The Big East Is Still The Cream Of The Crop, at Least For Now...
The Big East has traditionally taken a backseat to the ACC over the last 10 years.
Not anymore: The Big East is by far the deepest conference.
This past season, the Big East provided one of the most entertaining postseason tournaments in recent memory; including an epic six-overtime game.
That game featured two Hall of Fame coaches; Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun. It also showcased two NBA Draft Lottery picks; Hasheem Thabeet and Johnny Flynn, who combined for 53 points.
The Big East also provided the nation with a plethora of conference teams to watch in the 2009 NCAA Tournament. Seven clubs represented the conference; UConn, Villanova, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Marquette, Louisville, and Syracuse. The much more heralded ACC, in comparison, sent only six schools to the "Big Dance".
Of the seven teams the Big East sent to the tournament, five of them made the Sweet 16, and four made the Elite 8. Also, Uconn and Villanova reached the Final Four, although both were wiped out in their semifinal games and missed the title game.
However, enough with living in the past. The 2009-2010 is upon us and the Big East has reloaded after losing premeire talent to graduation and the NBA Draft.
While it's unlikely the Big East will again field seven teams in the upcoming NCAA Tournament this coming spring, they just might. Five Big East teams are likely to be included in the preaseason Top 25 if Syracuse can obtain a buddy pass from reluctant voters.
Following is a look at some of the premier teams in the league:
Uconn - Fresh off their appearance in the Final Four, they will have to replace Thabeet and A.J. Price, but retain Stanley Robinson and Jerome Dyson. Calhoun will have Gavin Edwards and Kembe Walker to toy with as the season progresses. Look for the Huskies to be around the top of the conference once again.
Villanova - They will sport the nation's top backcourt with Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Scottie Reynolds and Reggie Redding returning from a Final Four appearance. Jay Wright should be Final Four-ready if they take pride in defense each game. Duke transfer and sharp-shooter Taylor King will also play this season.
West Virginia - The Mountaineers will be Elite 8-bound with Da'Sean Butler playing alongside a talented Devin Ebanks. Both players should be Big East Player of the Year contenders along the way. They shouldn't lose in the first round at the hands of a school like Dayton again anytime soon.
Notre Dame - Big East Player of the Year frontrunner Luke Harangody may miss the NCAA Tourney again with their losses. They missed last year with a loaded team. Marquette lost Wesley Matthews, Jerel McNeal, and Dominic James...enough said about their chances.
No DeJuan Blair, Levance Fields, Sam Young and Tyrell Biggs? Nope.
Pittsburgh will have to tango with only one starter from a year ago, Jermaine Dixon. Dixon broke his foot over the summer so I'll put them and Marquette in the same sinking ship.
You can say what you want but Syracuse losing to D-II Le Moyne isn't a game you just forget about. The Orange have too much talent to have letdowns at home. If coach Boeheim fails to motivate his team early on, look for a game versus Columbia to be catastrophic. Flynn , Devendorf and Harris are no longer their to save the Orange.
Louisville is the only team that looks to be a mystery. They lose Terrence Williams and Earl Clark but Pitino will have Edgar Sosa, Terrence Jennings and stud Samardo Samuels as they attempt to stay afloat in the Big East in the 09-10 campaign.
The Hoyas of Georgetown are poised for a breakout season after a catastrophe last year. They went 16-15 and lost their opening conference tourney game against St. John's, followed up by a loss in the NIT to Baylor. The Hoyas should make strides and John Thompson III will grasp his the Big East.
As for the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC...just step your game up.
The Big East will battle the ACC for national supremacy for years to come.
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