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2020-21 Big East Season Preview

The Big East returns to action Wednesday. Here’s everything you need to know.

NCAA Basketball: DePaul at Villanova Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Following the longest and arguably the most trying offseason in the history of the sport, the Big East Conference returns to play on Wednesday with seven of the league’s 11 teams in action.

I suppose we should pause and immediately address the elephant in the room. Why are only seven teams playing after having such a long offseason? The other four, UConn Huskies, Creighton Bluejays, DePaul Blue Demons and Seton Hall Pirates are currently in various stages of the two-week COVID-19 shutdown.

Unfortunately, that trend will likely remain a constant throughout the college basketball season, as a national surge or “third wave” of the virus makes it way through the United States, combined with inconsistent protocols throughout college basketball.

To the Big East’s credit, the conference is committed to being flexible and safe with regards to conference play, but the nonconference and MTE portion of the schedule is looking a lot like the Wild West so far.

The NCAA has chosen to go forward with the season as is, though, and we have a responsibility to cover it to the best of our ability. With that being said, let’s take a look at the outlook for the 11 Big East teams this season.


Butler

Key Departures

  • Kamar Baldwin (16.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.3 apg)
  • Sean McDermott (11.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.0 apg)
  • Henry Baddley (3.2 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 0.2 apg)
  • Jordan Tucker (8.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 0.7 apg)
  • Khalif Battle (3.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.5 apg)

Key Returners

  • Aaron Thompson (7.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.7 apg)
  • Christian David (2.6 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 0.6 apg)
  • Bryce Nze (9.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.4 apg)
  • Bryce Golden (7.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.1 apg)

Key Newcomers

  • Jair Bolden (8.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.4 apg for South Carolina)
  • Chuck Harris (G, 6’2”, 190 lbs)
  • Myles Tate (G, 6’0”, 160 lbs)
  • JaKobe Coles (F, 6’7”, 225 lbs)

Key Storylines

Call in the Replacements

As if replacing Kamar Baldwin, Sean McDermott, and Henry Baddley wasn’t going to be difficult enough, Butler suffered two more blows as Jordan Tucker left early to pursue a professional career and promising youngster Khalif Battle transferred to Temple. LaVall Jordan was able to put together the best ranked recruiting class in Butler history, but it will be interesting to see how exactly he replaces the combined 121.9 minutes per game lost from last year’s roster.

In addition to replacing minutes and production, Jordan will need players to fill the leadership roles typically carried by Baldwin and McDermott last year. Aaron Thompson and Bryce Golden seem the likely candidates – they will be key as they try to bring South Carolina transfer Jair Bolden and a bevy of freshmen up to speed.

Gritty, Not Pretty

As always, Coach Jordan will be admonishing the Dawgs to play “Gritty, not pretty.” The mantra could be especially relevant this year as Baldwin, McDermott, and Tucker took with them much of what was “pretty” about the Bulldogs’ play last year. This year’s team promises to be an old school squad, looking to grind out wins with defense and post play.

The Bulldogs return three elite defenders in Thompson, Golden, and Christian David – Bryce Nze is no slouch either. Coach Jordan and Butler’s program as a whole have always touted defense, but this team has a chance to be special in that department.

Nze and Golden will also be relied on heavily offensively. The returning big men are the two leading scorers left from the 2019-2020 squad, and will have to carry much of the scoring load with the amount of perimeter shooting the Bulldogs have lost. Hardly shooters themselves (both will dabble from range, but neither are elite shooters), the two of them should often be found trying to work in the low post.

One Question to Answer

Can the Bulldogs score?

On paper, this team looks to be offensively challenged. Only 37.0 ppg return from last year, even if you include the 8.5 ppg Bolden scored for South Carolina. None of the returning players appear to have much offensive upside either – Tucker and Battle were expected to provide much of the firepower in 2020-2021.

Butler will need some combination of unexpected evolutions by returning players and stellar contributions from newcomers in order to score enough to win, especially in the ever-talented BIG EAST. Bolden especially will be key, as he was brought in to be a knockdown three-point shooter the Bulldogs are in desperate need of, but someone will have to create those shooting opportunities for him. Doubtless, the question Coach Jordan and his staff have been grappling with all offseason is, “How will the Bulldogs score?” - Kevin Urquhart


Creighton

The Bluejays withdrew from the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic due to COVID. They are currently quarantining and will open their season December 1 against Nebraska-Omaha. We will update this section accordingly closer to that date.


