No league has a more notable collection of coaching turnover than the Big East. There are four new faces in familiar places, these men returning to schools where they previously spent a significant period of their basketball careers.
The biggest departure is obviously Jay Wright, whose shocking retirement in April at 60 years old left college basketball without its anticipated consummate replacement to Mike Krzyzewski. Wright's successor is Kyle Neptune, who took over a two-win Fordham program and got the Rams to 16-16 in his only season. Neptune, 37, was a VU assistant from 2013-21.
Wright's retirement was the biggest news of the offseason in the Big East, but the biggest hiring from a noise-making standpoint was Sean Miller's return to Xavier. When Miller coached at Xavier from 2004-09, the Muskies were an A-10 program and had a 120-47 record. The expectation is for Miller to eventually coach Xavier to its first Final Four.
For as big as the Miller hiring was, Seton Hall inking alum Shaheen Holloway -- fresh off Saint Peter's Cinderella Elite Eight run -- was regarded by those in the coaching profession as the best addition of the 2022 carousel. Holloway is one of the best players in Seton Hall history. And from 2010-18, he was an assistant at his alma mater before taking the Peacocks job. Now look at him. What a story.
The Big East's coaching carousel was so strong, the "quietest" hiring of the four may someday be regarded as the best of them all; Thad Matta and his .740 career winning percentage tops all others. The Butler alumnus is back at BU, where he was an assistant for three years (1997-2000) and then the head coach for one ('00-01). This will be Butler's 10th season in the Big East. Its average finish in the league ledger the past nine seasons: sixth. All things considered, that's acceptable -- Butler was a Horizon League program a decade ago. It's done well for itself. The hope is Matta moves the Bulldogs into the top half of the conference almost every single season of his second run there, however long that lasts. Matta left Ohio State in 2017 because of health issues related to drop foot. But he's only 55. There's a chance this could last a good while.
It's an exciting time in the Big East, and even though Wright is gone, you can make the argument that the collective coaching from top to bottom is stronger than it's ever been since the league reformed in 2013.
CBS Sports Big East Preseason Player of the Year
Ryan Kalkbrenner | C | Creighton
It might be that no league has a tougher toss-up for preseason POY honors than the Big East. Because Kalkbrenner (13.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.6 bpg in '21-22) is such a good defender, he gets our nod. Add in that Creighton is the projected top team, and it's all the more practical. If Creighton's junior man in the middle continues to expand his game, he could blossom into a top-15 player in the sport by March. The Jays were a surprise NCAA tourney team last season and it was because Greg McDermott had his best defensive team ever; Kalkbrenner was and will remain the focal point of Creighton's remade resistance.
Four more players to watch
Adama Sanogo | C | UConn: The Huskies' top player heading into the season is the 6-foot-9, 245-pound Malian man in the middle. Sanogo (14.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.9 bpg) will be tasked with upping his output after UConn lost more than 65% of its points and rebounds production from last season's squad.
Colby Jones | SF | Xavier: Here's your Big East POY dark horse candidate. Jones plays the 3 but will also be used at the 4. The most versatile guy on Xavier's roster -- and the top defender. He's lauded for his decision-making and he understands how to play in space and play off X's bigs. He averaged 11.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals and just 2.2 fouls in 33.5 minutes.
Posh Alexander | PG | St. John's: Alexander rates as one of the best defensive guards in the nation. The Red Storm are coming off a directionless 17-15 season, but Alexander wasn't responsible for that. He averaged 13.8 points, 5.5 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 2.3 steals and fewer than two fouls.
Jared Bynum | PG | Providence: The Friars lost more production off their roster than any other Big East NCAA Tournament team. But Bynum's back. Because of that, his numbers are expected to creep up. Last season: 12.2 ppg, 4.0 apg, 27.6 mpg. Ed Cooley will need his veteran floor general to become an all-league player if Providence wants to make back-to-back Big Dances.
CBS Sports Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year
Cam Whitmore | SF | Villanova
Whitmore is one of Villanova's highest-rated recruits ever. He was No. 11 in his class, according to 247Sports. He's objectively the most talented newcomer in the league. Question is: When will we see him? Whitmore recently had thumb surgery. Villanova announced he will not be ready to start the season. The hope is he'll be available by the time Villanova plays on Thanksgiving weekend for the loaded PK85 Invitational bracket. Whitmore is a smooth wing who projects as a lottery pick. If he goes one-and-done, he'll be Villanova's first freshman drafted since Tim Thomas in 1997.
