Friday, November 5, 2010

Big East Conference Preview


The Big East was expected to drop down a few notches last season after being a dominant conference two years ago. However, it was yet another impressive season for the league, producing five top-20 (or so) teams, as well as several other NCAA Tournament clubs. There was also an excellent race for first-place, as Syracuse needed to knock off Villanova two Saturdays ago to take control of the conference. Three teams – West Virginia, Villanova and Pittsburgh – tied for second, with Marquette and Louisville following behind them. Georgetown and Notre Dame went 10-8, with Seton Hall and South Florida going 9-9. Eight teams were invited to the NCAA Tournament, although only four advanced past the first round – and only two past the first weekend. Syracuse was bounced in the Sweet 16, but West Virginia made it all the way to the Final Four. This season, it will be a down year in the conference – but people said that last year too.

  • 1. Pittsburgh: This could be the year that the Panthers break through and reach the Final Four. Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker are superb in the backcourt, but the keys will be Dante Taylor and Talib Zanna down low.
  • 2. Villanova: The Wildcats have to replace Scottie Reynolds, but that shouldn’t be much of a problem with sophomores Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek. Corey Fisher is set to be the go-to-guy for ‘Nova.
  • 3. Syracuse: The Orange won’t be as good as last season due to the departures of Wesley Johnson, Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku. With that said, Kris Joseph is ready to explode and the frosh are solid.
  • 4. Georgetown: Replacing Greg Monroe will be difficult, but the perimeter trio of Chris Wright, Jason Clark and Austin Freeman is among the best in the country. Someone has to step up in the paint, though.
  • 5. West Virginia: The forward tandem of Devin Ebanks and Da’Sean Butler is gone, although the vastly underrated Kevin Jones is back. Who will provide scoring on the perimeter for the Mountaineers?
  • 6. Marquette: Never underestimate the Golden Eagles. Jimmy Butler is one of the more effective players in the league, and Darius Johnson-Odom can shoot. Vander Blue and Junior Cadougan are solid point guards.
  • 7. Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish played well without Luke Harangody last season, but now have to play without Gody and Tory Jackson. Tim Abromaitis is very good, but Eric Atkins has to run the point as a freshman.
  • 8. Seton Hall: The Pirates are one of those teams that elicit a different opinion from everyone. Jeremy Hazell is a gunner, Jeff Robinson is tough and Herb Pope is a double-double guy. This could be a Big East sleeper.
  • 9. Connecticut: The Huskies simply have too many losses to be an upper-division team. This is undoubtedly Kemba Walker’s team, but who else will step up? Alex Oriakhi has to be the main man down low.
  • 10. St. John’s: The Red Storm have plenty of hype because of new coach Steve Lavin and next year’s recruits, but this year’s group of seniors will be a disappointment if they don’t go out with an NCAA Tournament berth.
  • 11. Louisville: Freshman Gorgui Dieng being cleared was huge, but the Cardinals still have the look of an NIT team. Preston Knowles and Peyton Siva are solid in the backcourt, but Terrence Jennings needs to live up to his potential.
  • 12. South Florida: Despite the loss of do-it-all guard Dominique Jones, the Bulls have the frontcourt talent to compete. Augustus Gilchris and Jarrid Famous are potential double-double guys; the backcourt needs to produce.
  • 13. Cincinnati: The Bearcats never quite clicked as a team last season, and now Deonta Vaughn and Lance Stephenson are gone. Big man Yancy Gates is solid in the frontcourt, but someone needs to step up at guard.
  • 14. Providence: The Friars had a tumultuous offseason filled with various departures and losses, but they still have talent. Marshon Brooks can fill it up from the perimeter, and Vincent Council is an underrated point guard.
  • 15. DePaul: Oliver Purnell seemed like a strange choice for this job, but his pressing style will create havoc for opponents. Guards Mike Stovall and Jeremiah Kelly, and forward Devin Hill will lead the way.
  • 16. Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights have plenty of reinforcements coming in next season, but they will struggle this year. Dane Miller is ready to take on a bigger role, while Jonathan Mitchell is another solid forward.

Player of the Year: Austin Freeman, G/F, Georgetown

Newcomer of the Year: Dion Waiters, G, Syracuse

All-Conference Team:

  • G- Kemba Walker, Connecticut
  • G- Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh
  • G/F- Austin Freeman, Georgetown
  • F- Kris Joseph, Syracuse
  • F- Kevin Jones, West Virginia

Second Team:

  • G- Corey Fisher, Villanova
  • G- Chris Wright, Georgetown
  • G- Brad Wanamaker, Pittsburgh
  • G/F- Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame
  • F- Jimmy Butler, Marquette

Third Team:

  • G- Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall
  • G- Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette
  • F- D.J. Kennedy, St. John’s
  • F/C- Herb Pope, Seton Hall
  • F/C- Augustus Gilchrist, South Florida

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