rising up the ranks as an up and coming stud HC, but the situation he is walking into isn’t ideal. Hop and DC should be enough to keep them above 42 alone, and the rest of the role players should have them flirting with the low 30’s


Michael: This is another very tough one for me because I see this Providence team having a very wide range of outcomes. I could see them really building off of their season last year and being even better, with additions of guys like Josh Oduro and Garwey Dual, but I’m also worried about their point guard play and think Ed Croswell is a much bigger loss than he’s gotten credit for. He was outmatched against Tshiebwe, but who wasn’t? 42 is about the range of the NCAA Bubble, and I think this team has tournament-level talent, so I’m going to say higher, but this could change over the course of the offseason.


Thomas: Lower. Retaining Bryce Hopkins and Devin Carter, as well as the commitment of Garwey Dual is huge and there are very few college basketball coaches as charismatic as Kim English. The problem is that English’s CV as George Mason head coach has been underwhelming. A losing season in 2021-22, followed by a fifth-place finish in an eye-meltingly bad Atlantic 10 conference doesn’t give me much confidence his first year in the Big East will be smooth.


Matt: Maybe I'm biased, but I'm going higher. There are plenty of valid questions about this Providence team for next season, but it's a group that also has a top-two player in the Big East. That goes a long way. Bryce Hopkins was one of just two unanimous First Team All-Big East selections last year (Tyler Kolek was the other), and his ability to handle a high usage on offense and create second chances for his teammates lifts the floor of this group dramatically.


Will St. John's finish higher or lower than 70?


Tommy: Higher. I couldn’t be higher on the Johnnies this year. Step one was bringing back Joel, and they went ahead and paired him with Jordan Dingle, Brady Dunlap Danniss Jenkins etc.. I could go talking about the talent they brought in but I’d run out of room in this fun prompt. I’ll end it by reminding people the Johnnies added a top ten cbb coach on planet earth in Rick Pitino. The Johnnies are closer to the top 25 than 70. Give me all the Red Storm Stock.


Michael: Easiest one on the board for me, higher 100%. This projection has St. John’s as the 104-ranked defense. Pitino has only had defenses worse than that twice in his coaching career (since they’ve had access to these efficiency metrics), his first two seasons at Iona, with the first one being during the covid year and the second having a KenPom defensive efficiency ranking of 105 (Torvik that them 110). That’s a Mike Anderson number, and I think Pitino is a better coach than Mike Anderson (hot take, I know). Even if St. John’s underperforms expectations, I still think they exceed this number.


Thomas: Higher. Rick Pitino’s staff faced the herculean task of overhauling an entire roster within two months. 11 new scholarship players, plus top-40 North Carolina de-commit Simeon Wilcher joining the team as a late recruiting cycle surprise. What this team lacks in buzz-worthy portal additions, they make up for in three-point shooting, versatility, and length, all of which should provide space for Joel Soriano to work in the post.


Matt: Higher. Rick Pitino is a very good coach, and he has one of the best players in the Big East in Joel Soriano. Add in a bunch of high-upside guards around him and this is a group that should be very competitive against high-major competition. Throw out the numbers with this group. Rick is here.


Will Creighton's defense finish higher or lower than 22?


Tommy: Lower. Subtracting Nembhard and Kaluma and entering Ashworth and Traudt isn’t exactly a recipe for defensive advancement. I don’t think they will be anywhere close to bad on defense, and obviously Kalk is a stud, but 22 feels lofty to me.


Michael: Creighton finished 15 last year in defensive efficiency for Torvik, and they definitely get worse on that end, losing both Kaluma and Nembhard. You still have the defensive anchor of Kalkbrenner, who is excellent at contesting and altering shots. Last year, Creighton was one of the worst teams in the country at forcing turnovers, I expect that to regress in their favor. At the same time, Ashworth and Traudt are not as good defensively as Nembhard and Kaluma were. I think this is a very fair number, but if I’m forced to pick, I’m going to say lower. Creighton’s opponents also were very bad from the free-throw line, and I think that balances out the turnover regression, and those two guys are worth more than seven spots.


