Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

While it’s common for sophomores to radically lift their games, coach Chris Mack says that point guard Edmond Sumner—an All–Big East freshman selection—has elevated his court awareness to a galaxy far, far away. “He could always get in the lane, but sometimes it was a bad decision,” Mack says. “Like, Wow, what a bad, off-balance shot; did you see the guy in the corner? He’s come light-years in terms of finding guys.”

Sumner, who is springy and unusually quick for his 6' 6", 186-pound frame, will have plenty of talent to look for on the wings. He and junior Trevon Bluiett are one of the Big East’s most formidable duos thanks in large part to Bluiett’s crafty scoring ability and quick-release, deadeye shooting (39.8% from three last season, tops among Big East returnees with 100-plus attempts). And junior guard J.P. Macura is another quality shooter (35.6% from three) who is primed for a breakout: He was named the conference’s Sixth Man of the Year and earned the Musketeers’ highest efficiency rating (122.9, per Kenpom.com).

That perimeter strength will be crucial as Xavier reshapes its front line. Senior transfer RaShid Gaston, who averaged 9.6 rebounds at Norfolk State in 2014–15, is the only Muskies forward who has played more than 10.4 minutes per game in college. “There’s gonna be a lot on their shoulders,” Mack says of his trio of guards. “They’re more than capable.”

College Basketball
Big East preview: Villanova appears poised to repeat

X-Factor: Malcolm Bernard

If Myles Davis remains indefinitely suspended, stat-sheet-stuffing grad transfer Malcolm Bernard, who led Florida A&M in points (14.4 per game) and rebounds (7.1) last season, will ably pick up the slack.

Coach’s Take: Chris Mack

“I think rebounding translates. I think it translates from high school to college and college to NBA. I think if a guy knows how to rebound, he’s always gonna know how to rebound. He can carve space at one level, he’s gotta get a little bit stronger, but that’s a thing that Rashid [Gaston] really brings to the table. He’s a proven double-digit rebounder at the college level, albeit maybe not on our level, but in Division I college games. We’re gonna miss that from James [Farr] and Jalen [Reynolds]. It’s nice to know we have an experienced, rugged interior player who can get it done on that level.”

Projected Top Seven Scorers

Name Pos. Class PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Trevon Bluiett Jr SF 16.9 6.4 2.5 121.6 22% 85%
Edmond Sumner So PG 12.4 4.4 3.9 109.8 23% 75%
J.P. Macura Jr SG 12.0 3.8 2.3 123.8 19% 73%
RaShid Gaston Sr PF 9.9 6.8 0.7 111.5 21% 55%
Myles Davis Sr SG/PG 9.8 3.0 3.1 119.8 19% 39%
Malcolm Bernard Sr SG 7.0 3.6 2.3 97.7 21% 50%
Kaiser Gates So SF/PF 5.6 4.1 0.5 108.8 16% 46%

Projected Big East Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Villanova 14–4 16–2
2 Xavier 12–6 14–4
3 Creighton 10–8 9–9
4 Butler 10–8 10–8
5 Seton Hall 10–8 12–6
6 Georgetown 10–8 7–11
7 Marquette 9–9 8–10
8 Providence 7–11 10–8
9 St. John's 5–13 1–17
10 DePaul 3–15 3–15

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

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