- Matt Cox
Note: Predicted conference standings may not line up exactly with our Top 40 rankings; this is because Top 40 were ranked via consensus voting, while individual conference ranks are up to the specific writer.
*Teams in Tier 2 are effectively interchangeable, specifically 2-6. I see anyone of these squads vying for second place and all have the chops to potentially challenge Nova for the top spot. For context, all of the teams ranked 2-8 are currently within 2-3 points of each other in my preseason power ratings - if Creighton played Georgetown on a neutral, I’d likely have Creighton favored by 2.5 points.
Player of the Year: Markus Howard, Sr., Marquette
Coach of the Year: Travis Steele, Xavier
Newcomer of the Year: Luwane Pipkins, R Sr., Providence
Freshman of the Year: Bryan Antoine, Fr., Villanova
See full preview here: #11 in our Top 40 countdown
See full preview here: #19 in our Top 40 countdown
See full preview here: #15 in our Top 40 countdown
4. Seton Hall
See full preview here: #18 in our Top 40 countdown
See full preview here: #32 in our Top 40 countdown
See full preview here: #31 in our Top 40 countdown
Key Returners: Kamar Baldwin, Sean McDermott, Jordan Tucker, Aaron Thompson, Henry Baddley
Key Losses: Paul Jorgensen, Nate Fowler, Joey Brunk
Key Newcomers: Khalif Battle, Derrik Smits, Bryce Nze
Outlook: You can try to dress it up all you want, but there’s no way to dance around the hard-hitting truth: Last season was a setback for LaVall Jordan in his quest to restore ‘the Butler Way’ back to the glory days of Brad Stevens. The Bulldogs’ slide down the Big East totem pole was confounding. They finished in a 3-way tie for last with DePaul and Providence at 7-11, despite returning the vast majority of minutes from the 2017-18 squad – for context, Butler ranked 22nd in kenpom.com’s ‘Minutes Continuity’ metric, a measure for how similar your roster looks to the year prior. Going from a 9-9 league record to 7-11 the very next season does not warrant sounding the alarms, but the advanced metrics indicate the drop in performance was far more pronounced.
In hindsight, we clearly underestimated the collective value of Kelan Martin and Tyler Wideman, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. In our 2018-19 Big East preview, my colleague Jim sliced and diced the advanced on / off numbers for Butler’s guard lineup combinations. In that breakdown, the data at hooplens.com revealed that when Aaron Thompson, Kamar Baldwin and Paul Jorgensen played together in 2017 – which was the primary perimeter lineup last season – the Bulldogs suffocated their opponents to the tune of a 0.94 points per possession. So, with the same perimeter trio back in the fold last year, how did Butler’s defensive efficiency plummet from a top-50 unit in 2018 to 123rd nationally last season?
Jordan gave sharpshooter Sean McDermott a big bump in minutes, who isn’t going to terrify anyone defensively, but the real soft spot appeared to be inside. The hope is that Valpo grad transfer Derrik Smits will shore up those interior holes this season, who finally broke out his shell last year in the Missouri Valley. Smits made the MVC’s most improved team by posting 12 PPG and 6 RPG averages in just 22 minutes a game, a drastic improvement over his forgettable numbers the year before. The Crusaders had a unique dynamic last season, effectively platooning two 7-footers with Smits and Jaume Sorolla. Compared to Sorolla, Smits stuck out as the more polished and skilled offensive player, while Sorolla made his pay as an elite rim protector defensively. That’s not to say Smits isn’t a stout defender himself – his block rate and two-way rebounding rates both grade out as above average to excellent – but it’s important to note that he’s more of an offensive minded big man. Jordan will need to mold Smits’ mindset to get him to buy all the way into being a force defensively, which starts with teaching Smits how to defend without fouling.
Milwaukee transfer Bryce Nze could be just what the doctor ordered for a fairly thin frontcourt, who appears to embody the physicality and toughness that so many of his Butler forward predecessors built their reputations on. Nze simply has a nose for the basketball and gets his paws on just about every missed shot on both sides of the ball - he hauled in 10 plus rebounds on 9 different occasions during the 2017-18 campaign for Milwaukee, flirted with averaging a double-double and shattered three different school rebounding records. Nze’s a bit undersized at 6’7, so I’d expect him to play primarily at the 4, but he could probably hold his own at the 5 for some brief stretches, if needed.