Thomas: Higher. Creighton got a raw deal in the portal, losing Ryan Nembhard and Arthur Kaluma. Still, they should remain an elite defensive team as long as Ryan Kalkbrenner is roaming the paint. The back-to-back Big East Defensive Player of the Year averaged over 2 blocks a game in each of the last two seasons. Baylor Scheierman and Trey Alexander should also provide strong coverage out of possession, as both finished in the top-12 in defensive box plus/minus among Big East players last season.


Matt: Higher. Ryan Kalkbrenner is a cheat code on defense, but I'm not sold on the pieces around him being as good as they were last year. That said, they still finished 15th last season, so they can fall short of that number and clear this bar. Give me Creighton with a top 20 defense and Ryan Kalkbrenner winning Big East DPOY for the third straight year.


Will Xavier's offense finish higher or lower than 37?


Tommy: Higher. Jerome Hunter. That’s all. Nah but seriously, Xavier is going to be good. I know Sean wants to build around defense, but the offense is bound to be explosive when you bring in guys like Olivari and McKnight to supplement Freemantle and Co.


Michael: Xavier’s offense last season was absolute dynamite. They’re not going to be as good offensively as they were last season, they lose four of their most five efficient offensive players from a season ago. I’m not huge on this Xavier roster, but since 2013 Sean Miller has only coached one offense worse than this projection. While this team isn’t as talented as most of his teams at Arizona in terms of NBA Players, I will still say higher here. I’m buying Trey Green as a legit freshman, and think Desmond Claude takes a jump, and I don’t think that’s reflected here.


Thomas: Lower. I do not envy Sean Miller as he figures out how to replace what Colby Jones, Solely Boum, Jack Nunge, and Adam Kunkel all brought to this Xavier squad last season. In Dayvion McKnight, Miller is hoping lightning strikes twice from acquiring an All-Conference USA lead guard, but the Western Kentucky transfer likely won’t be as game-altering as Boum was.


Matt: Higher. Pairing two of the best guards from C-USA with Zach Freemantle, Jerome Hunter, Des Claude, Kam Craft, and a great incoming freshman class means this team should score. And Sean Miller knows how to draw up an offense. Yes, this team is losing a lot. But yes, I'm buying on Sean Miller and some C-USA magic.


Will Seton Hall's defense finish higher or lower than 29?


Tommy: Lower. This one hurt and maybe if I hadn’t chose so many “highers” earlier this would have been one of them. Shaheen is a defense first coach, and will have his guys ready to play, but after finishing 49th in AdjDe (BT) last season, I’m having a hard time buying a 20 team jump with their lack of movement this offseason.


Michael: A lot of defense is about gelling together, and his Seton Hall guards have shown that they can defend. The perimeter defense of Richmond, Davis, Dawes and Addae-Wusu will be legit. Inside is where I’m worried. Shaheen Holloway is an excellent defensive coach and I think they will be very good on this end, but I think this projection of 29 is much closer to their ceiling than their floor, so I will say lower.


Thomas: Lower. There will be growing pains. The Pirates will dearly miss the shutdown ability of the undersized-yet-overwhelming KC Ndefo, as well as the bruising toughness of Femi Odukale and Tyrese Samuel. The big-man rotation of Jaden Bediako, Elijah Hutchins-Everett, and Sadraque Nganga is very promising, but they have yet to play in a power conference. The good news is Kadary Richmond and Dylan Addae-Wusu have already proven to be strong defenders in the Big East.


Matt: Higher. Defense is about effort first and foremost, and Shaheen Holloway knows how to get that out of his guys. I have questions about the frontcourt, but I have faith Holloway will get his guys to buy in. Kadary Richmond, Al-Amir Dawes, and Dylan Addae-Wusu is a good defensive backcourt, too. This group probably doesn't have the talent to be an elite defense, but it should have the mentality to make life miserable for mid-tier offenses and below.


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