Big East Basketball Preseason Power Rankings and 2020 End of Season Prediction

2019 Big East Tournament Final from Madison Square Garden (RoundTable Time)

Congratulations, we finally made it!

It has been a full 213 days since the Big East-less 2019 Final Four tipped off (add ten more days since the even more demoralizing Big East-less Sweet 16) and 211 days since I released my first Big East 2019-2020 power rankings:

Now on the morning of the first day of the 2019-20 college basketball season (Hold for Applause), I think it is about time to revisit those rankings with a more focused eye and reevaluate where the ten Big East teams stand after the rigors of the college basketball off-season.

Big East Off-season Update Video from 4/24/19 (RoundTable Time)

These rankings will serve as both my first, of many, power rankings throughout the Big East season and my predictions for the final conference standings. So without further ado, let’s get started…

1. Seton Hall

Last Season: 20-14 (9-9), Big East Final, NCAA 1st Round

Last Season Power Rankings Position by Week:

April 8th Ranking: Second (+1)

How They Could Win the Big East: The Pirates boast, perhaps, the deepest and most complete roster in the conference. Tack on the Big East Preseason Player of the Year and a First Team All-American and it’s clear why expectations for this team rival those of the P.J. Carlesimo-led Hall teams of the late 80s and early 90s.

Myles Powell will make this team go, on both sides of the floor, but it will be the development of the Pirates’ secondary players that will push this team to the next level. Rising juniors Sandro Mamukelashvili and Myles Cale will be on the forefront of this effort. Mamu has played mostly out of position over his first two seasons, but will be able to slide to the more fitting stretch forward position where he will be able to showcase his versatile game and not be as relied upon as the Pirates last line of interior defense. Cale has a great mix of athleticism and shot making that make him a capable scorer, defender and rebounder on the wing. The talent is clearly there for both these juniors. This season is about transitioning from young players showing flashes to consistent upperclassmen and foundational pieces.

Mamu will be flanked by not one, but two 7’2″ centers in rising senior Romaro Gill and Florida State transfer Ike Obiagu. Gill came into his own late last season as he began to both learn the nuances of the center position and also how to best utilize his immense frame. Obiagu showed tremendous promise as a rim protector in limited minutes in his freshman season at Florida State and should start at the five for the Pirates.

Add into the mix a trio of defensive minded hard-nosed point guards, a legit Big East Sixth Man of the Year Award candidate in Jared Rhoden and 4-star recruit Tyrese Samuel and it becomes hard to see how a reliable rotation and consistent secondary options will not be able to form around Powell.

How They Could Fail to Meet Expectations: After some early struggles at Seton Hall, Kevin Willard has now been to the NCAA Tournament in four straight years, but just has one Tourney win to show for it. On top of that, the program has not been to a Sweet 16 in 20 years. Depth is great to have, but if this team is going to be great it will need some of the role players from a year ago to become consistent and legitimate second options. If some combination of Mamu, Cale and Rhoden don’t take that next step, Seton Hall may fail to meet their lofty preseason expectations.

My Prediction: 26+ wins and a trip to, at least, the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend are well within frame for this group. If things fall the right way, a Final Four run could be in the cards. Powell should compete for National Player of the Year.

Projected Starting Lineup (2018-19 Statistics):
G – Quincy McKnight (9.4 PPG / 1.6 SPG)
G – Myles Powell (23.0 PPG / 4.0 RPG / 2.0 SPG)
F – Myles Cale (10.2 PPG / 4.1 RPG)
F – Sandro Mamukelashvili (8.9 PPG / 7.8 RPG)
C – Ike Obiagu (2.3 PPG / 2.6 RPG / 2.1 BPG)*

*Stats from 2017-18 with Florida State

2. Villanova

Last Season: 26-10 (13-5), Big East Champs, Big East Regular Season Champs, NCAA 2nd Round

Last Season Power Rankings Position by Week:

April 8th Ranking: Third (+1)

How They Could Win the Big East: While both Collin Gillespie and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree played important roles on the 2018 National Championship team, the strongest pieces of Villanova’s absurd 165-21 run from 2013-2018 have now all graduated. It seems like Jay Wright has collected the talent to recreate a slightly less prolific version of that stretch (no shame in not matching that run). The question seems to be whether it starts this season or next.