Switching gears to offense, the scoring gash left by Martin’s absence was supposed to be patched up by Kamar Baldwin, who seem to be everyone’s sexy pick for the 2018-19 Big East breakout star. Yet, Baldwin looked uncomfortable as the 1st banana offensively and both his counting stats and efficiency stats effectively plateaued. Once he was put under the microscope as the clear marked man in every opposing scouting report, some of his flaws were quickly exposed. He just doesn’t seem to have that shake or shiftiness as a dribbler that guys like Shamorie Ponds or Markus Howard possess, an innate skill that’s hard to teach and develop. He’s not a deadly threat from long range and his pull-up game is good, not great, and he often forces the ball too deep in hopes of finding enough daylight to get off a quick floater or draw contact for a trip to the charity stripe.
The fact that he shot 85% from the free throw line last year could be an indicator that his midrange and 3-point shooting precision are set to improve. The other reason to be optimistic about a Baldwin bounce back is that he should be completely and fully healthy after he reportedly dealt with some lingering pain all season. While I’ve seen nothing definitive on this matter, a report from the IndyStar this summer cited a quote from LaVall Jordan, who said Baldwin declined to play in the Pan American games so he could ‘feel completely like himself again’ this summer. Reading between the lines of the full interview with Jordan (see quote below) hints that there was clearly some foot pain hampering Baldwin last season:
“He does a really good job of taking care of his body. He’s got good awareness of how he feels. But he’s a tough kid, and he’s played through some things, which he did a lot last year. Nobody had any idea, which is what you love about Kamar. Obviously, he had a heavy load on him. He’s got some mileage, the minutes he was playing. I don’t know if you’re ever 100 percent when you’re into the season.”
I’m torn on whether or not to classify that as an excuse or a valid explanation, in regard to Baldwin’s inability to make the leap many anticipated. For Butler to stay in the upper half of the Big East standings this year, Baldwin HAS to play well, especially with how reliant the offense is on shot-creation through pick-n-roll action, most of which leans on Baldwin as the primary catalyst.
Baldwin could use some more help from Jordan Tucker, the former Duke transfer who was wildly inconsistent throughout Big East action after becoming eligible at 2nd semester. When it was all said and done, Tucker’s season long numbers were actually quite solid, particularly his shooting percentages (37% from 3, 83% from the charity stripe), but his ‘Jekyll-and-Hyde’ game-to-game impact threw a wrench in Butler’s offensive rhythm. For Baldwin and the rest of the supporting cast to properly settle into their roles, Tucker can’t be a wildcard on a nightly basis. He doesn’t need to set the world on fire as a scorer, but he needs to knock down open shots, defend his position and continue to eat on the glass.
The other difference maker could be top-100 freshman Khalif Battle, a high-flying 6’5 guard who should infuse an offensive spark to the backcourt. Battle’s versatile enough to bring the ball up and initiate the offense if Jordan wants to shift Baldwin off the ball, but his DNA embodies that of a score-first 2-guard.
Bottom Line: There seems to be a lot of bearish outlooks on Butler floating around on social media, but I see no reason why the Bulldogs won’t be in the thick of the Big East standings come next March. Part of me is worried that I’m foolishly betting on the lightbulb flickering on in Baldwin’s head, but I can’t help but think that nagging foot injury had a compounding effect on his mobility and lateral quickness, as well as his internal psyche. Smits won’t be a world-beater, but he’s still a net upgrade defensively over both Fowler and Brunk in the middle, an area that badly needed attention this offseason. Tucker is the X-factor and a full summer of practice after finally getting some live game reps to get acclimated with the college speed of the game bode well for a leap in 2019-20. Put it all together, and this feels like a team that can push for an at-large berth, but it will be tough to climb the Big East leaderboard with so much depth from top to bottom.
Key Returners: James Akinjo, Mac McClung, Josh LeBlanc, JaMorko Pickett, Jagan Mosely, Jahvon Blair
Key Losses: Jessie Govan, Trey Mourning, Kaleb Johnson, Greg Malinowski
Key Newcomers: Omer Yurtseven (NC State), Terrell Allen (UCF), Galen Alexander (JUCO)
Outlook: There’s no such thing as ‘big man bias’ at Georgetown. You’d think a guy like Patrick Ewing, one of the all-time great centers in the history of basketball, would skew his coaching tendencies towards his own area of expertise. Yet, despite having a 6’10, 260-pound mammoth in Jessie Govan at his disposal last year, Ewing brushed aside any urges to install a post-up centric, or ‘big man friendly’, style of basketball. Rather, Ewing stayed true to his big picture, long-term vision for Georgetown hoops, one that emulates the modern age NBA game of ‘pace and space’.
