Angel Delgado and Trevon Bluiett entered the Big East Conference in 2014. Since then, they’ve ascended up the charts and have become two of the best players in their respective programs’ histories. The Seton Hall Pirates and Xavier Musketeers have done nothing but benefit with them around, and with both guaranteed to be aboard for the upcoming 2017-18 season, the Pirates and Muskies’ prosperity is set to continue.
Both players had the opportunity to turn pro. For a moment, it looked like they were bound for the Association. However, things changed earlier this week when they each decided to stick it out for their senior years. Delgado’s announcement came on Monday, while the news of Bluiett’s return arrived on Tuesday. In consecutive days, Seton Hall, Xavier and the Big East all received good fortune, varying in different amplitudes.
Let’s take a look at how these returns impact the Musketeers, the Pirates and their fellow conference peers.
The Player of the Year race heats up
If you were to project the Big East Player of the Year race before this week, you’d have quite an easy time doing so. Villanova Wildcats guard Jalen Brunson was likely your top choice, with a few other talented candidates sprinkled around. There’s Kelan Martin of the Butler Bulldogs and Marcus Foster of the Creighton Bluejays. Rodney Bullock and/or Kyron Cartwright of the Providence Friars figured to be in the picture too.
With Bluiett and Delgado putting their names back into the hat, the deck has reshuffled quite a bit. One would figure that either of the two will be heavy favorites to win the award in the preseason, usurping the talented junior guard at ‘Nova in the process. He’s still a strong choice, make no mistake, especially if his upward progression continues. But Angel and Trevon will likely be leading the charge now that they’re both back in the mix, muddying up the race and providing some extra competition.
Xavier avoids a heavy hit
The Musketeers stood to lose the likes of both Bluiett and the superb Edmond Sumner to the NBA prior to the former’s announcement earlier this week. Xavier proved that they could win without Sumner’s presence and sustain the blow (to a degree) this past year following the Detroit native’s debilitating knee injury. Quentin Goodin stepped in and all he did was help lead the Muskies back to the Elite Eight with a terrific supporting cast.
Bluiett, though, was no doubt crucial in that run too. He had a fantastic sprint through the Big East Tournament and posted back-to-back-to-back games of at least 20 points in the NCAA Tournament. That included a 29-point outing in X’s demolition of the Florida State Seminoles, which led to their advancement to the Sweet 16. His 25 points against the Arizona Wildcats were a huge factor in that upset win as well. UofA was thought to be a prime National Title contender, and without Bluiett’s help, that upset may’ve never occurred in the first place.
The Muskies will have an extremely talented recruiting class coming to Cincinnati this offseason. That combined with Goodin, Kaiser Gates, Tyrique Jones and Sean O’Mara would have been solid in its own right. But with the senior version of Trevon Bluiett, X is going to be a force to be reckoned with (again) by avoiding the loss of their top scorer. That’s not good news for anyone outside of Cincinnati.
Well, apart from the Bearcats, who finally felt Bluiett’s wrath earlier this year.
The Hall averts danger, too
Given the composition of the roster, Seton Hall was likely to suffer a heavier hit with the loss of their star compared to Xavier. The Pirates had a talented group, no doubt. Myles Powell, Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez are a terrific trio on their own. Complementary players plus a good recruiting class meant success was likely to happen again for Kevin Willard and The Hall.
But the loss of their premier post man would’ve likely kept interior threats to a minimum.
Ismael Sanogo is a terrific defender, but has only averaged 3.3 points per game in his three-year career. His 3.0 points per game in the 2016-17 season was actually down from the average of 5.0 that he posted as a sophomore. Michael Nzei isn’t too far behind from Sanogo’s statline, as his career scoring line checks in at 3.9 points per game.
Without Delgado in the mix, the Pirates’ hopes would hinge on both Sanogo and Nzei taking huge leaps offensively. Additionally, incoming recruits Darnell Brodie and Sandro Mamukelashvili would have to adapt to the game quickly and JUCO transfer Romaro Gill would need to make an easy transition, too.
Luckily, that heat is off Willard and the Pirates now with Delgado’s return confirmed. Angel has been a consistent threat from inside in his time with the Pirates. There’s no reason why that can’t happen again and why The Hall can’t contend again either.
The Big East should land a large number of NCAA Tournament bids yet again
The conference will enjoy more prosperity in the 2017-18 season with Angel and Trevon around. Not only will the Musketeers and Pirates be threats at the top of the conference, but they should likely play their way into the NCAA Tournament again.
The conference had seven teams (Villanova, Xavier, Seton Hall, Butler, Marquette, Providence, Creighton) make it to the Big Dance last year and two make it to the second weekend. That number seems like it would certainly be in reach again with how the conference’s complexion looks now. That will only help shape the profile in a beneficial way, especially if the teams make long runs.
Seton Hall and Xavier are capable of doing that next year, and a lot of it has to do with who they have coming back. Namely, the two standouts who announced their returns earlier this week.