Big East Basketball: 2017-2018 Conference Preview

 

big east ball

Coming back from a relatively underwhelming 2016-2017 campaign, the Big East looks poised to make a bold statement this year to competitors from all conferences, while also securing a handful of bids to the NCAA Tournament in March. Big East play is bound to be exciting for everyone, so let’s break the conference down for a preseason preview and our predictions. 

 

PROJECTED FINISHES 

  1. Villanova — Few people will be surprised to find Villanova atop the Big East for the fifth year in a row. Not only should the Wildcats survive without superstar Josh Hart, they look poised to return even stronger. With redshirt freshman Omari Spellman cleared to play and Jalen Brunson set to step into the leadership position, the Wildcats should clinch the Big East without too much competition.
  2. Xavier — Xavier surprised a lot of college basketball fans last year with their trip to the Elite 8, but if the same happens this year, it would come as no shock. Trevon Bluiett’s decision to return to the Musketeers and forgo the NBA Draft will be a large part of Xavier’s dominance, but the return of shooting guard JP Macura to the wings could prove to be just as lethal.
  3. Seton Hall — It seems like it has been too long since the Pirates have been a dominant basketball team, and that time of waiting is over. Seton Hall returns arguably the strongest trio of seniors in the country (Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, and Angel Delgado) who will run the court with veteran talent. Delgado, a 6’10” power forward who can double as a center, threatens to average double-digit numbers in both points and rebounds per game.
  4. Providence — Providence finished top five in the Big East last year, surprising many people who wrote them off preseason as a team in a rebuilding year. Kyron Cartwright is one of the best point guards in the Big East and could easily lead the conference in assists; the Friars bring in more talent this year in freshman Makai Ashton-Langford, giving them the depth they need to threaten for an NCAA Tournament bid, and a run once they get there.
  5. Creighton — Marcus Foster is a beast, simply put. As a junior shooting guard last year, he averaged over 18 points per game; this year, he could break 20. The loss of Cole Huff and Isaiah Zierden puts a considerable hole in their production, but they should have the depth to stay near the top of the conference table.
  6. Marquette — The name Markus Howard may not mean much to people outside of the Golden Eagles fan base, but it will after this season. Last year, he shot just under 55% from three, even more astonishing numbers when you consider he was a freshman. Look to him to lead a very high scoring Marquette offense this year.
  7. Butler — The Bulldogs had good reason to be excited for this year, after being the only team in the NCAA to beat Villanova twice last season. But the late departure of Coach Holtmann may leave the new coach, LaVall Jordan, with a team in disarray. With a handful of talented players in back-court transfer Paul Jorgensen and guard Kamar Baldwin, Jordan could easily take the only team to beat Villanova twice last year to the top, but it’s too early to tell.
  8. St. John’s — The Red Storm have talent in point guard combo Marcus Lovett Jr. and Shamorie Ponds, who should account for most of the team’s offense. The team’s depth does not go much farther beyond these two however, and unless forward Bashir Ahmed can utilize his seniority, St. John’s could quickly fall to the bottom of the conference without a solidified leader.
  9. DePaul — DePaul has had a tough struggle on the court in recent years, finishing at the bottom of the conference table with two wins last season. This year, transfer Marin Maric and junior shooting guard Elijah Cain will help to begin the program’s revival, but it won’t be enough to bring them up more than one or two spots with the tough competition in the Big East.
  10. Georgetown — The Hoyas will be an intriguing team to watch this season, as it will be the first year with Georgetown and NBA legend Patrick Ewing taking over as head coach. His roster is rag-tag at its best, anchored by center Jessie Govan who is one of the few able to do damage to opposing defenses. Ewing’s name and basketball expertise will help Georgetown basketball rebuild, but for now they’ll be stuck at the bottom of the Big East.

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Late Rollie Massimino Leaves Mark On Basketball

Rollie Massimino is a name synonymous with college basketball. When you think of Massimino, you picture a larger-than-life persona in a coach that will forever be remembered as a hero at Villanova and a founder for the Big East Conference. And on Wednesday, Rollie Massimino passed at the age of 82.

