Thursday, November 5, 2009

Big East Conference Preview


For more on each of the Big East teams, click on each team name for in-depth previews I wrote for NBE Basketball Report, complete with quotes from the top players and coaches in the conference. 

The Big East had one of the best seasons a conference could have asked for last season, as up to nine teams were ranked in the polls last season. Two teams, Connecticut and Villanova, reached the Final Four, and another two made it to the Elite Eight in Pittsburgh and Louisville. Overall, 12 teams reached the postseason. This season will certainly not be the same. The conference will be down slightly, as there are only two teams with a legitimate shot at reaching Indianapolis, maybe three with Connecticut, but the rest of the league is a crapshoot. Several of the league's marquee programs of the past few seasons will be down, as Pittsburgh and Marquette lose a ton from last year, while Seton Hall and Cincinnati could be ready to take the next step forward. There is a lot of talent across the board in the league, but not as much as a season ago. With 16 teams, though, there will be a war on a nightly basis in the Big East. Expect another excellent season. 

Player of the Year: Luke Harangody, F, Notre Dame

Newcomer of the Year: Lance Stephenson, G, Cincinnati

All-Conference Team:
G- Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
F- Devin Ebanks, West Virginia 
F- Da'Sean Butler, West Virginia
F- Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
C- Greg Monroe, Georgetown

Second Team:
G- Dominique Jones, South Florida
G- Kemba Walker, Connecticut
G- Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati
F- Wesley Johnson, Syracuse
F- Lazar Hayward, Marquette

Third Team:
G- Corey Fisher, Villanova
G- Jerome Dyson, Connecticut
G- Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall
F- Stanley Robinson, Connecticut
F- Samardo Samuels, Louisville

Projected Order of Finish

1. Viilanova: Coming off of a Final Four appearance, the Wildcats are anxious to get back. Three frontcourt players are gone, but senior Scottie Reynolds leads a deep and talented perimeter group. Prediction: NCAA
2. West Virginia: Bob Huggins has this team on the cusp of greatness. Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks form one of the best forward tandems in the country, and JC transfer Casey Mitchell can shoot. Prediction: NCAA
3. Connecticut: Despite the loss of four starters, the Huskies have the talent to contend. Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson are a quick backcourt, and Stanley Robinson is looking ready for a breakout. Prediction: NCAA
4. Louisville: If the Cardinals can get consistent point guard play from Edgar Sosa, they have the pieces to be a threat. Big man Samardo Samuels should live up to the billing he came into school with last year. Prediction: NCAA
5. Syracuse: The Orange will need to replace three starters, but Iowa State transfer Wesley Johnson has a lot of hype, and Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson are a formidable inside duo for the Orange. Prediction: NCAA
6. Georgetown: One of last season's biggest disappointments, the Hoyas are anxious to avoid a repeat. Greg Monroe is a talented big man, and Chris Wright and Austin Freeman are a solid perimeter duo. Prediction: NCAA
7. Cincinnati: The arrival of Lance Stephenson could put this team over the top. The Bearcats already have one of the league's best tandems in guard Deonta Vaughn and big man Yancy Gates. Prediction: NCAA
8. Pittsburgh: No one loses more than the Panthers, but coach Jamie Dixon always has this team in the mix. Several freshmen will have to step up, as will returnees who were role players a year ago. Prediction: NIT
9. Notre Dame: The loss of transfer Scott Martin to injury will hurt, but Luke Harangody is back, and Tory Jackson is an all-around stud at the point. Transfer Ben Hansbrough brings shooting to the wing. Prediction: NIT
10. Seton Hall: The Pirates have some of the best offensive talent in the conference, and if it all comes together, look out. Jeremy Hazell and Robert Mitchell can score, and transfers Keon Lawrence and Herb Pope will be key. Prediction: NIT
11. St. John's: The Red Storm suffered through an injury-riddled season a year ago, but they might be able to take a step forward this season. This is a big year for coach Norm Roberts' future. Prediction: CBI/CIT
12. Marquette: The perimeter trio of Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews were enormously important, but now they are all gone. Lazar Hayward leads a group that has more newcomers than returnees. Prediction: No Postseason
13. South Florida: The Bulls could finally have the talent necessary to compete every night. Dominique Jones is a big-time scorer, and JC transfer Jarrid Famous will make an immediate impact. Prediction: No Postseason
14. Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights need to start taking strides forward. Guard Mike Rosario is one of the best scorers in the Big East, and Greg Echenique is a double-double threat down low. Prediction: No Postseason
15. Providence: The Friars have only three returnees who saw significant time last season, but a deep recruiting class will bring an influx of talent. PC will struggle immensely with size. Prediction: No Postseason
16. DePaul: The Blue Demons were winless last season, and don't figure to be much better this year. Mac Koshwal and Will Walker form a solid inside-outside duo, but there's not much else. Prediction: No Postseason

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