Looking Forward: Catching up on the Big East’s offseason

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With the early entry process over and with just about every elite recruit having picked a school, we now have a pretty good idea of what college basketball will look like in 2015-16. Over the next three weeks, we’ll be taking an early look at next season.

Last week, we took a look at the ACC, the Big 12, the Big Ten and the Pac-12. Today, we’ll look at the Big East.

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MAJOR OFFSEASON STORYLINES

1. Kris Dunn returns to Providence: The Friars were arguably the biggest winners of the early entry deadline, as Dunn announced that he would be returning to Providence for his junior season, which is actually his fourth year on campus. It was a bit of a head-scratcher — Dunn could have been a lottery pick, and he’s had two season-ending shoulder injuries already — but he was an all-american last season that could end up being the Preseason Player of the Year in the country. He makes the Friars capable of beating anyone in the country simply by being on the floor.

2. Chris Mullin takes over at St. John’s: The Johnnies had a chance in leadership during the spring, as Steve Lavin was let go and Mullin, a Red Storm legend from back in the glory days of the Big East, was brought in. He immediately hired two of the best recruiters in the country — New Yorkers Matt Abdelmassih and Barry ‘Slice’ Rohrssen — and not only landed some talent to bolster his roster, but convinced Rysheed Jordan and Chris Obekpa to return for another season. St. John’s probably isn’t an NCAA tournament team, but it will be interesting to see if Mullin can have the same impact on St. John’s that Fred Hoiberg had on Iowa State.

3. Is this the year Marquette returns to the tournament?: I’m not going to lie: I really like this Marquette roster. Steve Wojciechowski landed top ten recruit Henry Ellenson, a talented face-up four that he can pair with low-post presence Luke Fischer on his front line. Then add in a slew of talented perimeter options, and the Golden Eagles have the pieces to make some real noise this season. If things break right, I can see this team making an NCAA tournament.

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KEY ADDITIONS

  • Henry Ellenson, Marquette: I’ll admit that I’m higher on Ellenson and Marquette than most, but I think he has the biggest impact of any freshman in the league. Potentiall all-Big East player.
  • Jalen Brunson, Villanova: Arguably the best point guard in the Class of 2015. How will he fit in with Ryan Arcidiacono and Phil Booth?
  • D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown: DSR technically never left the Hilltop, but he did initially announce he was heading to the NBA before deciding on returning to school. He could end up leading the conference in scoring.
  • Tyler Lewis, Butler: The N.C. State transfer plays nothing like Alex Barlow but he will fill the void at the point guard spot. Lewis and Dunham will be a fun back court to watch.

SURPRISING DEPARTURES

  • Dylan Ennis, Villanova: Ennis was one of Villanova’s most valuable upperclassmen last season. He role as a defender will be missed the most.
  • Sterling Gibbs, Seton Hall: Gibbs leaving was not exactly a surprise — everyone basically knew he was gone if he graduated — but it’s still a brutal blow. Gibbs and Isaiah Whitehead, when they got along, was a lethal back court combo.

PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS 

  • Kris Dunn, Providence (Player of the Year)
  • D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown
  • Kellen Dunham, Butler
  • Josh Hart, Villanova
  • Henry Ellenson, Marquette

PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS, IN TWEET FORM

1. Villanova: On paper, Nova looks like a top ten team, but it will be interesting to see how their roster comes together. A lot of PGs, not many big men.

2. Georgetown: Getting DSR back was huge, but the key for the Hoyas this year will be the development of sophomores Isaac Copeland, LJ Peak and Paul White.

3. Xavier: I’m bullish on the Musketeers despite who they lost, but that’s mostly because I expect Trevon Bluiett and Jalen Reynolds to have big years.

4. Marquette: As I said earlier, the addition of Ellenson combined with the back court pieces Wojo has makes Marquette my favorite sleeper in the country.

5. Butler: Kellen Dunham, Roosevelt Jones and Tyler Lewis will be fun to watch, but who helps Andrew Charbacz along the front line?

6. Providence: Getting Kris Dunn back was huge. Losing LeDontae Henton will hurt, however. Ben Bentil and Jalen Lindsey need to take big steps forward.

7. Seton Hall: Losing Gibbs is killer, but with Isaiah Whitehead and Angel Delgado back and a couple talented transfers eligible, Pirates have some pieces.

8. St. John’s: It’s hard to see the Johnnies remaining a tournament team after losing D’angelo Harrison and Sir’Dominic Pointer.

9. DePaul: I love Billy Garrett Jr.’s game. I don’t love rehiring Dave Leitao.

10. Creighton: The rebuild after Dougie McBuckets was never going to be quick. Landing Justin Patton and Marcus Foster makes the future seem bright.