The former Villanova coach will be remembered for everything he has done for the game of basketball.

Massimino sealed his name in the record books when he lead the 1984-1985 Wildcats to a NCAA title season as head coach of Villanova. The New Jersey native led his team in what was one of the greatest upsets in the NCAA tournament history, knocking off Georgetown University and its big man, the great Patrick Ewing. He was head coach at Villanova University for 19 seasons and will forever be remembered as a Wildcat.

Massimino coached for more than five decades, starting out as an assistant coach at Cranford High School in Cranford, N.J. His collegiate coaching career started at Stony Brook before he was assistant coach at Penn.

During his 19-year stint at Villanova, Massimino was a part of a crew of outspoken, big personalities that led the almighty Big East Conference during its prime. He was unapologetically an in-your-face coach. And he could back it up.

Massimino spent two years at UNLV from 1992-1994 where he was hired in hopes of bringing back a Runnin’ Rebels ball program to good standing with the forced departure of coach Jerry Tarkanian.

He ended his coaching career with assumed positions at Cleveland State and finally Keiser University, where he earned his 800th career win on Dec. 14, 2016 in its 77-47 blowout win over Trinity Baptist.

Cole Swider – HG Insider Player Spotlight

cole swider

Villanova commit Cole Swider shined at the Oladipo Skills Academy with his elite shooting ability. Swider is coming off a breakout AAU season with BABC. Other schools he was considering were Duke, Xavier and Syracuse. Swider showed what makes him such an intriguing prospect and why he was such a priority for Jay Wright and his staff. Swider led his team at camp in scoring, where he has made his biggest mark on the grassroots scene. He made a statement at the Nike Peach Jam as he averaged 23.2 points per game. Swider is intriguing as he is talented enough to make an impact right away for the Wildcats. He has done a great job showing that he is more than just a shooter this season. Swider is able to get into the lane and create for himself and his teammates because of his improved ball handling.

Swider was flying under the radar prior to this AAU season, but stepped up on the Nike EYBL circuit for BABC and his stock skyrocketed. He has been great during the July live period and seems to only be taking his game to a higher level as this season has progressed. The next step for Swider will be to bring home a NEPSAC “AA” championship for St. Andrew’s. He has played with a lot of confidence and will head into next high school season with a lot of momentum. They will heavily rely on him, but he has shown that he is more than capable of leading a team. The Villanova Wildcats got a great one in Cole Swider and it could be an even bigger get than people realize with the way he has played this summer. Swider is an excellent prospect and is yet another one to watch this high school season.

Early Big East Predictions

An Early Look at What To Expect from the Big East in the 2017-2018 Season

Class may not be in session, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start talking about college hoops. With that in mind, let’s look at how the standings may shape up in the Catholic Conference this year.

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Pooley’s Picks – 2016 PSA Prep School Showcase

Pooley’s Picks

2016 PSA Prep School Showcase

Qualifications:  This week we’ll have a little different approach to Pooley’s Picks.  Often, with working at the Hoop Group, I’ll get to travel and see different events.  This past weekend I was able to get down to The Hill School and watch the 2016 PSA Prep School Showcase.  The event was loaded with coaches, talent, and great moments. The following are a selection of the Top 10 things I took away from the showcase.

Picks are in no particular order. Please enjoy the fourth installment of Pooley’s Picks.

Chase Audige: The 6’4″ junior from Hill was very impressive in the win over Isaiah Christopher Academy.  Chase had some electrifying plays, but was also a consistent scorer willing passer.  The wing is quickly going from a high potential kid, to a star.  Look for Chase to continue to develop over the next year and look for Hill to have an extremely successful year under coach Seth Eilberg.

 

 

tyler-jones

Tyler Jones: The 5’11” senior from Peddie had 20 in an overtime win against Canada Top Flight Academy.  The guard can do it all, and has a much improved jump shot with excellent form and rotation.  Tyler earned his MVP late in the game scoring crucial buckets and running the show.  Thus far uncommitted: Tyler may be a guard that could be on a lot of scholarship schools radars as the HS season draws to a close.

