Big East Key Offseason Questions: Part I

Posted by Justin Kundrat on April 12th, 2016

The NCAA Tournament is now behind us and the days of transfers, NBA Draft declarations and coaching moves are upon us. April signals yet another ending, as we tear down everything we knew and build anew. The offseason has a way of inspiring hope that a new season will bring about improvement, that maybe this time things will be different. Consider where the Big East’s very own Villanova was just one year ago this spring. That unknown is why the offseason is such an intriguing time. Below is a list of key questions that each Big East team will attempt to solve over the coming six months.

ButlerWho will replace the scoring void left behind by Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones?

Kellen Dunham, Butler's third all-time leading scorer, won't be easily replaced. (Photo: Getty)

Kellen Dunham, Butler’s third all-time leading scorer, won’t easily be replaced. (Photo: Getty)

Butler has appeared in several “way too early” Top 25 rankings with little explanation as to why. The team will lose four of its seven rotation players, with Dunham and Jones having accounted for 38 percent of its scoring output this season. Rising junior hybrid forward Kelan Martin (15.7 PPG) will assume the duty of primary scorer, having already demonstrated an ability to do so numerous times. The question marks come next. Forward Andrew Chrabascz seemingly regressed as the season proceeded, although his potential as a stretch forward within Butler’s offense is intriguing. The remaining offensive responsibility will fall on George Washington transfer Kethan Savage and senior Tyler Lewis, with the hope that incoming freshman Joey Brunk can also contribute.

Creighton: How will the team fare with heightened expectations?

After a 2013-14 season in which the Bluejays went 14-19 and graduated five seniors, Creighton was picked to finish ninth in the league this season. The pundits were wrong, however, as the arrivals of Mo Watson and Cole Huff righted the ship on the way to a 20-15 record just a few wins shy of an NCAA Tournament bid. Gone are two starters — most notably 7’0″ center Geoff Groselle, who led Creighton in rebounding. In his place 6’10” redshirt freshman Justin Patton arrives to pair with explosive Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster, who will add scoring punch to the backcourt. The effect of these offseason additions and subtractions should result in high expectations for Greg McDermott’s group — something most of these players haven’t yet faced. If all goes to plan next season, Creighton should be NCAA Tournament bound. Watson’s leadership will play a major factor in determining how many expectations are fulfilled.

DePaul: Will Eli Cain continue his development trajectory?

Dave Leitao (USA Today Images)

Dave Leitao Has His Work Cut Out at DePaul (USA Today Images)

The once highly-touted Billy Garrett Jr. is now a senior. After three seasons of occasional struggles with the attention that accompanies a star player, he has yet to experience a campaign with more than 12 wins. With senior Myke Henry (13.7 PPG) graduating, the burden on Garrett next season will only grow. Thinking optimistically, 6’6″ freshman Eli Cain showed flashes of brilliance in the latter half of the season and could be ready to make a big leap in year two. He led the team in three-point shooting (42.5%) and posted double-figure point totals in 10 of his final 14 games. His combination of height and slashing ability makes him an exciting prospect for head coach Dave Leitao. More importantly, the rising sophomore provides a glimmer of hope for a program whose turnaround has been a long time coming. Can Cain’s play alongside the senior Garrett finally put the program back on the right track?

Georgetown: Will the graduation of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera prove to be addition by subtraction?

It isn’t a popular theory but it’s a question worth asking. The all-Big East guard dominated the ball during his four-year stint at Georgetown, leading the Hoyas in shot attempts for two seasons despite struggling with efficiency. That’s not to say he was selfish (he created countless scoring opportunities for teammates), but perhaps his presence last season eclipsed the development of some of his younger teammates. Rising junior Isaac Copeland and sophomore Jessie Govan are long, athletic forwards with range on their jump shots, something that John Thompson III has struggled to effectively integrate into his offense. Rising junior guard LJ Peak also came on strong at the tail end of the season, providing the Hoyas with a penetrating wing capable of scoring both in transition and the half-court. There are a lot of interesting pieces left on this roster, so perhaps things will finally begin to click for the Hoyas next season without Smith-Rivera in the lineup.

Marquette: Will this team take a step forward after the loss of Henry Ellenson?

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, freshman Henry Ellenson signed with an agent and will enter the NBA Draft this summer. The 6’11” forward led the Golden Eagles in scoring and rebounding in Marquette’s first 20-win season in three years. One of the bigger issues with this team was its turnover-friendly backcourt, one that was led by two freshmen and a sophomore. Traci Carter emerged as the team’s best passer, ranking 45th in the country with a 33.0 percent assist rate, so he should reduce his turnover rate as he gains more familiarity with the offense. On the plus side, Steve Wojciechowski continues to succeed on the recruiting trail, reining in the 13th-best class natioanlly, per 247 sports. In Ellenson’s absence, Luke Fischer will be the lone returning post player with any experience, awfully concerning for one of the worst rebounding teams in the conference. Expect its backcourt to take a step forward, with an open scholarship hopefully being used to lure another big man in the rotation.

Justin Kundrat (112 Posts)

Villanova grad, patiently waiting another 10 years for season tickets. Follow Justin on twitter @JustinKundrat or email him at justin.kundrat@gmail.com


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