Big East Bloggers Roundtable: Pre-Big East Tourney q +a

I was starting to write a wrap-up Big East season post last week and I thought to myself... what does everyone else think? And I shot off emails to some of my fellow Big East bloggers with questions; they were kind enough to participate in a Big East Blogger Roundtable, which appears below.

Your participants in this roundtable: I Bleed Blue and White (Villanova; denoted as IBBW below), Black and Green Irish Men's Basketball Report (Notre Dame - individual answers here; denoted as NDBG below), Cracked Sidewalks (Marquette; CS below), Pitt Blather (PB below), Villanova By The Numbers (VBTN for short), Ballin' Is a Habit (Connecticut; BIAH below), Rumble in the Garden (St. John's; RITG), and Orange:44 (Syracuse, O44 below).

The questions were:

1. Who is on your all-conference team (if the all-conference team stopped at 5)? Who is your player of the year; coach of the year; freshman of the year?

2. How did your team do, in 100 words or less - surprises, disappointments, etc.

3. Pick one "most overrated": most overrated player, team, coach, venue, or anything else you can think of (be creative).

4. Will a Big East team win it all? How many will get to the Sweet Sixteen (obviously, brackets and seeding will play a part)?

5. Good or bad, who was the most surprising team in the league?

6. Who are your favorite and least favorite teams, aesthetically, to watch in the Big East?

It's a good read. Print it out and take it to the bathroom if you have to. Bring it with you to your late lunch to avoid internet reading fatigue. And tell your friends.

 

1. Who is on your all-conference team (if the all-conference team stopped at 5)? Who is your player of the year; coach of the year; freshman of the year?

 

Consensus Player of the year: DeJuan Blair, with a vote for Jerel McNeal and Terrance Williams.
Coach of the year: all over the place with 4 for Keno Davis, 2 for Jamie Dixon, 1 for Jay Wright and 1 for Jim Calhoun (and an extra side vote for Bob Huggins).
Freshman of the year: 5 for Greg Monroe, with a vote for Mike Rosario and Kemba Walker.
All-League players
Votes
DeJuan Blair
8
Hasheem Thabeet
7
Jerel McNeal
6
Terrance Williams
3
Dante Cunningham
3
Jonny Flynn
3
Jeremy Hazell
2
Luke Harangody
2
Sam Young
2
Levance Fields
2
AJ Price
1
Da'Sean Butler
1
BIAH CS IBBW
Hasheem Thabeet, Conn Jerel McNeal, Marq AJ Price, Conn
Sam Young, Pitt DeJuan Blair, Pitt Jerel McNeal, Marq
DeJuan Blair, Pitt Luke Harangody, ND Dante Cunningham, Vill
Terrence Williams, Lou Jonny Flynn, Syr DeJuan Blair, Pitt
Da'Sean Butler, WVU Terrence Williams, Lou Hasheem Thabeet, Conn
NDBG Pitt Blather VBTN
Luke Harangody, ND Hasheem Thabeet, Conn Jerel McNeal, Marq
Jerel McNeal, Marq DeJuan Blair, Pitt Jonny Flynn, Syr
DeJuan Blair, Pitt Terrance Williams, Lou Sam Young, Pitt
Hasheem Thabeet, Conn Jerel McNeal, Marq DeJuan Blair, Pitt
Jeremy Hazell, SHU Levance Fields, Pitt Hasheem Thabeet, Conn
RITG O44
DeJuan Blair, Pitt Levance Fields, Pitt
Hasheem Thabeet, Conn Jonny Flynn, Syr
Jerel McNeal, Marq DeJuan Blair, Pitt
Dante Cunningham, Vill Dante Cunningham, Vill
Jeremy Hazell, SHU Hasheem Thabeet, Conn

Each respondents answers for player of the year (POY), coach of the year (COY), and rookie of the year (ROY):

