I wanted to write this back in November but never had time. I decided to hold off until now to get a better feel for how the teams would play once conference play started.
None of these teams have really deviated too much from their pre-season projections. In the words of Denny Green, these teams “ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE.” There haven’t been too many surprises or disappointments.
Stan Heath was a great hire and will eventually get this program within the vicinity of respectability. With that said, Coach Heath has his work more than cut out for him.
The school’s basketball facilities are outdated and Florida is not exactly a basketball hotbed. The one thing the Bulls will have going for them this season: hands-down the best looking dance team in the conference.
I chose to combine these two because the both programs could be described the same way. Smack dab in the middle of the two best basketball scenes in the world, these two schools have failed to keep the talent at home which has resulted in dwindling and disgruntled fan bases.
Mike Jarvis and Adam Kennedy should be incarcerated for what they did to these two programs. In fact, I ended up devoting an entire column to Mr. Jarvis.
Are we sure Keno Davis was a good hire? Really, we are sure about this? I’m sorry but the man has a total of one year experience as a head coach. Granted his team exceeded all expectations in that one year but how are we sure that it was good coaching and not just the alignment of the stars.
Maybe they just quit on their coach, but Providence was an absolute mess last season. They do have some talented players like senior forward Geoff McDermott but I just think this team is far from being the bubble team that people are anticipating them being before this season.
I want to have Rutgers higher but their reliance on freshman scares me. Granted two of those freshman, Greg Echeniuqe and Mike Rosario have as good a shot as anyone at claiming conference rookie of the year honors. I love what Fred Hill is doing here, this program is going to be scary good in a few years.
If I’m sitting in my living room watching ESPN and I see “The NCAA is investigating possible recruiting violations involving Seton Hall and Bobby Gonzalez” scroll across the bottom, I probably wouldn’t blink.
The guy just has that whole used car salesman vibe that makes me wonder who would ever trust this man. Unfortunately college hoops is littered with Bobby Gonzalez’s. Anyway, he’s brought in some talent and with one of the most underrated point guards around in Eugene Harvey, Seton Hall might scare some people.
I loved where this team was going before the season until I heard that Cashmere Wright would be out for the year. Normally I don’t trust freshman point guards but my god what a great name. While stud freshman Yancy Gates will draw some of the defense’s attention, this team will still run through Junior Deonta Vaughn.
I feel that Vaughn will control too much of the ball for this offense to flow freely in the half court and as a result they will struggle against teams like Pitt and Georgetown who can play stifling half court defense. Like Rutgers, I like where Mick Cronin has this program going as Cinci should be a factor in years to come.
We know exactly what were are getting out of Marquette. Three great guards who like to get up and down and a big guy who looks good because teams are keying on the guards.
I think Pitt exploited Marquette in the Big East semifinals last year when Sam Young would get the ball on the wing then drive to the hoop looking like a young Jerome Bettis as defenders just bounced off of him. Marquette can be pushed around and in a conference as physical as the Big East, that’s a glaring weakness.
Bob Huggins’ team this year is a poor man’s Memphis. Great athletes, no playmakers. It’s too bad Darris Nichols’ nine year career in Morgantown has come to an end, this team could use a distributor like him.
The one thing Huggins has that Memphis doesn’t is a dead-eye perimeter threat in Alexander Ruoff. Unfortunately he’s one of the few guys on the team whose a threat to score outside of two feet. WVU is probably a year away.
The Wildcats are once again very talented this year but they have some of the same problems that Marquette has. Like Marquette they are small and can be pushed around. I do how ever have a little more faith in Dante Cunningham and the rest of Villanova’s front line then I do in Marquette’s front court. I also trust Jay Wright more than Marquette rookie head coach Buzz Williams to make small ball work.
