Ryan Kalkbrenner, Creighton Bluejays, Big East basketball

CBB Review previews Big East basketball heading into the 2023-24 season.

Big East basketball projected standings

1. Marquette Golden Eagles

It’s never easy picking a team over the defending national champs, but Marquette should be the unanimous choice for preseason number one in Big East basketball. The Golden Eagles only lost one key player from a 29-7 team, Olivier Maxence-Prosper. That means Tyler Kolek, Kam Jones, and Oso Ighodaro all return, plus many other key role players. Shaka Smart didn’t utilize the transfer portal, so Marquette will rely on overall team chemistry, and the potential of two 4-star freshmen to make an added impact.

2. UConn Huskies

The 5-time national champion UConn Huskies re-load after losing Adama Sanogo, Jordan Hawkins, and Andre Jackson from last year’s team. Donovan Clingan, a 7-footer oozing untapped potential, is the key to it all. If he can be the successor to Sanogo, the Huskies won’t lose a beat. Tristen Newton and Alex Karaban both return as key rotation players from last year’s squad. 5-star guard Stephon Castle, 4-star Solomon Ball, and Rutgers transfer Cam Spencer give Dan Hurley some key reinforcements to keep the Huskies near the top of the conference.

3. Creighton Bluejays

For a while, Creighton looked like they could be either 1 or 2 to start the season in my Big East basketball predictions. However, once Arthur Kaluma decided to leave for Kansas State, that notion changed. Ryan Kalkbrenner, Trey Alexander, and Baylor Schierman still give Greg McDermott one of the best trios in the conference. Utah State transfer Steven Ashworth also comes in as a perfect fit for what Creighton wants to do on offense. Expect the Jays to be a top-25 team all season long.

4. Villanova Wildcats

Injuries amounted to the team in Kyle Neptune’s first year at Villanova, and it’s not fair to hold that against him. Instead, focus on the sheer talent of this Wildcats team. A healthy Eric Dixon and Justin Moore make for winning basketball, especially with Washington State transfer TJ Bamba and Maryland transfer Hakim Hart joining the mix. Don’t overlook Tyler Burton, who nearly averaged 20 PPG with Richmond. It seems like Nova is flying well under the radar, which is a scary thing to think about.

5. St. John’s Red Storm

The big question with Rick Pitino’s bunch is how they will mesh. St. John’s is pretty much just an expansion team – over 80% of the Red Storm’s projected rotation are transfers. While the team lost a lot of talent, they also added some high-level mid-major scorers. Jordan Dingle (23.4 PPG at Penn) and Chris Ledlum (18.8 PPG at Harvard) are professional scorers and will look to torch the Big East with more buckets.

6. Providence Friars

Bryce Hopkins returns, giving Kim English one of the best players in Big East basketball in his first year as the Friars head coach. Hopkins and Josh Oduro could form a lethal frontcourt duo. But how will the backcourt be? Jayden Pierre and Devin Carter will try their best to replace Jared Bynum and Noah Locke. That’s not an easy task, but having Hopkins and Oduro to rely on should relieve the early season struggles.

7. Seton Hall Pirates

The Pirates lose a handful of frontcourt players, notably Tyrese Samuel and KC Ndefo. However, the starting backcourt is back. Kadary Richmond and Al-Amir Dawes could be the reason the Pirates surprise teams. They’ll be counting on Elijah Hutchins-Everett or Jaden Bediako to fill the gap at center. The Pirates could really benefit from someone like Dre Davis or Dylan Addae-Wusu stepping up in a big way.

8. Xavier Musketeers

At this point, it’ll be up to Sean Miller’s ability to coach and build up a team throughout the season. What looked like a true Big East contender is now a Xavier team hoping to have enough firepower to make the NCAA Tournament. Losing four double-digit scorers off last year’s team was enough, but with long-term injuries to Zach Freemantle and Jerome Hunter, it’s as diminished as a team in college basketball. Luckily, Miller recruited Dayvion McKnight and Quincy Olivari to come to Cincinnati from Conference USA, but this team will need Freemantle to return before it’s too late.