IBBW NDBG CS Pitt Blather
POY: D. Blair POY: D. Blair POY: D. Blair POY: T. Williams
COY: K. Davis COY: K. Davis COY: J. Calhoun COY: K. Davis
FOY: M. Rosario FOY: G. Monroe FOY: G. Monroe FOY: K. Walker
VBTN BIAH RITG O44
POY: J. McNeal POY: D. Blair POY: D. Blair
COY: K. Davis COY: J. Wright COY: J. Dixon COY: K. Davis
FOY: S. Samuels FOY: G. Monroe FOY: G. Monroe FOY: G. Monroe

2. How did your team do, in 100 words or less - surprises, disappointments, etc.

 

IBBW: Much better than expected. We all expected Villanova to be a solid Top 25 team and be just on the edge of the upper echelon of the Big East. They've been hovering around the Top 10 for weeks now and are vying to be a part of the upper class of the conference. Dante Cunningham's senior year has been the real treat. He's transformed himself from a role player to a bona-fide all-conference guy.

NDBG: Very disappointing season. The Irish went from a top ten squad (probably overrated at the time) to out of the Tournament. A very experienced squad looked uncomfortable most of the time and could not score at the same level once Kyle McAlarney was discovered by opponents. Defense has been very poor all year.

CS: Notre Dame is clearly the biggest disappointment. While you an argue the Irish overachieved last season, finishing with a sub-.500 record in the league is a shocker. Rutgers struggled more than I expected as well. Until Dominic James was lost for the season I'd say Marquette was the biggest surprise -- close losses to UConn and Louisville without him reaffirmed how tough the Warriors were when healthy.

PB: Essentially to this point, the [Pittsburgh Panther] team has been slightly above expectations. Granted expectations have been high this year for Pitt, but the team has risen to them and gotten over the top. Getting to #1 for a total of 3 weeks this year was a new experience. The defense has been a bit more lax than we are used to seeing from Pitt, but the offense has been better than ever.

VBTN: (THIS IS A BIT OVER 100 WORDS.) Everyone returned from a 2008 [Villanova] squad that started well, hit a rough five game skid in late January - mid February, then pulled it together enought to make the Sweet Sixteen, before losing to eventual National Champion Kansas. Most of the Nova Nation expected a better than 9-9 record (their 2008 conference record), and would have considered 11-7 (or even 10-8) progress. When the 'Cats lost their first Big East game (to Marquette on the road) for the 3rd consecutive season, followed by an overtime road win over the Seton Hall Pirates, then a home opener loss to Louisville, a win over St. John's and a strong road game (but a loss nevertheless) against the Connecticut Huskies that brought their record back to 2-3, another 9-9 record started to look pretty good. That 10 point home win over #3 Pittsburgh really put some energy into the team (and the fans), as the Wildcats ran off 4 more wins in that streak -- going 6-0 over the post-Connecticut stretch of their Big East season. Their blowout of Marquette was the exclamation point of the run.

The biggest disappointment of the season was the road loss to West Virginia that followed. The outcome was expected, but the magnitude (-21 points) was not. The most gratifying suprise of the season is Dante Cunningham's development. Dante is a #4 asked to the play the #5 in Nova's system. He has emerged as the team's high scorer, running off 3 double-double during conference play. He averaged 16 points and 7.2 rebounds per Big East game. Together with fellow seniors Shane Clark and Dwayne Anderson, Dante given the 'Cats a consistent enough inside threat to draw some defensive attention away from Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher, making both (along with wing Corey Stokes) a little more efficient. Junior Reggie Redding's growth over the course of this season has also been a pleasant surprise. Valued by the staff as a nuts-and-bolts, go to the deck if necessary kind of player, Reggie has developed a consistent enough shot to become the kind of well rounded player the Nova Nation has traditionally appreciated.

BIAH: Can you really say that UConn going 27-3, 15-3, and staying in the top five all season is a disappointment? Probably not, but I can tell you that I don't see the Huskies going too far in the tournament. As good as Price is, he is the only guy that can really create his own shot with Dyson out.

RITG: AAAAAAARRRGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! The lack of development in St. John's players is frustrating, the errant shooting is worthy of smacking one's head against the desk, and the only reason the team is at 15 wins is because they played 8 games against some of the crappiest Division I competition this nation has to offer. I am sure from the outside the team looks better – and they won the games they were supposed to win – but I want to follow a competitive team for once.

