Big East MBB – Preseason Preview & Projection 2021-2022

If you’re just starting to pay attention to Big East hoops again (or any college sports for that matter), there are 2 game-changing NCAA rule updates to note for the 2021-2022 season:

  1. All athletes who were eligible during 2020-2021 were granted an unprecedented additional year of eligibility due to Covid. So, all players that were eligible to play last year have 5 total years of NCAA eligibility.
  2. All athletes this year (and going forward indefinitely) are now allowed a 1-time penalty free transfer. So, players will no longer have to sit out a year to be eligible to transfer among D-1 schools as in years past. Thus, the transfer portal was especially spicy this year.

Ok, with that out of the way, let’s get into the preseason preview and projection!

Projected Big East MBB Standings:

  1. Villanova
  2. Xavier
  3. St. Johns
  4. UConn
  5. Seton Hall
  6. Butler
  7. Providence
  8. Creighton
  9. Georgetown
  10. Marquette
  11. DePaul

Projected NCAA Tournament Outlook for the Big East:

  • One Seed Potential – Villanova
  • Locks – Xavier, St John’s, UConn
  • Bubble – Seton Hall, Butler
  • Better Luck Next Year – Everyone Else

Big East Team Projections

1. Villanova

Departures:

  • Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, F – NBA
  • Cole Swider, F – Transfer to Cuse
  • Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree F – Medical retirement, sat out all of 20-21 with injury
  • Kyle Neptune, AC – New Fordham HC. Neptune was Nova’s longest tenured Assistant

Returners/Additions:

  • #3 Big East Recruiting Class (by average recruit ranking) – Freshman are not listed individually as they’re largely unknown quantities at the college level at this point
  • Collin Gillespie, G – Returning extra-year senior
  • Jermaine Samuels, F – Returning extra-year senior
  • Justin Moore G
  • Jermaine Samuels F
  • Caleb Daniels G
  • Brandon Slater F
  • Eric Dixon F
  • Bryan Antoine G
  • Chris Arcidiacono G
  • Trey Patterson F

The kings of the New Big East remain so until someone takes their crown. They lost in the Big East Tournament last year (without Gillespie and Moore) but they did win the regular season. Robinson-Earl left for the NBA, but with Gillespie and Samuels returning for another go around the rest of the Big East will probably have to wait at least another year before attempting to usurp the crown. However, aside from Gillespie, Samuels, Moore and Caleb Daniels there is not a lot of experience for Jay Wright’s squad. No one aside from those 4 averaged 4 or more ppg last year .  If the team fails to fill in around the big 4 or there are key injuries Gillespie and Samuels may find themselves wishing that they didn’t come back for that 5th year of play.

2. Xavier

Departures:

  • C.J. Wilcher G –  Transfer to Nebraska
  • Bryan Griffin F – Pro
  • Jason Carter F – Senior Transfer to Ohio U
  • Daniel Ramsey F – Transfer to Tenn Tech

Returners/Additions:

  • KyKy Tandy G – Opted out of Transfer Portal
  • Paul Scruggs G – Returning Extra-Year Senior
  • Nate Johnson G – Returning Extra-Year Senior
  • Jack Nunge F – Transfer from Iowa
  • Jerome Hunter F – Transfer from Indiana
  • Zach Freemantle F
  • Colby Jones G
  • Adam Kunkel G
  • Dwon Odom G
  • Ben Stanley F
  • Danny Ramsey F
  • Dieonte Miles F

The Musketeers floundered down the stretch last season and missed the NCAAT entirely but that seems more due to untimely and lengthy Covid pauses more than anything else. X gets a boon in returning extra-year seniors in Scruggs and Johnson, Iowa transfer Nunge, and Tandy opting to return back to the fold. Zach Freemantle is the Big East’s co-Most Improved Player and earned 2021 Second Team All Big East honors along with Scruggs. Colby Jones also earned a spot on the Big East Freshman Team last year. The Baseline Times also expects Dwon Odom to improve upon his stellar 20-21 campaign and earn Big East Sixth Man of the Year honors. This squad should be deep and experienced – no excuses for Head Coach Travis Steele if he can’t get it done this year. This probably means a top 3 finish in the Big East and at least a 7 seed in the NCAAT. Winning the Big East tournament or regular season would not hurt either. Anything less than the above and Steele’s seat will be as hotter than a $2 pistol. 

