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Big East Basketball: Preview and Predictions for 2021-22 Season

Jermaine Samuels, Villanova Wildcats Basketball

Jermaine Samuels and Villanova feature an experienced roster that's ready to not only claim another Big East title but make another run at a national title 

It's been too long since the Big East had a national championship contender, right?

While that's mostly an exaggeration given that Villanova won two titles in a three-year span only a few seasons ago, the Big East has been down at the top in two of the last three seasons — with the canceled NCAA Tournament in 2020 the exception. The league failed to produce a top-four seed in either 2019 or 2021 and earned only four bids to the NCAA Tournament.

In 2019, no team advanced to the second weekend, while all four teams were out by the end of the Sweet 16 last season.

Related: College Basketball Top 25 for 2021-22

The lack of power at the top of the league should change this season, with Villanova looking like one of the clear favorites to cut down the nets in early April. The Wildcats bring back four starters, including Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels, who both played key roles on the last Villanova national championship team in 2018 and opted to return for a fifth year in college.

There's some depth in the upper half of the standings, too, with Connecticut, Xavier and St. John's all looking like surefire NCAA Tournament teams, and Seton Hall and Butler within striking distance as well.

Much of the intrigue in the bottom half of the league focuses on the teams in the Midwest, where Creighton is rebuilding and Marquette (Shaka Smart) and DePaul (Tony Stubblefield) have new head coaches.


1. Villanova
Jay Wright's team immediately jumped into the national championship discussion after Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels decided to take advantage of their extra years of eligibility. Interior production might be the only question mark.

2. Connecticut
The Huskies will have to find a way to replace James Bouknight's scoring, but there's plenty of size, depth and experience on the roster. Whether someone steps up as the team's go-to scorer will determine UConn's ceiling.

3. Xavier
The Musketeers have struggled down the stretch in each of the last two seasons, but there's too much talent here to miss the NCAA Tournament again. Paul Scruggs and Zach Freemantle might be the best inside-outside tandem in the league.

4. St. John's
Mike Anderson has two of the best players in the Big East in Julian Champagnie and Posh Alexander. Anderson hit the portal hard, and with five transfers entering the fold this season, the Red Storm should play in the NCAA Tournament.

5. Seton Hall
Jared Rhoden and Myles Cale are the top returnees, but the Pirates’ NCAA hopes might rest on Syracuse transfer Kadary Richmond. He showed flashes last season but needs to be more consistent.

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6. Butler
The Bulldogs bring back nearly every player from last season, including underrated sophomore Chuck Harris and four other double-figure scorers. But they finished next-to-last a year ago, mostly due to offensive efficiency issues. This will be an important season for Bulldogs head coach LaVall Jordan.

7. Providence
Leading scorer David Duke's early departure hurts the Friars' prospects, but Ed Cooley brings back all-league big man Nate Watson and several rotation pieces from last season. Indiana transfer Al Durham will help, and A.J. Reeves should take a step forward.

8. Creighton
It's a total rebuild in Omaha for Greg McDermott, who lost all five starters from last season. The Bluejays are bringing in the best recruiting class in the program's history this season, led by Arthur Kaluma and Ryan Nembhard.

9. Marquette
It might be a difficult Year 1 for Shaka Smart in the Big East. The Golden Eagles saw most of their key players depart prematurely, leaving Smart to rely mostly on newcomers, including top-100 guard Steve Mitchell. Keep an eye on a breakthrough from returnee Justin Lewis.

10. Georgetown
Can the Hoyas build on last season's stunning charge to the Big East Tournament title? Most of the roster is gone, but Dante Harris played well down the stretch, and Aminu Mohammed is a five-star recruit who could become the team's go-to scorer immediately.

11. DePaul
New head coach Tony Stubblefield has established himself as one of the best recruiters in the country, but it will take some time in Chicago. The Blue Demons will rely on four transfers and returnee Javon Freeman-Liberty.

Conference Superlatives

Player of the Year: Collin Gillespie, Villanova

Best Defensive Player: Posh Alexander, St. John’s

Most Underrated Player: Chuck Harris, Butler

Newcomer of the Year: Aminu Mohammed, Georgetown

All-Big East First Team

Posh Alexander, So., G, St. John's
Julian Champagnie, Jr., G/F, St. John's
Zach Freemantle, Jr., F, Xavier
Collin Gillespie, Sr., G, Villanova
Nate Watson, Sr., C, Providence

All-Big East Second Team

Chuck Harris, So., G, Butler
Justin Moore, Jr., G, Villanova
Jared Rhoden, Sr., G/F, Seton Hall
Jermaine Samuels, Sr., F, Villanova
Paul Scruggs, Sr., G, Xavier

All-Big East Third Team

R.J. Cole, Sr., G, Connecticut
Arthur Kaluma, Fr., F, Creighton
Justin Lewis, Fr., F, Marquette
Tyrese Martin, Sr., G, Connecticut
Aminu Mohammed, Fr., G, Georgetown