After reading approximately 25,000 blog entries and message board posts titled “Don’t Sleep on the Orange” I will not sleep on Syracuse. The team has good depth and as long as Eminem can keep his hands to himself, he and Johnny Flynn might be the best backcourt in America. If this team is anything less than a six seed in March then we can officially say that Jim Boeheim has lost his fastball.
Louisville is loaded once again. Freshman Samardo Samuels arrives on campus with as much hype as any rookie in the conference with the possible exception of Greg Monroe. Earl Clark, Edgar Sosa, Terrence Williams, and Jerry Smith are as talented as they come and are all poised to have huge seasons.
I have Louisville here because of the loss of David Padgett. Samuels may prove to be more talented than Padgett ever was but Padgett was a warrior.
Additionally, Padgett was the most cerebral player on last year's Louisville squad, often setting up the teams half court defense from his vantage point in the pivot. The loss of a physically and mentally tough player like Padgett has already cost Louisville in non-conference play.
I think it’s a blessing in disguise that the Cards have struggled early, I have faith that Pitino will get all that talent playing together and make a run at the conference title.
Luke Harangody has shut me up this season. Last year I thought the guy was more lucky than good. This year he is validating all of the pre-season hype. That said, I think he can be easily neutralized by DeJuan Blair or Hasheem Thabeet. He’s helped out tremendously by being surrounded by so many great shooters, Kyle McAlarney is the guy on this team that scares me more than anyone.
There is no denying that Notre Dame is immensely talented and plays as well at home as anyone in America. However, I feel that Harangody can be neutralized by other quality big men and that the team as a whole is too reliant on the three ball. Their inability to weather a cold shooting night is what will eventually keep this team from reaching the final four.
John Thompson just keeps reloading at Georgetown. Chris Wright and Greg Monroe have picked up right where Jonathan Wallace and Roy Hibbert left off. Aside from maybe UCONN, there is no other team in the conference with as many weapons as Georgetown. Along with Wright and Monore, Austin Freeman, DeJuan Summers, and Jessie Sapp are all legitimate scorers.
What separates this years Hoya team from previous years is their ability to play at any speed. While JT III is more comfortable playing slowed down half court basketball, they proved up in Connecticut that they can run if need be.
With three seniors in the starting lineup along with supper sophomore DeJuan Blair, few teams in America will have a starting five with the blend of talent and experience that Pitt boasts. Sam Young has made a seamless transition from power forward to small forward this year. His blend of speed, strength and skill makes him the toughest match-up in the conference.
This team is not an exceptional shooting team but they are bailed out by DeJuan Blair who might be the best offensive ’rebounder in America. Also, point guard Levance Fields has as high a basketball IQ as any player in the conference, when he is in the game this team executes better than anyone. All of this without mentioning Pitt’s trademark defense that they bring night in night out.
This year’s Pitt team is on a mission after last year’s poor performance in the NCAA tournament. Everyone around the program is well aware that the team has not made it past the Sweet 16 this decade. If this team plays to their potential than the Panthers could very well make it all the way to Detroit.
When you have the most freakishly athletic players in the conference, you become the pre-season favorite plain and simple. Aside from UNC, no team in America will be able to run with UCONN’s high-octane offense.
Center Hasheem Thabeet and Forward Jeff Adrian will make it tough for any team to drive the lane. Those two players will be mostly responsible for turning defense into offense, setting up the fast break for any of UCONN’s talented guards.
Personally, I think UCONN’s best lineup is Adrian and Thabeet with three guards, Jerome Dyson, A.J. Price, and freshman Kemba Walker. I feel that the three guards all complement each other very nicely. Price being the best passer, Dyson the best shooter and Walker the best off the bounce. Just thinking about the breakneck pace those five play at makes me dizzy.
Nate Miles expulsion will hurt the team’s depth but with players like guard Craig Austrie and forward Stanley Robinson, depth will not be an issue. The only potential problem I see with UCONN is a lack of outside shooting and even that is not a glaring weakness. This team is not only athletic but very well-rounded which makes them the team to beat this season.