DePaul

[Note: DePaul is currently paused due to COVID. They are scheduled to play their first game of the season on December 6 against Iowa State]

Key Departures

Paul Reed (15.1 points per game, 10.7 rebounds per game, 74 total blocks last season) - left for the NBA

Devin Gage (4.5 points per game, 1.7 assists per game, 46.3% shooting from the field) - Transferred to Fresno State

Jaylen Coleman-Lands (11.1 points per game , 2.7 rebounds per game, 81.9 free throw percentage) - Transferred to Iowa State

Key Returners

Jaylen Butz (10.1 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game, 59.3% shooting from the field)

Charlie Moore (15.5 points per game, 6.1 assists per game, 1.5 steals per game)

Darious Hall (4.5 points per game, 1.8 rebounds per game, 46.3 FG%)

Nick Ongenda (2.7 points per agme, 2.0 rebounds per game, 63.8 FG%)

Markese Jacobs (3.2 points per game, 0.3 rebounds per game, 0.1 assists per game)

New Faces

Javon Freeman-Liberty (19 points per game, 3.2 assists per game at Valparaiso last season)

Ray Salnave (14.5 points per game, 4.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists per game at Monmouth)

Pauly Paulicap (10.4 points per game, 6.6 rebounds per game, 49.4 FG% from Manhattan)

Key Storylines

Replacing Paul Reed

DePaul lost their best player in Paul Reed this offseason as he left to take his talents to the NBA. There is no sugar coating this, it’s a big loss for DePaul. Reed averaged a double double last season with 15.1 points per game (second highest on the team) and led the team with 10.1 reobounds per game. He gave them a scoring presence along with cleaning up the glass and it will be on the returning players to find a way to make up for that productivity. The prime candidate for this role will be Jaylen Butz who averaged 10.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season. He started alongside Reed for many of DePaul’s games and he will now be expected to be the leader of the frontcourt. The Blue Demons also got transfer Pauly Paulicap, a transfer from Manhattan who averaged 10.4 points last season to help out with the scoring.

Romeo Weems development

Outside of Butz and Charlie Moore, DePaul will look to Romeo Weems to be one of their key contributors for 2020-21. He had a good freshman season, averaging 8 points and 5.4 assists per game and was named to the Big East All-Freshman team for his efforts. Dave Leitao showed his trust in the youngster as he played the third most total minutes of any DePaul player last year. Now with Jalen Coleman-Lands at Iowa State, DePaul will also be looking for wing scoring and Weems will have an even bigger role than he did last season. A chunk of the Blue Demons success is going to hinge on how Weems develops as a player in his second year in Chicago.

Thinking about the future

Things are looking bright for the season after this (2021-22) for the Blue Demons as they look to have a great recruiting class coming in. 24/7 Sports has this class ranked in the top 10 as the Blue Demons have five recruits coming in with two of them being ranked as three-star and two of them as four-stars. No matter what happens this season, the Blue Demons will have a very different rotation by the time the season rolls around next year.

One Question to Answer

Can DePaul finally hold their own in conference play?

I know this question gets asked literally every time we do a season preview (especially by me) but it once again bears asking given what happened last year. DePaul got off to one of their best starts in recent memory with a 13-1 record in non-conference play including wins over Iowa and Texas Tech. They looked primed to have a decent record in Big East play and there was even talk of them being a tournament team when March rolled around. But then the wheels fell off as soon as conference play started. Outside of their home upset over Butler, it was a disaster as the Blue Demons went 3-15, including 0-9 on the road, to finish the year 16-16. It was a crushing ending to a season which started off so brightly. This season, with the program set to play the majority of their season within the conference, how will they fare in a Big East conference where there are always a handful of quality tournament teams every year? - Vijay Vemu


Georgetown

Key Departures

  • Mac McClung (15.7 ppg)
  • Omar Yurtseven (15.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg)
  • Terrell Allen (9.5 ppg)
  • Jagan Mosley (8.2 ppg)

Key Returners

  • Jahvon Blair (10.8 ppg)
  • Jamorko Pickett (10.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg)
  • Qudus Wahab (5.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg)

Key Newcomers

  • Jalen Harris (4.2 ppg 2.1 rpg 2.4 apg for Arkansas)
  • Donald Carey (11.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.4 apg for Siena)
  • Jamari Sibley (F, 6’8”, 200 lbs)
  • Kobe Clark (G, 6’4”, 180 lbs)
  • Dante Harris (G, 5’10””, 145 lbs)

Key Storylines

Where will the offense come from?

