There has been a changing of the guard in the Big East Conference after Jay Wright shocked the college basketball world by retiring this spring. Creighton, who returns most of their lineup was already predicted to likely be the favorite. Still, it became even more so with news of Wright and the hiring of Kyle Neptune who has one season of head coaching experience to his name. The 2022-23 Big East Conference is going to be fascinating with a bit of a have and have-nots feel with the top four to five teams being near NCAA Tournament locks whether you believe in Ed Cooley and Providence’s ability to reload. The next tier of six through nine could finish in about any order that wouldn’t be surprising with Depaul and Georgetown once again bringing up the rear in the conference.
Let’s give a quick breakdown of each team and their biggest storylines and expectations this season.
2022-23 Big East Conference Preview
When it comes to Butler the biggest news is that Thad Matta has returned to coaching after a five-year hiatus. He’s got some returning talent, mostly in guard Chuck Harris, and brought some talented players in via the transfer portal. Watching how he re-adjusts to the college game after a fairly lengthy absence will be interesting to watch as the game has changed quite a bit since he last coached with more teams becoming more perimeter-oriented. The time off may have also re-freshened Matta whose teams began to get a bit stale towards the end of his Ohio State tenure. Butler isn’t likely a tournament team but it’s not out of the question that they surprise and find a way to grab a bid.
Last year Creighton’s entire identity flipped from how they usually play. Instead of bombing threes and playing bad defense, they were a solid and stingy defensive team who lacked shooting and struggled on offense. They took the eventual champion Kansas Jayhawks to the brink in the 2nd Round last year without their Defensive Player of the Year center Ryan Kalkbrenner and point guard Ryan Nembhard. With those two back plus Trey Alexander, March Madness breakout player Arthur Kaluma, and transfer Baylor Scheierman expectations are as high as they’ve maybe ever been during the Greg McDermott era at Creighton. Not only are they the consensus pick to win the conference but also a strong Final Four contender.
DePaul Blue Demons
DePaul is up next in the 2022-23 Big East Conference Preview and as much as things change, some things stay the same and that sums up what is expected of DePaul this season. Once again they’re expected to finish near the bottom of the conference. Things seemed to be trending in a positive direction last year with the start they had before the wheels fell off during conference play. They’re hoping a couple of transfers including former Oklahoma sniper Umoja Gibson can help lead them to a few more wins but with a top-heavy Big East this year they’ll likely have to play spoiler to a few of the bubble tournament teams.
Patrick Ewing needs a good season to regain some support with the fanbase and his bosses but it’s fair to wonder with so much turnover whether he’ll have the necessary wins to get there. His tenure has been mostly down outside of the magical Big East Tournament run they went on a couple of years back. Outside of that, his tenure has been marred by continuous transfers and quite a bit of losing. He’s hoping his big men transfer combo of Akok Akok and former Hoya turned Maryland Terp turned back to a Hoya Qudus Wahab will be able to control the paint and lead the team out of its likely spot near the Big East basement.
Marquette Golden Eagles
Shaka Smart enters his second year in Milwaukee fresh off an NCAA Tournament but this year might prove to be a bit more difficult. They lost their two leading scorers and were one of the few teams in the entire country not to add anyone from the transfer portal. Smart will need to truly put his imprint on this team and get them to buy in to return to the tournament. They’re not likely to break into the upper tier of the conference but could finish anywhere in the six to nine range of the conference this year.
Ed Cooley’s Friars lost a ton off one of the better teams he’s had at the school. It was a senior-laden roster that only returns point guard Jared Bynum. Cooley will need to work a bit of magic to get this team to not only fit but gel and compete to his standards. The Friars did bring in a pretty talented crop of transfers including Bryce Hopkins from Kentucky. If the transfers find that chemistry early and make an impact similar to Al Durham last year then they could find themselves competing for a good seed once again this year.
St. John’s Red Storm
St. John’s season could go several ways but at the very least they should be fun with a pretty electric backcourt in Posh Alexander and Andre Curbelo. If those two can find a way to co-exist and Curbelo finds a way to hone that talent that makes him special at times the Red Storm could go from the bubble to a lock for the tournament.
Seton Hall Pirates
Seton Hall welcomes home the prodigal son in Shaheen Holloway to coach his alma mater fresh off an all-time March Madness run at St. Peter’s. Holloway brings over rim protector extraordinaire KC Ndefo with him to Seton Hall along with a few more transfers to help plug the holes that left Kevin Willard’s last team. Holloway showed his coaching chops to the world in the tournament this past spring so no one doubts his ability to get kids to buy in. But much like a few other teams in the conference, it will come down to how quickly he gets the mix of returning players and new guys to find that chemistry and fit within how he coaches.
Dan Hurley has entered year five and it’s about time he won a tournament game. The Huskies have lost some key contributors but do bring back some good pieces that should help keep them from dropping off too drastically. Most see them still finishing in the top four of the conference but as the conference is seemingly open for the taking with Villanova no longer being the clear and runaway favorite now could be the time for Hurley to strike. The 2022-23 Big East Conference is up for grabs for the first time in a few years. They are a no-doubt NCAA Tournament team but a place like Uconn that is so used to winning championships over the last two decades plus, just making the tournament isn’t good enough.
So this will be weird. Jay Wright is synonymous with Villanova and vice-versa so watching another coach roam the sidelines will take some adjusting. The replacement, Kyle Neptune is a Wright disciple and spent just one year away from the program as a head coach so he’ll have familiarity with some of the players and certainly with the culture. Seeing how much of a difference there will be interesting to watch. Once healthy this team will be good with so many returners back but it stands to reason how good without Collin Gillespie, the rock of this program the last four years. Freshman Cam Whitmore is expected to make a huge impact when healthy, as is Justin Moore when he recovers from his Achilles tear. It will be up to key cogs Brandon Slater, Caleb Daniels, and Eric Dixon to hold down the fort until those guys are up to speed.
The final team of our 2022-23 Big East Conference Preview has brought in a big-time hire at coach with Sean Miller. Miller coached at the school previously which helped launch his career. The Musketeers do bring back some talent and are expected to make the tournament this year and finish in the top four of the conference. No one has ever doubted Miller’s coaching chops and although he wasn’t able to get over the hump and make a Final Four his ability to build teams and get them to play good defense is always of quality. Xavier was a likely tourney team last year before a brutal loss to Butler in the Big East Tournament. With an upgrade at coach from Travis Steele to Miller, better success should surely follow.