Big East Rankings: Villanova Is No. 1 For Right Now

Mar 22, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Villanova Wildcats forward Daniel Ochefu (23) controls the ball as Connecticut Huskies Phillip Nolan (0) in the first half of a men's college basketball game during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Villanova Wildcats forward Daniel Ochefu (23) controls the ball as Connecticut Huskies Phillip Nolan (0) in the first half of a men's college basketball game during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /

The Big East was a huge success in the first year of the reconfigured conference. Can they build on that success in 2014-15 is the question?

Four teams reached the NCAA tournament and two others participated in the NIT.

Villanova is definitely at the head of the class this year and someone will have to take the crown from them if they want to be conference champions. St. John’s is probably the most talent ready at the moment to knock the Wildcats from there thrown but there are concerns about their frontcourt.

Georgetown, Xavier and Providence are next in the line but all three squads are relatively young — these top five should reach the postseason this year. Seton Hall is the wildcard here as they could make a run for an NCAA bid if everything goes well or miss the postseason all together.

The following is my preseason power rankings for the conference. This will be a weekly article with updates being posted every Tuesday.

1. Villanova (29-5, 16-2): Villanova returns four starters from last year’s team that won the program’s first outright Big East title since 1981-82. Seniors JayVaughn Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard will be counted on to carry the scoring load while juniors Ryan Arcidiacino, Daniel Ochefu and Dylan Ennis provide a solid supporting cast. Sophomores Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart are talented but the question is can they produce when the light shines on them? Freshmen Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges will see major minutes of the bench.

Exhibition: Defeated Northwood (93-50) and Nyack (82-45). Ochefu was the most impressive in the victories producing double-doubles in both games and blocking seven shots. Hilliard, Arcidiacino and Ennis also shined during both games. Bridges, Booth and Pinkston were up-and down while Hart struggled with his shot in both games. Jenkins did not play against Nyack after looking good versus Northwood.

2. St. John’s (20-13, 10-8). St. John’s returns 10 letterwinners, including four starters, from their NIT squad. The Red Storm have one of the best backcourts units in the conference with D’Angelo Harrison, Rysheed Jordan, Phil Greene IV and Jamal Branch. They also have two top notch defenders in Sir Dominic Pointer and Chris Obekpa. However, the Red Storm took a major hit when junior college transfer Keith Thomas was ruled academically ineligible. That means redshirt sophomore Christian Jones along with freshmen Adonis De LA Rosa and Amar Alibegovic will need to produce sooner than expected.

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Exhibition: Defeated Humboldt State (95-83) and St. Thomas Aquinas (97-71). Obekpa recorded a triple-double against Humboldt State and didn’t play against St. Thomas. Pointer and Harrison were strong in both games while Greene was good against St. Thomas but struggled against Humboldt State. Jordan scored the ball well in both games but struggled in other facets. De La Rosa had 10 points and five caroms in 15 minutes against St. Thomas while not playing against Humboldt St.

3. Georgetown (18-15, 8-10): Georgetown returns eight letter winners and three starters. 2014 Preseason Conference Player of the Year D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Jabril Trawick and Mikael Hopkins are the returning starters. Senior reserve Aaron Brown also returns. The Hoyas high hopes hinges on the development of their talented freshmen, including Isaac Copeland, Paul White and L.J. Peak. McPeak.

Exhibition: none.

4. Xavier (21-13, 10-8): Xavier made a good first impression, finishing tied for third in the conference and making their ninth NCAA appearance since 2004. However, the Musketeers lost seven letters and three starters including stud sophomore Semaj Christon (NBA). Head coach Chris Mack does return senior starters Dee Davis and Matt Stainbeck along with junior forward James Farr, sophomore guard Myles Davis and sophomore forward Jalen Reynolds. Mack brought in a top-notch recruiting class that features Trevon Bluiett, Sean O’Mara, Larry Allen Jr. and J.P. Macura. The Musketeers will also have the services of Indiana transfer Remy Abell, who sat out last year.

Exhibition: Defeated Northwood 102-68. Stainbrook led the way with a team-high 16 points to go along with seven rebounds. Reynolds (15 points, seven rebounds), Bluiett (14 points), O’Mara (14 points) and Myles Davis (10) also scored in double figures. Austin had seven assists and Davis doled out six dimes.

5. Providence (23-13, 13-3): Providence returns five players from their Big East tournament championship squad. Senior LaDontae Henton and junior Tyler Harris leads the returnees that also includes 7-foot senior Carson Desrosiers and sophomore guard Kris Dunn, who sat out last year after being injured in the Friars’ exhibition game. The Friars will look to several of their newcomers to produce immediately including freshman Ben Bentil, Jalen Lindsey, Kyron Cartwright and Paschal Chukwu along with redshirt freshman Rodney Bullock and Cleveland State transfer Junior Lomomba.