CBS Sports Big East predicted order of finish
|Will this be Creighton's best team ever? The Bluejays are likely to have their highest preseason AP Top 25 ranking in school history. Two years ago, the Jays were 11th heading into the season, a school record. And yet, for all the offseason buzz about the Jays, a reminder that Creighton was not ranked once last season. That should change for the majority of '22-23. Kalkbrenner is the centerpiece, but point guard Ryan Nembhard (coming back from a broken wrist) will be a huge piece. Alongside him is Trey Alexander, a fun shooting guard. Arthur Kaluma will play the 4 and could be the most underrated guy in the Big East. Creighton also brings in a transfer star in Baylor Scheierman, who was the best player in the Summit League last season. The Jays certainly have the pieces. Will they make the jump from the No. 50 team in the nation to top-10 status? That's the mystery. |
|Villanova is homologous to Duke this season, just on a smaller scale. Hall of Fame coach leaves, opens up opportunity for unproven head coach in his 30s. What will this program look like under Neptune, and how differently will he choose to run it from how Wright did? Don't expect Villanova to come roaring out of the gates. The team is going through preseason pains and not healthy at the moment. It will not have its best starting five come the second week of November. Whitmore is recovering from thumb surgery and Justin Moore's Achilles injury might keep him off the floor until January. Although: a source told CBS Sports Moore is making very encouraging progress. A healthy Brandon Slater is key. Keeping Caleb Daniels (recovering from a broken nose) off the pine will also be huge. Eric Dixon is another familiar face who's back. Expect freshman Mark Armstrong to get minutes opportunities early. Villanova has a tough schedule and it will need time. But until someone takes it, this is still VU's conference. |
|Does UConn take advantage and reclaim the Big East? Dan Hurley enters Year Five in Storrs, Connecticut. He's had two one-and-done NCAA Tournament showings. Fan patience hasn't worn thin on him -- hardly -- but I'd advise winning a tournament game or two as quickly as possible. With the Big East in the midst of regime change, this is the window for UConn to re-prove it is a top-20 program. It doesn't have to be this season, but UConn reasserting its dominance in the Big East pecking order equates to having a 1 next to its name in the Big East Tournament in 2023 or 2024. Sanogo could have the most valuable season for a UConn center since Andre Drummond was on campus a decade ago. If Sanogo is Option A, Option B will be Andre Jackson, who just broke his finger and had surgery. When he comes back, the 6-6 junior will play point guard for the first time for UConn. Also expect sophomore Jordan Hawkins to pop. Give Hurley and his staff credit for this: the team lost a lot of production (R.J. Cole, Isaiah Whaley, Tyrese Martin, Jalen Gaffney, Akok Akok) and still shouldn't see much, if any, fall-off. No other school in the conference can claim the same this season. Question is if Tristen Newton (via ECU) can get it done in the backcourt. |
|The Musketeers not only bring back Jones, but also Zach Freemantle, Jack Nunge and Adam Kunkel. That's a good core four. The newbie to know is freshman Desmond Claude, who could strut in and be the second best freshman in the league to Whitmore and Villanova. Jerome Hunter is also back. Expect Xavier to play nine deep and to have a lot of different looks. Nunge is a load. Freemantle playing to his role will also be paramount. There's a lot of intrigue here and just as much potential. Keep in mind that Xavier fans will not be affording too much slack in Miller's return. The program and its fans have NCAA tourney aspirations right away; that's not something you can say for every power-conference coach in Year One. Remember, had X not lost to Butler in the Big East Tournament, it most likely would have earned a bid. Instead, it was the NIT and Travis Steele was unceremoniously fired. |
|The variance potential for Providence seems dramatic. So many good players from last season's regular-season champs are gone. The one who isn't is the aforementioned Bynum, whose volume will probably be so high he'll have a chance at All-Big East honors. Another lesser-known name back is Ed Croswell, who will work the paint and likely make a jump in production for Ed Cooley's team. Three transfers of note for the Friars, all of whom are TBD in terms of how much more they'll show on this roster than they did at their previous spots: Noah Locke via Louisville; Bryce Hopkins via Kentucky; Devin Carter via South Carolina. It's probably going to take some time for this team to find itself. Cooley's done some nice work with misfit rosters in the past. We'll wait and see if freshman point guard Jayden Pierre can crack into the starting rotation by Big East play. |