O44: This was an up and down year for Syracuse. The Big East Conference proved tougher that the one time #9 team in the nation. However Syracuse finished sixth in the conference and that was certainly better than the eighth place they were voted in before the season started. We all knew that this Syracuse team was better than eighth place even in this tough conference. However, Syracuse is a talented squad and heading back to the NCAA Tournament was what it was all about and even before the Big East Tournament it is certain that we are, therefore the year was a success. If we make it to the Sweet 16 that is.


3. Pick one or more "most overrated": most overrated player, team, coach, venue, or anything else you can think of (be creative).

 

IBBW: Most Overrated Guard: Eric Devendorf, Syracuse

Most Overrated Big Man: Luke Harangody, Notre Dame

Most Overrated Team: Notre Dame

Most Overrated Coach: Jim Boeheim, Syracuse

Most Overrated Venue: The Joyce Center, Notre Dame

Most Overrated Freshman: Greg Monroe, Georgetown

Most Overrated Blogger: Dave from Friarblog

NDBG: Most overrated player: Hasheem Thabeet hands down. He is a fantastic defensive player, but has received a ridiculous amount of hype for Player of the Year all season. He uses the fifth most possessions on the team (behind injured Jerome Dyson and substitute Kemba Walker), indicating he is a very small factor on offense for the team. Irish fans, think Luke Zeller, our #5 possession-user. Seriously, that's the kind of non-factor Thabeet is on offense.

CS: Most overrated player: Kyle McAlarney

Most overrated home court: Carrier Dome

Most overrated coach: John Thompson (this year)

Most overrated personality: Bobby Gonzalez

PB: Overrated player: Kyle McAlarney -- deadly shooter, but can't create his own shot and no longer tries to attack the basket with any regularity to try and create any space for himself.

Overrated coach: Mike Brey. It's almost haphazard how his players develop. This year saw regressions and he let McAlarney become nothing but a perimeter player. Never was able to make adjustments when teams stopped bothering to double-team Harangody and concentrated on stopping McAlarney and the rest of the perimeter.

Overrated venue: Carrier Dome. Big does not mean much when the fans are not into it. With the exception of the G-town game, the fans have looked like they are watching the football team.

VBTN: Most overrated home venue -- The RAC at Rutgers. Comparing conference home records for the past 3 season of the bottom 3 finishers this season shows Rutgers has the worst home record (by far):

Team
W
L
Win %
DePaul
10
16
0.385
USF
8
17
0.308
Rutgers
5
21
0.192

BIAH: Most overrated player: Luke Harangody. I despise him. Put another big man on that team, and see if Harangody puts up those rebounding numbers. Limit him to 12-14 shots per game (as opposed to the 18 he takes a game now) and see if he scores as many points. So overrated, ugly, terrible game to watch, a baby. F- Harangody.

RITG: Most overrated coach: Mike Brey.

Most Overrated Statement By Announcers: The Big East is the toughest conference in the league! (the league has DePaul, Rutgers, and most nights, St. John’s and South Florida to feed from the bottom of the sea).

Most overrated game ambiance: Carrier Dome. If I didn't have friends who went to grad school there I would never set foot in that place.

Most Knuckleheaded Player: Dar Tucker takes this one from Edgar Sosa and Eric Devendorf, simply by dint of his repeatedly taking shots he can’t make and shooting with absolutely no conscience. He is so talented. And so temperamental. (I fear Lance Stephenson’s year or two of college will be like Dar Tuckers, actually – more on that later this week).

O44: This is going to seem like a homer pick, but I think UConn is overrated. While Thabeet gets quite a few blocks, a lot of the time he is just tall and flails his hands and connects. Overrated.

While Madison Square Garden is not an overrated arena in general, specifically for the Big East Tournament, it is an overrated venue for St. John’s because damn they are not good. Specifically, when Syracuse played St. John’s it was at least 80% Syracuse fans over St. John’s fans. Not a home arena.


4. Will a Big East team win it all? How many will get to the Sweet Sixteen (obviously, brackets and seeding will play a part)?