Ewing was wary of ‘over-shocking’ the system upon his arrival back in 2017, as the Hoyas slowly sped up the tempo offensively in his first year at the helm. Turns out that 2017-18 campaign was simply a transitionary trial period. Last year, Ewing laid into the accelerator with no restraint, a far cry from the traditionally deliberate and structured teams seen during the John Thompson III era. The Hoyas played at the 15th fastest tempo in the country, per kenpom.com, paced by two freshmen speed burners in James Akinjo and Mac McClung.
Ewing’s unabashed confidence in his two mini speed demons became abundantly clear early on last season. Bear in mind that this was supposed to be unequivocally Govan’s team, the Hoyas’ top returning scorer and rebounder. While Govan remained a key cog in the offense, it was Akinjo and McClung who were the offensive rudders, particularly out in transition where their Mach-5 speed flourished. This dynamic duo quickly became appointment television, as their yo-yo handles and knack for high-level shot-making was simply a joy to watch.
With the freshmen year honeymoon period now over, it’s time to clean up many of those first-year flaws Akinjo and McClung got a pass for last season. There’s no better place to start than shot-selection, an area where Ewing and his staff could take a page out of the analytic stat heads’ gospel. The following two metrics are indicative of the Hoyas’ over reliance on mid-range jump shots last season:
Per dribblehandoff.com’s ‘Shot Quality’ metric, Georgetown ranked 260th nationally
Per Haslametric.com’s ‘Mid-Range Shot Attempt Percentage’ metric (‘%MRA’), Georgetown ranked 34th nationally
Akinjo was the primary culprit in this department. He took 40% of his shots in the mid-range area and converted an abysmal 33% on those attempts, per hoop-math.com. Just compare that to the fact that he shot 39% from downtown, a clear indicator that his shot-allocation needs to evolve. While improved strength should boost his efficiency as a finisher inside the arc this season, Akinjo is still limited by a 6’0 frame that will always make it challenging to score over size.
McClung has a 2-inch height edge over his backcourt mate – not to mention otherworldly hops – which allow him to score more consistently inside, but his long-range jumper was broke all year long. McClung was never touted as a lights out shooter coming out of high school, but Georgetown can’t afford another year of 28% shooting from McClung behind the stripe, especially at such a high volume.
The third and final member of this sizzling sophomore class is Josh LeBlanc, who’s already asserted himself as a defensive swiss-army knife with his size and athleticism on the wing. LeBlanc played wise beyond his years last season, exhibiting a refreshing awareness of his both role and skillset limitations offensively. Many NBA draft experts feel LeBlanc has just scratched the surface of his offensive potential, but he’s already proven to be an elite finisher at the rim.
Jamorko Pickett, Ewing’s first big recruit at Georgetown, brings a similar ‘3 and D’ value to the mix, but he never quite made the splash many thought he would as a sophomore last year. This paved the way for veteran combo guard Jagan Mosely to sneak into the starting lineup late in the season, who injected more perimeter speed to the top-5. Pickett and Mosely will likely platoon at the 3 again this year, but UCF grad transfer Terrell Allen will be vying for playing time as well. The real takeaway is that Ewing has some serious matchup flexibility - he can go bigger with Pickett or downshift to a smaller lineup with Mosely or Allen.
What’s especially captivating is how Ewing plans to integrate and optimize NC State transfer Omer Yurtseven, a former highly sought-after Turkish prospect and hyper-skilled big man. As aforementioned, Ewing showed a propensity to favor spacing and shooting last season, which begs the question how Yurtseven fits into this equation. Ewing said on Jon Rothstein’s podcast this summer that Govan, relative to Yurtseven, is more of a perimeter-oriented big, hinting that Yurtseven will be utilized as a more traditional post-up threat.