The Hoyas averaged 74.9 points per game in 2019-20, good for a respectable 92nd in the country. Of those 74.9 points, 48.9 came from the four players listed in the key departure section. The Hoyas have to replace 65% of their scoring from last season. Will Blair and Pickett continue developing and pick up the slack? Will it be one of the newcomers? It’s truly hard to say. On paper, they don’t have a go-to scorer like they had with Yurtseven and McClung, though.

Sibley Season

Is Jamari Sibley the next great Georgetown big man? There is a void where Jessie Govan was a couple years ago and Omar Yurtseven was last season, and it feels like the four-star forward could fill it. Coming to Georgetown from Oak Hill Academy and picking the Hoyas over Marquette, Syracuse, Iowa State, and others, it feels like a natural fit for Sibley to do great things. Patrick Ewing’s in-game coaching the past couple years may be a bit questionable, but his player development has been very good.

One Question To Answer

Is this a make or break year for Patrick Ewing?

Ewing’s first year as head coach saw him win 15 games with a fairly light nonconference schedule, but signs of progress. That led to 19 wins and an NIT berth in year two with high hopes for year three. Year three saw 15 wins, Mac McClung and James Akinjo transferring, and overall disappointment. Ewing currently has a top 25 recruiting class for 2021 and is either the most famous or second most famous former basketball player in Georgetown history, so he likely has a little bit more leeway than most coaches would, but a 49-46 overall record and 19-35 in Big East play over his first three seasons has me at least a little curious as to what could happen if things don’t improve. - Robert O’Neill


Marquette

Key Departures

  • Markus Howard (27.8 ppg)
  • Sacar Anim (13.1 ppg)
  • Brendan Bailey (7.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
  • Jayce Johnson (3.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
  • Ed Morrow (3.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg)

Key Returners

  • Koby McEwen (9.5 ppg)
  • Jamal Cain (5.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
  • Theo John (5.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
  • Greg Elliott (5.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg)

Key Newcomers

  • DJ Carton (10.4 ppg for Ohio State)
  • Dawson Garcia (F, 6’11”, 220 lbs, Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year)
  • Justin Lewis (F, 6’7”, 225 lbs)
  • Osasere Ighodara (F, 6’9”, 205 lbs)

Key Storylines

New Faces

As shown above, Marquette will look very different this year with various departures. It will be a very well-rounded group though, closer to the pre-Markus Howard years than the past couple years, not that using Howard the way Marquette did was a bad thing.

No Big (Man) Deal?

Marquette is thin when you look at experienced big men. Theo John will likely have one of the spots, and it’s possible the Golden Eagles throw Garcia to the wolves immediately, which would certainly be interesting. They have very high hopes for the Big East’s Preseason Freshman of the Year.

One Question To Answer

How does Marquette replace Markus Howard?

The Big East’s all-time leading scorer and 2019-20 national PPG leader has moved onto the greener pastures of the Denver Nuggets. So, what does Steve Wojciechowski do offensively now that the plan isn’t just “give it to Markus 40% of the time?” Well, it will be very interesting to see. You have to assume Ohio State transfer DJ Carton will play a big role, as he looked excellent in his time with the Buckeyes. Marquette also has to be pleased with Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year Dawson Garcia’s abilities. It will be a group effort to replace Howard, but the pieces are there. - Robert O’Neill


Providence

Departures

  • Alpha Diallo (Graduation)
  • Luwane Pipkins (Graduation)
  • Maleik White (Graduation)
  • Kalif Young (Graduation)
  • Emmitt Holt (Graduation)

Returnees

  • David Duke (12 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3.1 APG)
  • A.J. Reeves (7.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.2 APG)
  • Kris Monroe (1.3 PPG, 1.5 RPG)
  • Greg Gannt Jr. (2.6 PPG, 2.3 RPG)
  • Nate Watson (9 PPG, 4.6 RPG)

Arrivals

  • Noah Horchler (Transfer from North Florida Ospreys)
  • Jared Bynum (Transfer from Saint Joseph’s Hawks)
  • Brycen Goodine (Transfer from Syracuse Orange)
  • Ed Croswell (Transfer from LaSalle Explorers)
  • Alyn Breed (3* Recruit)
  • Jyáre Davis (3* Recruit)

Key Storylines

Who steps up?

