Projecting win totals for every Big East team: Xavier will be on Nova's heels
Bank on mid-20 wins for each and very possibly a deep March run
We're trying some fun new things with our preview content this year, and I think this is the type of thing you'll enjoy. We're getting specific, putting our words and reputations on the line and giving your our projections for win totals for every team in the major conferences.
How are we going about this? It's pretty simple. We're taking into account projected strength of schedule, examining conference strength and imbalance (which isn't an issue in the round-robin Big East and Big Ten), plus looking at rosters and talent. One team could be better than another, but a tougher schedule will warrant us listing the worse team with more wins.
It's going to be fun. And I'm pretty much promising you these forecasts are guaranteed to be correct some of the time all of the time!
Let's look at what we can expect in the Big East. If you average out the win totals I have below, the "average" Big East team will finish its regular season with 18.6 wins this season. Important to remember: This is only for the regular season. I am not taking into account any postseason play.
Nova is the best team in the conference. You know the personnel. Let's look at the schedule. In terms of league play, Nova's gone 16-2 three straight seasons. Let's just knock that down to 15 wins for 2016-17. That means we need to get to 10 wins out of league. OK, so here's where those wins will come: Lafayette, Western Michigan, UTEP, Wake Forest, Charleston, at Penn, La Salle, Saint Joe's, Temple and American. That leaves room for a loss against Notre Dame and a loss against Virginia, which will be a home game for Nova. Twenty-five wins, at least -- bank on it.
The X men should be better than last season, when they were a 2 seed. But Chris Mack was ambitious with his non-conference scheduling (Northern Iowa, Baylor, Colorado, Utah, Cincinnati), so I think the Muskies get nipped a few times prior to January. It would genuinely shock me if Xavier doesn't finish in the top two in the league. Given its strength of schedule and the projected stature of the Big East, a 4-seed is the absolute floor for this group.
This will be a good regular season for Creighton, but when you hear about what a huge turnaround it could be, remember that Greg McDermott's team did finish with 20 wins last season. Still, it will be a big jump. The Paradise Jam field (Washington State, NC State, Montana, Oral Roberts, Saint Joe's, Ole Miss and Loyola) offers up some interesting challenges, but none of those teams register as better than Creighton right now. The non-conference isn't that tough. Creighton will probably win at least one of its two road tilts at Nebraska and Arizona State.
If you were gambling on all the teams listed here, Georgetown is the one more than any other I'd tell you to stay away from. The Hoyas have been volatile in terms of projection for much of the past five seasons. They've had good players, but there hasn't been any type of consistency, and some recruits haven't lived up to expectations. This season, Isaac Copeland and Jessie Govan should be pivotal. The schedule is interesting, because Georgetown is going to Maui. Oregon, Wisconsin, UConn, UNC ... it's a loaded field. G'town also has a home game against Maryland, and is at Syracuse ... and then plenty of manageable opportunities.
The Bulldogs have some interesting talent and a player I love in Kelan Martin, but the schedule is not simple. I think BU -- which won 22 games a season ago against the 50th-toughest schedule -- has a rougher go of it in part because of road games against Utah and Indiana State, plus a neutral-court matchup against Indiana and testy challenges against Vanderbilt and Cincinnati.
The Golden Eagles finished last season with 19 wins. How about this: I actually think MU will be better this season, but I also think the Big East will be tougher on the whole, and you have to consider MU's non-con games against Michigan, Wisconsin, Vandy, at Georgia. Eighteen victories (pre Big East tourney) should be something MU fans sign up for now.
I'm lower on Seton Hall than a lot of people. Isaiah Whitehead is gone, but almost every other player of importance returns. However, I watched firsthand in March when Whitehead vaulted that team in a style that was vintage Big East. Very Gerry McNamara-esque. I think he means a lot to the group, and I think the Hall will hit some bumps in a respectable non-conference schedule. Credit Kevin Willard for aligning himself with something that isn't too easy. The team will be better for having so many tough games (at Iowa, Florida, possible game against Gonzaga, Cal, South Carolina).
Providence is expected to take the biggest drop of any Big East program. While it's a virtual certainty that the Friars will be worse without Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil, I don't think Ed Cooley's team is going to plunge to the basement of the Big East. I'd set the over/under of league wins at 8.5, and the non-conference schedule will probably rank in the 100s by the time we get to January.
If Dave Leitao can manage 13 wins, it will be the most the program has had in a decade. Truly remarkable. But Billy Garrett Jr. is one of the 10 best players in this league, and the Blue Demons' schedule is absolutely manageable in the non-conference. I'd put DePaul's over/under for Big East league wins at 3.5, but in November and December it will be going up against a lot of programs projected to finish in the bottom half of their respective leagues.
The Johnnies will probably have the freshman of the year in Shamorie Ponds, but I don't see how this team is suddenly able to score and be efficient in a matter of months after having far and away the worst offense in the league last season. It's going to take time. St. John's won one league game last year. I think it will triple that.
UMBC! Loyola! Upsets everywhere! What just happened? March just happened.
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