By John Fanta
On the eve of opening day of BIG EAST Men’s Basketball play, the conference’s coaches hopped on the first media teleconference of the season. Combining for a 100-23 (.813) record in non-conference play to date, the best mark since the 1988-89 season, the BIG EAST is poised for another big year.
Here’s the highlights of Tuesday’s teleconference:
Creighton’s Greg McDermott
On the status of his team: “We’ve achieved at a level that maybe people didn’t think was possible. Our leadership has been outstanding, in particular Khyri Thomas and Marcus Foster, as well as Toby Hegner and Tyler Clement.”
On the BIG EAST: “”I think the bottom of the league has gotten better. I look at DePaul and their talent level. They seem to be much-improved. Georgetown’s long and big. I don’t see any easy outs. You’re in for a dog fight.”
On sophomore forward Martin Krampel (11.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG): “If there’s a more improved player in the BIG EAST, I think it’d be very hard to find him.”
Providence’s Ed Cooley
On his freshman class: “Because of how much Makai (Ashton-Langford) and Nate (Watson) have played already, that’s huge for us in BIG EAST play.”
On the Friars’ identity: “The consistency and continuity of the group has been hampered, due to injuries. We’ll be tough, we’ll be feisty, we will try to go at teams’ weaknesses and play to our strength.”
Butler’s LaVall Jordan
On visiting Georgetown in the BIG EAST opener: “Jessie Govan’s putting up all-conference type numbers. And going on the road, it’s going to be tough.”
On coaching in the BIG EAST: “League play’s going to be new for me. Going at the highest level night in and night out is different for me, as opposed to previous leagues.”
DePaul’s Dave Leitao
On the Blue Demons’ non-conference schedule: “Our non-league schedule was as difficult as one that I’ve been around for.”
On the Blue Demons’ depth: “We have been a little bit challenged, more than I wanted to be. People have been moved and asked to do a couple of different things.”
On Villanova: “They’re the most efficient basketball team that I’ve seen in many, many years. And Omari Spellman, their freshman big man, gives them a different dimension.”
Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard
On BIG EAST play: “The older players in our league know if you don’t step it up you are going to get embarrassed and lose games.”
On the Pirates: “I thought our guys did a great job of accepting the challenge of the non-conference slate. One thing I’ve been trying to talk to them about is when your point guard’s playing good basketball, you’re playing good basketball. Khadeen’s (Carrington) been great for us at point guard.”
On Creighton: “They’re extremely balanced. They’re deep. And they play a style that puts you on your heels. What a lot of people don’t talk about is how unselfish they are.”
Marquette’s Steve Wojciechowski
On Xavier: “They’re the best team we’ve played thus far. They could win the national championship.”
On the BIG EAST: “Since I’ve been in the league, this is the best it’s been. And that’s saying something, considering we had a national champion (Villanova, 2016).”
On going up against Xavier’s offense (89.6 PPG, 2nd in BIG EAST): “Our defense will get tested to the highest level. We’ll find out a lot about where we’re at on that end of the floor in this game.”
Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing
On the BIG EAST opener against Butler: “They’re led by an outstanding senior forward in Kelan Martin. They play really, really hard as well. We have to play even harder.”
On his first season as head coach of the Hoyas: “I’m enjoying the job. You have your ups and downs, as in any major-college job. But you roll up your sleeves and try to get things done. “Patrick Ewing the player is not walking through the door. That Patrick Ewing is long gone.”
On the BIG EAST from when he played as opposed to the conference now: “We had 7 teams make to the NCAA tournament last year and they all have gotten better. It isn’t any different. All of these teams, they’re all great.”
Villanova’s Jay Wright
On his team’s progress: “We’ve played pretty good basketball. We’ve faced some adversity, being down at half against Tennessee and others. We also faced a tough road test at Temple. We’ve caught some breaks as well. But I like where we’re at.”
On freshman center Omari Spellman (11.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG): “We try to stress to him that he’s not a finished product. That’s what this season’s gonna be for him.”
On the BIG EAST’s first year of reconfiguration (2013-14): “Yes, when our old league went away, I was worried. I was wondering how we would get impacted. But in the first year of the new league, I was incredibly surprised at what a great conference it was.”
Xavier’s Chris Mack and St. John’s Chris Mullin did not appear on the call due to travel conflicts.
The BIG EAST schedule opens up Wednesday with three games on the docket. The league’s two new coaches fittingly face each other in the conference opener, when 10-1 Georgetown hosts 10-3 Butler at 6:30 PM ET on FS1. At 7:30 PM ET on CBS Sports Network, No. 1 Villanova visits DePaul in the first BIG EAST game played at Wintrust Arena. The nightcap should see plenty of three’s, as two of the best offensive teams in the BIG EAST meet when No. 6 Xavier travels to Marquette at 8:30 PM ET on FS1.
The four remaining teams to open up conference play tip off Thursday. A ranked showdown highlights the openers as No. 23 Seton Hall and No. 25 Creighton tangle at the Prudental Center at 6:30 PM ET. At 7 PM ET, St. John’s welcomes Providence at Carnesecca Arena.
For the latest updates on BIG EAST hoops, head to @BIGEASTMBB on Twitter.