BIG EAST SUMMER UPDATES!! PART 3!! BUTLER-DePaul-ST JOHNS!!
Andy Mac Williams,
The Butler Bulldogs missed the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since 2015 and that's not the Butler Way. Third year coach LaVall Jordan wants a tougher better rebounding and defending team after going just 2-10 away from Hinkle Fieldhouse last season-losing 7 of 10 games decided by 6 points or fewer and fizzling late dropping 6 of its last 7(only win was over Xavier at Hinkle 71-66 on 3-5 w/ Naji Marshall hobbling on a sprained ankle). Butler lost streaky sniper guard Paul Jorgenson and Moeller HS product BIG Nate Fowler to graduation and BIG Joey Brunk transferred to Indiana so lack of size became problem#1. Jordan has plugged the PF hole w/ RS Junior Bryce Nze who followed Jordan to BU from Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is 6-7, 235. Butler also signed 7 footer Derrik Smits (Grad transfer from Valpo) whose dad Rik (the Dunking Dutchman) is the NBA Indiana Pacers' #2 All Time scorer. XU recruited Derrik as did Brad Stevens before he left for Boston. Smits (12PPG-6 REBS) may be an instant starter. He played at Zionsville HS.
Duke transfer Jordan Tucker(6-7) had his moments after becoming eligible in December. He's a smooth wing who needs to up his defense and rebounding.
Depth is strong on the wing. 6-6 5th year shooter Seam McDermott would have player for BE All Stars at Pan Am Games but he got injured(43% 3 point sniper). Tweeners Henry Baddley and Christian David have had their moments. Jordan can play a BIG line-up w/ both Smits and Nze or go light cavalry moving Tucker to the "4".
It's Point Guard 1 and 1A w/ Kamar Baldwin and Aaron Thompson. Baldwin is All BIG EAST caliber(17PPG) super quick but maybe better off the ball. Thompson struggles w/ the 3 point shot, but does everything else well. Guard depth is a problem. 6-4 New Jersey Frosh Khalif Battle will play a lot(brother Tyus starred at Syracuse). Battle is a Top 100 recruit. Color Butler improved and an NCAA possibility(make that 8 BE teams w/ a plausible NCAA chance) if Smits and Nze pan out and Tucker plays more on an all-court game.
The Blue Demons showed progress last season cracking the .500 mark(19-17) for the 1st time since 2006 and losing in the CBI Finals to South Florida. DU also beat Xavier at Cintas 74-62 at Cintas on Feb. 9th marking a Muskie low water mark(6th straight loss) and motivating XU to an 8-3 finish. Coach Dave Leitao starts his 5th season in Chicago (actually his 8th since he had a first stint from 2003-2005) without top scorer Max Strus, 4 year starter Eli Cain and solid BIG Femi Olujabi. Large holes to fill!
DU has other problems starting w/ 3 years NCAA probation for recruiting violations. Leitao survived, but is suspended for the first 3 games. St Louis transfer Cart'Are Gordon redshirted last season-went on DePaul's Eupopean trip and now is transferring again w/o playing for the Demons. He was going to be a solution up front(6-9 230 and nasty). PG Charlie Moore is enrolled and looking for an NCAA waiver to play this season. He put up nice numbers at Cal then transferred to Kansas and struggled. Now he's home(Morgan Park HS in Chicago) and he dropped 28 points in a DePaul exhibition game vs a Dutch All Star group?
If Moore can play,DU will be decent. Devin Gage is a tough PG lacking in 3 point shooting. Moore could play off the ball? Jalen Coleman-Lands is a 6-4 Illinois transfer who missed almost all of DU's season w/ a broken hand. He's had surgery and can knock down 3's. BIGS: 6-9 Paul Reed won BE most improved player last season(12PPG-led BE w/ 8.5 REBS). He could be an NBA guy! 6-9 Jalen Butz fouls a lot, but he is a tiger on the glass.
6-7 Arkansas transfer Darius Hall is available. 6-7 Top 100 Frosh Romeo Weems was Michigan Mr. Basketball(as was Brad Redford when he beat out Draymond Green-now Golden State Warriors-in 2008).DePaul just added 6-10 Frosh Nick Ongenda from Arkansas beating out Western Kentucky and noted talent scout coach Rick Stansbury. DePaul has the new arena and some momentum and one of the BIG EAST's best players in Paul Reed. The rest of their parts are sort of a moving target. 9th place looks about right for the Demons.
NYC and the BIG EAST office and those East Coast TV types all wanted the Johnnies to make an impact under Chris Mullin. He did take the Red Storm to last season's First Four in Dayton where they were blown out by Arizona State, but overall Mullin's stay in Queens was underwhelming. He resigned?? and now veteran Mike Anderson takes over. He's 59 w/ a strong resume'(34 years in coaching-17 as an Arkansas assistant under Nolan Richardson-then 17 as a head coach at UAB-Missouri and the last 8 seasons at Arkansas). Anderson has never been under.500 for a season. There's a first time for everything He got off to a late start after a long hiring saga, but Anderson is adding bodies.
He needs to! St Johns lost a ton. Shamorie Ponds went NBA(20PPG) as did Justin Simon(BE Defensive POY). Forward Marvin Clark graduated. Two of Mullin's Iron 5 starters are back. Shooting guard Mustapha Heron(Auburn transfer-15PPG) and Forward L.J. Figueroa(14.4PPG-highest scoring first year BE player as a JUCO transfer). Heron and Figueroa played against each other in the Pan Am Games(Heron for BE All Stars and Figueroa for Puerto Rico).
Almost all of the roster is new except for Heron and Figueroa and two young subs now Sophomores 6-9 Josh Roberts and 6-3 Greg Williams. Both showed promise, but Mullin seldom played them behind his Iron 5. The major sub Bryan Trimble and Sede Keita have departed. Anderson had no PGS so he landed grad transfer Nick Rutherford from Monmouth. He also started two seasons at Florida Atlantic. His back-up is a 5-9 frosh. 6-6 David Caraher is a transfer from Houston Baptist(16PPG). 6-9 Ian Steere played 1 game at NC State. 6-2 Rasheen Dunn is hoping for an NCAA waiver transferring in from Cleveland State. Anderson has some parts, but in an improved higher octane BIG EAST, the Johnnies look like a 10th place team.