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May 12, 2013

Predicting the Big East race

This is the second installment of a series of stories looking at how Creighton will enter the Big East Conference. It's early for predictions but it's May. That's what May is good for.

The Creighton Bluejays will open the 2013-14 season in a brand new world, as for the first time in program history, the Jays will be in a conference of like-minded universities dedicated to success on the basketball court.

This could have been a case of 'be careful what you wish for' if Doug McDermott has decided to go pro but since he turned down millions to hoop one more year in Omaha, the expectations for next season are high.

Creighton loses two starters but returns enough talent to be considered a contender for the conference crown next season. The Jays will get ready for their most difficult regular-season run in school history with a tough non-conference schedule that includes trips to either coast.

It's May, so this could change 10 times before the start of next season obviously but why not see where the Jays will measure up against their new conference competitors for 2013-14.

1. Marquette (29-6, NCAA Elite 8)

The return of Davante Gardner will make up for the loss of two starters off last year's Big East Championship squad. Head Coach Buzz Williams also has help on the way in the form of Rivals Top 100 guards JaJuan Johnson, Duane Wilson, and small forward Deonte Burton. Former Creighton recruit John Dawson will have a tough time seeing playing time in his first year in Milwaukee with this talented squad but the Golden Eagles should be the odds-on favorite to win the league.

2. Villanova (20-14, NCAA 2nd round)

The Wildcats were extremely young and inconsistent last season. 'Nova beat national champion Louisville in the regular season but lost to Columbia as well. Jay Wright returns players like JayVaughn Pinkston, Ryan Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard and will be adding talent like Top 100 recruit Kris Jenkins. If the 'Cats mature, watch out. This could be a special team next year.

3. Creighton (28-8, NCAA 3rd round)

Without Doug McDermott, there is no way that Creighton can logically be selected this high in their first year of major conference college basketball. However, with the 2-time All-American back for his senior year and with talents like Ethan Wragge, Jahenns Manigat, Austin Chatman around him, the Bluejay offense should be amongst the nation's best once again. Five new faces, including two talented JUCO's, will help to replace the loss of two starters from last year's MVC Championship squad. The losses to UNC and Duke in back-to-back tournaments has the Bluejays looking for a deep run in March this time around. Worth noting - Creighton is the only Big East school without a recruit on Rivals' Top 150 list for 2013.

4. Bulter (27-9, NCAA 3rd round)

In the Bulldogs only season in the A-10, BU put up an impressive 11-5 record. In the non-conference, Butler beat Marquette and North Carolina in Maui and No. 1 seed Gonzaga at home. Brad Stevens will have to replace seniors Rotnei Clarke and Andrew Smith but Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham both return. Butler will also add Top 150 recruit Elijah Brown.

5. Georgetown (25-7, NCAA 2nd round)

Lob City got started against the Hoyas in Philly in March as 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast bounced Georgetown from the NCAAs and became the talk of the country in the process. The Hoyas have a lot talent returning but they must find a way to replace Otto Porter Jr. That won't be easy but Top 100 recruit forward Reggie Cameron will help immediately.

6. Xavier (17-14)

The new Big East seems to be top heavy with Xavier being a question as to which side of the league they will fall on next year. Chris Mack's squad lost in the A-10 Tournament by 1 to St. Joe's ending their season but the Musketeers are young and talented. Led by returning leading scorer, sophomore Semaj Christon, XU will join the Big East with something to prove. Top 150 recruit Brandon Randolph will be a player to watch.

7. Providence (19-15, NIT Quarterfinals)

This might be too low for the Friars because this is a talented team returning everyone except one senior. Top scorer at nearly 20 points per game Bryce Cotton is back for head coach Ed Cooley and PC will add Top 50 recruit forward Brandon Austin to the roster.

8. St. John's (17-16, NIT 2nd round)

The Big East Tournament will be hosted in Madison Square Garden but Creighton will get their first taste of the MSG stage when they play the Red Storm on the road next year. SJU has an up-and-down year but hope that a strong returning class mixed with Top 20 recruit Rysheed Jordan will lead to a surprising return to the NCAA Tournament.

9. Seton Hall (15-18)

Is there any school as happy at Seton Hall to get away from the old members of the Big East? The Pirates won just three games last year in conference. Unfortanately, I don't see SHU having much a first-year in the new Big East either although Top 150 recruit Jaren Sina should help put some butts in seats next year.

10. Depaul (11-21)

Can Top 100 recruit Billy Garrett and 4 other new recruits help Depaul win more than 2 conference games this year? Fans sure hope so because last year was awful for the Blue Demons.

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