Villanova has owned the Big East ever since conference realignment and there is no reason to think that trend won't continue this season. The defending national champs are the heavy favorite to win the conference for the 4th consecutive season and will again contend for a national title. Josh Hart is back to lead the way and gets my vote for preseason Big East player of the year.
It's unlikely anyone takes the top spot from Villanova until they drop a game, but so far Creighton has the best resume in the conference. They've beaten a top 10 Wisconsin team and blown out a top 50 NC State squad. Marcus Foster and Maurice Watson combine to form one of the elite backcourts in the nation, but it's Justin Patton that has my attention early. The freshman big man has scored in double figures in all 4 games this season.
Xavier's tournament resume is off to a terrific start. They are 5-0 with all 5 wins coming against teams in the KenPom top 150, including a neutral court win over #28 Clemson. The wins don't tell the whole story though. Lehigh gave them a scare at home and a weak Missouri program took them to overtime. Sumner, Macura, and Bluiett make for a terrific backcourt that may give them a chance to compete with Villanova for the league crown, but there are significant question marks about their forecourt and lack of depth.
The win against Northwestern was much more of a struggle than it should have been, but for the most part it's been a terrific start for the Bulldogs. Butler returns one of the most productive 3-4-5 combinations from last season in Martin, Chrabascz, and Wideman, but no one knew what type of play they would get from the guards. So far, so good, as Tyler Lewis has been a wizard running the offense and freshman Kamar Baldwin has looked special on both sides of the ball.
Seton Hall may be pegged 5th in these rankings, but don't underestimate them. The Big East has 5 top 25 quality teams, so this isn't a knock on the Pirates. They may have lost Isaiah Whitehead, but there are still a lot of terrific pieces returning from the 2014 recruiting class. Carrington, Delgado, and Rodriguez will put Seton Hall in play for another Big East tournament championship. Freshman Myles Powell will contend for Big East Newcomer of the Year.
There appears to be much clearer gap between the top and bottom half of the league this season, and this is where the gap occurs. Providence will be respectable in the Big East, but no team lost more than Providence from last season. It's tough to overcome losing two players like Bentil and Dunn early to the NBA draft. Ed Cooley has a young squad that will be back next season, but I just don't see enough firepower for them to contend for an NCAA tournament birth this year.
Georgetown continues to be the biggest disappointment of the "New Big East". For the 3rd time in 4 season the Hoyas have lost to a sub 200 ranked team in the non-conference season. This year it was Arkansas State that took them out at home just 2 days after they choked away a home win in the final seconds against and average Maryland team. Transfer Rodney Pryor has been a bright spot though. He dropped 32 points in his first game as a Hoya.
Marquette opened some eyes with a 24 point shellacking of Vanderbilt, but quickly fell back to earth with back to back losses to Michigan and Pittsburgh. It might be hard to believe a team that struggled as much as Marquette did last year could lose Henry Ellenson but get better, but that's what they may have done. The Golden Eagles return nearly everyone else, including seniors Luke Fischer and JaJuan Johnson.
Red Storm fans are certainly excited about the talent level on the floor, and they should be, but they will again be near the bottom of the Big East. St. John's is just too young still, and I've yet to see anything that leads me to believe Chris Mullin can do anything other than recruit. They will certainly win more than 1 Big East game this time though. Marcus Lovett is a star already and is going to make a name for himself in the Garden.
DePaul spent 6 straight years on the bottom of the Big East before finally escaping the past 2 seasons. They are in serious jeopardy of returning there not just for this season, but for another 6 seasons or so. I do like freshman Brandon Cyrus and sophomore Eli Cain, but they will need a lot more moving forward. Senior transfer and former Bulldog Chris Harrison-Docks is earning 20 minutes a game for the Blue Demons, which should tell Butler fans all they need to know about the state of DePaul basketball.