Big East 2010-11 preview, Part II

Part II of the belated Big East preview! (I will add the Blue Ribbon predictions when I get home). The table below has predictions on the order of finish for Big East teams, including:

Team ECB RT Avg pick Coaches Poll Athlon Lindy's Blue Ribbon Pomeroy
Pittsburgh 1 1.9 1 2 1 1 1
Villanova 2 1.7 2 1 2 2 5
Georgetown 3 3.3 4 4 5 4 3
Syracuse 4 3.5 3 3 4 3 2
Marquette 5 7.6 8 6 7 11 6
Seton Hall 6 9.2 11 11 11 10 10
West Virginia 7 5 5 5 3 5 4
Louisville 8 8.8 8 10 10 7 7
St. John’s 9 8.3 6 8 9 9 8
Notre Dame 10 9.8 7 9 6 6 11
Connecticut 11 7.5 10 7 8 8 9
Cincinnati 12 11.9 12 13 14 12 12
South Florida 13 12.8 13 12 12 13 14
Providence 14 14.6 14 15 13 16 13
DePaul 15 15.4 15 14 16 15 16
Rutgers 16 14.8 16 16 15 14 15

I'll be adding what I think the team's upside and downside could be for each squad. I will likely be wrong; one never knows when a team will implode in a wave of disinterested play and pregnancy allegations, or suddenly find new ways of eating opponents alive despite previous ineptitude. That's why we watch, isn't it? Everyone's got hope in November.

And I have added each teams in-conference (regular season) results for offensive and defensive efficiency, their efficiency margins, and their pace in # of possessions per game.

Read Part I first. Part II: the predicted top half of the Big East table... after the jump.


Pittsburgh:

 

09-10 Conf W L Possessions Team OE Opp OE Eff Margin
Pittsburgh 13 5 64 109.8 103.3 6.5
Lost Gained
Jermaine Dixon (G), Chase Adams (G), Dwight Miller (F/C - transfer) Isaiah Epps (G), J.J. Moore (F), Cameron Wright (G), Aron Nwankwo (F)

Pittsburgh Panthers logoThe consensus is that Pittsburgh is going to be good. Very good. They've played two games already, and have won both - a blowout of the UIC Flames and a tough, physical contest against the very competitive Rhode Island Rams.

They have beef on the inside to go with the outside firepower of Ashton Gibbs and the playmaking of Brad Wanamaker and Travon Woodall. But boy, did they play a number of close games last year. And that's not just an issue of pace - and they certainly were slow - but possibly of not putting teams away. Just a little something to watch out for. The Panthers played 3 overtime games last year - one single OT (Louisville), one double OT (Duquesne), and a triple OT (West Virginia).

Upside: League champion, Final Four contestant, National Runner-up. This team is crisp. They look like a team from Pittsburgh should look - like they're forged from rock and steel. With some more accurate shooting inside the arc, offensive rebounding from the bigs who will see increased time, and maintained/ increased defensive dominance, they could become this season's darlings. The redshirted Talib Zanna and sophomore Dante Taylor could be difference-makers.

Downside: 4th in league, 1st round in NCAA Tournament. A lot of close wins last year... sometimes scoring seemed like a struggle, and many teams looked like they were a few hot shots away from toppling the Panthers. I don't think Jamie Dixon's defense will fall off very much, and that will keep them near the top of the table. I think the team's occasional offensive struggles could doom them to an upset in the NCAA Tournament. COULD. Not "will."


Villanova:

 

09-10 Conf W L Possessions Team OE Opp OE Eff Margin
Villanova 13 5 72 113.2 104.9 8.3
Lost Gained
Scottie Reynolds (PG), Reggie Redding (G), Taylor King (F – transfer) JayVaughn Pinkston (G/F), James Bell (SG)

Villanova Wildcats logoVillanova, much like Pittsburgh, is expected to be good. The x-factor would seem to be the loss of guard Scottie Reynolds, the big-shot taker. And the many-shot taker. he was the focal point of the offense, which was excellent - shooting well from all over, and taking care of the ball. But 'Nova has ballers in reserve, guys like Malik Wayns and Dominic Cheek who flashed some skills, to go with Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes and Corey Feldman, who I hear has been pushing the other Coreys in practice (kidding). And there's meat in the paint from Mouph Yarou, JayVaughn Pinkston, and Antonio Pena.