Providence is armed with Preseason All-Big East First Team selection David Duke. But after the departures of Alpha Diallo and Luwane Pipkins, Providence doesn’t return anyone else who averaged double figures a season ago. Nate Watson comes close with 9.0 PPG a season ago, but they’ll certainly need to get plenty more scoring if they want to compete. One candidate could be A.J. Reeves, who performed well in Big East play. Remember — he averaged over 41 percent from 3-point land against conference opponents. If he can put that together over a consistent basis, then Reeves can very easily complement Duke like many suspected when they came to Providence two seasons ago.

How will the transfers fare?

Providence is adding a good amount of transfers this season. Four to be precise, as Noah Horchler, Jared Bynum, Brycen Goodine and Ed Croswell are all joining the Friars this season. Bynum and Horchler have been ready and waiting to play after sitting out last year, while Croswell and Goodine were granted immediate eligibility to play after transferring this past offseason. All four should be able to contribute right from the jump in some sort of way, and it will be fascinating to see how they all gel with each other. If they’re able to get good contributions out of all of them, Providence, rather instantly, becomes a very deep team that will feature lots of ways to attack their competition.

One Question to Answer

Can the 3-point shooting rise again?

Ed Cooley-coached Providence teams haven’t always fared well at 3-point shooting. The only time in Cooley’s tenure that they’ve finished within the Top 100 in that category was the 2016-17 season. That year, the Friars shot 37.1 percent from deep, which netted them a ranking of 78th in the country. After two seasons ranked 258th and 257th, Providence finished 182nd in the nation last year. While that isn’t good, it’s at least average. And to be fair, they’ve had average finishes just three times under Cooley. So, will they be able to make progress on that? if they do, then perhaps a better finish can come the Friars’ way in the 2020-21 season. - Chris Novak


Seton Hall

The Pirates are currently paused due to COVID and will open their season November 27 against Louisville. We will update this section accordingly closer to that date.


St. John’s

2019-20 Record: 17-15, 5-13 in Big East

Key Returnees: Rasheem Dunn, Julian Champagnie, Marcellus Earlington, Greg Williams Jr., Josh Roberts

Key Losses: LJ Figueroa, Mustapha Heron, Nick Rutherford

Key Additions: Posh Alexander, Isaih Moore, Vince Cole, Arnaldo Toro

Outlook: The last time St. John’s were on the court at the quarterfinals of last season’s Big East Tournament with a lead at the half against Creighton. The game was never completed as the team’s headed to the locker room. And just like that, along with the rest of college basketball at that moment, the 2019-20 season was ended and was would have come was canceled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Now what was abruptly ended will now abruptly start at the 2020-21 college basketball season kick off this Thanksgiving week. Among them will be the Johnnies, who’ll enter year two under head coach Mike Anderson. In the hopes of building up from where last season ended, there will be six returnees along with some fresh faces who will be looking to provide an impact for the Red Storm.

The focal points for the Red Storm among the returnees will be the play of Rasheem Dunn, Julian Champagne, and Marcellus Earlington. Especially so as they try to fill an LJ Figueroa sized hole in the roster with his transfer this off season to Oregon. That being said, the departures of Nick Rutherford and Mustapha Heron are also noticeable losses for the Johnnies as well.

Still though, there is enough talent on this roster for them to overcome these losses. Dunn is an interesting case as he and Champagnie are now the leading scorers from a year ago. It will be interesting to see how Dunn plays off the ball, as last season he did most of his scoring with the ball at his hands driving to the basket and spreading the play around with 3.4 assists per game. But with Posh Alexander coming onboard to play point guard, that most likely means Dunn will get pushed off the ball and have to cut and create space more for opportunities.

Champagnie on the other hand will be looking to continue his play from his solid freshman season. Along with his 9.9 points per game, he also averaged 6.5 rebounds, a team-best mark. If he can take the necessary steps to progress in the game, he could become the toast of Queens and potentially be a part of the Big East team of the season.

