For the fourth time in the last decade, a Big East basketball team won the NCAA Championship. But it’s a new year, and that means improvements can be made all around.
Butler Bulldogs – Offensive Rebounding
There were plenty of things the 14-18 Bulldogs did wrong last season, and offensive rebounding was the worst of them. Butler only managed to get 6.5 ORPG, 358th out of the 363 teams.
The lack of fight on the offensive glass hurt the Bulldogs’ ability to score, finishing last in the conference in points per game. Despite losing big man Manny Bates, Butler does return Jalen Thomas, who led the team with 1.5 ORPG last season. 7-footer Andre Screen also comes over from Bucknell and should help Butler’s rebounding woes.
Creighton Bluejays – Creating turnovers
Creighton did a lot of good things last year, finishing 24-13 and making it to the Elite 8. However, one part of their game that was missing, was the ability to turn other teams over. The Jays only averaged 5 steals per game, instead relying on their high-powered offense to create points.
Forcing steals isn’t everything. The Bluejays had the second-best team defense in Big East basketball, only letting up 64.9 PPG. But for what it’s worth, in their loss to San Diego State, Creighton only forced three steals, albeit to SDSU’s one. Still, you have to think that one more steal could have led to one more bucket, and a trip to the Final Four.
DePaul Blue Demons – Mid-range FG%
Is the mid-range shot dead? For DePaul, it might as well be. The Blue Demons had a 34.46 MRFG% vs. the average opponent, according to Haslemetrics.
Is that bad? Only South Carolina, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Cal fared worse among power conference teams.
Taking it a step further, DePaul was outside the top 300 in two-point %. That’s half of the offensive game, and clearly, the mid-range inefficiency is weighing them down.
Georgetown Hoyas – Three-point shooting
I could pick and choose between a lot of areas of improvement for the Hoyas, but that’s just what you get when you win seven games in a season. However, a 30.7% from three was clearly the worst.
To Georgetown’s credit, they didn’t force the issue. The Hoyas only shot about 19 threes per game, which was sub-300 in college basketball. However, with how the game is moving, being able to connect from outside at a better rate is not only important but virtually required.
Ed Cooley’s Providence teams were never exceptional from deep, but in his last eight seasons, they never had a worse rate than 32.0%. Although minimal, that would still be an improvement for a program that is far from competing on the national stage. Cooley is a great basketball mind, and although he’s not necessarily a coach to preach shooting threes, he’s sure to help that area of the game for GTown.
Marquette Golden Eagles – Interior defense
Marquette had one of its best seasons in school history, finishing 6th in the AP Poll. Unfortunately, the road ended in the round of 32, losing to Tom Izzo and Michigan State. One of the things that got in the way of Shaka Smart’s club was interior defense. The Spartans outrebounded the Golden Eagles in that game, 36-29.
Marquette was not a shot-blocking team. In fact, the Golden Eagles only averaged 3.0 blocks per game, which was 201st in the country. Even worse, were their rebounding efforts. Marquette didn’t even grab 32 boards per game, which was outside of the top 300 in college basketball.
Big East basketball is physical, and although the Golden Eagles competed hard in the conference, they didn’t measure up statistically. Instead, Marquette played very smart basketball, finishing the season 7th in assists per game. The Golden Eagles don’t need to change their identity, but they do need to muscle up more.
Providence Friars – Assists
Where will it come from this year? The Friars lose their starting point guard Jared Bynum. Replacing him won’t be easy, especially in Big East basketball.
This year’s Friars team will revolve around Bryce Hopkins, so offense shouldn’t be a concern. However, getting someone to run the offense is the key.
Devin Carter could be the name to come in and get the job done. Corey Floyd Jr., a former 4-star recruit with UConn, could be another name to help out at PG. Under first-year head coach Kim English, anything could be on the table.
Seton Hall Pirates – Ball movement
The Seton Hall Pirates took a step back in year one without Kevin Willard but also made some improvements. Shaheen Holloway brings in a certain type of toughness that not every coach – or team – can replicate. However, he also brought in a very sporadic offense, that led to a Pirates team struggling to score consistently.
The biggest area of concern would be the lack of ball movement. Seton Hall only averaged 12.2 assists per game as a team, one of the worst marks in Big East basketball.
One good note is that the Pirates return a backcourt of Kadary Richmond and Al-Amir Dawes. That should lead to more fluid play, especially with both players having a year playing under Holloway under their belts.
St. John’s Red Storm – Free throw %
It drives me nuts when teams don’t hit free throws, and it might have cost the Red Storm a few wins last season. The Johnnies weren’t awful – but weren’t anything to write home about either – from the line. As a team, they shot it at 69.9%.
When you look at game-by-game performance, you see how much the poor FT shooting got in the way. In a 5-point loss to Xavier, St. John’s was just 9-of-16 at the line. When they lost by 3 to Providence they were 12-of-20 (the Friars were only 22-of-34 from the line for what it’s worth).
It wasn’t always bad. In two losses to Marquette to end the season, St. John’s couldn’t miss from the line. Seeing those improvements is a great thing. It’ll be a much different team than last season, but hopefully, for the Red Storm, the good FT shooting to end the season carries over into 2023-24.
UConn Huskies – Getting to the line more
When you’re the national champs, there aren’t many things you do wrong, and such is the case with Connecticut. I’m really picking and choosing here, but one area of the game the Huskies would probably like to improve on is getting to the charity stripe more.
Again, this isn’t a part of the game UConn was bad at. The Huskies averaged 18.4 free throw attempts per game, good for 150th in the country, which is still inside the top half. However, with the loss of jump shooters Jordan Hawkins and Joey Calcaterra, the Huskies could go inside even more. Donovan Clingan will be a major factor on this year’s team, and if one thing’s for certain, he will draw fouls.
Given Clingan’s role this year, getting to the line more might not even be something Dan Hurley has to actually focus on in practice. Ultimately, it should come naturally. After all, when you put up a banner, things don’t have to be forced.
Villanova Wildcats – More shot attempts
This stat will blow your mind. In 2022-23, Villanova was 35th in offensive efficiency, according to Haslemetrics. Despite that, the Wildcats were bottom 60 in field goal attempts and field goal makes.
Some of that can be attributed to rebounding. Villanova was one of the worst power conference teams on the offensive glass and didn’t convert a lot of second-chance points. But a lot of it is also due to a lot of trips up the court with no ball movement. Villanova ranked in the bottom 40 in assists per game.
It’s rare to see a Wildcats team struggle in these aspects of the game, but I also wouldn’t blame Kyle Neptune for it all. Luckily, Nova has a legitimate transfer class and returns some key players like Eric Dixon and Justin Moore. We should see improvements in all facets of the game.
Xavier Musketeers – Allowing fewer FG attempts
Xavier was first in the country in assists per game, and fifth in three-point percentage, so we can rule out those areas of the game. However, the Musketeers weren’t overall efficient in stopping opponents from jacking up shots.
Part of this comes from Xavier’s fast tempo and high-scoring offense. The Musketeers had so many weapons and found it so easy to score on offense, that in turn, other teams had more chances to score.
According to our trusted friends at Haslemetrics, Xavier was in the bottom half of the country in FGAR, which measures how many times opponents take a shot per 100 trips up the court. It’s really not the end of the world, but for a team that did most things right last season, you’ve gotta find something. And in losing Souley Boum, Colbey Jones, Jack Nunge, and Adam Kunkel, it will be a much different team on the floor. Making sure this doesn’t get out of hand is important.