While I partially agree with that comparison, I’d argue that Govan expanded his game out of necessity to fit in with Ewing’s preferred style of play last year. Govan attempted 114 triples last season, a drastic uptick from the 46 he hoisted the year prior. This tells me Yurtseven is in for a big spike in his 3-point attempt rate, and this should be a seamless transition with a silky-smooth shooting stroke already in place (he converted 22 of 44 from downtown back in 2017-18). Ultimately, Yurtseven’s role won’t be all that different from the one he played at NC State, and he should be well-conditioned to play in a run-and-gun style of offense after doing so for a whole season under Kevin Keatts.
Bottom Line: At the end of the day, I’m quite bullish on the Hoyas’ offense. Akinjo, McClung and LeBlanc are destined to improve and Yurtseven-for-Govan is close to a 1-for-1 swap in my eyes. If Georgetown can lock in defensively, the Hoyas could shatter these tepid preseason expectations. Some felt Govan left a lot to be desired on this side of the ball, so perhaps Yurtseven will be a net upgrade in this regard. Yurtseven’s a solid rebounder and established rim protector and has deceptively nimble feet for a 7-footer. With LeBlanc on the cusp of blossoming into an All-Conference caliber defender with his non-stop motor and NBA-caliber measurables, I fear we have the Hoyas vastly underrated slotted in the lower half of our Big East standing projections.
Key Returners: Paul Reed, Jalen Coleman-Lands, Devin Gage, Jaylen Butz
Key Losses: Max Strus, Eli Cain, Femi Olujobi
Key Newcomers: Romeo Weems, Charlie Moore, Markese Jacobs
Outlook: Ahhh, good ‘ol DePaul, the Weave’s [unofficial] hometown team, thanks to its Lincoln Park campus proximity to our humble abodes in Chicago. While I have no allegiance to DePaul in any way (my brother attended law school there, but that has no bearing on my rooting interest), I genuinely just want the Demons to be NCAA tournament relevant. Yet, despite Dave Leitao’s admirable attempt to invigorate the program, the Demons annually cross the Big East finish line in last place.
If you don’t mind, I’d like to put all jokey jokes aside regarding Leitao’s 4-game suspension and multiple ‘failed attempts to cheat’ and get right to the 2019-20 analysis. As it stands today, there’s two conflicting trains of thought tussling in my brain on DePaul’s outlook this season:
On one hand, the talent pool is overflowing with top-flight prospects and stacks right up there with Villanova, Xavier and the other top Big East contenders. Leitao welcomes the conference’s 3rd ranked recruiting class to Chicago, headlined by Romeo Weems and Markese Jacobs, who *should* join forces with 2016 Illinois Mr. Basketball Charlie Moore (pending NCAA clearance) to form a newcomer class oozing with talent. Bear in mind that Jalen Coleman-Lands is still in the mix, another former top-100 recruit who was sidelined with a broken hand for most of the 2018-19 campaign, and burgeoning star Paul Reed returns after getting the attention of many NBA scouts last season (some mock projections slot him as a fringe 2nd round pick in the 2020 draft).
Yet, despite all the shiny bells and whistles the 2020 roster has to offer, it’s hard to ignore the departures of Max Strus, Eli Cain and Femi Olujobi. As cited by The Anonymous Eagle, Marquette’s SB Nation affiliate site, that senior triumvirate accounted for 59% of DePaul’s scoring last year, along with 39% of total rebounding, and 46% of all assists.
Here’s something that might surprise you: DePaul held claim to the Big East’s 3rd most efficient offense last year, despite Strus being the lone true shooting threat. When Strus wasn’t scorching the nets from distance, DePaul resorted to bully ball inside where Reed and Olujobi did their damage. Few teams in the league had two true bigs capable of defending both Reed and Olujobi on the low-block, so the Demons were able to exploit mismatches up front. Synergy’s possession categorization tool confirms that “Off Screen” and “Post Up” were DePaul’s most reliable sources of offense, which fell squarely on the shoulders of Strus, Reed and Olujobi.
Strus and Olujobi are now gone, along with the versatile Eli Cain, so Reed likely becomes the first option offensively. How the offensive pecking order sorts itself out behind Reed is a mystery, but Leitao’s got plenty of toys to tinker with. Weems and Jacobs will bring a much-needed jolt of excitement to DePaul hoops this year. If everything breaks right, Weems could take home Big East freshman of the year honors if Leitao cuts him loose. He can quite literally do everything on the floor, a hyper-versatile wing at 6’7 that can drive, pass, shoot, rebound and defend multiple positions. His high school per game averages are absolutely ludicrous: 27.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.2 steals, 3.8 assists, and 2.6 blocks (Weems once posted a quadruple double with 10 STEALS AND 10 BLOCKS (!!!!) in a game).