Behind Champagnie in rebounds were Earlington and Josh Roberts, with rates of 4.7 rpg and 5.8 respectivley. Overall, the Red Storm were a poor rebounding team last season. The addition of transfers Arnaldo Toro from George Washington and Isaih Moore from Pearl River CC (Miss) could help them close the gap though. Last season with the Colonials, Toro averaged 7.0 rebounds and Moore averaged 9.1 for the Pearl River Wildcats.

The Johnnies could go from one of the poorest rebounding teams to one of the best. It could go a long way too for a team that played some solid defense down the stretch.

One other area that St. John’s will need to improve for this season is shooting. Last season they made just 41% from the floor and 31 percent from beyond the arc. Thankfully, it appears that this season features a bevy of talent potential shooting talent their best offensive options from last season potentially taking steps forward this season and the newcomers offering some new options. Isaih Moore and Vince Cole were both All-Americans at the JUCO level and Alexander, as the incoming freshman, potentially offers explosiveness this season, too.

In all this season is on one hand tough to gauge given how it will unfold in terms of scheduling and the nature of the pandemic, but on the other hand there is a lot there for St. John’s and Mike Anderson to improve on results from the end of last season. At the moment St. John’s has only ten games scheduled as they like the result of college basketball are still scrambling to flesh out the rest of the season. - Andrew Padyk


UConn

Departures

  • Alterique Gilbert (Transfer — Wichita State Shockers)
  • Christian Vital (Graduation)
  • Sidney Wilson (Transfer — SIU Edwardsville)

Returnees

  • James Bouknight (13 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.3 APG)
  • Josh Carlton (7.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG)
  • Brendan Adams (7.4 PPG, 2.2 RPG)
  • Isaiah Whaley (6 PPG, 5 RPG)
  • Akok Akok (5.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG)
  • Jalen Gaffney (3.9 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 2.1 APG)
  • Tyler Polley (9.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG)

Arrivals

  • R.J. Cole (Transfer — Howard Bison)
  • Tyrese Martin (Transfer — Rhode Island Rams)
  • Richie Springs (Redshirted 2019-20)
  • Andre Jackson (4* Recruit)
  • Adama Sanogo (4* Recruit)
  • Javonte Brown (3* Recruit)

Key Storylines

Back Where They Belong

Obviously, it goes without saying that one purveying storyline this year for UConn is their return to the conference. Things have been muddied up by a lot of outside factors, obviously. But to some degree, it’s good to have UConn basketball back in the conference. There is a lot to be said about how fans of opposing teams will react to them and by now, we know that plenty won’t welcome them back so warmly.

But in a way, that will make things just a bit more fun. Rivalries are a net positive for everyone, and UConn can renew some of them with the likes of Georgetown, Providence and Villanova, right off the bat. There’s probably no love lost between UConn and Marquette, Seton Hall and St. John’s. And who knows what could be created over the next few years with the newbies of the conference? Needless to say, lots of possibilities exist. Even if it’s not all squared away this season, we’ll at least have UConn back where they belong.

What does Bouknight have in store for us?

James Bouknight had a terrific freshman season. He was unanimously selected to the All-AAC Freshman Team and was also on the All-AAC Third Team at the end of the season. In addition, he was the first freshman at UConn in nine years to post three consecutive 20-point games and scored over 300 points as well. Needless to say, that’s gotten him a decent chunk of hype as he goes into his sophomore season. He’ll be facing some pretty strong competition, as the Big East is littered at guard. But Bouknight has himself a lot of talent in him, and he could get himself a lot of attention if he performs well yet again as a sophomore.

One Question to Answer

Can UConn’s offense improve?

While they won 19 games for the first time since the 2015-16 season, the Huskies really struggled with efficiency. Their eFG% stood at 47.8 percent, ranking 259th in the nation. Their 2PT and 3PT FG% weren’t much better, checking in at 47.4 and 32.4 percent. Those marks ranked them 258th and 215th in the country, ghastly numbers to say the least. If UConn is to take a step forward, they will simply have to shoot better while maintaining their strong presence on defense that they had last season. Should they do that, this will be a well-rounded bunch that could return to the NCAA Tournament. - Chris Novak


Villanova

Departures

  • Saddiq Bey (Pro)

Returnees

  • Brandon Slater
  • Bryan Antoine
  • Chris Arcidiacono
  • Cole Swider
  • Collin Gillespie
  • Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree
  • Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
  • Justin Moore

Arrivals

  • Caleb Daniels (Transfer from Tulane Green Wave)
  • Eric Dixon (Redshirted 2019-20)

Key Storylines

What of the sophomores?