The first thing that stands out among this group is the complete lack of seniors on the roster. A trio of grizzled juniors combined with a group of extremely talented freshman and sophomores will certainly help in overcoming this shortcoming. Collin Gillespie returns as Nova’s top returning scorer. He will be not only be relied upon to score, but also function as a playmaker, a role that he struggled in early last season before he and Phil Booth shifted roles around mid-season. Gillespie should get plenty of help in both these roles by rising sophomore Saddiq Bey. Bey surprised last season and emerged as one of the Cats most reliable players as a freshman. This season he looks like a candidate to lead the Villanova offense, potentially finish as a Second Team All-Big East member and maybe take home the Big East’s Most Improved Player Award.

Jermaine Samuels looks to build on his strong end to last season. He should once again be an extremely active rebounder, above average defender and also integrate an improved perimeter and offensive game. Cole Swider, who missed much of last season with a wrist injury, should be an important part of this team as a knockdown shooter off the bench.

McDonald’s All-American Jeremiah Robinson-Earl leads a very talented five man freshman class. Robinson-Earl’s post game is much more developed compared to the average freshman and he offers a versatile skill set for a forward. He could be a special player down the line. Fellow freshman Justin Moore should bring some offensive firepower as a combo guard off the bench and help make up for the early season absence of 5-star recruit Bryan Antoine. Antoine’s game is electric and he could be a gamechanger for the Cats when he hopefully return around December.

There’s no shortage of young talented players that will don the blue and white this year. How Jay manages this group and how their young talent melds together will ultimately determines this team’s fate.

How They Could Fail to Meet Expectations: Youth and lack of a true ball handler are looking like the two biggest obstacles for this team, but it’s hard to see this team slip to far, if at all, from their typical perch on top of the Big East standings.

My Prediction: A Jay Wright-led squad with this much talent is certainly Tournament bound with the potential to make it seven straight seasons winning 26 or more games.

Projected Starting Lineup
(2018-19 Statistics):
G – Collin Gillespie (10.9 PPG / 2.8 APG)
F – Saddiq Bey (8.2 PPG / 5.1 RPG)
F – Jermaine Samuels (6.4 PPG / 5.4 RPG)
F – Jeremiah Robinson Earl (10.7 PPG / 8.5 RPG)^
F – Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree* (5.1 PPG / 5.8 RPG)

*Justin Moore’s 39 point performance in a closed scrimmage with UNC makes a him a candidate for the fifth starting spot and Cole Swider also makes a pretty good case as well, however, Jay started Dada in the the USC charity scrimmage, so I would bet on this lineup opening night that gives the Cats a bit more size and veteran leadership.
^Stats from the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship (6 Games Started / 6 Games)

Footage from Villanova’s Blue-White Scrimmage in Early October (RoundTable Time)

3. Xavier

Last Season: 19-6 (9-9), Big East Semis, NIT 2nd Round

Last Season Power Rankings Position by Week:

April 8th Ranking: Fourth (+1)

How They Could Win the Big East: Xavier ended 2019 by winning seven of their last nine Big East games and there’s no reason to believe that success will not continue. In Travis Steele’s second season as the frontman for the X-men, he will return his big four upperclassmen and will also welcome a talented transfer twosome and freshman fivesome to the squad.

The junior duo of Paul Scruggs and Naji Marshall are the keys to Xavier success this season. Their lethal mix of length and athleticism are extremely difficult to match up with when they are to their best. Quentin Goodin is due for a bounce back year after a tough junior year filled with turnovers and some injury woes. He needs to have a strong senior season as Xavier’s primary ballhander and help bring the best out of these two lethal talents.

