Baylor Scheierman, Creighton Bluejays, Big East basketball

Big East basketball will look to defend its national championship as the UConn Huskies take center stage in 2023.

1. UConn Huskies

The Huskies await the potential return of Adama Sanogo, which would solidify their spot atop the Big East. However, even if Sanogo doesn’t come back, UConn is still the defending NCAA Tournament champions and requires that respect.

Regardless of Sanogo’s decision, the Huskies will bring back key players from their championship team, including Donovan Clingan, Alex Karaban, and likely Andre Jackson. They also have the 3rd-ranked incoming freshman class according to 247Sports, which is highlighted by the 8th-ranked player in the class, Stephon Castle.

The losses of Jordan Hawkins, Nahiem Alleyne, and Joey Calcaterra will impact UConn, but the Huskies still have so much returning and incoming talent, that they will be a top team in the country again next season.

2. Creighton Bluejays

How can Creighton survive the loss of Ryan Nembhard to the transfer portal? How about getting former 4-star Isaac Traudt from Virginia, and one of the top scorers in the portal in Steven Ashworth?

People forget that Creighton was a unanimous preseason top-25 team to begin last season. By adding Traudt and Ashworth, and potentially keeping Ryan Kalkbrenner, Trey Alexander, and Baylor Scheierman, the Jays could be as loaded as any team in college basketball next season. The loss of Arthur Kaluma to the NBA Draft would certainly be a tough pill to swallow, but he could opt to come back, painting his college eligibility in the process. If Kalkbrenner leaves, Creighton slides to number 3 on this list. Either way, the Jays are shaping up to be a Big East basketball title contender again.

3. Marquette Golden Eagles

The top of the Big East next season should really be one big tier because UConn, Creighton, and Marquette are all deserving of that number-one spot. The Golden Eagles bring back the most talented group of that trio of teams, with Tyler Kolek, Kam Jones, and Oso Ighodaro all slated to be back. Olivier Maxence-Prosper, who is also testing the NBA Draft waters, could also return but is the biggest question mark.

A 2-seed from last year’s NCAA Tournament, Marquette checking in at number 3 in my way-too-early Big East basketball power rankings just proves the talent at the top of this conference.

4. Villanova Wildcats

Who would have ever thought Villanova would be built on transfers? That’s just the state of college basketball, as the Wildcats welcome in TJ Bamba from Washington State and Hakim Hart from Maryland, two of the best pickups in the country this offseason.

This is also a Villanova team that despite starting 10-13, finished the season with a 7-4 record. Of course, one key component of that resurgence, Cam Whitmore, is gone. But Justin Moore and (potentially) Eric Dixon are both back for a final season, which should instantly keep Villanova in contention. Expect the Wildcats to be back to their usual selves after a rough 2022-23 season.

5. Xavier Musketeers

Zach is back. It might be the biggest off-season happening for any team in the Big East. Zach Freemantle has what it takes to be a First Team All-Big East player and will suit up for a fifth and final year in Cincinnati.

Freemantle will be joined by a slew of talented players. That includes a pair of C-USA Transfers. Quincy Olivari averaged 18.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 2.2 APG at Rice. Dayvion McKnight put up similar numbers at Western Kentucky. Those three should be able to carry the load and win a lot of games for Xavier next season.

Colby Jones and Jack Nunge are big losses for the Musketeers, but Sean Miller is a winner and by bringing back Freemantle, is setting himself up for another winning season.

6. St. John’s Red Storm

I don’t think we should take Rick Pitino lightly. Everywhere the Hall of Fame coach goes, his team usually succeeds. It shouldn’t be any different at a school like St. John’s, smack in the middle of the mecca of basketball.

With any coaching change, there will be changes, and the Red Storm is in the middle of a roster overhaul. The talent level is still there, and Pitino will get the most out of his guys.

David Jones, Posh Alexander, Dylan Addae-Wusu, Andre Curbelo, and A.J. Storr are all significant losses to the portal. But by returning Joel Soriano underneath and adding Daniss Jenkins and Naheim Alleyne, among others, the Johnnies won’t miss a beat. In fact, one has to consider why you wouldn’t want to play for a Hall of Fame coach in the first place.

Maybe I’m placing too much stock into Pitino’s ability to finish this high in year one with so many changes, but I’d be silly not to trust a guy who has been to five Final Fours.