Last year’s freshman class was terrifically stout. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Justin Moore both had really strong roles with ‘Nova, and both were able to perform at high levels. While Robinson-Earl’s efficiency was a little less than stellar, he was still a terrific rebounder and got to the line a lot, and produced at the line as well. Moore, meanwhile, put up solid numbers from the outside and posted the eighth-best 3-point FG% against conference opponents. While we’ve still yet to really see Bryan Antoine, who unfortunately is still dealing with a shoulder injury that’s left him unable to contribute. If he’s able to see the floor, we’ll see how he performs. But the spotlight will certainly be on the sophomores this year.

Will Gillespie live up to the hype?

Collin Gillespie was named to the Preseason All-Big East First Team earlier this offseason. Gillespie, a senior guard who’s picked up a National Championship in his run at ‘Nova, will obviously have lots of hype coming into this season and lots to live up to. Gillespie took a step back from a pretty spirited sophomore campaign shooting-wise, but still had a terrific assist rate and avoided dreaded turnovers. If he can play like he did as a sophomore again, then he absolutely can perform at an All-Big East level. We shall see if he can do exactly that.

One Question To Answer

Can the defense return to form?

For the last two seasons, Villanova’s defense hasn’t been what Wildcat fans had grown accustomed to. Granted, they haven’t been porous by any means. That would be a stretch to say. However, they have absolutely leaned towards average more than good, and while that’s not the worst side to be on, they are still due for marked improvements. If there is a “weakness” on this team, and they are as complete as can be, it’s probably the defense. But to be clear: ‘Nova, on paper, is one of the best teams in the Big East and the nation at large. - Chris Novak


Xavier

Departures

  • Bryce Moore (Graduation)
  • Dahmir Bishop (Transfer to Saint Joseph’s)
  • Dontarius James (Transfer to Jacksonville Dolphins)
  • Naji Marshall (Pro)
  • Quentin Goodin (Graduation)
  • Tyrique Jones (Graduation)

Returnees

  • Daniel Ramsey (2 PPG, 1 RPG)
  • Jason Carter (6.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.4 APG)
  • KyKy Tandy (6.7 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.9 APG)
  • Paul Scruggs (12.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.9 APG)
  • Zach Freemantle (7.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG)

Arrivals

  • Ben Stanley (Transfer from Hampton; Currently Ineligible)
  • Bryan Griffin (Transfer from Mercy College)
  • C.J. Wilcher (4* Recruit)
  • Colby Jones (3* Recruit)
  • Dieonte Miles (Redshirted 2019-20)
  • Dwon Odom (4* Recruit)
  • Nate Johnson (Transfer from Gardner-Webb)

Key Storylines

Can the Musketeers Surprise?

Xavier was picked to finish seventh in the Big East this season. This comes after their first 19-win season under head coach Travis Steele, who’d been going through some growing pains in his first two years as the Musketeers coach. They ended things sourly with their loss to DePaul in the very abbreviated Big East Tournament, and did lose a decent amount of talent as shown above. However, veteran presences on this team and some new faces make them a bit interesting. Will they make some noise? One should be hard pressed to count them out with their track record, no matter who’s at the helm.

New Faces All Around

There are quite a lot of fresh faces on this Xavier team. They signed a Top 25 recruiting class, headed by C.J. Wilcher and Dwon Odom alongside Colby Jones. Additionally, transfers Bryan Griffin and Nate Johnson are around as well. Ben Stanley would be, but for some odd reason or another, the NCAA decided to rule him ineligible for now. If that gets taken care of then Xavier will have another new face, and somebody who can make an impact right away. Time will tell to see what these folks can do, but there’s lots of room for potential here.

One Question to Answer

Can the 3-point shooting improve?

Travis Steele’s first two years as head coach haven’t seen great results from the perimeter. Steele’s Xavier teams have shot 33.1 percent and 31.2 percent from the 3-point arc, both falling below the nation’s average in each season. If Xavier wants to take the next step, their 3-point shooting will have to drastically improve. Stumping for at least average should be the goal, and anything above would be gravy. That will be one of a few questions that Xavier will need to answer this coming season. - Chris Novak