9. Butler Bulldogs

Thad Matta led the Bulldogs to a 14-18 record in year one of his return to Indianapolis. This year, the focal point will be on St. John’s transfer Posh Alexander. He and a group of mid-major transfers hope to start and turn around a Butler team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2019-20. That’s no easy task with so many other teams finding power conference talent in the portal.

10. Georgetown Hoyas

I’m confident in Ed Cooley’s ability to turn around this program, but it will be a multi-year project. For how bad Georgetown was last year, going 7-25, losing Primo Spears and Qudus Wahab are still big losses. Akok Akok was set to return, but he ended up bolting for West Virginia, diminishing Cooley’s talent level even more. Jay Heath is a good, experienced player to have back, but the incoming talent is light. Fairfield transfer Supreme Cook, Illinois transfer Jayden Epps, and K-State pickup Ismael Massoud will have to adjust to Big East basketball on the fly if Georgetown is to make any remarkable improvements.

11. DePaul Blue Demons

DePaul has notoriously been near the bottom of Big East basketball since they joined the conference in 2005. An in-different offseason shows no reason why the Blue Demons will be any improved from last year’s 10-win season. Chico Carter Jr. looks to prove people wrong as an experienced transfer from South Carolina, but not much else moves the needle.

CBB Review Preseason Big East Basketball Player of the Year

Ryan Kalkbrenner, Creighton

Kalkbrenner is a 2-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year, and might as well add to that trophy case. Last year’s team’s leading scorer returns for a fourth season in Omaha. With no Ryan Nembhard and Arthur Kaluma, it could mean even more shot attempts for Kalkbrenner. The 7-footer is also a gifted rebounder and shot blocker. For a Creighton team looking to make the most of its string of success, this year it all starts with Kalkbrenner.

CBB Review Preseason Big East Basketball Coach of the Year

Rick Pitino, St. John’s

You have to commend Pitino for a job well done in the transfer portal this offseason. Now, we all get to sit back and see it unfold. Few things are certain in life, but Rick Pitino winning basketball games is one of them. The hype around this St. John’s team is very high.

CBB Review Preseason Big East Basketball Freshman of the Year

Stephon Castle, UConn

It’s quite amazing the job Dan Hurley has done in a few short years at UConn. Castle, a 5-star guard, will play alongside Tristen Newton in the Huskies’ backcourt. A combo guard, Castle virtually replaces Jordan Hawkins in an instant, which is mind-boggling to think about. Of course, he’ll have to adjust to college basketball like any freshman does, but the talent is there.

CBB Review Preseason Big East Basketball Transfer of the Year

Dayvion McKnight, Xavier

The pressure on McKnight to perform is insane, but the Western Kentucky transfer has the tools to be a surprise star in the Big East. McKnight is athletic, can score, and will be tasked with being the go-to guy in the absence of Freemantle and Hunter.

CBB Review Preseason Big East Basketball First Team

  • G: Tyler Kolek, Marquette
  • G: Justin Moore, Villanova
  • F: Bryce Hopkins, Providence
  • F: Eric Dixon, Villanova
  • C: Ryan Kalkbrenner, Creighton

CBB Review Preseason Big East Basketball Second Team

  • G: Posh Alexander, Butler
  • G: Trey Alexander, Creighton
  • G: Kam Jones, Marquette
  • C: Joel Soriano, St. John’s
  • C: Donovan Clingan, UConn

CBB Review Preseason Big East Basketball All-Freshmen Team

  • G: Garwey Dual, Providence
  • G: Simeon Wilcher, St. John’s
  • G: Stephon Castle, UConn
  • F: Dailyn Swain, Xavier
  • F: Jayden Ross, UConn
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