Tyrique Jones returns in his senior season as one of the most intimidating bigs in the conference. He emerged last season as a consistent double-double threat and should build on a strong junior year campaign. Ohio graduate transfer, Jason Carter, joins Jones in the frontcourt as a skilled big man who can play inside and out on both ends of the floor. Carter seems like a perfect fit next to Jones’ smashmouth brand of basketball.

Zach Freemantle has excelled in the preseason and should be able to spell both of these bigs. He and fellow freshman Kyky Tandy lead, what should be a dynamic group of freshmen who should be able to contribute right away and play strong roles off the bench. Tandy, an electric combo guard, will unfortunately miss the beginning of the season with a foot injury. Graduate transfer Bryce Moore should be the first guy off the bench most nights and is looking like the best perimeter shooter on the roster.

How They Could Fail to Meet Expectations:
A lack of perimeter shooting and a propensity to force offense made Xavier one of the most turnover prone teams in the conference last season. Added maturity should help in this area, but there is still reason to believe this team could run into similar offensive problems this season.

My Prediction: I would expect last seasons late success to carry over to this one and a 23+ win season and a return to the NCAA Tournament is expected from the Muskies.

Projected Starting Lineup
(2018-19 Statistics):
G – Quentin Goodin (11.0 PPG / 4.8 APG)
G – Paul Scruggs (12.3 PPG / 4.9 RPG / 3.3 APG)
F – Naji Marshall (14.7 PPG / 7.2 RPG / 3.4 APG)
F – Jason Carter (16.5 PPG / 6.7 RPG)*
F – Tyrique Jones (11.3 PPG / 7.7 RPG)

*Stats from 2018-19 with Ohio

4. Providence

Last Season: 18-17 (7-11), Big East Quarters, NIT 1st Round

Last Season Power Rankings Position by Week:

April 8th Ranking: Seventh (+3)

How They Could Win the Big East: Providence is probably the only team in the conference that can rival the depth and balance of Seton Hall’s roster. This year’s version of the Friars has no clear flaws, a welcome change from last season where they exhibited clear flaws at the point guard position and on offense as a whole.

Coach Cooley brought in UMass graduate transfer point guard Luwane Pipkins to fill in the void at the point and hopefully jumpstart the offense. The addition of Pipkins should allow rising sophomore David Duke to slide off the ball, a more natural slot for his talents. Duke is joined on the wing by fellow sophomore A.J. Reeves. Reeves missed nine games in the middle of last season due to a foot injury. In his ten games before the injury, Reeves averaged 14.2 PPG on 50.0% shooting from the field and 45.3% from three-point range. He never regained his groove following his return from injury, losing over seven points per game on his average while his shooting percentage dropped 15 percentage points and his three-point percentage dipped by 13 percentage points. A fully healthy Reeves, now in year two, should be able to approach those first half numbers from his rookie season and give this offense a boost. Maliek White also returns and he should be the first guard off the bench.

Maybe the biggest reason to be optimistic about the Friars this season is the return of star senior forward Alpha Diallo. Diallo is one of the best rebounders and toughest players in the conference, and last season he showed a significant increase in his offensive abilities. Now in his senior season, he should be a First Team All-Big East member and lead the charge for Providence.

In the paint, Providence starts maybe the best interior scorer in the Big East in Nate Watson. He is backed up by the defensive minded Kalif Young and versatile Emmitt Holt, who returns after missing the past two seasons from injury. Jimmy Nichols also returns for his sophomore year after showing some raw ability as a freshman. With a little refining, he could be a great player down the line, but his athleticism and shot blocking ability should continue to be an asset in the short term. These four form one of the most formidable big man rotations in the Big East.

This team has the makings of a prototypical Ed Cooley team with toughness and a great defensive ability. If their offense catches up with last season stout defense, Providence should make a push for their first ever Big East regular season title.

How They Could Fail to Meet Expectations:
If last season’s offensive slog continues, this team will struggle. Like his Pan-Am Games assistant coach, Kevin Willard, Ed Cooley has had some success, but has yet to make a true splash in college basketball, having never won more than 24 games or been out of the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

My Prediction: The Friars push Cooley’s 24 season win record and make a play for the second weekend of the Tournament.

