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2009 Big East Coaches' poll vs the results

The reason I started last week's posts on efficiency margin last year and over the last 5 years of the Big East was a look at the disparity between the coaches' picks for the final Big East order (like a "power ranking!") and the Big East basketball teams' actual finish.

In the preseason at 2009 Big East Media Day, (as seen places like here and here and here - the links have moved), the coaches picked Villanova to win the conference, with West Virginia next and Connecticut third, with one first place vote.

In order of finish, here are the coaches' picks:

Team Coaches' Pick Finish Deviation (Pick - Finish) w l
Syracuse 6 1 5 15 3
Pittsburgh 9 2 7 13 5
West Virginia 2 2 0 13 5
Villanova 1 2 -1 13 5
Marquette 12 5 7 11 7
Louisville 4 5 -1 11 7
Notre Dame 8 7 1 10 8
Georgetown 5 7 -2 10 8
South Florida 14 9 5 9 9
Seton Hall 10 9 1 9 9
Cincinnati 7 11 -4 7 11
Connecticut 3 11 -8 7 11
St. John’s 11 13 -2 6 12
Rutgers 15 14 1 5 13
Providence 13 15 -2 4 14
DePaul 16 16 0 1 17

The coaches had DePaul exactly right, and West Virginia as well. Louisville, Notre Dame, and Seton Hall were about correct. And the coaches were way off on a lot of programs - Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Marquette, South Florida, Connecticut, and Cincinnati.

What the coaches were (probably) thinking with some of the bigger misses:

1- U Conn. Before last season, Connecticut was... you know, Connecticut. Thabeet, Adrien, Price, and Austrie were excellent players, but they had size and a touted import, size, and a point guard ready to advance his game.

Who knew they would struggle to defend the glass, strain to score, and would play uninspired basketball? Who knew they would just fold like that down the stretch? And who could predict a team to beat Villanova and West Virginia but lose to Cincinnati, South Florida, and a St. John's team they had been beating like a piñata for years?

2- 'Cuse. Syracuse had lost a number of talented players. Maybe we all should have seen a little addition through subtraction going on - less Devo, less Paul Harris, and less Jonny Flynn meant more defense for the Orange. But who could have predicted the incredible efficiency from the newcomer Wes Johnson and sparkling contributions from all over the roster? Johnson wasn't that great at Iowa State, after all.

3- Pitt. Pittsburgh seemed to lack the level of talent of their peers, and Levance and DeJuan Blair had left the program. So, of course, they reload and played stifling defense, made shots when they needed to. Nice work by Dixon slowing the pace to account for his roster, and finding ways to win the toughest games.

4- Marquette. And Marquette... as Cracked Sidewalks posted, maybe Buzz Williams is really great at getting teams to value the ball like they value their lives. One would think that losing three star guards, leaving a backup who was going to leave the program but came back, and another one who was never all that good, along with some newcomers and one star would hurt a team. But they all came to play with a sharp shooting efficient performance that speaks volumes to the coaching.

5- So Fla. South Florida wasn't as good as their record, but still improved behind the energy and scoring of Dominique Jones - especially in big games. With the middling records South Florida had in the past, 14th was a reasonable expectation for them. Jones made some nice leaps in his game and got some help from his big men.

6- Cincy. Cincinnati really did an amazing job of bringing in an NBA talent and falling far short of expectations. Knowing the kind of talent Lance Stephenson was supposed to be, coaches - and fans - though he would be a complement to the Bearcats offense.

The gentlest thing I can say is that the coaching staff didn't do a good job of defining or adjusting roles - or getting players to play within those roles. Other coaches may have simply downplayed the mix of players the Bearcats put on the floor - very few low-usage guys and a lack of (accurate) outside shooting in the confines of the Bearcats' offense.