Exhibition: Defeated Stonehill College: Harris (19 points, 8 rebounds), Cartwright (18 points, four assists), Henton (16 points, five assists), Bentil (13 points, seven rebounds) and Dunn (13 points, five assists) scored in double figures. Desrosiers, Chukwu and Bentil combined for seven blocked shots.


Seton Hall

(17-17, 6-12): While a lot of Big East teams will count on their freshmen immediately, there is not likely a team that is more dependent on their newcomers than Seton Hall. The Pirates return a pair of talented guards in junior Sterling Gibbs and sophomore Jaren Sina along with senior forward Brandon Mobley. Isaiah Whitehead is the prized recruit among several newcomers who will be counted on to contribute immediately. Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez and Khadeen Carrington are the freshmen are also likely to see mega minutes this year. 7-foot-1 junior Chier Ajou is expected to help he frontcourt when he gains eligibility after the first semester – he transferred from Northwestern.

Exhibition: Defeated Caldwell (96-68). Gibbs was 8-of- 9 from the field and finished with 19 points to lead four Pirates in double figures. Delgado (14 points, seven rebounds), Sina (14 points, five assists) and Rodriguez (14 points, 10 rebounds) also scored in double figures.

7. Marquette (17-15, 9-9): This year is a transition year for Marquette as they have a new coach Steve Wojciechowski and two senior starters , guard Derrick Wilson and forward Juan Anderson. However, the key to the Golden Eagles season will the play of BYU transfer Matt Carlino and sophomore guard Deonte Burton as well as redshirt freshman Duane Wilson and true freshman Sandy Cohen III. Marquette will be at a height disadvantage – Steve Taylor Jr. is currently the tallest player on the squad at 6’7” — until 6’11” sophomore Luke Fischer is eligible following the completion of the first semester.

Exhibition: Defeated Wisconsin-Lutheran (115-47). Anderson had 27 points and eight rebounds to lead the Golden Eagles. Wilson added 18 points while JaJuan Johnson (17 points), Deonte Burton (17 points, five assists) and Cohen (14 points, seven rebounds) also tallied double figures. Carlino was only 3-of-9 from the field but finished with eight points, 12 assists and six rebounds.

8. Butler (14-17, 4-14): Butler is under the direction of their third coach in three years with Chris Holtmann serving as the interim coach for Brandon Miller, who is on medical leave. The Bulldogs return starting guards Kellen Dunham and Alex Barlow along with guard Roosevelt Jones, who missed all of last season with a wrist injury. Those three along with senior forward Kameron Woods and sophomore forward Andrew Chrabascz form a solid starting unit. Indiana transfer Austin Etherington and senior guard Jackson Aldridge will be the first players off the bench.

Exhibition: Defeated Chicago (88-45) and Franklin (98-43).The Bulldogs main core — Durham, Barlow, Etherington, Woods, Chrabascz, Aldridge and Woods – produced in both exhibition victories. Kelan Martin, who averaged 13.0 points for those two games, may be someone to keep an eye on.

9. Creighton (27-8, 14-4): Creighton lost four starters from last year’s NCAA tournament team, returning only point guard Austin Chatman. The BlueJays should be set in the backcourt with Chatman being joined by senior Devin Brooks along with junior college transfer James Milliken and sophomore Isaiah Zierdon. The frontcourt is a very questionable.

Exhibition: Defeated Sioux Falls 91-72. Creighton knocked down 11 three-pointers in the first half and finished with 14 for the game (14-of-31). Chatman and Brooks each finished with 18 points while Zierden and Milliken had 11 points apiece. Brooks also had a team-high eight caroms along with four dimes.

10.DePaul (12-21, 3-15): DePaul had two Big East All-Rookie Team members last year in guard Billy Garrett, Jr. and center Tommy Hamilton IV. Senior forward Jammee Crockett and junior guard Durrell McDonald are the key reserves. The Blue Devils should receive help from Illinois transfer Myke Henry, who sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules, along with junior college transfers Aaron Simpson and Rahaun Stimage.

Exhibition: Defeated Lewis (72-68). Henry led four Blue Demons in double-figures with 17 points and six rebounds. Simpson (14 points), McDonald (12 points) and Crockett (11 points, six rebounds) were the others in double figures. Hamilton had seven points, on 1-of-5 shooting, and five rebounds while Garrett finished with seven points and four assists.

Next: College Basketball Rankings: Where Is Villanova Heading Into 2014-15?