3. St. John’s

Departures:

  • Rasheem Dunn G – Senior Transfer to Robert Morris
  • Greg Williams Jr G – Transfer to ULL
  • Marcellus Earlington G/F – Transfer to USD
  • Josh Roberts F – Transfer to Manhattan
  • John McGriff G – Transfer to Binghamton
  • Vince Cole G – Transfer to Coastal Carolina
  • Isaih Moore F – Transfer to Southern Miss
  • David Caraher G – Departed team early last season

Returners/Additions:

  • Aaron Wheeler F – Transfer from Purdue
  • Stef Smith G – Transfer from UVM
  • Joel Soriano F – Transfer from Fordham
  • Montez Mathis G – Transfer from Rutgers
  • Esahia Nyiwe F – Transfer from Texas Tech
  • Julian Champagnie F – Elected not to go to NBA Draft
  • Posh Alexander G
  • Dylan Addae-Wusu G
  • Arnaldo Toro F
  • Aremios Gavalas G

The Red Storm lost almost all of their leading players from last year except for Champagnie and Posh. But those are the two who matter most as Champ was All Big East First Team in 20-21 and Posh made the Freshman Team and also named co-DPOY. If St John’s had returned those two plus most of the rest of their squad, they might have been battling Nova for control of the Big East. However, HC Mike Anderson did bring in some impact transfers in Wheeler, Smith, Soriano, and Mathis so they don’t slide far. In fact, these incoming transfers may be even better than the players they lost but there is something to be said about continuity and development in a system. So, the Johhnies could be feast or famine this year. If the team gels and the role players fit in around Champ and Posh they could be sitting very pretty. If not, it could be a long season in Queens.  Basketball is a game of star power and the Johnnies boast two of the 7 or 8 best players in the league.  I think this ends up as a banner year for the Johnnies. 

4. UConn

Departures:

  • James Bouknight, G – NBA
  • Josh Carlton, F/C – Senior Transfer to Houston
  • Branden Adams, G – Transfer to George Washington
  • Javonte Brown-Ferguson C – Transfer to Texas A&M, did not play in 20-21
  • Kevin Freeman AC – Stepping down from on-court coaching role to an admin role to spend time with family.

Returners/Additions:

  • Big East’s #2 Ranked 2021 Recruiting Class (#1 by avg recruit ranking)
  • Luke Murray AC – Son of Bill Murray but a talent in his own right. Coached under Hurley at URI and Wagner.
  • R.J. Cole G
  • Tyrese Martin G
  • Isaiah Whaley F – Returning Extra-Year Senior
  • Tyler Polley F – Returning Extra-Year Senior
  • Adama Sanogo F
  • Jalen Gaffney G
  • Andre Jackson G
  • Akok Akok F
  • Richie Springs F
  • Andrew Hurley G

The Huskies suffer the biggest single player loss on this list in G James Bouknight to the NBA. Last year, when they had to play without Bouk they were barely a .500 team… but this will likely help the squad this year as they’ve already had to adjust to life without last year’s star. Whaley returning for another year is huge for UConn as he is the reigning Big East co-DPOY and they need his size, depth, experience, and versatility (nicknamed the Wrench). Sanogo was named to the Big East All Freshman Team and expects to make an even bigger jump in his sophomore season. Fellow Soph Andre Jackson is freak-of-nature athletic and also expected to make a jump. Cole and Martin were transfers last season that seemed to find their stride with the team and the conference as the season progressed. If Junior C/F Akok Akok can return to his 2019 form from achilles injury and their terrific recruiting class can contribute, UConn should find itself in the upper echelon of the Big East once again.

5. Seton Hall

Departures:

  • Sandro Mamukelashvili F – NBA
  • Shavar Reynolds G – Transfer to Monmouth
  • Takal Molson G – Transfer to JMU

Returners/Additions

  • Jamir Harris G – Transfer from American
  • Kadary Richmond G – Transfer from Cuse
  • Alexis Yetna F – Transfer from USF
  • Myles Cale G
  • Jared Rhoden G/F
  • Ike Obiagu C
  • Tyrese Samuel F
  • Bryce Aiken G
  • Jahari Long G
  • Tray Jackson F

After Bouknight and UConn, Seton Hall losing Mamu is likely the second biggest single player loss in the Big East. Jared Rhoden looks to be the next man up leading the Pirates in a one-man wrecking crew linage that seems to go Myles Powell-Mamu-and now to Rhoden. Myles Cale will play Robin to Rhoden’s Batman and defensive stalwart transfers Yetna and Richmond look to make a big impact in their first year in the Big East. Richmond in particular, has been getting hyped up as an incredibly cerebral defender who can fill out a stat sheet. Obiagu still anchors the defense and provides elite rim protection. The Pirates will be long, tough, and exceptionally hard to score on. Expect a lot of slug fests out of this squad.

6. Butler

Departures

  • JaKobe Coles – Transfer to TCU
  • Markeese Hastings F – Transfer to WMU but opted out of most of 20-21 season.

Returners/Additions

  • Ty Groce F – Transfer from Eastern Michigan
  • Chuck Harris G
  • Aaron Thompson G
  • Jair Bolden G
  • Bryce Nze F
  • Bryce Golden F
  • Bo Hodges G
  • Myles Tate G
  • Myles Wilmouth F
  • John-Michael Mulloy F
  • Christian David G

Butler is certainty the most experienced team in the Big East, maybe the most experienced team in the entire country from top to bottom. Of the eight returners/incoming transfers who expect to see significant playing time, six are seniors (five of whom are redshirt seniors). Heck, at this rate the Bulldogs rotation might be older on average than the OKC Thunder who have an average age of 23.5. The one starter who is not a senior, Chuck Harris, was their best scorer last year as a freshman and potentially their best player in 21-22. Aaron Thompson is the team leader and facilitator, averaging 4.7 apg and all of the starters have the ability to average 10+ ppg. Butler battled with health issues last year but if they have better luck in that regard and Harris takes a step forward like expected LaVall Jordan’s squad will be in the hunt for an at-large bid.

7. Providence

Departures

  • David Duke G – NBA
  • Greg Gantt F – Transfer to NC State
  • Jimmy Nichols F – Transfer to VCU

Additions/Returners

  • Aljami Durham G – Transfer from Indiana
  • Justin Minaya F – Transfer from South Carolina
  • Nate Watson C – Extra year senior
  • Noah Horchler F – Extra year senior
  • A.J. Reeves G
  • Jared Bynum G
  • Alyn Breed G
  • Brycen Goodine G
  • Ed Croswell F

Ed Cooley’s squad got a huge lift when C Nate Watson decided to return for an extra year. He made a leap to almost 17 ppg in 20-21, from less than 10 ppg in 19-20. Al Durham also transfers in from Indiana averaging 11 pts, 3 rebs, and almost 3 asts per game in the Big Ten. The change of scenery should do him good, and I expect him to continue or improve that production in the Big East. He won’t fill David Duke’s shoes but AJ Reeves and Jared Bynum should be able to shoulder more of the load after another year of development.  The Friars ceiling appears to a middle of the pack finish in the Big East and perhaps one of the last few into the dance. However, Prov is always a tough out.

8. Creighton

Departures:

  • Marcus Zegarowski G – Pro
  • Mitchell Ballock G – Pro
  • Denzel Mahoney G/F – Pro
  • Christian Bishop F – Transfer to Texas
  • Damien Jefferson F – Pro

Returners/Additions:

  • #1 Recruiting Class in the Big East and #7 class in the country
  • Ryan Hawkins F – Transfer from D-II SW Missouri State
  • Keyshawn Feazell F – Transfer from McNeese State
  • Shereef Mitchell G
  • Ryan Kalkbrenner F/C
  • Alex O’Connell G
  • Rati Andronikashvili G – Medical redshirt
  • Modestas Kancleris F – Medical redshirt

The Bluejays are the youngest and least experienced squad in the Big East this year. Having lost the vast majority of their production from last year, they don’t have a player who has averaged 6 or more points in P6 play. They do bring in transfers Hawkins and Feazell who averaged 22.6 and 13.1 ppg in lesser leagues. Kalkbenner will be Creighton’s best player and premier rim protector this year. On the flip side, Coach McDermott brought in a heck of a recruiting class, the best ever in their history. It is 5 players deep, 4 of which are in the top 75 players in the 2021 class: Arthur Kaluma, Trey Alexander, Mason Miller, and Ryan Nembhard. In addition, the Bluejays get another highly touted recruit back who missed all of last year due to injury in Andronikashvili. Those 5 in fact represent the 5 best recruits that have ever signed with Creighton. The future looks bright for McDermott’s squad but this year will bring some growing pains for Creighton’s version of the Fab 5.

9. Georgetown

Departures:

  • Jahvon Blair G – Pro
  • Jamorko Pickett F – NBA G League
  • TJ Berger G – Transfer to San Diego
  • Qudus Wahab C – Transfer to Marlyand
  • Chudier Bile F
  • Jalen Harris

Returners/Additions:

  • Kaiden Rice G – Transfer from The Citadel
  • # 1 Recruit in the Big East this year
  • Chudier Bile F
  • Donald Carey G
  • Dante Harris G
  • Jalen Harris G
  • Timothy Ighoefe C
  • Collin Holloway F
  • Jamari Sibley F
  • Kobe Clark F
  • Malcolm Wilson C

Patrick Ewing had the Hoyas rolling at the end of last season. You likely know that they won the BET but you may not know that they went 10-5 to end the season with losses only to tournament teams (Nova, Creighton, UConn x2, and Colorado). Unfortunately, Georgetown lost its three most productive players from that team in Pickett, Blair, and Wahab. I expect Sophomore Dante Harris to make a leap forward this year and transfer Rice averaged 17.6 ppg for the Citadel last year. The Hoyas figured to have the services of EKU transfer Tre King but news just broke last week that he will not be with the team, a major blow for their 2021-22 season.  Georgetown didn’t bring in an overall top recruiting class but they did land the top incoming recruit in 5 star shooting guard Aminu Mohammed (there is also a familiar name in 4 star center Ryan Mutombo).  So, Ewing will have a squad to get into shape but it will be tough to replace the lost production entirely. If Ewing can get them rocking like the end of last year – look out. However, if the team doesn’t gel it could get ugly.

10. Marquette

Departures:

  • Steve Wojciechowski HC – Fired
  • Dawson Garcia F – Transfer to UNC
  • D.J. Carton – Pro
  • Theo John F – Transfer to Duke
  • Koby McEwen G – Transfer to Weber State
  • Jose Perez G – Transfer to Manhattan
  • Jamal Cain F – Transfer to Oakland

Returners/Additions:

  • Shaka Smart, HC – Hired from Texas (Before he could be fired from there)
  • Darryl Morsell G – Transfer from Maryland
  • Tyler Kolek G – Transfer from George Mason
  • Kur Kuath F – Transfer from Oklahoma
  • Olivier-Maxence Prosper F – Transfer from Clemson
  • Justin Lewis F
  • Greg Eliott G
  • Oso Ighodaro F

Shaka Smart arrives in from Texas to replace the ousted Wojo. He inherits a squad with a lot of roster turnover and lacking the best players from last year’s Golden Eagles squad in Garcia, Carton, and John. He did have success in bringing in some bigtime transfers in Morsell, Kolek, Kuath, and Maxence Prosper. It also feels like this job is a more natural fit for Smart as a Wisconsin native. He is at the helm of more of an upstart, scrappy bunch rather than the number one athletic department by revenue in the country. This is a role he thrived in at the helm of the VCU Rams.  I feel like Shaka will get the Marquette magic rolling but it will take him a few years to really contend in the Big East.

11. DePaul

Departures:

  • Dave Leitao HC – Fired
  • Romeo Weems – Pro
  • Pauly Paulicap – Transfer to WVU
  • Charlie Moore G – Transfer to Miami
  • Ray Salnave G – Transfer to UMBC
  • Kobe Elvis G – Transfer to Dayton
  • Darious Hall F – Transfer to Central Arkansas
  • Keon Edwards – Transfer to Nebraska

Returners/Additions:

  • Tony Stubblefield HC – Former Asst Coach at Oregon
  • Jalen Terry G – Transfer from Oregon
  • Brandon Johnson F – Transfer from Minnesota
  • Tyon Grant-Foster F – Transfer from Kansas
  • Philmon Gebrewhit G – JUCO Transfer
  • Yor Anei F – Transfer from SMU
  • Javan Johnson F – Transfer from Iowa St.
  • Javon Freeman-Liberty G
  • Nick Ongenda F
  • Courvoisier McCauley G
  • David Jones G/F

The Tony Stubblefield era begins in Chicago.  Dave Leitao didn’t leave the cupboard completely bare but Stubblefield had to rely on bringing in a litany of transfers.  He succeeded in bringing in others from P6 or other high-major schools.  Javon Freeman-Liberty ran the show for the Blue Demons last year (avg more than 14 ppg), we will see what Stubblefield brings to stylistically to Chicago.  He has a good pedigree and many years of experience as a long time assistant at Oregon.  He seems like a man who is up to the task of turning things around for DePaul but time will tell.


Check Out the Baseline Times’ Projected Big East Year End Awards

2 replies
  1. X Fan
    X Fan says:

    Some Xavier roster corrections: you included Bryan Griffin in both the Departures and Returners/Additions sections. Also, Xavier also has added Jerome Hunter from Indiana as a transfer.

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