The real boogeyman in the closet is that defense. It screams of flaws - near-indiscriminate fouling of opponents, allowing some decent shooting from the perimeter, allowing offensive rebounds... They never looked that bad, but were often out of position. Can that be corrected with some new personnel, more experience, and a more formidable paint presence?

Upside: League champion, Final Four contestant. There's a lot to like about this team. But they need to flip a defensive switch on in their minds. They may be able to score with anyone, but better teams find ways of frustrating them. And last year's NCAA Tournament run highlighted their flaws...

Downside: 4th in the League, 2nd round in NCAA Tournament. I can't see this team really falling apart. Scottie or no, they have some dynamic scorers on the court. I also can't see them losing to a much lower seed in the NCAA Tourney, though they came close against Robert Morris.


Georgetown:

 

09-10 Conf W L Possessions Team OE Opp OE Eff Margin
Georgetown 10 8 66 109.4 104 5.4
Lost Gained
Greg Monroe (C), Nikita Mescheriakov (F- transfer) Moses Ayegba (C), Aaron Bowen (F), Nate Lubick (F), Markel Starks (G)

<a class='sbn-auto-link' href=Georgetown Hoyas logo" src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3575/3325827336_5aa02131a9_o.gif" />For me, this feels like a risky pick. But I don't put money on this kind of thing, so what's the risk? It's an opinion. And it feels wrong. Greg Monroe was a very significant part of the team. He was the height on defense. He was the facilitator in the high post. He was the defensive rebounder.

He was a beast.

I put Georgetown here, and feel like it's risky, because they have more known quantities than the teams below them. Chris Wright, Jason Clark, and Austin Freeman were great shot-makers playing off of Monroe... how will they be with youngster Nate Lubick, Julian Vaughn, and the so-far low-impact Henry Sims in the middle? But if Hollis Thompson and the bench adds some punch and defensive rebounding... they have guys who can fill the hoop up.

Upside: League champion, Elite Eight contestant. This depends on the incoming forwards being ready to play, no injuries, the league not figuring out how to slow down the guards interior scoring, and some improvement from the post players who have been in the program.

Downside: 8th in league, bubble team. Greg Monroe was a lot to this team, and the offense does a lot of work off of passes from the forwards. Talent like Monroe doesn't just pop up on the roster. he was the eighth pick of the NBA draft. That's not easy talent to replace.


Syracuse:

 

09-10 Conf W L Possessions Team OE Opp OE Eff Margin
Syracuse 15 3 70 110.8 99.1 11.7
Lost Gained
Wes Johnson (SF), Andy Rautins (G), Arinze Onuaku (F/C) Baye Moussa Keita (F), C.J. Fair (F), Fabricio Melo (F/C), Dion Waiters (G)

Syracuse logo1The 'Cuse was the monster of the league last year. And the only one who "knew" they would be good was probably their coach Jim Boeheim. I guess Iowa State's offense was too structured, or too crappy, or there weren't good enough players around him. Whatever it was, Wesley Johnson was sick, and got much more effective from within the three-point line than he had been in the Big 12.

Funny thing is, even as they dominated at scoring - getting their shots off inside the arc as a team - they didn't take care of the ball that well. Also, the team loses a lot of talent - the aforementioned Johnson, the shot blocking and rebounding Onuaku, and the steady Andy Rautins (who was deadly efficient for the team). Fab Melo is expected to hold down the paint (and not let it get up) with his size, replacing Onuaku. But he is still a freshman big, there are bound to be flaws. Kris Joseph might just do a Wes Johnson impersonation; though he already played a lot of minutes - who will do a Joseph impression? I don't know if there's a replacement for Rautins, though that might be Brandon Triche, who needs to increase his free throw percentage.

Upside: League champion, Final Four contestant. The Final Four is a bit of a stretch, unless the backcourt becomes a bit more efficient. But a lot of talent comes to upstate New York, and a good amount of talent comes back. Can these guys run the Boeheim zone as well as last year's team? If so, this should be a top-10 team.

