The second entry in the December roundtable series covers the surprise teams in the Big East. A number of teams surprised - if only because many teams were predicted to struggle.
Connecticut is the early season story, with a hot result in the Maui invitational. What the Holy Fudgeknuckle has Connecticut been eating in their pregame meals, anyway? Kemba Walker has been amazing.
But Notre Dame has come together quickly to reel off a number of excellent early season wins as well. Cincinnati, Louisville, Rutgers, and Providence also get some love from the respondents, listed below:
Cincinnati Bearcats Blog (Twitter) | Connecticut The UConn Blog (Twitter) | DePaul Chicago College Basketball (Twitter) | Georgetown Casual Hoya (Twitter) | Hoya Prospectus | Louisville UofL Card Game | Marquette Cracked Sidewalks (Twitter) | Notre Dame Rakes of Mallow (Twitter) | Pittsburgh Cardiac Hill (Twitter) | Providence Friar Basketball (Twitter) | Rutgers On the Banks (Twitter) | Seton Hall South Orange Juice (Twitter) | St. John's The East Coast Bias (Twitter) | South Florida Voodoo Five (Twitter) | Villanova Villanova by the Numbers | VUHoops (Twitter) | The Nova Blog (Twitter) | Syracuse Orange::44 (Twitter) | West Virginia The Smoking Musket (Twitter)
Who is the most surprising team in the Big East up to this point?
The answers, after the jump>>
Georgetown: Hoya Prospectus
Connecticut has to be one, of course. Kemba Walker reminds me of Scottie Reynolds in that he always got so much hype - when he wasn't that good - that when he became exceptional (Reynolds in his senior year, Kemba now), opposing fans continue to write him off too long. Kemba could always be guarded because his shot wasn't good enough to warrant extending the D on him. That's changed, and suddenly UConn having a bunch of complementary players who aren't scorers isn't a weakness, it's a strength. As long as Kemba produces.
Also, Cincinnati hasn't played anyone (just two decent teams), but they still haven't lost. Would that we could say the same for the rest of the bottom half of the BE - mediocre teams tends to lose games they shouldn't and Cincy hasn't yet. Kudos.
Louisville seems better than advertised as well.
Connecticut. I thought it would take another season before Calhoun would have the team back, but man they are good. Kemba Walker should be the Player of the Year.
I've been very surprised by Notre Dame. I knew they'd be OK without Hansbrough, but I didn't think they would be good enough to beat a team like Wisconsin. (Gonzaga is going to end up being a nice win, too.)
I think UConn has been the most surprising team so far. Kemba Walker has been playing out of his mind, and UConn improving its what I perceived to be a bubble team resume with wins over Michigan State and Kentucky before conference play starts has been one of the biggest stories in the country let alone this conference.
Louisville: UofL Card Game:
Syracuse would be the most surprising with its 12-0 record. Drexel (Wednesday) will be a good test, [though we are] unimpressed by undefeated pre-conference Big East records.
I gotta say Rutgers. Really thought we'd still be playing nip and tuck, and being undermanned would show.
This has to be Connecticut. The streak they put together, especially beating Michigan State and Kentucky in the Maui Invitational was really impressive. This team was a big mess last season and to have them rebound as well as they have is great. It also helps that they have the best player in the Big East in Kemba Walker. It’s too early to tell if they are actually a good team or just really lucky. After Walker they really don’t have much. But at this point they are the biggest surprise.
I'd have to with Notre Dame. Providence and Cincinnati are both off to hot starts, but their competition hasn't been as strong as the Irish. Notre Dame is 9-1 with wins against Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Georgia, and California. Gonzaga and Cal don't have great records, but the Zags have played a really tough schedule so far and I expect them to be pretty good.
UConn hasn’t played a decent opponent in nearly a month, but their run through the Maui, knocking off Michigan State and Kentucky, certainly qualifies as surprising for a team that looked like it had given up at the end of last season.
It is Providence in my mind without a doubt. I thought we were looking at a bottom 4 squad again. And then I pictured Keno-Ball and Dave (FriarBlog) cackling like a maniac after they put 100 on 'Nova. They'll be a Top 10 team for sure, maybe even Top 8.
Rutgers has bounced back nicely after losing to Princeton, in beating Miami and Auburn, and Cincy is undefeated, but I'd have to give the nod to Connecticut. I wasn't as down on UConn as most in the preseason, no one expected them to dispatch Michigan State and Kentucky on back to back nights in the manner that they did. It just goes to show what a dominant scorer can do for you.
UConn. I'm still not convinced that UConn is a serious contender. They look a little too much like Villanova late last season, with one star basically carrying a team. I have a feeling that reality will hit them once the Big East season starts, but they will be better than we all expected if Kemba Walker can keep scoring 30-40 points per game.
Everyone is going to say UConn, but they always have talent, so I'm not that surprised when they actually come together and win some games. I'm going with Cincinnati, who hasn't beaten anyone yet but is sitting at 9-0 right now and is quietly putting themselves in a position to make the tournament if they can jump up and get some quality wins in conference play. And if any conference provides opportunities for quality wins, it's the Big East. The Shoemaker Center is not an easy place to play and Yancy Gates is a really good centerpiece, so the Bearcats are going to cause problems for some of the upper-echelon teams this year.
UConn. [Jim] Calhoun is brilliant and Kemba Walker is the best player in the nation. Despite sizable personnel losses from last year the Huskies look strong.
Connecticut. I cannot believe the development in Kemba Walker’s game, the way the younger players fall in line and play good defense… [Alex] Oriakhi has been great inside on defense, and the Huskies really are a surprising team. A nod to Providence here, who are far more competent than I would have thought them to be. And also to Notre Dame. And Cincinnati. I think there are a lot of surprises out there.
Notre Dame - 10-1 with a neutral site victory over Wisconsin and a home victory over Gonzaga that looks even better after the Bulldogs beat Baylor. That's an impressive non-conference slate.
I guess Connecticut also has to be mentioned here considering the Huskies are 8-0 and have beaten Michigan State and Kentucky. Kemba Walker for the win.
I think the most surprising team is Notre Dame. Count me among the many who had them middle of the pack in your preseason poll. They definitely look like they could be one of the better teams in the Big East on occasion. Their offense has been one of the most efficient in the country so far, and I didn't really see that coming. I would pick Cincinnati here, but that would be a total homer pick and even though 'bias' is in the name of your blog, I will pass on a such an act.
Villanova: Villanova by the Numbers
Over achievers abound at this point, but Connecticut’s wins over Michigan State and Kentucky are impressive, especially given the neutral court location. Pomeroy ranks the Huskies #7 at this point, about 2-4 spots above where I thought they would finish.
Connecticut. They lost 3 of their 4 best players from last year's 7-11 squad and I was livid that the coaches found a reason to rank them ahead of the veteran team the Pirates were returning. Crow meet spoon. Or do you eat crow with a fork? Or can I eat it with my hands and wash it down with a brew?