 

IBBW: My pick is still UConn to win it all, because despite some people calling him overrated, nobody else has a Hasheem Thabeet and he really changes the game. Big East teams are familiar with him and still struggle, so I can't imagine a team from the Pac-10 or Big 12 being able to deal with him. Plus they have AJ Price, who is probably the best player that nobody talks about.

I think UConn, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Villanova and West Virginia go to the Sweet 16.

UConn, Pitt, Villanova go to the Elite 8.

UConn and Pitt go to the Final 4.

NDBG: Yes, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, and Louisville could take it all the way. My money's on UCONN. I think we'll only see four teams in the Sweet Sixteen, with those three and Villanova/ Marquette.

CS: Yes, a Big East team will win it all -- Pitt. The Big East will send four to the Sweet 16 (UConn, Pitt, Louisvlle, Villanova).

PB: Yes a Big East team will win it all. Not sure who, but I like the numbers.

As for the Sweet 16, I like five teams -- Pitt, UConn, Louisville, Villanova and WVU -- to all get that far.

VBTN: The homer answer to the first question is "of course"! Realistically, injuries to critical players on some squads (UNC, UConn), combined with inexperience on other squads (Louisville, Memphis, UCLA) make this possibly the most "open" NCAA Tournament in 5+ years. I believe that one, possibly two Big East squads will be in the Final Four, and at least one will be in the game for the National Championship.

At this point it seems the Big East is due for 7 bids (Connecticut, Louisville, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Villanova and West Virginia). It would not surprise me to see one more get a bid based on a good BET performance, aided by some under performance among the low/mid major conference teams. I think 5 will have seeds that suggest they should make the Sweet Sixteen (seeds #4 or higher). 5 or 6 should make it to the Sweet Sixteen game. Less than 4 will be a disappointment. More than 6 would be a surprise (but not a shock).

BIAH: I think that eight teams are getting into the dance, and of those eight, only Providence shouldn't be expected to reach the Sweet 16. I think they get at least four (Louisville, UConn, Pitt, plus one). If I could take money that one of Louisville, UConn, or Pitt wins the title versus the rest of the field, I would take that bet in a second.

RITG: I think 4 teams from the league will get to the Sweet Sixteen, depending on how many teams get in, and if Providence is in. I think Provi could make a 2-round run with the right bracket. As for winning it all, I won’t put money on it happening; I don’t believe in U Conn, I think DeJuan Blair could run a-"foul" of the wrong referees, and Louisville could win it, but they’d have to make it that far. So if a team does make the final, it will be U Conn, but I think they’ll lose in a hard-fought game.

O44: If there was a Big East team to win it all, I would say Pittsburgh. I also think it is quite possible that five or six teams from the league make the Sweet 16.


5. Good or bad, who was the most surprising team in the league?

 

IBBW:
I knew Notre Dame was really overrated and wasn't going to be a Top 10 team so it wasn't surprising to see them have an awful year. I honestly expected more out of Syracuse. They have a HOF coach and a lot of upper-classmen. They just weren't very good in the Big East though they had some great OOC wins.

On the other side Providence has to be the biggest surprises of teams that did well. Who honestly saw that coming?

NDBG: The Irish were picked 4th. They'll finish 10th. No one else had that big a disparity from preseason to final standings.

CS: Rutgers. Fred Hill's team had an influx of heralded talent to go with what seemed to be a solid base of veteran performers -- all for nothing this year.

PB: The most surprising in a bad way: Rutgers. Wow, Fred Hill really sucks as a head coach. I mean, I didn't expect particularly good, but not this bad. Narrowly edging out Georgetown.

Most surprising in a good way: USF. The record didn't reflect it, but they really showed improvement all season and no quit.

VBTN: In what seems to have become a kind of Rule of 16, each Big East season since 2006 has produced one implosion (bad surprise) and explosion (good surprise). This season's strongest candidates, in my opinion, are Providence (good) and Notre Dame (bad). The Friar Class of 2009, so talented and well regarded when they entered back in 2006, is on the brink of an NCAA bid, a much deserved, should it come to pass, conclusion to their collegiate careers.

