One on One: A Big East Preview with Jon Rothstein

Posted by Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) on November 3rd, 2014

RTC interviews one on one

Rush the Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you throughout the preseason with previews of each of the major conferences.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview with the Big East, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking with a Big East expert in CBS Sports Network College Basketball Insider Jon Rothstein (@jonrothstein)

Rush the Court: Villanova enters the season as the pretty clear favorite to win the league. The Wildcats return four starters from a team that went 29-5 last season. What are some reasonable expectations for Jay Wright’s squad this season?

Expectations are high for Jay Wright and Company. (Getty)

Expectations are High for Jay Wright’s Villanova Team (Getty)

Jon Rothstein: I think reasonable expectations are to win the Big East title, have a chance at winning the Big East Tournament title, and get another high seed in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova was terrific last year in close game situations. I think there is a real possibility that Villanova could be a better team this year than it was last year, but have a worse record because its non-conference schedule is that much more difficult. What makes Villanova so good this year is that it does not lose 50/50 balls. Every ball that is being contested seems to go Villanova’s way almost every time. A big reason for that is Josh Hart. Hart is a guy who can go on a tear for Villanova this year, as he will step into a more enhanced role with the departure of James Bell. I think right now if there is one person who epitomizes Villanova’s culture and brand, it is Josh Hart.

RTC: Georgetown had a below average season last year [just 18-15 overall and 8-10 in conference]. There are no two ways around that. Does John Thompson III’s team have enough firepower to ensure a more successful campaign this season?

Rothstein: If Josh Smith plays at the level that he did last year, Georgetown is an NCAA Tournament team. The Hoyas were 10-3 with Josh Smith and 8-12 after he became academically ineligible. They were an NCAA Tournament team with him last year. If Smith can stay eligible and freshmen Isaac Copeland and L.J. Peak can produce like they are being expected to produce, I think Georgetown is a pretty certain NCAA Tournament team.

RTC: Xavier is almost always good. This season should not be any different. In boasting one of the league’s best frontcourts – with Matt Stainbrook and Jalen Reynolds – what is the ceiling for Chris Mack’s Musketeers?

Rothstein: I think they can potentially compete with Villanova for the Big East title. Xavier has that type of ability. It is amazing to me that nationally more people are not talking about Trevon Bluiett. I saw him practice at Xavier. He is as talented of a first-year wing that you are going to find in college basketball. The unique thing about Bluiett too is that Xavier has the unique ability to slide him down and play him at the four if Chris Mack would like to have more perimeter players on the floor. If there were a list of first-year players who should be getting more attention, Trevon Bluiett would definitely be a guy on that list. Another guy to keep an eye on is Indiana transfer Remy Abell. Abell is a solid, sturdy two-guard who will be guarding the opponent’s best offensive perimeter player every night. His size will also allow for him to be a real common presence on the backboards. Remy Abell is a player who has great glue guy potential for Xavier.

RTC: St. John’s has been up-and-down throughout Steve Lavin’s tenure. The Red Storm obviously has some talent with D’Angelo Harrison, Sir’Dominic Pointer and Chris Obekpa returning. Can this be the season where Lavin’s squad finally finds some consistency?

"If there was ever a year where St. John's was going to put it together, it would be this year" - Joe Rothstein. (Getty)

“If there was ever a year where St. John’s was going to put it together, it would be this year” – Jon Rothstein. (Getty)

Rothstein: Consistency is the word that has been lacking at St. John’s ever since Steve Lavin became head coach. They were really good in his first year, but in the last couple seasons, everything has been sporadic at best. If there was ever a year where St. John’s was going to put it together, it would be this year. It has a dynamic backcourt with Rysheed Jordan and D’Angelo Harrison. I think the key to this whole thing for St. John’s is Sir’Dominic Pointer. He has taken St. John’s to new heights when he has played as an undersized four-man. I have talked about this with several Big East coaches and I really think Pointer could be the x-factor to the St. John’s season.

RTC: Providence made an impressive run to the league tournament title last spring, but the Friars did lose do-it-all guard Bryce Cotton to graduation. If Kris Dunn can effectively return from injury and stay healthy, can Ed Cooley’s squad be in the thick of things in the league standings?

Rothstein: We have not seen Kris Dunn be in a situation where he has been fully healthy for an entire season, so I think it is kind of tough to jump to that conclusion at this juncture. It is going to have to be a wait-and-see approach with Dunn because he has yet to make it from opening night to the end of the season in his college career. What jumps off the page at me about Providence is that it has Syracuse-type length. When Providence plays with Tyler Harris, LaDontae Henton and Carson Desrosiers and the guys it will bring off the bench in Ben Bentil and Pascal Chukwu, the Friars are going to be a team that is going to be like a vintage Syracuse team in the length it is going to have on the back line of its zone. Much like I talked about with Trevon Bluiett, I think a lot of people are sleeping on Ben Bentil. Bentil is a guy who can be on the floor when Providence closes out games. He is a guy who I think can be one of the better first-year players in the Big East.

