2015-16 NCAAB Previews – Big East
After sending six teams to the NCAA tournament last season, expectations have to be lower for the Big East this season. Of course Villanova will be there. But, there are a lot of teams after that with question marks. Villanova was so good last year but their Round of 32 lost to number 8 seed NC State made it somewhat of a forgettable one. The Big East this season will sport arguably the best point guard in the country in Providence’s Kris Dunn. Georgetown has the best shot to dethrone Villanova but the likes of Xavier, Providence, Butler, Creighton and Marquette will be looking to make their cases for a NCAA berth.
Jay Wright’s team went 33-3 last year and somehow flew under the radar. They weren’t talked about much at all as a team with a chance to win the NCAA Tournament. And that proved to be fair as the Wildcats bowed out in the Round of 32 to NC State. People had doubted them all season long and the loss in the Round of 32 prove those doubters right.
But, discounting Villanova’s success last season or doubting them entering this season isn’t fair. They were very good last year and they will be very good once again this year. Ryan Arcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu, and Josh Hart will all be back and form a talented, experienced core looking to make up for last season’s disappointed end.
Freshman Jalen Brunson is expected to come in and contribute right away for the Wildcats. The talent will be there and the Wildcats are head and shoulders above the rest of the conference.
The focus of Wright and the Wildcats will be peaking at the right time. The peak of last year’s season came a bit too early when they won 16 straight games including a game in which they put up 105 points against St. John’s.
The streak, of course, ended to NC State. Villanova will likely lose more than 2 games during the regular season this year. But, that could be beneficial to them in the long run.
Losing and handling adversity can pay dividends when facing adversity in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova should easily win the Big East Title this year; they will hope to make up for last season’s disappointing end by playing deeper into March this time around.
Kris Dunn is one of the best point guards in the country and he’ll face a tall task with an inexperienced Providence squad. Dunn and Rodney Bullock are expecting to carry the load for the Friars on offense but after that, the contribution could drop off.
Coach Ed Cooley will need to maximize Dunn’s capabilities by pushing the tempo with guard-heavy lineups. Dunn will be able to lead the Friars to plenty of wins in the Big East but they’ll run into their fair share of struggles.
If Dunn gets in foul trouble, the Friars will be in trouble. If he gets hurt, they’re finished. He could do enough for them to get to the NCAA Tournament but competing for the Big East Title isn’t a reasonable expectation.
Dunn certainly could have been a first round pick in last year’s NBA Draft so he must have felt like this team was capable of something when he decided to come back. Time will tell but the best case scenario for the Friars would be an appearance in the Top 25.
Outside of Dunn from Providence, Georgetown guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is another strong candidate for conference player of the year. Smith-Rivera – like Dunn – is a do-it-all guard who will be relied upon to lead the Hoyas this season. He has the tools to be a pro but has his eyes on a Big East title in the meantime.
Isaac Copeland could be a breakout player for the Hoyas this year and he’ll need to produce to help out Smith-Rivera. John Thompson III may be coaching some of his last years so he surely will be looking to maximize his opportunity.
The Hoyas were in and out of the Top 25 all season but never getting higher than 21 in the AP Poll. Reasonable expectations for the Hoyas are to be about the same this season. They finished 2nd in the Big East last season but never got a crack at Villanova in the final as they were upset by Xavier.
Georgetown is a long shot to win the Big East because of Villanova but they should be a NCAA Tournament once again.
The Musketeers were one of the surprise Sweet 16 teams of last season and had the number two seed of the West Region, Arizona, in a dogfight.
Xavier – despite the loss of Matt Stainbrook – brings back a very balanced squad that should be highly competitive in the Big East. Most teams in the conference will have a tough time matching the bigs that the Musketeers have.
With a few guys who near seven feet tall and 6’6” Trevon Bluiett who plays bigger than he is, they’ll be tough to defend and should control the glass. The backcourt combo of Remy Abell and Myles Davis is a respectable and forms a strong core for Chris Mack’s squad.
Xavier should improve on their .500 conference record last season and could find themselves in the Top 25. They won’t blow people away with their talent but their deep and disciplined enough to win a whole bunch of games.
When Brad Stevens bolted Butler for the NBA, the expectations were that Butler would suffer considerably. That wasn’t the case last year as Butler earned a six seed and nearly knocked off number three seed Notre Dame – losing 67-64 in overtime.
Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham should form another dynamic duo in the Big East. Transfer Jordan Gathers should also contribute for the Bulldogs.
There isn’t anything too flashy about the Bulldogs but they will take advantage of the bottom of the Big East and pick up plenty of conference wins. They are good enough to go the tourney but the eye test could hurt them. They won’t blow anyone out and they won’t be able to hang with Villanova or Georgetown.
Butler could be a NCAA Tournament team but either way they will certainly be in the top half of the Big East.
Remaining Teams Odds
• Villanova +120
• Butler +300
• Xavier +500
• Georgetown +600
• Marquette +750
• Providence +1000
• Seton Hall +2000
• Creighton +2500
• DePaul +4000
• St Johns +5000
Big East Conference Prediction
The only smart bet here is Villanova. They may slip in the conference tourney but there’s no shot they don’t take the regular season title. They are too experienced and talented and there aren’t any true threats to take them down. They can afford to slip up more than they did last year and still win the conference.
If you’re feeling risky, maybe take a flier with Georgetown at +600. But, many things would have to go wrong for Villanova for that to happen.
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