Big East Conference 2009-2010 Preview

A quick Big East Preview; I have been busy writing pieces for the Church of Bracketology (where this piece exists in a slightly different version) and for Johnny Jungle, so my time is spread.

The basketball season is upon us all; time to say goodbye to our wives, husbands, friends, hobbies, but not the children and the pets... they get indoctrinated into college ball.

As a league, I think the Big East will get 7, maybe even 8 teams into the NCAA Tournament. Part of that will be because a team around 7-8 will have a big win or two against a top-3 opponent in the league; part of it will be because it will be difficult to sort out who's better than who in the league. A lot of teams will be bunched in the middle, unlike last year - where the teams were bunched at the top based on RPI and statistical rankings.

Big East basketball court logoThe 2009-2010 Big East will once again be known for its defense and rough games. The number of young, inexperienced players will mean that defense and toughness will win the day - ugly ballgames, yelling coaches, physical perimeter play. I think that Cincinnati will move up in the standings and South Florida will look a lot better, with backup guards, a few forwards, and a number of recruits known to be shooters. That's a shaky limb to go out on, for sure, but I do think Stan Heath's club will get better around Dominique Jones.

The loss of Scott Martin for Notre Dame will be a blow, and I don't see any guards as dynamic as Kyle McAlarney (or in the past, Chris Quinn + Chris Thomas, or Russell Carter) on the roster to make plays from the outside.

Providence has some talent, but with so many newcomers, I have a hard time seeing them improve their defense or maintaining their offense. The New York locals will be interesting, but still not top-8 teams. I predict inconsistency for Seton Hall, an improvement for St. John's that may not be strongly reflected in the standings; and a more competent Rutgers team that will still be in the bottom 4.

Your Big East teams, in my predicted order of their finish:

 

Villanova logo
Villanova
Right now, Villanova's roster and recruiting is simply sick. It's deep and the guys generally know their roles. However, replacing Dante Cunningham is not as easy as saying "There Yarou go" (bad pun, I know); along with incoming freshman forward/ center Mouphtaou Yarou, incoming transfer Taylor King and returning forward Antonio Pena will have to make plays from the interior, and the Coreys may have to shoot and slash a little more. Senior guard Scottie Reynolds is a great college player; coach Jay Wright knows how to recruit and coach guards (like incoming players Maalik Wayns and Doninic Cheek); and this team is terribly deep. National champion? I don't know. But they're the class of the Big East, with challenges only from West Virginia and Louisville and perhaps Georgetown. Prognosis: NCAA, Elite Eight
Louisville logo
Louisville
Earl Clark and Terrence Williams are real significant losses on defense. And the continued playing of Edgar Sosa, in my opinion, is a loss waiting to happen. But there is talent that lays dormant on the bench, checking out the female talent in the crowd while picking splinters out of their backsides - Jared Swopshire, Terrence Jennings, Reggie Delk, Kyle Kuric, George Goode, and newcomers Peyton Siva and Rakeem Buckles. They'll lose a game or two both out of conference and in conference, Rick Pitino will whine about his team's toughness, and at the end of the year they'll be second in the Big East. Preston Knowles might be a star in the making, even while backing up Sosa and Jerry Smith. And Jamaican national team member Samardo Samuels can definitely improve on his work in the post by being a better defensive rebounder and tough guy. Prognosis: NCAA, Sweet 16
West Virginia logo
West Virginia
West Virginia returns most of their roster, with the exception of sharpshooter Alex Ruoff. They're good, but the team's 3-point shooting is now left to a JUCO newcomer Casey Mitchell or a freshman, Dalton Pepper. And the team did go 10-8 in conference with the same roster; computer rankings loved them because they strafed the opponents they beat, but that's terribly close to .500. The Mountaineers will be fantastic, but I don't think they're winning the conference. They have a lot of ground to make up, and the talent is nice, but not better than Louisville's or Villanova's. Prognosis: NCAA, Elite Eight
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