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Herb Pope averaged a double-double two years ago before battling injury last year.
Last year, in his first year as Pirates coach, Kevin Willard put together a disappointing 13-18 record and a 12th place finish in the Big East. This year Willard faces even more challenges, because even though he does return three starters, his two leading scores are among the six players leaving the program. Willard brought in a six man recruiting class, but there are some questions there as well.
The Pirates best player will be senior big man Herb Pope, a player talented to average a double-double as a sophomore (11.5 points, 10.7 rebounds) before seeing his output decrease last year due to playing through injuries (9.8 points, 7.9 boards).
A healthy Pope can easily challenge for the Big East Player of the Year, as his sophomore numbers were held down by playing with some high-volume shooters. The other starting big man will likely be sophomore Patrick Auda, a big man whose game is based on the perimeter. Auda averaged 3.2 points and 2.5 boards per game a year ago while hitting 41-percent of his three-point attempts.
If freshman Kevin Johnson gets cleared academically (his status is still up in the air), he could challenge Auda for a starting spot as he's more of a true post player. Otherwise the depth will be Aaron Geramipoor, a 6'11" sophomore that showed very little last year, and Brandon Mobley, a lightly recruited freshman that needs to add bulk but may be able to contribute some rebounds. Southern Illinois transfer Gene Teague will be eligible next season.
The backcourt will be lead by senior point guard Jordan Theodore, the leader of the team. Theodore averaged 11.0 points, 4.4 assists, and 3.1 rebounds per game last year and will be asked to improve upon those numbers this year.
Freshman Aaron Cosby, the team's highest ranked recruit, is the early favorite to start at the shooting guard position and provide some of the offense that the Pirates lost from last season. On the wing will be Fuquan Edwin, who showed some promise as a freshman when he averaged 7.9 points and 3.3 rebounds. The top reserve will likely be freshman Haralds Karlis, a 6'5" European import capable of playing all three positions in the backcourt.
The rest of the depth will be made up of freshmen in Freddie Wilson, the team's second-best option at point guard, and Sean Grennan, a point guard brought in for his ability to shoot it from deep. Next year the Pirates will be getting a big boost when former Georgia Tech starter, Brian Oliver, is eligible after transferring.
The Pirates could improve upon their 2010 season if Pope returns to his sophomore form and a couple of other players can emerge around him and Theodore. Playing fellow bottom half of the league teams DePaul and Rutgers twice apiece won't hurt either. The lack of depth and experience is going to keep the Pirates in the bottom fourth of the league no matter how good Pope plays.
3rd Team All Big East - Herb Pope