Friar Basketball

15 in 40: #8 What the Big East Newcomers Bring

Semaj_Christon

If you’re going to revamp, this is one way to do it. The Big East welcomes Creighton, Butler and Xavier in 2013-14, a trio bringing with them the only returning 1st Team All American in the country, a team that twice finished as national runner up over the course of the past five years, and a third program that reached the Sweet 16 in four of the past six seasons.

Here are five things to watch for from the league’s newcomers:

1. A National Player of the Year candidate. How good was Ames High School in 2010? Harrison Barnes was the headliner — a superstar small forward who many viewed as the best player in his class, while his lesser-known teammate has gone on to make a name for himself as well.

Doug McDermott was the second fiddle to Barnes in high school, and he would have elevated Northern Iowa’s program to new heights had his father, Greg, not taken over as the head coach at Creighton and brought Doug with him.

McDermott was an instant impact player for the Blue Jays, averaging 14.9 points and over 7 rebounds a game as a freshman, before blowing up as a sophomore — finishing third in the country in scoring and being named an AP 1st Team All American.

This year he returns as a senior as the only player in the country to have been named a 1st Team All American over the past two seasons. His presence makes Creighton a top 25 club and one some consider a favorite to win the Big East in their first season in the conference.

2. Christon not far behind. Prior to Providence locking down their first monster recruit, Kris Dunn, the Friar staff had another point guard on campus. The unheralded lead guard out of Cincinnati was set to prep at Brewster Academy the following season, and ended up committing to nearby Xavier that spring.

This writer was blown away by Christon the following winter and couldn’t believe a player of his caliber, one so explosive off of the bounce, wasn’t in anyone’s top 100. On a Brewster team filled with stars (when you say “stars” at Brewster, you mean stars – JaKarr Sampson, Mitch McGary, TJ Warren, Jalen Reynolds and so on) Christon quite often shined brightest, and it’s no surprise he was the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year last season.

While Xavier struggled for the first time in years, Christon’s stock took off as a freshman. He’s considered a sure-fire first round pick if he declares this spring, and he’s finding his way into the lottery in some mock drafts. To sleep on Christon (15.2 ppg, 4.6 asp) and Xavier would be a mistake. They could be sneaky good.

3. Local flair at Butler. Two of New England’s most underrated players will be freshmen at Butler this season. Andrew Chrabascz and Rene Castro were teammates for BABC throughout their high school careers, and both enjoyed terrific prep seasons last year. Chrabascz won a NEPSAC Class AA title at Cushing, and was named 1st Team All NEPSAC, while Castro exploded at Worcester Academy, making good on the potential so many saw in him early in his career. Castro ripped off seven 30+ point games in a row and was the most dangerous scorer in New England throughout much of January.

4. Taking it to the road. It doesn’t get much better than Hinkle Fieldhouse (Butler’s small, but raucous venue) or the CenturyLink Center (Creighton’s big and raucous building) when it comes to home atmospheres.

5. Stepping up a weight class. Just how will these schools fare playing in a deeper conference? Creighton figures to be in the mix for a top 4-5 spot, with a great home-court advantage, and the league’s best scorer returning. Xavier looks to be in the mix with a group of programs seeking to finish in the 4-5 range, rather than 6th or 7th. Providence, Xavier, St. John’s, and Villanova are seemingly bunched in a cluster of schools projected to finish behind Georgetown, Marquette, and Creighton (my rankings of the Big East will shake out differently, but that’s for a future 15 in 40). It would be surprising to see any more than five Big East schools dance, so if the prognosticators are correct and the top three fall in that order, the next four will be in a battle for the final NCAA Tournament bids from the Big East. Two, or even three, of those schools could be out of luck come March.

 

How do you think the newcomers will turn out this season? Talk about it here.

 

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