10 Thoughts About the Young Big East Basketball Season

Ryan CallahanAnalyst INovember 30, 2008

1. Louisville looks vulnerable.

Louisville lost to Western Kentucky 68-54 in a game in which the rebuilding Hilltoppers handled Samardo Samuels. The big freshman supposed to lead the Cardinals came up small in this one, held to just 11 points and 8 rebounds.

Instead of using size to beat the Cardinals, the Hilltoppers outran the Cardinals, using a 6'5" Steffphon Pettigrew to guard the 6'9" Samuels.

Although Louisville has been one of the most successful Big East teams in recent years, with a .765 winning percentage, they have struggled in early season neutral site games the past three years.

In fact, their .167 winning percentage in early season neutral-site games is the worst in the Big East over the past three years. Even cellar-dweller teams such as Cincinnati (.250), St. John's (.250), and DePaul (.333) have better percentages in these type of games despite worse conference winning percentages.

2. Syracuse looks better than expected.

Syracuse looks like they are one of the most improved teams in the Big East this year. They won back-to-back games against ranked opponents, Florida and Kansas, to win the CBE Classic.

Jonny Flynn is playing like a potential Big East Player of the Year and first team All-American.

A team expected to be led by their backcourt, Syracuse'sr frontcourt has shown up strong in their past few games. Look for Paul Harris and Arinze Onuaku come conference play.

3. Georgetown off to a rocky start.

Georgetown only managed to beat Wichita State by eight points, and then were handled easily by Tennessee. Georgetown was only down by two at halftime, but Tennessee gradually pulled away in the second half and won 90-78.

The 90 points allowed by Georgetown is the highest total allowed by the Hoyas since 2004. This is a different team than last year, and one that is not going to win as many games.

4. Dayton outruns Marquette.

The Dayton Flyers beat Marquette 89-75 yesterday. Dayton used their depth (their bench outscored Marquette's bench 48-5) to run away from Marquette by alternating guards to stay fresh and on top of Marquette's speed.

All 12 of Dayton's players earned minutes, and their defense held Marquette to under 40 percent from the field.

Marquette does not look like a top 20 team. They have games against Wisconsin and Tennessee coming up on their schedule, and those games will be a good indicator of if this game was a fluke or if Marquette is not as good as people think.

5. UConn looks like one of the best in the country.

UConn has wins against Miami (FL) and Wisconson and sailed through both of them with relative ease. The Huskies beat Miami 76-63 and Wisconson 76-57. They are averaging 84.8 points per game and only allowing 61.7.

Hasheem Thabeet has played very well so far, averaging 14.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Freshman guard Kemba Walker is averaging 14 points a game.

They play three easy games before a big game against Gonzaga on Dec. 20. Their next game is against Delaware State on Dec. 1.

(Note: Delaware State has one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the country! The Hornets have already played Dayton, Ohio State, Kentucky, and West Virginia. They still have to play UConn, Notre Dame, Maryland, and Rutgers. Talk about hard scheduling; Delaware State is currently 1-8 and they will be lucky to get another win before their conference games start.)

6. Villanova off to a hot start.

Although playing a relatively easy schedule up to this point, Villanova has played their way to a 6-0 record with ease. They beat a Rhode Island team that barely lost to Duke 78-65. That 13-point margin of victory is their closest game all season.

The rest of their nonconference schedule looks fairly easy as well, with good reason as they will need the rest for the start of their brutal conference schedule. Look for Villanova to go undefeated through nonconference play, and if they don't, it should be considered a disappointment.

Dante Cunningham has been the leader so far for the Wildcats, averaging 17.5 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game. Scottie Reynolds has become much more of a passer this year, averaging 4.7 assists per game so far.

7. Notre Dame is good, but not that good.

A day after the Notre Dame's 81-80 victory over Texas, the Fighting Irish were handed a 102-87 loss by top ranked North Carolina. Notre Dame is a top 10 team, but not on the level of North Carolina and UConn.

Luke Harangody is playing at a potential Player of the Year level, 22.6 points per game and 11.2 rebounds per game. Guards Kyle McAlarney and Tory Jackson have added 17.2 and 13.8 points per game respectively.

Notre Dame still has Ohio State on the nonconference schedule (and of course the powerhouse Delaware State) but look for them to easily pass through the rest of their schedule before they hit conference play.'

They lucked out only having to play Pitt once, but have a game against UCLA in early February to challenge them instead.

8. Pittsburgh handles easy teams in their early nonconference schedule.

So far, so good for Pitt. The Panthers have not truly been challenged yet and probably will not be until their conference schedule starts. They beat Washington State yesterday 57-43.

The only game that looks even relatively challenging on the upcoming schedule is Sweet 16 surprise from last year, Siena, although they have struggled so far this year.

Pitt has been led by their frontcourt, particularly Sam Young and DeJaun Blair. Young has 19.4 points per game and 6 rebounds and Blair has 15.3 points per game and 12.3 rebounds per game. Their backcourt is led by Levance Fields, who has 12.1 points per game and 6.3 assists per game so far.

9. Keno Davis and Providence off to an up-and-down start.

It takes some time to get acquainted to a new offense, and that is what can be said about the Friars so far. After an embarrassing opening-game loss to Northeastern, Providence rebounded by scoring 100 points in two consecutive games.

They lost to two other good teams in Baylor and St. Mary's and pulled out a win against Charlotte. Their current record is 4-3.

Providence does not have one dominant scorer, but they have four players averaging double-digit points so far: Marshon Brooks, Weyinmi Efujuku, Jonathan Kale, and Jeff Xavier. Geoff McDermott is averaging 8.8 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game.

10. West Virginia misses Joe Alexander.

West Virginia started off 4-0 before a tough loss against Kentucky last night. Kentucky held the Mountaineers to only 43 points in the game.

West Virginia$'s defense has looked good, only allowing 53 points a game, but they will need some scorers to step up. Their four wins came against weak competition (the Big
East's favorite buy-a-win team, Delaware State, was one of them).

West Virginia has been led by two guards. Alex Ruoff is averaging 15.8 points per game and Darryl Bryant is averaging 10.6 points per game. Forward Da'Sean Butler is averaging 12.4 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game.

For a team that upset Duke in last year's tournament, they are going to need to win some games in conference play to make the tournament this year. They have upcoming games against one of the best team's in the Horizon Conference, Cleveland State.

They also play Mississippi and Ohio State. Their most difficult nonconference game is against Stephen Curry's Davidson Wildcats. West Virginia is going to have to win most if not all of these games if they want to make the tournament.

Player of the Week: Jonny Flynn, Syracuse - 20 points per game, 5 assists per game


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