Projected Starting Lineup
(2018-19 Statistics):
G – Luwane Pipkins* (16.0 PPG / 5.2 APG)^
G – David Duke (7.1 PPG / 2.6 RPG / 2.1 APG)
G – A.J. Reeves (9.8 PPG / 3.0 RPG)
F – Alpha Diallo (16.0 PPG / 8.1 RPG)
F – Nate Watson (11.7 PPG / 5.2 RPG)

*We have not seen this lineup in either exhibition game Providence has played as Pipkins came off the bench in both games since coming off an injury. Reports out of camp have hinted that Duke will play much more off ball this season, so I would expect Pipkins to start.
^Stats from 2018-19 with UMass

5. Marquette

Last Season: 24-10 (12-6), Big East Semis, NCAA 1st Round

Last Season Power Rankings Position by Week:

April 8th Ranking: First (-4)

How They Could Win the Big East: First order of business for the Golden Eagles in 2019 will be to put last season to bed. Marquette’s late season forfeiture of the Big East regular season championship fueled by their last seven game collapse, topped off by a 19 point shellacking in the NCAA Tournament at the hands of Murray State, has been well documented and it is time to move past that. The Hauser brothers are gone and with their departure comes a pretty distinct change in this team’s identity from previous teams of the Wojo era.

The conference’s best three point shooting team from a year ago will now transform to a grittier, more defensive minded team. This should not be too difficult for this team which lead the Big East in College Basketball Reference’s adjusted team Defensive Rating. Their new identity starts on the inside with the Big East’s top shot blocker from a year ago, Theo John. John is joined in the frontcourt by rising senior Ed Morrow and seven-foot Utah graduate transfer Jayce Johnson. Morrow should see plenty of time off the bench and will likely share the floor with John to accommodate this three center rotation.

First Team Preseason All-American Markus Howard should once again vie for the title of the nation’s best scorer, compete for the National Player of the Year Award and supply plenty of scoring to balance their fiery defensive minded interior presence. With an eye toward the NBA Draft in June, it is safe to assume Howard should come back for his senior season with improved point guard skills and interior finishing that will both make him more attractive to scouts and an unstoppable offensive force leading the Golden Eagles.

Defensive stalwart Sacar Anim returns looking to build on his improved offensive play from late last season. Utah State transfer Koby McEwen should join Howard and Anim in the starting backcourt and act as Marquette’s secondary scorer to Howard. Brendan Bailey should round out the starting lineup and help replace some lost scoring from the Hausers. Bailey’s shooting ability on the wing will be vital to Marquette’s success this season.

Greg Elliot will return after dealing with multiple injuries that cost him all of last season. He will be joined by a duo of talented freshman combo guards in Symir Torrence and Dexter Akanno. Jamal Cain should fill out a pretty reliable and versatile wing rotation that should allow Wojo to mix and match and explore a few different lineup options.

How They Could Fail to Meet Expectations: Marquette lost two of their top three shooters and scorers from last season and there are still question marks about how they will replace that offense. The Markus Howard show is powerful by itself, but it could run thin without reliably consistent second options.

My Prediction: Marquette should be right in the mix of things in the upper half on the Big East and they look like a safe Tournament team at this point. Howard will compete for National Player of the Year.

Projected Starting Lineup
(2018-19 Statistics):
G – Markus Howard (25.0 PPG / 3.9 APG)
G – Koby McEwen (15.6 PPG / 5.4 RPG)*
G – Sacar Anim (8.3 PPG / 3.1 RPG)
F – Brendan Bailey (3.2 PPG / 1.8 RPG)
C – Theo John (5.5 PPG / 4.9 RPG / 2.1 BPG)

*Stats from 2017-18 with Utah State

6. Georgetown

Last Season: 19-14 (9-9), Big East Quarters, NIT 1st Round

Last Season Power Rankings Position by Week:

April 8th Ranking: Sixth (Even)

How They Could Win the Big East: Patrick Ewing saw a four win increase in his second year at the helm of his alma mater and the Hoyas will be eyeing a NCAA Tournament berth in year three.