Canada Top Flight Academy (Ottawa) at the 2016 PSA Prep School Showcase

Canada Top Flight Academy (Ottawa) at the 2016 PSA Prep School Showcase

International Flavor:  The 2016 PSA Prep Showcase featured a little basketball from our friends to the north.  Canada Top Flight Academy probably didn’t have their best showing but kept Peddie on the ropes into overtime.  2017 Lual Akot impressed, hitting a couple of deep threes and flushing a couple dunks in traffic.  Overall CTA came down and represented well.  Look forward to see what they have to offer as the season continues.

 

 

Walter Whyte: The 6’6″ BU bound guard was tough as he always is.  Carrying St. Luke’s at times, Walter rebounds, scores, handles to ball, and plays defense.  The senior also did what seniors have to do: lead.  Walter was under control and facilitated Coach Gladstone’s game plan all night. An impressive win for St. Luke’s against a talented and well coached Hun School.

 

 

Mohammad Bamba: The 6’11” uncommitted senior is the real deal.  The entire Westtown team is the real deal.  Going up against a very good St. James team Mo looked like the NBA prospect that he is.  He blocked shots, scored, rebounded, and most importantly looked comfortable after coming back from injury.  He really is fun to watch.  Worth the trip to the 2016 PSA Prep Showcase just for him.  Lucky for us there was much more.

 

hill-school

The Venue: The Hill School was the perfect venue for the 2016 PSA Prep School Showcase.  The gym has a throwback feel, with excellent baskets and a redone floor.  Looks a little like a gym out of the movie Hoosiers with one high rise set of bleachers separated from the court by a 3 foot high padded wall.  On top of that the event felt full, but not crowded, and was loud with a good atmosphere during the close games.

 

 

view-from-coaches-section

View from the packed coaches section at the 2016 PSA Prep School Showcase

College Coaches:  The 2016 PSA Prep Showcase was loaded with college coaches.  An entire area of the bleachers was dedicated to the college recruiters and it was close to full for every game.  D1, D2, D3, JUCO, and scouts were all on hand to take a look at some of the top talent.  John Calipari, NCAA defending champ Jay Wright, Buzz Williams, Fran Dunphy, and Phil Martelli, were among the few who evaluated and scouted.

 

 

Hamidou Diallo: The 6’6″ senior is as sought after as anyone.  Up to #11 in the class of 2017, “Hami” got to the rim all night long.  The explosive guard is one of those players who can score in a variety of ways and create energy on the defensive end of the floor.

 

 

Atmosphere: First, the college coaches, next the fans, then the players, this had it all.  There was just an atmosphere of elite basketball and the feel that you get from seeing kids in HS who will be on TV in a few years.  NERR’s National Prep Showcase always signals the start of high school basketball for me.  This event had a similar feel to me: teams early in their season competing at a high level.

 

 

noah-collier

Noah Collier, 6’7″ at Westtown, a top 2020 at the 2016 PSA Prep School Showcase

The Freshman: Not necessarily something you think of when talking about a Prep Showcase.  However, the freshman that I got to see in limited minutes were excellent.  Westtown’s Noah Collier is a great kid, with a ton of upside, who can play multiple positions.  His ceiling is exceptionally high, and he even knocked down a couple jumpers.  Seth Berger’s son, backup guard TJ Berger, played limited minutes but showed a lot of potential on and off the ball.  Backcourt mate Seyon Kpaan, looked good in some extended minutes.  Niels Lane played more minutes for a freshman on a Hun School team than I’ve seen.  Coach Stone has some confidence in that youngster, who moves well and has a good feel for the game.  Much better 2020 representation than you would think with so many talented upperclassmen.

 

Special Thanks to Hoop Major for the videos and helping me cover the event in this article.  Ian Finnen is a rising star, and is going to be very good at whatever he decides to do.

Special shout out to Terrence Williams and the rest of the PSA Cardinals family for running a great event and being so media friendly.  Look forward to this event in the years moving forward.

 

And of course as always, everybody’s favorite: