The very best teams have flaws and the very worst teams have even one positive attribute, no matter how small. It's a matter of identifying, right now, what the glitches and features are. We'll be doing that with every major conference as part of our season previews. Here, we're going to pull the curtain back on the Big East and give you some quick indications on where all of these teams have room to improve and reason to boast.
So why wait any longer. Here are the strengths and weaknesses for every Big East squad heading into the start of the season.
Strength: Coaching. I could rattle off 10 things here, but I do think Jay Wright has the right temperament for this group. Nova is going to don a target all year, and you know Wright will keep the ship steady. There will probably be a surprising loss or two, but I still think this team will get to March as a top-five odds-on favorite. Too much talent and experience on the bench not to keep Nova among the sport's best (barring injury) as we start the march to March.
Weakness: Offensive rebounding. It's the one thing Villanova did not do with any reliability last season, and now Daniel Ochefu's gone. Darryl Reynolds will not be the presence Ochefu was, either, so I'd anticipate Nova being lethal in execution, making and taking the right shots.
Strength: Options. Unpredictable positive production from a rotating cast member every game. They've got five guys who can step up and be the stud on any night -- Edmond Sumner, Trevon Bluiett, J.P. Macura, Myles Davis and incoming transfer RaShid Gaston. In a lot of ways, this year' Xavier team will remind you of last year's Nova team.
Weakness: In search of a true point guard. Chris Mack's team will have ballhandlers and playmakers, but Davis, Sumner and Quentin Goodin are all just a tad shy of being true 1s. I really can't find much else to be glaring about this roster. Sumner might become a star this season. There's a whole lot to like in Cincinnati.
Strength: Making free throws. The Hoyas made 75 percent of their freebies last year, a clip any coach in the country would sign up for. That's likely to continue, as most of Georgetown's roster is back this season.
Weakness: Giving up free throws. You want to put your opponents on the line as little as possible, obviously. For every two field goals attempted last season, Georgetown had teams shoot one foul shot. That's a miserable ratio (49.3 percent), third-worst in the country. (I've also mentioned Georgetown's turnover issues in our X-factors piece.)
Strength: Not turning the ball over. Butler was ranked seventh in the country last year when it came to holding on to the ball. If you could give coaches a magic wand and say their teams could always -- or never -- do one thing, outside of the obvious choice of never missing a shot or getting every single rebound, the answer would be never turning the ball over. Turnovers are wasted possessions usually, and it winds up costing teams anywhere from 10-30 points in a game. When you've got a group that is responsible, it just makes the game so much easier.
Weakness: Where's the bench production? Chris Holtmann got by last season by using his bench just a quarter of the available minutes. That's not a lot. The norm for college hoops teams is around 33 percent. I'm seeing Butler having a thin roster yet again. That will present problems, as Butler is Butler, so it will be physical. Smart, but physical. I'm expecting the Bulldogs to encounter issues with sitting Kelan Martin and Tyler Wideman late in first halves due to foul trouble.
Strength: Two top-40 players. Mo Watson, Jr. and Marcus Foster provide Greg McDermott with a terrific 1-2 attack in the backcourt. Creighton's going to have an offense that comes close to matching the efficiency of Doug McDermott's senior season. Watson's a better all-around player than Foster, but Foster will be a threat to take over games. Don't forget how good he was at K-State.
Weakness: Offensive rebounding. No Big East team was worse than Creighton last season when it came to crashing the offensive glass. And the Bluejays will need to find ways to get better at it, because 7-footer Geoffrey Groselle has graduated. This could absolutely wind up being the drawback that prevents Creighton from being a week-to-week top-25 team.
Strength: Avoiding shot-blocking. It's the only category (other than 2-point percentage) in which DePaul ranked in the top 100 nationally last season. The Blue Demons had their shots swatted 8.2 percent of the time, which is an impressive number given how much of a doormat the team was for most of the season.
Weakness: Lack of interior/rebounding. The Blue Demons were dominated almost every game of league play last season by teams who had more want-to on the glass. DePaul has a lot to work on, but so many coaches believe a winning foundation is built on fearlessness and hunger for your own second-chance opportunities, and limiting opponents' chances for follow-ups by hounding the glass. DePaul absolutely has to make big strides with this in 2016-17.
Strength: Stealing the ball. The Golden Eagles did it more frequently and efficiently than any team in the conference last year. The three players best at it -- Duane Wilson, JaJuan Johnson, Traci Carter -- are all back.
Weakness: Youth. MU ranked 344th out of 351 teams in terms of minutes played at the college level heading into last season. They're older now, but still don't have enough seniors -- old, hardened veterans -- to push them to the top four in the conference.
Strength: Coaching. Ed Cooley still doesn't get the respect he deserves. Providence will have a different -- but still fun -- kind of offense this season, and Cooley's X-and-O approach will be good enough to win the Friars at least two games it "shouldn't." Some might forget it now, but while Kris Dunn was a five-star prospect when he got to Providence, he had a lot of injury issues and plenty of stay-under-control issues. Dunn still was good for one what-are-you-doing turnover per game last season, but Cooley helped him really mature his game. And then you see what Ben Bentil did in turning himself into not only an NBA pick in a matter of months, but also holding the mantle of most improved player in college basketball last season.
Weakness: Lack of athleticism. Providence will not have the DNA to compete on a night-in, night-out basis that a lot of teams will. There's some talent here (Kyron Cartwright should be able to handle the offense, and Rodney Bullock could be a top-five scorer in the league), but team depth is a major concern. You combo that with Providence not having a really strong (I'm speaking literally here) roster, and you can understand why this team is projected in the bottom half of the league.
Strength: Overall defense. By the end of the season, the Hall was a top-10 teams in defensive efficiency. The good news: This team isn't going to lose that identity over the course of a summer. The slightly less good news: I'm willing to bet this isn't a top-20 team on defense this season. But on the whole, I like the makeup of Willard's team on that side of the floor. Desi Rodriguez is going to hound.
Weakness: No alpha dog with the ball. Until proven otherwise, I have to assume Isaiah Whitehead's departure will have a void-like effect to start Seton Hall's season. Khadeen Carrington will take the lead guard role, but he doesn't have the pure force that Whitehead brought. I think this will be a challenge for SHU into league play.
Strength: Swatting shots. As a program, St. John's has been the best shot-blocking club in the Big East for most of the past five years. With Kassoum Yakwe and Yankuba Sima back in the mix, they'll be at the top or No. 2 yet again. If SJU can turn blocked shots into turnovers 75 percent of the time, then things change in a big way, because this team should be able to run often.
Weakness: There's many, but let's focus on what's fixable -- foul shooting. St. John's 63.6 free-throw shooting percentage was the worst in the league last season. Getting that average up to 70 will inevitably put St. John's in closer games more often. You do that, you can get more breaks, and from there, fall into a win or two.