7. Butler Bulldogs

Year one of Thad Matta’s second stint at Butler was very meh. Year two provides more hope based on the transfers Butler will showcase on the floor.

The Bulldogs are set to lose three of their top four scorers to the transfer portal, among others. However, there is a chance that Manny Bates comes back. He’s testing the NBA Draft waters but retains his eligibility if that doesn’t work out.

So far, Butler has done some great work in the portal. Their best pickup is Posh Alexander, who comes over from St. John’s. Alexander was fantastic at St. John’s, and could finally hit his stride in a new system.

The Bulldogs also have some mid-major sleepers including DJ Davis, a guard who averaged 15 points per game at UC Irvine. Center Andre Screen could be a boom or bust type of pickup. He’s 7-foot-1 and put up over 11 PPG, but played at Bucknell in the Patriot League. A few other transfers will also make their way to Indianapolis, including former Michigan State Spartan, Pierre Brooks. The transition to the Big East isn’t for everyone, but a few of them are bound to work out.

The pieces could be there for Butler to have a successful season, but it is a lot of unproven talent at the Big East basketball level.

8. Providence Friars

Kim English will face a lot of challenges in year one in Friartown. Providence is moving on from Jared Bynum, Ed Croswell, and Noah Locke, three starters on last year’s NCAA Tournament team.

The Friars do retain a solid amount, namely Devin Carter and Bryce Hopkins. Those two should be enough to help keep Providence competitive in the always-challenging Big East.

Where the Friars get production from elsewhere is the bigger question. Alyn Breed was a candidate to be a breakout player but is currently suspended after allegedly pulling a gun on his girlfriend. A few of English’s players at George Mason followed him over, but Josh Oduru has the most potential to turn into a solid Big East basketball player. The graduate senior averaged 15.6 PPG and 7.9 RPG with the Patriots last season.

Providence could surely finish inside the top five of the Big East when it’s all set and done, but as of April 26, a few pieces still need to be put together.

9. Seton Hall Pirates

Shaheen Holloway and staff have laid a near goose egg this offseason. The Pirates are set to lose Tyrese Samuel, Femi Odukale, Tray Jackson, and Alexis Yetna to the transfer portal. Jamir Harris has also exhausted all eligibility. Rising sophomore Tae Davis also just hit the portal.

That leaves the Pirates with Kadary Richmond, Al-Amir Dawes, Dre Davis, and a whole bunch of underclassmen with minimal playing experience.

But the biggest issue in Pirateland is the lack of incoming talent. Seton Hall did just land transfer Dylan Addae-Wusu from St. John’s but only has one incoming freshman, 3-star David Tubek.

Unless the Pirates can land some more talented transfers or get a big boost from a player like Tae Davis or Jaquan Sanders, the outlook doesn’t look great right now.

10. Georgetown Hoyas

Like Thad Matta’s Butler team, Ed Cooley’s Hoyas will count on transfers to get the job done. That’s nothing new for Cooley, who was a great transfer recruiter at Providence.

Georgetown brings in a slew of power conference guys. Dontrez Styles (North Carolina), Jayden Epps (Illinois), and Rowan Brumbaugh (Texas) should all be able to play right away and adjust fairly quickly to Big East basketball. Epps had the best freshman season, nearly averaging 10 points per game with the Illini. Brumbaugh didn’t play and Styles did sparingly, so that is something to keep in mind.

The Hoyas are also losing a fair amount to the portal, but look to keep Jay Heath and Akok Akok. Both were key pieces for Georgetown last season, but that’s also saying something, considering the Hoyas failed to win 10 games.

I’m expecting some growing pains in year one for Ed Cooley, but the foundation is being built to get Georgetown back on the map very soon.

11. DePaul Blue Demons

For what it’s worth, Tony Stubblefield did hit the portal for the Blue Demons, bringing in South Carolina transfer Chico Carter Jr., Wyoming transfer Jeremiah Oden, and Minnesota transfer Jaden Henley. That’s a solid nucleus of incoming talent to go along with 7-foot freshman Babacar Mbengue.

But with no Umoja Gibson and Javan Johnson, the Blue Demons will need to find scoring elsewhere.

It’s a challenge to build a winning culture at DePaul, in case you didn’t know that already.