RTC: Creighton has the unenviable task of trying to replace one of the greatest players in the history of college basketball. While the Bluejays do have some experience, will the loss of Doug McDermott be too much to overcome for them to be a significant factor in the league?

Rothstein: I think Creighton is going to be better than a lot of people anticipate. Creighton’s homecourt advantage is becoming comparable to playing at a place like Louisville. It has become that much of an advantage. When you look at the chemical makeup of this Creighton team, you see a team that is going to play smaller. I think it has done a good job in recalibrating its roster. It added a fifth-year transfer from Cal in Ricky Kreklow, who can play a few different positions. The Bluejays also have a talented, talented junior college transfer in James Milliken, who redshirted for them last year. I think Creighton has a lot of unknown commodities who could emerge sooner rather than later.

RTC: Kevin Willard brought in his best recruiting class during his tenure at Seton Hall. Can the additions of blue-chippers Isaiah Whitehead and Angel Delgado along with returning guards Sterling Gibbs and Jaren Sina be enough to offset the loss of four seniors and lead the Pirates to another 17-win or better campaign?

Sterling Gibbs is going to have to play big for Seton Hall. (Seton Hall Athletics)

Sterling Gibbs is going to have to play big for Seton Hall. (Seton Hall Athletics)

Rothstein: I think that has yet to be determined because when you look at what Seton Hall lost last year, it lost a bona fide double-double threat in Eugene Teague, an all-Big East first-team player in Fuquan Edwin, and two guys who I thought were underrated in Brian Oliver and Patrik Auda. I think Seton Hall is a work in progress. It obviously brought in a good recruiting class, but it also has some unproven commodities.

RTC: Steve Wojciechowski is already making some waves on the recruiting trail at Marquette, but expectations for the Golden Eagles this season are not too high. What has to happen for Wojo and Marquette to overachieve in year one of the new era?

Rothstein: Marquette has to get Luke Fischer eligible. The Indiana transfer is not going to play the first month and change of the season. I had a chance to see him in practice and I think he has a really, really bright future for the Golden Eagles. Until Marquette gets Luke Fischer on the floor, it is going to be a really small basketball team. It is not going to have a player on its roster over 6’7″ until Fischer becomes eligible. That is something to keep an eye on when Marquette has the unenviable task of playing at Ohio State, hosting Wisconsin, and playing three tough games in Orlando over Thanksgiving weekend. It is going to be a real tough first month or so for Steve Wojciechowski.

RTC: Butler is once again in a state of flux due to Brandon Miller recently taking a health-related leave of absence. However, the Bulldogs do get back Roosevelt Jones after he missed all of last season with a broken wrist. The Big East proved to be rough sledding for the Bulldogs last season. Is there reason to believe things will be better in Indianapolis this season?

Rothstein: I think Roosevelt Jones obviously helps a lot with the chemical makeup of Butler’s team. He is going to be one of the better players in the Big East right off the bat. I am curious to see what Butler gets out of its bench. There is a lot to be desired in terms of its depth at the Big East level, so it will be interesting to see if any strides have been made when it comes to the Butler reserves. The Bulldogs do also have some solid experience returning in Kellen Dunham and Kameron Woods. We will find out when games start in the next couple weeks if that will be enough for Butler.

RTC: DePaul has failed to win more than 12 games in eight of the past nine seasons. Sophomores Billy Garrett Jr. and Tommy Hamilton IV are talented, but will that be enough to elevate Oliver Purnell’s squad from the basement of the conference?

Rothstein: I do not see it. I think one thing that becomes clearer and clearer when you evaluate what is going on at DePaul is that there are so many issues with the infrastructure there. When I went to DePaul’s campus in Chicago about a month ago, you start to look at what you are dealing with every day from a different perspective. You are not in a position where you are going to be successful in the Big East when you are really not even playing home games. DePaul’s home games are 22 miles away from campus. It has the opportunity – if it wanted – to play on campus in a setting comparable to what St. John’s has with Carnesecca Arena, but for whatever reason, the school has decided not to go down that road. I think there are so many issues with the infrastructure there that need to be solved before you can begin solving problems from a basketball perspective.

RTC: Lastly, who do you believe is going to take home conference player of the year and conference coach of the year when all is said and done in March?

Rothstein: I am going to go with the Villanova sweep. Darrun Hilliard for conference Player of the Year and Jay Wright for conference Coach of the Year. I think Hilliard will best the best player on the best team and Wright will be the coach of the best team.

WCarey (254 Posts)


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