As previously mentioned (with my thought process here), the In and Out: Big East Summer Conference Preview is on Johnny Jungle. All 4 parts have been posted, so check it out in reverse alphabetical order...
Other late summer looks at the Big East in the next basketball season are out there:
- Villanova By The Numbers' look at Returning Minutes
- Part I and Part II of Cracked Sidewalks' Big East Preview based on KenPom statistics (their methodology here)
- ESPN's Big East Shootaround
- and Kevin McNamara's look at the Big East (below the A-10 section) on the Providence Journal.
after the jump, check out some additional notes on my Johnny Jungle preview.
- Cincinnati's seniors were okay at best, and they hope the incoming players (now added by possibly John Riek) can pick up the slack and help Deonta Vaughn, who was a one-man show until he tired, and then John Williamson was a one man show. Yancy Gates and Mike Williams will be factors. And the Bearcats had some nice wins, along with some serious losing streaks... and shot under 40% in 12 games. Hm. I don't think they'll be better than 10th.
- U Conn is going to be right up there in the top of the league arguments. They bring back a strong team, and they bring in freshmen who are ready to play. They are deep. They're strong. They could be the top of the Big East. But I would give the nod to Louisville, with their depth at the forward positions and no big question marks like the recovery of AJ "LAPTOP" Price.
- I'll be watching a few Blue Demons games live to see Mac Koshwal and Dar Tucker. They are talented enough to improve as scorers and on defense. But I don't see how this team is any better than last year. Their defense has to be much, much better (especially against the three-pointer; they allowed 40.8% from beyond the arc and 49.5% inside the arc) to be competitive for the post season. I think they will be a bottom 4 team next year. Are Poscic, Faber, Kelly, and Bizoukas those kind of difference makers? I don't think so.
- The Hoyas are stocked with talent. They also lost a lot of (defensive) talent. I think that's a problem, especially when they needed a favorable call against Villanova and really didn't dominate in a number of contests. Will Sims and Monroe be suddenly as good as Hibbert and Ewing? In a structured, complex offense? Georgetown won't be terrible, but they won't be
- Louisville. I said it all over on Johnny Jungle... this team is something hot. It will definitely take a strong effort from the likes of U Conn to keep the Cardinals from the top of the Big East. This team is a top-5 squad. The wild card is Edgar Sosa - his game is inconsistent at best, and he needs to be better to support Clark and crew. And they might want to work on those free throws.
- Teams like Marquette are great to watch, they make plays, and they get deflections. But much moreso than Pitt, what are they going to do about a team that can really work the ball inside? But James/ McNeal/ Matthews move the ball well and they get decent shots off; and they played some top level basketball
- The Fighting Irish return a team that was very good last year. And they are pretty close to being the top of the conference. But they are not better than U Conn or Louisville, and they don't put much pressure on the ball. But those guys have some serious hustle on offense; they look like they're maximizing their ability when they have the ball, and it's a pleasure to see.
- Every damn year I think the Pitt Panthers are a Final Four team. This coming year, I don't know. Which of the freshmen will give Levance Fields a blow? Who is going to be the outside shooter to replace Ramon and Cook? DeJuan Blair is, if you will excuse the expression, an animal, but can a team be top 5 with one post presence? Not every opponent for Pitt is Duke.
- Keno Davis is a pretty good game coach from what little I have seen. There is talent there. But they need Sharaud Curry to be on, because no one else can handle the point. They have size but "no one else can handle the point" sounds like a recipe for a rollercoaster year.
- The Scarlet Knights are making moves, but I smell a hard year of adjustment and tension between the older and newer players. Much like St. John's, they were really bad last year (with a more veteran roster), so they can't help but improve. The defense was pretty stout, holding defenders to jump shots and contesting from the outside; but a lot of guys are going to want to shoot the ball more than they want to pass that ball. This team will definitely give one or two of the big boys fits.
- I should dedicate a whole post to St. John's, because there is a lot to say - and not just because I follow the team. There are so many if's it's amazingly frightening. And I really think, if things bounce right, this doesn't have to be a half-bad team. Last year's performances were freshman performances (though they were particularly dismal). I don't think the team is going to be a top of the pack squad. But Norm Roberts' teams have always been better by most defensive metrics, and I believe they will be good again - the players have athleticism, and none of them are offense-only players (so they won't be glued to the bench). It'll still be ugly, but there is will be some improvement; but that improvement comes from some of those highly regarded freshmen producing more on both ends as sophomores. Then again, much of the rest of the league could improve as well.
- Seton Hall's incoming players - especially if Keon Lawrence gets that waiver of his transfer year - will make an impact, as will Robert Mitchell. But the loss of Laing can't be understated - he could rebound and defend reasonably well and keep up with the pace. The fast paced style is exciting and they get turnovers (watch out for Paul Gause, who will elicit many questionable "steal your hubcaps/ fillings" statements from the announcers). But the Pirates need someone who can keep up and play the low block. Judging by the size of Melvyn Oliver... I don't know if he can keep up. They could be pretty bad if the bottom of the league gets better.
- South Florida will find some Big East players among their incoming freshmen. Stan Heath is a fine coach, so I expect them to be competitive, but they won't win much. Next year, though...? This year is more of a shake the trees and see what apples fall out kind of year, with Dominique Jones scoring as much as he wants to. I see next year being a bunch of freshmen forwards and centers who will get their egos bruised on a game by game basis.
- Syracuse gets Rautins and Devendorf back, which should get them back to the NCAA tournament... if Devendorf keeps making smart plays (unlike his first two years). Note: I watched a 'Cuse/ U Conn game at the dome last year; almost every time Devendorf touched the ball, my 'Cuse friends cringed. But with the frosh coming in, I think Rautins and Devendorf will be able to ease their way back in. This is an NCAA team.
- I know Villanova's guards are talented, but picking them 6th as ESPN does? With that defense and a propensity for poor outside shots? It's a tough, tough league, and it's not forgiving to that style of play. If those guys start getting to the line or become much better shooters, maybe they'll be in the top half of the conference. Or if the forwards take a step forward (and take some shots), I could see that. Fisher needs to pass up shots and pass more. There was some advancement in the NCAA Tournament, of course, and this team has some flashy runs in it and some streak shooting. So they COULD be that good, but I wouldn't lock them in to anything.
- I think West Virginia is seriously damn good. They laid some offensive eggs last season, but with the talent they have coming in this season? And Huggy Bear as their coach? Easily a candidate to get a first round bye in the Big East tourney. How can you pick against a team that made the Elite Eight last season? Ebanks and Kevin Jones will make up for Alexander's loss, and if Truck Bryant can hold his own, they're gonna be [insert mountain pun here].