How big of a step Ewing and co. make in year three will largely be dependent on the jump that their fearless backcourt duo, James Akinjo and Mac McClung, can make in their sophomore seasons. They were the top two scoring freshman in the conference last season and Akinjo led the entire Big East in assists as Ewing’s floor general. Josh LeBlanc was also incredibly productive in his freshman season as an versatile and athletic forward who showed tremendous potential.

Joining this young group is rising junior and North Carolina State transfer Omer Yurtseven. Yurtseven will fill the gap left by the Hoyas First Team All-Big East center, Jessie Govan. While the Hoyas may miss Govan’s more than 17 points per game from a season ago, Yurtseven is a better fit for this group as a more defensive minded, rim protecting traditional center. Yurtseven is a strong enough inside scorer who should definitely help fill the offensive gap left by Govan as well.

How Ewing pieces together the rest of the rotation is still unclear at this point. Jamorko Pickett has shown potential since his freshman season, but still looked raw and undisciplined in his sophomore season. If he can put it together in year three, he seems like an ideal fifth starter. Senior Jagan Mosely returns after starting more than a handful of games toward the end of the season. Both Mosely and Central Florida graduate transfer Terrell Allen should give the Hoyas a gritty defensive minded look in the backcourt and supply some experience and leadership to the young starting guards.

Georgetown also brings a four man freshman class to D.C. They should be lead by center Qudus Wahab who should see minutes off the bench behind Yurtseven.

How They Could Fail to Meet Expectations: In the off chance that the Hoyas’ sophomore fall victim to a sophomore slump, they could struggle, but it’s hard to see this team slip too far with how well this roster is constructed.

My Prediction: 20+ wins and a NCAA Tournament berth should be the floor for this group. This young group is still ascending and it seems that the best is still yet to come, but this year, Georgetown should begin to reap the rewards of the Ewing hire.

Projected Starting Lineup (2018-19 Statistics):
G – James Akinjo (13.4 PPG / 5.2 APG)
G – Mac McClung (13.1 PPG / 2.6 RPG)
G – Jagan Mosely (3.1 PPG / 2.2 APG)
F – Josh LeBlanc (9.1 PPG / 7.3 RPG)
C – Omer Yurtseven (13.5 PPG / 6.7 RPG / 1.8 BPG)*

*Stats from 2017-18 season at North Carolina State

7. Creighton

Last Season: 20-15 (9-9), Big East Quarters, NIT Quarters

Last Season Power Rankings Position by Week:

April 8th Ranking: Fifth (-2)

How They Could Win the Big East: The best backcourt in the Big East may be coming out of Omaha this year. Marcus Zegarowski had a phenomenal year starting at point guard last year for the Jays and his impact on this team was especially clear after a hand injury sidelined him for a few games late last season. Ty-Shon Alexander was one of the league’s most improved players last season and will look to build on his excellent sophomore year campaign. While it might be hard to keep up with the scoring of Markus Howard and Myles Powell, Alexander could be the conference’s third most lethal scoring threat. Veteran Davion Mintz will join these two in the backcourt once he recovers from an ankle injury. Mintz has explosive speed and of course has a shooting stroke that fits right in with Creighton’s perimeter oriented attack.

Mitch Ballock returns as, arguably, the conference’s best three-point shooter and a crafty player who can play an undersized four. Damien Jefferson and Christian Bishop will make up the rest of the Blue Jay frontcourt. Jefferson missed some time last season with an injury but he fits in nicely as a stretch four and one of the Jays better defensive options. Bishop will be thrust into the starting center position after Jacob Epperson’s knee injury. He showed some real promise toward the end of last season, but at just 6’7″ he might be a bit undersized at the center position and not quite ready to start after averaging less than ten minutes a game in his freshman season. Idaho State graduate transfer Kelvin Jones will supply more size off the bench as a more traditional center backing up Bishop.

Freshman Jalen Windham and Shereef Mitchell will likely play roles off the bench and should get pretty decent minutes as Creighton waits for Mintz to recover from injury and Southeast Missouri State transfer Denzel Mahoney to attain eligibility at the end of the Fall Semester.