Downside: 7th in the league, 2nd round NCAA Tournament. If the team struggles, I think it will be because the Big East is very good. I don't expect a lot of drop-off in this team - they are not replacing a single offensive player who took a lion's share of the shots, and the backcourt of Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine were very good playing about half of the game each.


Marquette:

 

09-10 Conf W L Possessions Team OE Opp OE Eff Margin
Marquette 11 7 64 109.7 102 7.7
Lost Gained
Lazar Hayward (F), Maurice Acker (G), David Cubillan (G), Jeronne Maymon (F- transfer), Yousssoupha Mbao (C- transfer) Vander Blue (G), Jae Crowder (F), Davonte Gardner (F), Jamail Jones (F), Reggie Smith (G), Jamil Wilson (F)

Marquette Warriors Eagles logoBuzz Williams is an intense man. And so far, his intensity has drawn out excellence from two fairly different Marquette teams. He made Maurice Acker into a solid, consistent player; brought the turnover rate near basketball's equivalent of nothing; generated great shots for his players outside of the arc; and generated enough turnovers on defense to mask the team's perennial lack of height.

The Golden Eagles were impressive, playing a lot of games at the edge of calamity, generally refusing to get beaten by more than 2-3 possessions. Except for that Georgetown thing. Whoops. But can they do it again? Without Lazar Hayward, who took a LOT of shots, defended well, and held down the paint? That's the golden question for this year.

Upside: 4th in the league, Sweet Sixteen NCAAs. I don't see this team topping the top 4 in the league - they're generally big, experienced, and effective. But Georgetown could fall, or Syracuse could fall. And the Eagles have a lot of backcourt talent with Junior Cadougan, Vander Blue, Darius Johnson-Odom; while the newcomers and returnees in the paint could replace Hayward's efficient presence. This is the kind of guard-oriented team that could give another squad fits in post season play.

Downside: 10th in the league, NIT 2nd round. There's no shame in the NIT. Really. I think this team has been playing short-ball for a while, while feeding off of the lower-tier teams in the conference. The Big East may have more even competition this year with the new coaches and maturing young talent. Coach Williams will be playing a number of new players, to boot. They could struggle. That 3-point shooting percentage, without Hayward and with a 67% free throw shooter in Johnson-Odom (indicating he may not be the deadeye last year's stats make him out to be) could be in for a correction.


Seton Hall

 

09-10 Conf W L Possessions Team OE Opp OE Eff Margin
Seton Hall 9 9 70 106.8 108.5 -1.7
Lost Gained
Eugene Harvey (PG), John Garcia (C), Robert Mitchell (F- gangsterism), Oliver Melvyn (C - transfer), Matt Cajuste (F), Bobby Gonzalez (coach) Kevin Willard (coach), Eniel Polynice (G – transfer), Fuquan Edwin (G/F), Patrik Auda (F), Aaron Geramipoor (F/C), Anali Okoliji (F)

Seton HallThe first of the new coaches! Kevin Willard inherits a team of players who never turned the ball over, because they ended each possession with some kind of shot. That wasn't always good; they weren't as efficient as they could have been without some of those "heat-check" shots. Then there was that defense. It wasn't very good. They allowed second shots, didn't force turnovers, didn't show an interest in defending, were more interested in returning a punch than defending, didn't wake up on game day...

But they can score. If they can play with some discipline, it's possible they could score MORE. And if they tried to play a little on defense (and limited Keon Lawrence's minutes until he does some more effective things on the floor), just maybe they can be an NCAA Tournament team.

Of interest: the Pirates played 4 overtime games. They lost 4 overtime games.

Upside: 4th in the league, Sweet Sixteen NCAAs. There's a lot to like about this team, though it revolves around making Herb Pope a more efficient interior scorer (46% on 2-pointers? Really?), defending better, getting defensive rebounds, and maintaining the excellent turnover rate (which will go down). If Eniel Polynice can do the things he actually does well (crib note: it's passing, not shooting), and if Keon Lawrence and Fuquan Edwin and Patrik Auda can contribute, they can make a nice little run.

Downside: 10th in the league, NIT Final Four. There are a few guys on the team that seem like they are legends... in their own minds. Eager shooters, overzealous to prove they can be the man... what if Kevin Willard and his charges don't discover a sweet harmony? What if he has to bench guys for team harmony? But there's talent enough here to make a late run.


