This article is part of our Draft Kit series.
The first year of the new Big East was not the rousing success that some had hoped. While Villanova had some moments, the conference was out of the Big Dance by the Sweet 16. Butler first lost its coach to the NBA, then its best player to a wrist injury. Because the schools in the conference do not have college football money flowing in, they might be at a competitive disadvantage. But let's not make excuses because the BEast could roar back to life in Year 2.
Villanova is once again the team to beat. Most of the Wildcats' rotation is back sans James Bell. Georgetown brings back 350-pound center Josh Smith, who could be a difference maker if he can stay on the court. The Hoyas also have an impressive incoming class of big freshmen, led by Isaac Copeland. Ten-team conferences are the best!
D'Angelo Harrison, guard, St. John's Red Storm – Fantasy owners like high-use guards. Harrison took 443 field goals (making 169) and 202 free throws (hitting 86.1 percent) as a junior. Forward JaKarr Sampson took his talents to the NBA, so the Red Storm may rely on Harrison even more. That would seem to point to Harrison becoming a 20-point scorer, but he won't score unless he plays more than 32.9 minutes (which was actually the lowest average of his career).
Roosevelt Jones, forward, Butler Bulldogs – Jones is the aforementioned Bulldog who was lost for the season in early November with a wrist injury. As a freshman in 2012-13, the 6-foot-4 forward averaged 10.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Granted, that was when Butler spent its lone year in the A10, so the level of competition may rise in the Big East (though that isn't a given). With coach Brandon Miller on medical leave, the Bulldogs are going to need a rock to rely on. That rock is Jones.
LaDontae Henton, forward, Providence Friars – Whether it is by design or by happenstance, coach Ed Cooley leans on his starters more than any other coach in the nation. Henton played 37.7 minutes per game last season and was second on the team. He was just one of five starters who each averaged at least 30 minutes. The 6-8 senior wasn't idle when he was on the court with 14.0 points, 1.4 3-points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.3 steals. With Kadeem Batts gone, Henton and Tyler Lewis should see plenty of playing time once again.
Isaiah Whitehead, guard, Seton Hall Pirates – The Pirates have not made the Big Dance since 2006 and there hasn't been a great deal of reason for optimism of late. That may change this season with an impressive recruiting class led by the 6-4 Whitehead and 6-9 forward Angel Delgado. Whitehead, a McDonald's All-American. Whitehead is a physical player who uses his 210 lb frame to his advantage. He can score from the perimeter or by crashing to the rim.
Luke Fischer, center, Marquette Golden Eagles – When he was playing at Duke, new Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski was known for gritty defense and leadership. He was not known for size. Wojo will have to make due with grittiness from his Golden Eagles because the team does not have a player taller than 6-7 until Fischer becomes eligible in December. With Indiana last year, the 6-11 Wisconsin native averaged 2.8 points and 2.1 rebounds in 10.0 minutes. He should get all of the playing time he can handle with the relatively tiny Golden Eagles.
Pair of Sleepers
Keith Thomas, forward, St. John's Red Storm – In general, I try to not to profile two players from the same team in a conference preview. However, I am tempted by Thomas' excellent junior college numbers. He averaged 15.7 points and 15.3 rebounds with Westchester Community College. The 6-8 forward could slide right into Sampson's starting spot and the 23 year old should start cleaning the glass for the Red Storm.
Myke Henry, forward, DePaul Blue Demons – Over the past five seasons, the Blue Demons have won a combined 10 conference games. Ugh. For the last four years, Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young brought offensive firepower and defensive shortcomings to Chicago. The team looks to start anew and it may be that the 6-6 Henry, who transferred from Illinois. In 2012-13, Henry averaged 3.2 points and 2.1 boards in 10.6 minutes off the Illini bench. He should be able to help the Blue Demons with defense, rebounding, and the occasional 3-pointer in his homecoming.