Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Big East Prognostications

Yes, we know there have been two games played already. Still, we feel comfortable making our annual predictions as the league season really gets going tomorrow night.

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

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave,

Good list. In the beginning of the season I would have thrown Oriakhi on All-Big East Freshman grouping, but he really fell off pace. What happened with him?

December 30, 2009 at 11:35 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mandledove .. all big east academic?

Wow what a huge bust and waste of scholarship dollars he was. Bet Jimmy C wishes he had that one back.

December 30, 2009 at 11:37 AM 
Blogger David Borges said...

With Oriakhi, I think it's a somewhat inevitable falling back to Earth for a freshman who was, early on, the team's only reliable rebounder. It'll take a bit for him to get acclimated to the Big East, but if he can keep his rebounding numbers up and score a little bit, it's not out of the question he could make the all-rookie team.

As for Mandeldove, yes, a big disappointment. Hey, they don't always work out. I wouldn't look at it as a waste of scholarship money -- there are busts in every UConn scholarship sport. Rather, someone just messed up on the recruiting front, and Jon certainly hasn't done enough to live up to his end of the bargain.

December 30, 2009 at 12:14 PM 
Anonymous Sam O said...

Doesn't Wes Johnson qualify as a rookie? I could be wrong, but I think the award is open to non-freshmen, too, as long as it's your first year in the conference.

I think the Cuse and WVU are a step ahead of Villanova, which also lost Yarou for the season. I also think Cincy and Seton Hall will be better than UConn this year.

December 31, 2009 at 3:30 AM 

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