This season I will be writing a weekly college basketball column entitled: Big East Bias which will cover everything I deem important in the world of Big East basketball. I sincerely hope that those of you who frequent the b/r college basketball pages enjoy this column and I welcome any comments you have.
I spent this offseason patiently waiting on the sidelines for something tangible to pop off about. This week, I got my opportunity when the Big East Conference held their annual basketball media day. After months of preseason “polls” and lame predictions from various outlets, we finally have something relatively solid that we can poke at; so let’s get right to it.
The coaches have voted. Connecticut is the favorite! With nine first place votes, UConn sits at the top of the Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
Preseason Coaches' Poll
1 ) Connecticut 2) Louisville 3) Pitt 4) Notre Dame 5) Villanova 6) Marquette 7)Georgetown 8) Syracuse 9) West Virginia 10) Providence 11) Cincinnati 12) Rutgers 13) Seton Hall 14) St. John's 15) DePaul 16) South Florida
When you look at last year’s results and take into consideration the players and coaches who have been added and subtracted for this coming year, I tend to agree with the basic makeup of this poll.
The bottom half probably has some sleepers, but we’ll get to that later. It is very difficult to argue with the middle of the lineup. Teams 7-10 have so many wildcards; you really could rearrange them any way you like. The teams that occupy the Top Four are exactly right. The only real issue up top is the arrangement.
Connecticut does not deserve top billing!
Other than a nice run in the middle of the season, UConn stumbled down the stretch, finishing fourth in the Big East. They followed up the regular season with wildly disappointing Big East and NCAA tournament appearances.
And this offseason has been anything but productive for UConn Basketball. Stanley Robison is in academic purgatory, freshman Ater Majok has not been cleared to play, rock star recruit Nate Miles has been jettisoned to JUCO, and A.J. Price is recovering from ACL surgery. Do I even need to mention the transfers?
There has been way too much recent turmoil for this team to be ranked at the top! For those who argue that UConn should be the poll leader, based solely on the return of last year’s solid nucleus, don’t buy into it.
If not Uconn, which team deserves the incredibly meaningless title of Big East Preseason Number One? Check it.
Big East Bias’ Alternative Poll.
1) Louisville 2) Pittsburgh 3) Connecticut 4) Notre Dame 5) Villanova 6) Marquette 7) Georgetown 8) Syracuse 9) West Virginia 10) Providence 11) Rutgers 12) Cincinnati 13) Seton Hall 14) DePaul 15) St. John’s 16) South Florida.
Louisville should be ranked No 1. Featuring a lineup loaded with talented juniors and seniors, it is hard to ignore the potential of the Cardinals’ program. Earl Clark has lottery pick written all over him (or maybe those are tattoos??), and Samardo Samuels looks like he could be the nation’s best freshman big man.
When you combine these two studs with the experience of Jerry Smith, Andre McGee, and Terrence Williams, you get a truly lethal combination. If this group can learn to play without fear of being relegated to Pitino’s doghouse, sit back and enjoy.
Sleepers Who Could Win the Conference
Again, the Top Four is really solid. No other conference in America can match up with the Big East’s big boys (and for that matter, the conference’s lesser teams too). There are very few Big East fans who would be surprised to see any of the Top Four finish with the title. However, if you look a little further down the rankings, there are few teams that are sleepers to win the conference…and they are:
Georgetown is the biggest mystery in the conference at this point. This team could finish anywhere between one and 10! They lost Hibbert and Wallace, but those two all-time great Hoyas are being replaced by faster and more polished prospects, Monroe and Wright. This Hoya squad will be more athletic than ever. The only question is, how quickly will the newcomers grasp the Princeton offense?
Syracuse has its mojo back! If Devendorf and Rautins can regain the form they showed a couple of years ago, they could win the conference. Rautins certainly seems like the type of player who may actually benefit from observing the game for a year…we’ll see about Devendorf. Potentially, Flynn + Devendorf + Rautins = the best backcourt in the conference (sorry Marquette).
Villanova (out of all the potential sleepers in this conference) is the one team outside the Top Four with the best chance to win the conference. Nova is one of the few teams with youth and experience at every position. They return all of their starters from last year’s Sweet 16 run and they are led by scoring machine Scottie Reynolds.
On his good nights (which he will have a lot more of this year), Reynolds can carry his team. However, the key to Villanova’s chances this year will be the development of the two Coreys (Fisher and Stokes). Both players showed us last year that they can be great. If together they blossom into the players they were hyped to be coming out of high school, Nova could be your Conference Champs.
Sleepers Who Could Do Well In the Conference
Providence fans should finally be excited about this team after years of disappointment. Unfortunately the Big East is far too loaded for the Friars to have any logical hope for contention, but they have so much going for them.
This team is healthy and experienced and they now have a coach they can rally behind. Keno Davis brings an exciting new system to P.C. and there is no reason why this veteran team wouldn’t buy into his philosophy. Perhaps Providence can make a run at the big dance. Keno tends to have a fair amount of success in taking over a program.
Rutgers has done its job on the recruiting trail, now it’s time to perform. This team may still be a year away from making any meaningful noise in the conference, but Fred Hill must show some promise in his third year!
Mike Rosario is talented enough to star in any backcourt. Greg Echenique arriving a year early is a gift from the basketball gods. So, if Corey Chandler can share the ball with the rest of the talent, it could be a breakout year.
See ya next week.