2023 Big East Preview

(Photo Courtesy of Georgetown Athletics)

The Georgetown Hoyas have asserted themselves as the dominant program in the conference over the past half decade, winning each of the past four Big East titles. That includes going a combined 14-1 against conference opponents each of the past two seasons.

Denver and Villanova have served as the perennial second and third best teams in the league during Georgetown’s assent and reign of dominance. These two will each be looking to overthrow the Hoyas and move up in the Big East pecking order this spring.

Fact is, practically pencil in a Denver-Georgetown or Georgetown-Villanova Big East title game meeting at this point.

Top Storylines

How Deep Can Georgetown Go?

With the likes of Graham Bundy, Jr., (45G/25A) and TJ Haley (11G/30A) back on offense, plus the addition of Nicky Solomon, Brian Minicus, Jacob Kelly, and Tucker Dordevic on that end, there is no question as to how talented the Hoyas’ offense will be. The same is true on defense where Will Bowen (42GB/34CT) returns and Daniel Hincks comes in as a goalie grad transfer to help fill the hole there. James Reilly (234-for-387, 60%) is also back at the faceoff dot.

There is no question as to who is the most talented roster in the Big East coming into the season. And that is especially true of its top six on both ends. However, after the Hoyas first-round exit last season, exactly how deep this Georgetown team can go will certainly be a question surrounding the program coming into the 2023 season.

If Georgetown wants to not only make it back to the NCAA Tournament but get back to the Quarterfinals and push for its first Championship Weekend appearance since 1999, Kevin Warne’s squad will have to have the ability to run out more bodies at each position than they have in the past, and certainly more than it did at times last season. Depth is the biggest mark with this program at the moment.

Does Denver Return to Form?

2022 was a down year for the Denver Pioneers. Bill Tierney’s squad failed to make the NCAA Tournament for just the second time during his reign out west and fell to Villanova in the Big East semifinals. Especially with the legendary head coach announcing he will retire after the 2023 season, is this the year the Pioneers get back on track?

Denver returns JJ Sillstrop as the leader of the Pioneers’ offense after a 48-point 2022 campaign. Add Richie Connell (14G/4A) and Michael Lampert (7G/9A) into the mix, and Denver has a very solid core on that end. The same is true across the board with this squad as Alec Stathakis (225-for-399, 56%) is back at the faceoff dot and Jack Thompson (150 saves, 52%) in cage. The Pioneers also return a plethora of veteran poles in Jack DiBendetto (16GB/11CT), Adam Hangland (14GB/8CT), Malik Sparrow (28GB/19CT), and AJ Mercurio (19GB/12CT).

As usual, there will be plenty of talent gracing Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium this spring. Whether or not that talent can put it all together and bring the Pioneers back to its usual form is yet to be seen.

How Dangerous Will The Villanova Offense Be?

Last season, Villanova featured an exciting offense that was heavily impacted by graduate transfers with  Luke Keating, Brett Baskin, and JP Basile combining for 152 points and 87 goals. That unit, overall, averaged 13.27 goals per game as the 27th-scoring offense in college lacrosse.

From that unit, the Wildcats return a pair of fifth-years in Matt Campbell (45G/22A) and Patrick Daly (33G/6A), for whom this offense will be built around. Midfielders Tucker Goodelle (10G/1A) and Austin Fraser (4G/5A), who is a fifth-year player, are also back as big time returning role players who should step up even more.

Villanova beat Denver to get over that semifinals hump last season and gave Georgetown a fight in the second half of the conference title game. If the Wildcats want to take another step forward here in 2023 and potentially get back to the NCAAs, filling those holes to rebuild what was a dangerous offense is a must.

Top Units

Offense: Georgetown

The Georgetown Hoyas ended last season with the highest scoring offense in the Big East and the fifth-best scoring offense in DI, averaging 15.06 goals per game. And while the departures of Dylan Watson, Alex Trippi, and Connor Morin contribute to the loss of 154 points (115 goals), this unit still looks to be the best in Big East in 2023.

Midfielder Graham Bundy, Jr., (45G/25A) and attackman TJ Haley (11G/30A) are the top two offensive returners for this squad, along with midfielder Declan McDermott (29G/8A). The trio started all 17 games for the Hoyas last season and are some of the most experienced players on that end of the field.

In addition to those returnees, the Hoyas added Nicky Solomon, Jacob Kelly, Brian Minicus, and Tucker Dordevic as grad transfers from North Carolina, Colgate, and Syracuse to help bolster this offense and fill the holes in which they do have. The Hoyas will have a plethora of dangerous options to rely on within its offense in 2023.

Defense: Georgetown

From a defense that allowed 8 goals per game as the No. 1 scoring offense in college lacrosse, Georgetown loses its starting goalie in Owen McElrory, defenseman Gibson Smith, LSM Alex Mazzone, and SSDM Zach Geddes. It’s a lot of talent gone, but with how good the Hoyas have been on the back end, it is hard to see them falling off too much. And that is especially true with who they have back.

Reigning Schmeisser Award winner Will Bowen (42GB/34CT) is the headliner of this defense and the top returner, by far, on that end for the Hoyas. Poles such as Wallace Halpert (33GB/20CT) and Will Tominovich (15GB/10CT), both of whom saw time at LSM in 2022, and close defenseman James Donaldson (15GB/7CT) also return with a good amount of experience. Will Godine (48GB/9CT) is the Hoyas’ top returning SSDM, which is the area they most need to find depth on the back end.

In addition to those guys up front, the Hoyas have two very solid options in between the pipes to fill that hole at the goalie position. Dartmouth grad transfer was a three-year starter in Hanover and made 168 saves with a 52% save percentage last season. Michael Schrafenberger was a more than capable backup as a freshman in 2022, starting in three games and making 30 saves with a 54% save percentage during those contest.

Top Players

Offensive Player of The Year: Graham Bundy, Jr., M, Georgetown

Defensive Player of The Year: Will Bowen, D, Georgetown

Specialist of The Year: James Reilly, FO, Georgetown

Projected Final Standings

1. Georgetown

2. Denver

3. Villanova

4. Marquette

5. Providence

6. St. John’s

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