Darious Hall is a sneaky solid addition from Arkansas, a long, rangy wing who fits the mold of a ‘3 and D’ archetype. He shot 41% from distance in 2018, but it’s hard to put too much stock in just 32 attempts, especially when you factor in the 56% free throw conversion rate.
Since Billy Garrett graduated in 2017, Leitao has experimented with a few different options to fill the void at point. He tried shifting Eli Cain over to point two years ago and was forced to stick to that adjustment when Devin Gage went down with an injury last season. Toward the end of the year, Leitao called upon Lyrik Shreiner and Cameron Flynn to kick-start the offense, both of whom had brief moments throughout the postseason CBI run. Gage is by far the most dynamic of the three options, in terms of being able to break his down man 1-v-1 off the dribble, but he’s a poor finisher against length and doesn’t command any respect as a jump shooter. Unless Gage elevates his offensive game substantially this offseason – and until we receive word on Charlie Moore’s eligibility status – I’d expect Leitao to utilize a point guard by committee next year, interchanging the aforementioned three options as the primary ball handler. The real scoring threats lie on the wing and down low, so this trio just needs to act as ‘game managers’: keep the ball moving, don’t turn it over and defend their position consistently.
However, this is where Jacobs, who’s earned the nickname ‘the Show’ because of his full-length feature films of highlight reel dunks, could shift the Blue Demons’ offense into overdrive. While he’s prone to playing too fast for his own good sometimes, Jacobs could be lethal as a fast-break initiator if Leitao decides to take the restrictor plates off. As quick as Gage is, Jacobs has a whole other gear with the ball in his hands. It will be interesting to see how quickly Jacobs is integrated into the primary rotation and how Leitao apportions the point guard minutes between Jacobs, Gage, Flynn and Shreiner.
Bottom Line: DePaul fans, please don’t hate me. As someone who’s been a card carrying member of the Ray Meyer fitness center for 6-years now, I legitimately want the Blue Demons to be good. But, when I see people on Twitter confidently predicting DePaul to finish in the middle of the pack of the Big East standings, I have to step in and squash said nonsense…
At the end of the day, this is still DePaul. Leitao has had pockets of talent in prior years, but the Demons have consistently failed to climb out of the conference gutter. While a 7-11 record looks like a promising step in the right direction, the analytics indicate DePaul didn’t truly improve much from the 2017-18 season. Last year was a chance to make a move against a watered down Big East field, but that window seems to have slammed shut this summer with seemingly every team not named St. John’s back on the come up.
10. St. John’s
Key Returners: Mustapha Heron, LJ Figueroa
Key Losses: Shamorie Ponds, Justin Simon
Key Newcomers: David Caraher, Ian Steere, Nick Rutherford, Damien Sears, Jonathan McGriff, Julian Champagnie
Outlook: On Christmas eve last season, the St. John’s basketball program stock ticker had a big fat green upward pointing arrow next to it. The Johnnies were 12-0, boasting victories over Rutgers, Georgia Tech and VCU with Big East action looming right around the corner…
Then, all of a sudden, the wheels came off one by one. Luckily, Chris Mullin and the boys were able to tread water during Big East play and managed to limp into the tournament as one of the Last-4 at large selections, earning them a trip to Dayton to take on Arizona State. The video tape of that game can be found in your local library titled “Basketball for Dummies – A Primer of How NOT to Play Basketball”.
Ailing limbs played a big part in the Johnnies second half demise, as Shamore Ponds played through a lingering wrist injury while Musthapa Heron lumbered through knee tendinitis AND a sore achilles tendon. That’s where I begin this preview because after the offseason circus left new head honcho Mike Anderson with a rag tag collection of unpredictable newcomers and unproven returnees, Heron’s durability could be the determining factor in the Johnnies’ 2019-20 destiny. He missed three of the final 11 contests last year and was a shell of himself during the final two games of the season when he became a borderline liability.
