Trick or Treat: Burning Questions for Five Big East Teams, Part I

Posted by Mike Hopkins on October 29th, 2015

With Halloween nearing, we thought it would be fun to answer a preseason burning question for each Big East team using a simple “Trick” or “Treat.” Part I of this season preview answers one key question for each of the teams picked in the bottom half of the preseason Big East Coaches’ Poll. We’ll tackle the remainder tomorrow.

St. John’s: Can Chris Mullin actually coach?

(Photo: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports)

(Photo: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports)

Treat: Chris Mullin has not coached a single second of basketball at any level. That’s an indisputable fact unless there is some CYO coaching experience back in the day that we don’t know about. Mullin does, however, know the game of basketball and it will be that knowledge of the game blended with his longtime NBA experience (both as a player and executive) that will aid him on the Red Storm’s sideline. The former National Player of the Year (Wooden, UPI, USBWA – 1985) has also surrounded himself with an excellent staff that mixes college coaching with NBA player development experience. Despite having to basically bring in an entirely new roster this season, expect St. John’s to surprise some people with its effort and Mullin’s in-game coaching.

Seton Hall: Can Isaiah Whitehead lead the Pirates?

Trick: While Isaiah Whitehead is clearly the best player on Seton Hall, that doesn’t automatically mean he is the team’s leader. Last season was marred by locker room issues and a horrible 11 losses in the team’s final 14 games. Jared Sina left the program during the season and Sterling Gibbs — the player who presumably would be an ideal leader as an upperclassmen — decided to use his graduate transfer exemption and finish his collegiate career at UConn. Kevin Willard is putting all of his eggs in the Whitehead basket as he turns over the point guard duties to the Brooklyn sophomore. Whitehead spearheaded the recent decision to get the team off of social media this season — probably a good sign — but he’ll have to prove that he can lead the Pirates when things go sideways on the floor. Is he capable of that role?

Creighton: Will the Bluejays’ luck change this year?

Creighton Was Last Season's Hard Luck Squad. (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

Creighton Was Last Season’s Hard Luck Squad. (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

Treat: Last season Creighton went 14-19 overall with a 4-14 Big East record, but those numbers don’t tell the entire story. Rather, the Bluejays lost nine of those 19 games by four points or fewer, including four excruciating losses by just a single point. All of those close margins of defeat were probably a sign of a young team that just hadn’t learned how to win yet. Expect that to change this season. Greg McDermott has added a pair of experienced transfers to his maturing mix of returnees and you should see some of those hard-luck losses turn into nice wins this season at Creighton.

DePaul: Will Dave Leitao pick up where he left off?

Treat: In Dave Leitao’s first season at DePaul back in 2002-03, he elevated a 9-19 team under Pat Kennedy to a 16-13 record with an NIT appearance. DePaul got to 22 wins and the NCAA Tournament the next year and followed that up with 20 more wins and another NIT appearance in his third season. Leitao rode that 58-34 overall record to a job with Virginia that didn’t go quite as well (one NCAA Tournament appearance in four seasons). Leitao has reportedly been preaching defensive accountability and changing the culture of the program in his second go-round with the Blue Demons; that change of message combined with several talented upperclassmen like Billy Garrett, Jr., Tommy Hamilton and Myke Henry means DePaul could surprise this season.

Marquette: Is Wojo’s second year when the Golden Eagles become contenders?

Trick: Marquette was picked seventh in the preseason Big East Coaches’ Poll last year and was a sexy pick to overachieve in Steve Wojciechowski’s first season at the helm. While it had some nice moments here and there, the Golden Eagles’ record of 4-14 in league play reflected their ultimate finish near the bottom of the standings. Marquette was generally a young team with graduate transfer Matt Carlino doing his best to carry it through the rough patches, but the overall talent on Wojciechowski’s roster has greatly improved from a season ago. The most obvious upgrade is the addition of McDonald’s All-American Henry Ellenson. The star freshman will be joined by a quartet of four-star recruits in the class but the Golden Eagles will remain young at pretty much every position. The only upperclassman likely to start will be former Indiana transfer Luke Fischer. Picking Marquette sixth by the Big East coaches this season might be a bit premature.

Mike Hopkins (1 Posts)

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