In case you missed it, the long awaited update of KenPom.com occurred Sunday night. Heading into the season, you figure the Big East is going to look pretty good. After all, since reformation, the conference has finished 5th, 3rd, 2nd and 3rd in its Adjusted Efficiency Margin rankings. Not a bad spot to be, especially when you’ve been Top 3 in the last three years.
Well, the Big East is projected to be in the Top 3 again. 2nd, to be precise. The conference’s projected mark of +15.05 is only below the Big 12’s projection of +18.54 right now. That is obviously a pretty sizable gap, but the Big East is expected to be doing big things again this season. Those of you who frequent this site probably aren’t too surprised by that, are you?
Let’s look at some other observations, shall we?
Villanova leads the Big East... and the nation!
That’s right. Your reigning, defending, back-to-back-to-back-to-back Big East regular season champions are the preseason #1 on KenPom. The Villanova Wildcats’ AdjEM of +27.48 bests the likes of the Kentucky Wildcats, Arizona Wildcats, Wichita State Shockers and Kansas Jayhawks, who all comprise the Top 5. Not too shabby, right?
This, of course, doesn’t take everything into account (incoming freshmen, etc.) but Villanova’s returnees likely make this ranking possible. Having Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo and Mikal Bridges around probably factors in here. The fact that ‘Nova has finished 5th, 1st and 2nd with Brunson and Bridges around likely has something to do with it, too. We know what we’re getting from those players, and that continuity and the footprint they’ve established no doubt helps them.
There is a sizable gap between Villanova and 2nd place
The next highest AdjEM in the Big East belongs to the Providence Friars, who sit 25th in the preseason KenPom rankings. That’s nearly nine points lower than Villanova’s +27.48 mark, which is rather absurd when you think about it. The gaps between first and second in other high-major conferences are only as large as about four. ‘Nova, maybe unsurprisingly, is a huge favorite in the conference. When you win four straight titles, you get that BOTD, I suppose.
There’s a logjam between 2nd-4th
Aforementioned Providence, along with the Xavier Musketeers and Seton Hall Pirates are teams 25, 26 and 28 in the rankings. As you might expect from reading that, there isn’t too much separation between these three teams. That sounds about right when you consider the lofty expectations for all three.
The most prolific offense of the three is Xavier, and when you have Trevon Bluiett aboard, that sounds about right. Providence is just behind Seton Hall, but the Friars’ defensive projections are the best of the bunch. They start off with an AdjDE inside the Top 25. Considering their defenses have never finished below the Top 50 in the last three years, you can expect the Friars to continue to ramp it up defensively. SHU and X are expected to have Top 40 defenses, which sounds about right with Chris Mack and Kevin Willard’s histories.
Butler, Creighton and Marquette all make the Top 50
The Butler Bulldogs, Creighton Bluejays and Marquette Golden Eagles give the Big East seven teams in the Top 50. If you wanted to know why the Big East is thought so highly of, that’s exactly why.
It will be interesting to see if BU can match those expectations. They, of course, went through a coaching change and saw two of their 2017 commits transfer elsewhere. The ‘Dawgs still have talent with Kelan Martin and Kamar Baldwin aboard, but the coaching change could make for lack of static play.
We kinda know what we’re getting out of Creighton - great offense, good enough defense and high tempo. Their metrics reflect that, unsurprisingly. The same goes for Marquette, who is one of three teams with a projected AdjOE in the Top 25.
St. John’s juuuuuust misses the cut
Talk about a jump. The St. John’s Red Storm, who finished 211th and 99th in the past two years, start off ranked 51st in the preseason rankings. Their expected improvements on both offense and defense play a major role with that. As does their Adjusted Tempo projection of 76.9, the highest mark in the Big East. We’ll see if St. John’s can live up to that, but if they can, they could sandwich themselves in the Top 50, which would be a huge step for Chris Mullin in Year 3.
Georgetown is Georgetown, DePaul is DePaul
The Georgetown Hoyas and DePaul Blue Demons didn’t make the Top 50, of course. Or the Top 51. But the Hoyas and Blue Demons are at a respectable 79th and 119th. The Big East has no teams worse than that, which would surely be welcomed this season. Especially DePaul, who finished 183rd the last two years, 150th in 2015 and 183rd again in 2014.
Georgetown has their transitions to deal with (Hello, Patrick Ewing, how do you do?) but the Hoyas probably shouldn’t be too bad, as we’ve talked about before. It’s just a matter of unknown with their new head coach patrolling the sidelines. KenPom still likes them to finish within the Top 100, if nothing else, which would be a solid season on The Hilltop given the circumstances.
If you’re a detractor of the Big East, sorry to dismay you, but the conference should still be one of the best in the country this year. You may yearn for how things used to be, but Year 5 looks to be another great year for this ‘new’ Big East.