Once again the Big East is the premier conference in Men's college basketball for the 2008-2009 season. It has a surplus of talent and seven teams in the top 25, with four teams in the top 10.
While UConn, Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame may all be excellent teams, there is another team that could be a sleeper to win the conference. That team is the Syracuse Orange.
Syracuse came into the season with high hopes after missing the NCAA Tournament two years in a row. The Orange are looking to get back to March behind the leadership of juniors Eric Devendorf, Arinze Onuaku, and Paul Harris. They are also looking for sophomore Johnny Flynn to show up.
So far, the 'Cuse leaders have done exactly what has been asked of them. Onuaku and Devendorf are both averaging 15 points per game and Onuaku has 8.4 rebounds per game. Harris is also averaging 12 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Plus, Flynn has been sensational, averaging 21 points per game.
Now granted it is still way too early to project a Big East champion, but I think the Orange should definitely be considered contenders. They have two impressive wins, one against Florida and then an overtime shocker against Kansas to win the CBE Classic.
I feel that besides UConn, Syracuse is the team with the best chance to win the Big East. Unlike the other contenders in the conference, the Orange's big men, like Onuaku, stack up well against the Huskies' big men, including 7'3" forward Hasheem Thabeet. If the Orange can win the battle on the boards against UConn, they will be one of the few teams that are able to beat the Huskies.
So, look for Syracuse to hang with the UConn's and the Notre Dame's of the league and get back to the form of the 2003 National Championship team. This March, Syracuse will be playing in the NCAA tournament instead of watching it on the couch.