|The Pirates were regularly making NCAA Tournaments under Kevin Willard. He left for a bigger paycheck at Maryland, which brought about the rare situation in which a fan base loses its head coach to a bigger program but winds up happier with that coach's replacement. Holloway would have been welcomed with open arms even if he hadn't guided Saint Peter's to the Elite Eight. The fact he did only made the homecoming that much sweeter. He brought KC Ndefo over from Saint Peter's, then got another seven guys via the portal, so there's probably going to be bumps and bruises in his first season at the Hall. In fact, the starting lineup is probably going to be a rotating cast through the first few weeks as guys find their roles and Holloway molds his playbook around his personnel. Guys who are back and should probably be major factors include wing Kadary Richmond and center Tyrese Samuel. |
|The Johnnies could be a firecracker. With Alexander and Illinois transfer Andre Curbelo as the starting backcourt, St. John's has a chance to be as enjoyable -- if not unpredictable -- as any team in the conference. Curbelo simply has to be more efficient, though. He was hyped a year ago as a Big Ten First Team-level player. That didn't happen. A change of scenery and Mike Anderson's scheme could be just what the doctor ordered. Montez Mathis, a returnee, is going to be the quiet but crucial third guy in the backcourt for the Johnnies. Curbelo isn't the only transfer from Land of Lincoln: David Jones came over via DePaul and should start at the 4. St. John's hasn't played in the first round of the NCAA Tournament since 2015. Eight-year drought ending in 2023? |
|Shaka Smart was one of the few power-conference coaches to not utilize the portal for an infusion of talent this past offseason. You read right: Marquette did not add a single D-I player via transfer. That's an interesting play and something to remember when checking back in on MU around Christmastime. Maybe the gambit pays off. The overall talent is a question, and pretty much no one is placing Marquette in the top seven of the conference because of it. Doesn't mean MU won't be a factor; we have to see it to believe it. There's a good chance Tyler Kolek (6.7 ppg, 5.9 apg) breaks out, but if that's to happen the cast around him will need to all grow collectively. Kam Jones seems most likely, potentially jumping from scoring 7.4 points per night to more than doubling that. Two other players who will see a minutes increase are a pair of interchangeable forwards, David Joplin and Oso Igadharo. Coming off a 9-seed in the NCAAs, a 20-win campaign would amount to a huge season in Milwaukee. |
|Heading into November, it sure feels like it's NIT-at-best for BU in Year One under Matta. But it's Thad Matta. Butler finishing in the top five wouldn't be all that stunning, when you think about it that way. We'll see. Butler recently announced it will be without backup center Jalen Thomas, a transfer from Georgia State, for an undetermined amount of time due to a pulmonary embolism. Get well soon, young fella. Another transfer that could be a top-three newcomer in the conference is Manny Bates (NC State). Bates will play alongside two other good gets in the transfer portal: Ali Ali via Akron and Eric Hunter via Purdue. For as good as those players might be in '22-23, Butler's best player should be its top returning one: combo guard Chuck Harris. |
|No power-conference team has a longer NCAA Tournament drought than DePaul, which last danced in '04. The dry spell will probably last a full two decades, as Tony Stubblefield will look to get his team above .500 after an acceptable 15-16 first season in Chicago. Stubblefield will look to Oklahoma transfer Umoja Gibson and USF transfer Caleb Murphy to guide his backcourt. Aligning those two with returning point guard Jalen Terry will keep the Blue Demons adept in the backcourt. The rest of the roster has plenty of question marks. |
|Unfortunately, Patrick Ewing is 68-84 overall and 26-63 in the Big East in five seasons. This season will probably be his last if he can't avoid finishing in the bottom three. The player who could prevent such a fate is a familiar face: Qudus Wahab. The junior center has done the unprecedented. After making a name for himself at Georgetown as a freshman, he transferred to Maryland last season, only to double back to D.C. He's joined by former UConn shot-swatter Akok Akok in the frontcourt. Intriguing. Alas, Aminu Mohamed opted to pursue pro money after a year in Hoyas threads. Had he come back, Georgetown would have had a case to be seventh or eighth in the preseason poll. With such a drastic roster change – only five guys earned minutes for GU last season -- no squad has more to prove in the next five-plus months than this one.|
Big East's most overrated team
It's all relative here. Creighton was a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament and finished 50th in KenPom.com, 51st at BartTorvik.com. You'll see that some other preseason projections will have Creighton in the top 10. That's not illogical, but I find it a tougher sell in the context of the Big East and given how strong other potential top-10 schools look. It would be a shock if Creighton wasn't a top-three team in the Big East, but it's far from automatic that this group will breeze to the top seed in the Big East Tournament.
Big East's most underrated team
In more than two decades of being a head coach, Mike Anderson is yet to finish a season below .500. That trend will continue in '22-23. The Big East seems to have a clear-cut top four teams in Creighton, Nova, X and UConn. But I can't shake the feeling the conference will have some disarray on the ledger. I'll say St. John's peels off a couple of big upsets after the calendar flips to January and makes the NCAAs in March.