How They Could Fail to Meet Expectations: The Epperson injury might further expose a position where the Blue Jays were already a bit thin. If they fail to hold down the middle and subsequently cannot stop opponents defensively, it might be another mediocre year from the team from Omaha.

My Prediction: This team still profiles as a Tournament team, but they likely will be squarely on the bubble heading into Selection Sunday. Their elite backcourt should push them to the 20 win mark.

Projected Starting Lineup
(2018-19 Statistics):
G – Marcus Zegarowski (10.4 PPG / 3.4 APG)
G – Ty-Shon Alexander (15.7 PPG / 4.0 RPG)
G – Mitch Ballock (11.1 PPG / 4.4 RPG)
F – Damien Jefferson (6.2 PPG / 4.0 RPG)*
F – Christian Bishop (4.1 PPG / 2.1 RPG)

*Davion Mintz should occupy this spot in the lineup once he returns from ankle injury that should hold him out through the first few weeks of the season

8. Butler

Last Season: 16-17 (7-11), Big East First Round, NIT First Round

Last Season Power Rankings Position by Week:

April 8th Ranking: Eighth (Even)

How They Could Succeed: There might not be a more well rounded player in the Big East than Kamar Baldwin. But too often than not last season, it seemed like Baldwin had to carry far more than his fair share for the Bulldogs. Aaron Thompson joins Baldwin in the backcourt as a pass-first point guard, who, with Baldwin, forms one of the best defensive backcourts in the conference. Sean McDermott will join these two in the starting lineup as a smart, tough knockdown shooter at the forward position.

LaVall Jordan seems determined to play bigger this season after getting abused in the paint last season. McDermott has started both exhibition games at the three, playing with two other forwards, after starting almost exclusively at the four last season. Christian David, Valpo transfer Derrik Smits and Milwaukee transfer Bryce Nze all will likely play prominent roles in Butler’s frontcourt. Nze seems to have the inside edge at a starting spot and should be a strong finisher and rebounder inside.

As the Bulldogs roll with a bigger lineup, Justin Tucker will likely reprise his late season sixth man role. He is still an extremely talented player and seemingly still has the chops to be a big time player in the Big East. He will need to be a consistent scorer off the bench is Butler is going to be able to keep up with opponents.

Senior Henry Baddley should also play a strong role off the bench as a scrappy wing. Explosive freshman combo guard Khalif Battle and sophomore big Bryce Golden should also vie for bench minutes.

How They Could Struggle:
Much like last season’s team, this Butler squad is not the strongest on the interior and they do not have a ton of reliable scoring options.

My Prediction: This Butler team is one of the deepest and most experienced in the conference with eight juniors and seniors that should all play a role next season. This team could be a sleeper in the Big East that could make a push for 20 wins and a stay in the Tournament discussion throughout the season as a best case scenario.

Projected Starting Lineup
(2018-19 Statistics):
G – Kamar Baldwin (17.0 PPG / 4.9 RPG)
G – Aaron Thompson (6.3 PPG / 4.3 APG)
F – Sean McDermott (9.5 PPG / 3.9 RPG)
F – Christian David* (1.8 PPG / 2.0 RPG)
F – Bryce Nze (10.3 PPG / 8.5 RPG / 1.5 BPG)^

*Jordan Tucker seemed like a likely starter heading into the season, but he has come off the bench in both of the Bulldogs’ exhibition games. 7’1″ Valparaiso transfer and son of former NBA center Rik Smits, Derrik Smits, started the first exhibition game, while Christian David started the second game.
^Stats from 2017-18 with Milwaukee

9. DePaul

Last Season: 19-17 (7-11), Big East First Round, CBI Final

Last Season RTT Power Rankings Position by Week:

April 8th Ranking: Tenth (+1)

How They Could Succeed: Paul Reed is one of the most skilled bigs in the conference and it is looking like he will be DePaul’s first draft pick since Wilson Chandler in 2008 (whether he leaves at the end of this season or next). Bruiser Jaylen Butz will team up will Reed to form one on the most intimidating Big East front lines and freshman Nick Ongenda is a long, athletic prospect who should fit in nicely behind these two. Michigan’s Mr. Basketball and USA Basketball alum Romeo Weems complete the frontcourt as one of DePaul’s most anticipated recruits in a long time.