If Heron can stay healthy, he and LJ Figueroa will form a potent two-pronged scoring attack. Both are versatile bucket getters and tough covers with their size, speed, strength and high skill level. Figueroa is the crown jewel of the Red Storm’s collection of multi-positional hybrids, which I’m officially branding the ‘St. John’s Red Wings’. In addition to Heron and Figueroa, 6’7 Damien Sears, 6’6 David Caraher, 6’5 Marcellus Earlington, 6’7 Julian Champagnie will all be gunning for meaningful minutes and if Anderson stays true to last year’s identity, the Johnnies could trot out multiple variations of truly position-less lineups.
Of the aforementioned crop of wings, Sears and Caraher are the two I have my eyes on – Sears was highly productive at his prior JUCO stop, and might be the best pound-for-pound rebounder on the roster, which makes him playable at the 4 and even 5 in small doses. Caraher was equally as productive at Houston Baptist back in 2017-18 and appears to be cut from the same cloth as Figueroa. He can shoot it from range and has the size and strength to keep more traditional bigs off the glass, a critical characteristic since he too could see some run at the 4 and 5.
While the roster is littered with wings, Anderson is starving for proven point guard play. Behind Heron and Figs, the 3rd highest scorer of the returning incumbents is Greg Williams, a former 4-star recruit who poured in a whopping 2 points a game last year. Sarcasm aside, Williams could be the Johnnies biggest surprise this year and it remains a mystery why Mullin didn’t give him more run last season. NBA draft expert Jonathany Givony noted what a tenacious defender Williams was when he scouted the Johnnies last fall, and Anderson was quick to mention him as a key cog during an interview with Jon Rothstein in early June.
For Williams to make a name for himself this year, he’ll have to prove he can run the point, a position that remains up in the air at this juncture. Anderson could roll the dice with 5’9 freshman jitterbug Jonathan McGriff, who looks like a mirror image of Miami’s Chris Lykes. While height and build similarities between the two are obvious, McGriff’s displays that same ‘slipperiness’ with the ball as Lykes and plays with the same flash and pizzazz. McGriff also carries a reputation as a pesky defender, but his lack of size could make him prone to mismatch exploitation.
Another option at point is Monmouth transfer Nick Rutherford, a rangy guard with sticky hands defensively. Rutherford led the entire MAAC with a 5.1% steal rate last year, but he gave it right back to the other team more often than not. With a 3-year track record of failing to value the basketball, and with no evidence of an improvement coming in his outside jumper, Rutherford’s impact is likely limited to a defensive specialist and offensive ball mover. Last, but certainly not least, is Rasheem Dunn, a late addition to the 2019-20 roster who sat out last season at Cleveland State. Before leaving the East Coast, Dunn was a gamebreaking guard in the NEC for St. Francis NY, where he drew some Kemba Walker comparisons. If his eligibility is cleared by the NCAA, he’s probably the odds on favorite to slide into the starting lineup in place of McGriff or Rutherford.
There doesn’t appear to be much to work with in terms of physical bodies down low, but I’m less concerned with depth at the quasi-5, given Anderson will likely run back Mullins’ interchangeable lineup rotation approach. Josh Roberts, a bouncy 3-star prospect could be in line to start, but expect his minutes to be capped by foul trouble, which severely dampened the impact he made last season. He notched one spot start against DePaul toward the end of the year and fouled out in just 21 minutes of action. NC State transfer Ian Steere figures to be a safer, more reliable plug at the 5, so I’d put my money on him to etch his name into the starting lineup.
Bottom Line: Upon further review, I’m far more optimistic on the Johnnies’ outlook after putting all of the newcomers under the microscope one by one, all of whom seem to jive with the style Anderson is looking to implement. Typically, a coaching change results in a seismic shift in style, but like his predecessor Mullin, Anderson wants to run, run and run some more. Anderson explicitly stated this offseason that he intends to mix up defenses (citing both man and zone looks), but regardless of structure, you can bet the Jonnies will be waiting to pounce on lazy passes and careless ball handling and turn steals into easy offense going the other way.
Even in light of my cautious optimism, the Johnnies will have a hard time beating out any of the 9 teams we have slotted ahead of them in our current projections. The league is simply too deep for Anderson to make any real waves in year 1, but I expect ‘the Red Wings’ to notch a couple of big wins at home, which can be used as building blocks heading into year 2 and beyond.