Big East Prognostications
The prevailing thought back in October was that this year’s Big East wouldn’t be as strong as last year’s. Really, how could it? Last year’s conference season was as competitive as any since the days of Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin and 3/4 of the Final Four. (Last year was only half, with UConn and Villanova getting to Detroit).
The conventional wisdom was also that there would be more parity this season, with the good teams not quite as good and some of the weaker sisters taking a step up. I’m down with that. A year ago, the upper echelon teams could virtually guarantee a victory over winless DePaul or Rutgers or South Florida, and teams like St. John’s and Seton Hall hardly inspired fear. We don’t envision any winless league seasons this year, and we’re thinking teams like the Red Storm and Pirates can make some noise. (Heck, I voted for Seton Hall for the Top 25 a couple of weeks ago. But I'm not ready to vote for St. John's. Not even close).
Meanwhile, Louisville and Pittsburgh – who finished 1-2 in the conference a season ago – appear to have taken a step back. That’s what happens when you lose the likes of Terrence Williams, Earl Clark, DeJuan Blair and Sam Young to the NBA.
UConn? Yup, it's lost a lot, too. Certainly, the Huskies haven’t looked terribly impressive at times thus far. But some of that is the style of play some of their lesser foes have employed against them, and some of that is inexperience and a relatively young team trying to find its way. I think once the Big East action starts, the zone defenses and slow-down offenses go away and a more athletic style of play emerges, UConn will be just fine. Maybe I’m putting too much stock in Sunday’s impressive win over Iona, but I think the Huskies are on to something.
I also think UConn will get better as the season progresses. A lot of that is Ater Majok, who certainly looks raw but should contribute some strong rebounding and shot-blocking. We’re guessing the Huskies will start peaking at the right time, in mid-to-late February, just in time to make some noise in the postseason.
And we're going to really go out on a limb and predict that UConn actually wins a couple of games in this year's Big East tournament!
How I see it:
West Virginia (13-5) Butler/Ebanks easily the best two-headed monster in the league
Villanova (13-5) The guards are great, but they’ll miss Dante Cunningham up front
Syracuse (13-5) Why can’t guys initialed A.O. (Arinze Onuaku, Alex Orkiakhi) make free throws?
Georgetown (12-6) Greg Monroe doesn’t have Hasheem Thabeet to burn anymore
UConn (11-7) Dyson, Sticks, Walker, Edwards scoring 81 percent of team’s points
Cincinnati (10-8) Is Lance Stephenson 'born ready' to fit in with Bearcats’ veterans?
Louisville (10-8) Rick Pitino is forever grateful for David Letterman, Tiger Woods
Pittsburgh (9-9) Too many NBA defections to overcome
Seton Hall (9-9) Transfer Herb Pope leads Big East in rebounding
Notre Dame (9-9) ‘Coach Calhoun, what didn’t you see in Farmington's Tim Abromaitis …?’
St. John’s (9-9) Anthony Mason, Jr.’s return could disrupt nice team chemistry
Marquette (8-10) Did Dominic James finally graduate? Yup
Providence (6-12) You just know they’ll beat UConn at The Dunk, don’t ya?
South Florida (5-13) Dominque Jones can play
Rutgers (4-14) Played North Carolina tough last night
DePaul (3-15) Jerry Wainwright’s a dead-ringer for ‘Breakfast Club’ teacher
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
COACH OF THE YEAR: Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Eugene Harvey, Seton Hall
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Stanley Robinson, UConn
SIXTH MAN AWARD: Gavin Edwards, UConn
All-Big East First Team:
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
Wes Johnson, Syracuse
Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia
Samardo Samuels, Louisville
Greg Monroe, Georgetown
All-Big East Second Team:
Jerome Dyson, UConn
Stanley Robinson, UConn
Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall
Deven Ebanks, West Virginia
Lazar Hayward, Marquette
All-Big East Third Team:
Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
Dominique Jones, South FLorida
Mike Rosario, Rutgers
Chris Wright, Georgetown
Corey Fisher, Villanova
All-Big East Honorable Mention:
D.J. Kennedy, St. John’s
Will Walker, DePaul
Eugene Harvey, Seton Hall
Kemba Walker, UConn
Brad Wanamaker, Pittsburgh
Big East All-Rookie:
Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
Brandon Triche, Syracuse
Hollis Thompson, Georgetown
Maalik Wayns, Villanova
Travon Woodall, Pittsburgh
Big East All-Academic:
OK, I'm not that good