By John Fanta
Offseason? What offseason? The transfer market, NBA Draft decisions, and staff changes make for plenty of juice in college hoops throughout the spring and summer. And those are just three of the many storylines.
With that in mind, here are five thoughts on BIG EAST Basketball at the moment.
What will the conference look like next season? That question is a mystery in more ways than one, but the prevailing thought is that the BIG EAST, while losing All-American talents, will continue to be one of the best leagues in college basketball. Capturing 24 NCAA Tournament bids in the last four years, that sample size is a big reason for that thought. Villanova will once again lead the conference, and while Butler loses Kelan Martin and Xavier says goodbye to Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura, those two programs have defined consistency in churning out Big Dance appearances. In fact, Butler, Villanova and Xavier are three of only eight schools to win at least one NCAA Tournament game in each of the last four seasons. Speaking of consistency, Providence (five straight) and Seton Hall (three straight) are also on NCAA Tournament streaks.
2. There are several NBA Draft storylines to watch, most notably for Villanova. Will Omari Spellman and Donte DiVincenzo go forward to the draft, or return to the Wildcats? The prevailing thought before the NCAA Tournament is that they would both be back, but both have had rising stock and could capitalize on it. The thought seems to be that if one of them goes, it’s Spellman, who is a versatile big man that has a unique skill set fitting for the first round, and maybe even the Top 20-25. We’ll have to wait and see. Elsewhere, it will be interesting to see what Creighton’s Khyri Thomas and St. John’s Shamorie Ponds do. I expect Thomas to head to the draft and Ponds to return to Queens.
3. The hype is off the charts for Marquette heading into next season. Will the Golden Eagles turn that into results? Steve Wojciechowski certainly helped that cause Friday by reeling in Fordham grad transfer Joseph Chartouny from the Rams. The 6-foot-3 guard will help fill the void left by the graduating Andrew Rowsey. Chartouny averaged 11.9 points, 5.2 assists, five rebounds and 2.9 steals per game this past season. Pair him up with Markus Howard, Sam and Joey Hauser, and a rising sophomore class with potential, and the Golden Eagles could have second-weekend NCAA Tournament potential next season.
4. Shaheen Holloway’s impact on Seton Hall Basketball cannot be overstated. That’s why he’s the head coach of Saint Peter’s now, and it’s also why the hiring of former Louisiana Tech assistant Tony Skinn by Kevin Willard is so important for the Pirates’ future. Skinn, who played on George Mason’s 2006 Final Four squad, was announced as the new assistant at The Hall on Thursday. One of Holloway’s greatest traits was his ability to develop guards. That’s what led Willard to Skinn, whose role as a recruiter will also by crucial. The Pirates head into next season with Myles Powell and Syracuse transfer Taurean Thompson leading them. A fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance can happen, but Skinn’s ability to develop the Pirates’ backcourt will be integral for that to come to fruition.
5. Scheduling! The NCAA Tournament committee loves those who find ways to challenge themselves in non-conference play by setting up home-and-home’s with teams. BIG EAST teams have done just that, with Butler securing agreements recently with Florida and Ole Miss. Seton Hall will play Louisville and Kentucky (at MSG) next December. Creighton gets Gonzaga in Omaha next season. We’ve seen Villanova and Xavier follow this pathway as well. Thanksgiving invitationals are one thing, but everybody’s doing them now. The Gavitt Games between the BIG EAST and Big Ten are a set-up agreement. But, when you schedule these types of match-ups, it can do wonders on Selection Sunday. Hats off to those teams for securing these meetings, which is also great for the fans too.