West Virginia

 

09-10 Conf W L Possessions Team OE Opp OE Eff Margin
West Virginia 13 5 67 112.5 100.8 11.7
Lost Gained
Da’Sean Butler (F), Devin Ebanks (F), Wellington Smith (F) Noah Cottrill (G), Kevin Noreen (F)

West Virginia logoDoes anyone else think that sometimes, West Virginia basketball looks like a football game? Or a pickup game? They foul a lot and play physical. It's done them well, as they played with a point guard and some interchangeable long forwards. This year, the team starts without Da'Sean Butler, the star of the offense, and without the long and agile Devin Ebanks. Kevin Jones will be the main focus, with point guards Darryl Bryant and Joe Mazzulla providing toughness stories and missed shots.

Improvement to this team will come from the shooting guards Dalton Pepper and Casey Mitchell, and the young Turk Deniz Kilicli (always wanted to use "young Turk" for a Turkish player. My life is fulfilled). The incoming freshmen, Kevin Noreen and Noah Cottrill, certainly have opportunities to make their presences known. But the Mountaineers were pretty good last year, I don't see them maintaining that lofty perch.

Upside: 4th in the league, 2nd round in NCAA Tournament. I see a lot of losses in personnel here. Can Kevin Jones be that efficient as the focal point of the offense, taking up more possessions? He might get some all-league love, then. The team will have to continue to crash the offensive glass effectively, though they could also try hitting more shots that they take.

Downside: 11th in the league, 1st round NIT. The Mountaineers lost a trio of effective forwards, leaving some guys who need improvement behind They could falter, especially if Connecticut and Louisville are not as crappy as predicted by many.


Louisville:

 

09-10 Conf W L Possessions Team OE Opp OE Eff Margin
Louisville 11 7 66 110.5 106.6 3.9
Lost Gained
Reginald Delk (F), Samardo Samuels (F/ C), Jerry Smith (G), Edgar Sosa (G) Gorgui Dieng (C), Elisha Justice (PG), Russ Smith (PG), Chris Smith (G – transfer), Mark Jackson Jr. (G)

Louisville logoHow the hell is Mark Jackson's son a walk-on at Louisville?

Rick Pitino's sudden urge to score in 15 seconds (of the shot clock) will undoubtedly bring a chorus of snickers from people who have been following the legal matter he was involved in. I snicker because I don't see quite what shooting early will do if not accompanied by a much better defense than they have. And herein lies the problem. Pitino's teams have always had that press, an aggressive style with a long defender in the middle that seemed impermeable like a condom.

This year, they seem to be missing that. And players that Pitino trusts. Peyton Siva, a McDonald's All-American, played 10 minutes per game in conference play. There are post men who have seemed decent in limited time in Terrence Jennings and Rakeem Buckles; they too have been in and out of the rotation. Instead, Pitino has played slim Jared Swopshire, who can rebound and has a solid stroke from the free throw line, but isn't that effective in the paint.

But it's Rick Pitino. He seems to thrive on turmoil, bathe in chaos. He berates his point guards, demands perfection, and is willing to keep anyone on the bench to get it. Swopshire can run a little, and may play the middle position in that defense, which would add length to the press. Siva is bound to improve; Buckles and/ or Jennings might just get a good amount of playing time.

Upside: 5th in the league, 2nd round in NCAA Tournament. There's not enough here to make me think that the Cardinals can make a run at the first quartile. But there is a lot of talent on this team - at least, well-regarded guys coming out of high school. It could come together in spurts. And maybe the rest of the roster wasn't smoothly in sync with Samuels and Edgar "OHH I'm SHOOTING" Sosa, a young man who didn't get cheated with respect to shot attempts.

Downside: 11th in the league, 1st round NIT. The Cardinals lose a lot of steady talent in the aforementioned players and Jerry Smith and Reggie Delk, and they face injury issues with a number of players already. There's a lot for this team to account for in terms of shots - the guys who left could put some points up given the chance, whereas the remaining players can't all hang their hat on that. And they need to rebound better, as well (though Samuels was particularly ineffective on the defensive glass for someone of his size and talent).

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