The most (bad) surprising team this season is Notre Dame. When the Irish shot up to the First Quartile in Luke Harangody's freshman season I was skeptical and ranked them in the lower half of the conference going into Harangody's sophomore year (2008). They repeated as a top 4 team last season, so I climbed on the Irish band wagon in the 2009 preseason. Just in time for the wheels to fall off. Their 7 game slide in January-February was eerily similar to their 5 game slide in 2006 (as the principal feature in their 1-8 funk that season). They did not look very good in their loss to Villanova (a 17 point loss on March 2) -- I suspect that loss put an end to their NCAA hopes (short of a run to the BET title).

BIAH: Notre Dame. Easy. Top ten during the year, and now headed to the NIT. Georgetown as well, but I didn't have as high of expectations for G'town as I did for ND.

RITG: Georgetown in the bad way. I thought the talent would trump the difficulty of learning a passing system that’s not like what most younger players play in high school/ AAU. It did not; the team looks like it struggles with timing and when to shoot, and shooting rhythm. Honorable mention to Marquette, I didn’t think they would win as many games; then again, they’re 5th in the league; it's a top-4 finish would have surprised me.

Good: Villanova. I didn't think they were that good.

O44: I think Providence was the most surprising. With a new coach, marginal talent compared to the big time teams, and the simple fact they are Providence, it was surprising that they consistently competed with some of the best talent in the league.

And yeah, I never thought a team would go winless in league play. Ever. Nice job DePaul.


6.Who are your favorite and least favorite teams, aesthetically, to watch in the Big East?

 

IBBW: Favorites: UConn, Villanova, Louisville (all play tough D and like to get out and run)

Least Favorites: Pittsburgh - They just muddy up the game so much.

Georgetown - Tough on D which I like but I hate their offense. For the athletes they have they basically run an Ivy League offense. They could be so much more exciting.

DePaul - Tough to watch a team who's THAT bad.

NDBG: I love watching Louisville. I'm used to seeing good offense with the Irish so some good D is fun to watch. Full court press is a fantastic weapon when used correctly. Guys like Andre McGee and Preston Knowles are defensive stoppers off the bench.

Georgetown's Princeton-style offense is frustrating for opponents when it works. Since John Thompson has been unable to teach his team how to play this year, it has been brutal for friend and foe alike. Six games with less than 60 points? 3-10 in their past 13? Losing to St. John's? Ugly.

CS: Other than Marquette, I enjoy watching Pitt play. The Panthers have a more offensively diverse team this year, which bodes well for them in March. My least favorite to watch has been Notre Dame -- a plodding, unathletic bunch.

PB: I really liked watching Louisville play as the season went on. DePaul was painful to watch as they had no clue about this thing called defense.

VBTN: Favorite to watch (Villanova when they are winning aside...) would have to be Pittsburgh. They use their possessions very efficiently. They are athletic without being undisciplined.

Least favorite team to watch (Villanova when they are losing aside...) is DePaul. I have seen them 3-4 times this season. Their play has been uninspired (their game with Villanova may have been their best effort in a Big East game this season...), at times they appear to be going through the motions, waiting for the final buzzer. They have Big East-level talent at most positions (in the starting lineup anyway), their lack of competitiveness is mental. Allowing this to go on for another 1-2 seasons could well damage the program for a few more years going forward.

BIAH: Louisville. I love their press, Terrence Williams is one of the most fun players to watch in the country, and they are all about dunks and three's. What more can you ask for?

RITG: Pittsburgh just looks imposing when they get onto the court. I’m excited for them to get to a Final Four (especially for my many Pittsburgh-bred friends), and hope that they show how they are so much more than just Blair. Marquette is pretty exciting, as well.

Least favorite: Rutgers, because they look like they don’t know what the hell they are doing, don’t get touches for the big man… I suppose St. John’s is right there in "aesthetically unpleasing", but I am colored by seeing the DePaul game, where they just couldn’t miss at times.

O44: I enjoy watching Pittsburgh when they play a more up tempo game. They are phenomenal half court team, but when Fields pushes the team and they run a fast break they are highly enjoyable to watch.

Really, who wants to watch DePaul, St. John’s, or Rutgers? Dreadful.

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