In the backcourt, defensive minded Devin Gage and Kansas transfer Charlie Moore should split time at the point guard position. Jalen Coleman-Lands returns after missing most of last season due to injury. Lyrik Shreiner and Flynn Cameron should both see time off the bench in DePaul’s backcourt after showing promise toward the end of last season and freshman Markeese Jacobs should see some time as a third point guard.

How They Could Struggle:
The Blue Demons need to replace 46 points per game from their top three scorers from a year ago. Replacing all this senior production could be a struggle in just one year.

My Prediction: DePaul should build on what was their best season in over ten years last season. However, an improved Big East should keep the Blue Demons near the bottom of the conference standings.

Projected Starting Lineup
(2018-19 Statistics):
G – Charlie Moore (2.9 PPG / 1.3 APG)*
G – Jalen Coleman-Lands (9.6 PPG / 2.8 RPG)
F – Romeo Weems (8.6 PPG / 8.1 RPG)^
F – Paul Reed (12.3 PPG / 8.5 RPG / 1.5 BPG)
C – Jaylen Butz (6.9 PPG / 5.7 RPG)

*Stats from 2018-19 with Kansas
^Stats from 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup (7 Games Started / 7 Games)

10. St. John’s

Last Season: 21-13 (8-10), Big East Quarters, NCAA First Four

Last Season Power Rankings Position by Week:

April 8th Ranking: Ninth (-1)

How They Could Succeed: This may not sound very encouraging, but this team is not that bad. They return, maybe, the best duo in the conference and bring in new head coach Mike Anderson, who, at the very least, will get this team to play hard every night.

Mustapha Heron is a versatile scorer and one of the best in the conference. Combined with the offensive versatility and disruptive defensive of L.J. Figueroa, and these two are tough to gameplan against. They should also be relied upon pretty heavily to handle the ball and create offense as well. With Cleveland State transfer Rasheem Dunn ruled ineligible by the NCAA and freshman John McGriff redshirting after shoulder surgery, the Johnnies are only left with one point guard on the roster in Nick Rutherford.

While Rutherford does not offer much offensively, his defensive playmaking seems like a perfect fit for Mike Anderson’s brand of Nolan Richardson’s “40 Minutes of Hell”. The sophomore class of Josh Roberts, Marcellus Earlington and Greg Williams showed some decent promise in limited minutes last season, and they possess the athleticism and physical style of play that could lend itself nicely to Anderson’s style. Roberts should start in the frontcourt with local Brooklyn native freshman forward Julian Champagnie. Two transfers, sophomore David Caraher of Houston Baptist and junior Damien Sears of Jacksonville, should fill out the rotation.

North Carolina State transfer Ian Steere will be eligible after the conclusion of the Fall semester and should bring a much needed boost to what should be a fairly short rotation. Steere projects as a starter once he returns.

How They Could Struggle:
The lack of a true point guard could stall the offense and the lack of depth could be a problem, especially playing Mike Anderson’s uptempo style.

My Prediction: St. John’s enjoyed some minor success last season, but for the most part, the last few years have been fairly unproductive. Mike Anderson should be able to establish a strong foundation for the future success of this program.

Projected Starting Lineup (2018-19 Statistics):
G – Nick Rutherford (5.3 PPG / 1.7 SPG)*
G – Mustapha Heron (14.6 PPG / 4.6 RPG)
G – L.J. Figueroa (14.4 PPG / 6.4 RPG / 1.8 SPG)
F – Julian Champagnie (17.2 PPG)^
F – Josh Roberts (1.2 PPG / 1.6 RPG)

*Stats from 2018-19 with Monmouth University
^Stats from his Senior Season at Bishop Loughlin HS

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