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Reintroducing the Big East

Rob Joyce
July 03, 2019 - 11:46 am
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UConn is going home. This season will be the last in the American Athletic Conference for the Huskies, who on July 1, 2020 will officially make a return to the Big East in all sports the league sponsors. From a basketball standpoint, it’s a step up for both the men and the women. For Dan Hurley’s group, in particular, as the program continues to build its way back to what it was, the move is seen as a major step forward.

So what does the Big East look like on the men’s basketball front? Though UConn won’t join for another year, let’s re-introduce you (or, in a few cases, get you acclimated for the first time) to the other 10 teams in the conference:

Butler:

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The last time UConn saw the Bulldogs, it was in the 2011 national championship game, Butler’s second straight. While the program hasn’t reached those heights since Brad Stevens bolted for the NBA, it’s still a very good team. Entering its seventh year in the Big East, Butler made it to at least the second round of the NCAA Tournament from 2015-18, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2017. Last year’s 16-16 mark under head coach LaVall Jordan was its first time missing the dance since 2014.

Creighton:

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Another “new” member since realignment, the Blue Jays joined in 2013 under head coach Greg McDermott. The school is most known for the Doug McDermott years, when the father-and-son duo led Creighton to a No. 3 seed in the tournament in 2014, losing to Butler in the Round of 32. The Blue Jays have since made it to a pair of NCAA Tourneys, in 2017 and 2018, which sandwich a pair of runs to the NIT quarterfinals.

DePaul:

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In the last year of the old Big East, the Blue Demons went 2-16 in the conference. While they are still the basement dweller in the league, things could be looking up. A 19-17 record last year was the first winning season since 2007. And although a 7-11 Big East record was still tied for last, it was the most league wins since that same ’07 year. With a pair of four-star recruits coming this year, DePaul could threaten for an NIT bid.

Georgetown:

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The star-gazing fan will dream of UConn vs. Georgetown at the XL Center in a top-10 affair on national television. Both programs have some work to do to get back to that level. Since getting upset as a two-seed to Florida Gulf Coast in 2013, the Hoyas have made the tournament just once, losing to Utah in the second round in 2015. John Thompson III stepped down a few years back, and Patrick Ewing will enter his third year as the coach in DC, coming off a 19-14 season.

Marquette:

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The Golden Eagles reached heights unseen since Dwyane Wade roamed the floor in 2018-19, reaching as high as 10th in the national polls, led by scoring-machine Markus Howard. The season came to a crashing halt, however, as Marquette lost its final four regular season games, was bounced in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals and then crushed in Hartford by Ja Morant and Murray State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. For next year Howard is back, meaning Steve Wojciechowski could have his best team yet in ’19-20, even without the Hauser brothers.

Providence:

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The Friars have improved dramatically since the formation of the new Big East. After making the NCAA Tourney just two times between 1997 and 2013, PC made it five years in a row before missing out this past season. Ed Cooley is there for the long-haul it looks like, setting up what should be a very good rivalry. Even in a rebuilding year last season, the Friars went 18-16 and made it to the NIT.

St. John’s:

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The Red Storm made the Big Dance for the first time since 2015, but a First Four loss to Arizona State meant the end of what was a very awkward Chris Mullin era. The best player in program history had some very good recruiting classes in his four seasons, but it never translated on the court, as he went 59-73 and just 20-52 in the Big East. After a (very long) coaching, Mike Anderson takes over a team that has some potential with Mustapha Heron, LJ Figueroa and former four-star recruit Greg Williams.

Seton Hall:

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The Pirates are on the rise. Kevin Willard has taken Seton Hall to four straight NCAA Tournaments for just the second time in program history, and although they’ve only won a single game in that span, expectations are high for 2019-20. Myles Powell is an All-American candidate and one of four starters returning. They could be the preseason favorite in the Big East and a top-20 team.

Villanova:

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It’s not only the face of the Big East, it’s become one of the premier programs in all of college basketball. Two national titles in four years has catapulted Jay Wright’s reputation to new heights, and even though ’18-19 was a “down year” given all they lost from the 2018 title team, it still meant a 26-10 season, 13-5 in the league and a second-round appearance in the NCAA Tournament. On the Big East side, they’ve won three straight and four of five tournaments and five of six regular season titles.

Xavier:

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Just two years ago the Musketeers were a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament, a year after making the Elite 8 as an 11-seed. Though that group graduated and the 2019 team finished just 19-16, Xavier should be back on the rise next season. The Musketeers closed last year winning seven of its final nine games, losing in overtime to Villanova in the Big East semis, and now has the league’s second-ranked recruiting class coming in. Travis Steele will soon have the program where Chris Mack left it.