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Big East 2010-11 preview, Part I

A 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.

Now for Part I: the predicted lower half of the Big East table... and starting with my favorite squad.

St. John's

09-10 Conf W L Possessions Team OE Opp OE Eff Margin
St. John's 6 12 66 97.8 103.4 -5.6
Lost Gained
Norm Roberts (coach), Anthony Mason Jr. (G), Omari Lawrence (G-transfer) Steve Lavin (coach), Dwayne Polee (F)

St. John's red Storm logoHow to make this short? Well, I am trying to look at St. John's with realistic eyes. I am a homer, but not a ridiculous one; it's hard to look at a team that couldn't score and wasn't great at defending and say they're going to be 6th in the league. That's crazy talk, right? Well, to be that bad continually at scoring sometimes means that it's not the players, it's the coach. Moreover, the players who left struggled at times to score.

That said, there are a gallon bucket of "ifs" on this team. The only thing that is not an "if" is D.J. Kennedy, who keeps improving. The point guard position needs to make more impact - and I think it will in a more attacking offense. There needs to be scoring punch off the bench if Dwight Hardy and Justin Brownlee are going to start. The offense has to get something going that's NOT off the dribble. And most of all, St. John's has to join the top half of Division 1 in shooting percentages from somewhere - inside the arc, outside the arc, or even the free throw line. Without having seen them in regular season competition - and knowing that they were hot last year before conference play - it's difficult to predict a "last four in" scenario.

More on St. John's over the weekend and at Johnny Jungle.


Upside: 6th in the league, Sweet Sixteen. The Sweet Sixteen is a nod to whatever it is that Steve Lavin does to get teams that have scuffled during the regular season to focus. Detractors always bring up his teams' inconsistency, and say those are games they should have won. But maybe, despite some flaws, he's a good teacher and/ or a man who can create schemes to squeeze out some wins? It's not illogical to think Justin Burrell and Brownlee can be more effective, that Dwight Hardy will get his shots in rhythm, and that Malik Boothe will shoot better like he did at the end of the season.

Downside: 11th in the league, NIT Finals. They can improve and still show little in the standings; the team needs to improve on many levels to get to the NCAAs. But they can make an NIT run and go out with a good record.




Notre Dame:

09-10 Conf W L Possessions Team OE Opp OE Eff Margin
Notre Dame 10 8 65 113.6 110.4 3.2
Lost Gained
Luke Harangody (F), Tory Jackson (PG), Jonathan Peoples (G), Tim Andree Eric Atkins (G), Alex Dragicevich (G), Jerian Grant (G)

NotreDameFightingIrish6.GIFLuke Harangody took the highest percentage of his team's shots in Division 1.

Tory Jackson was a 4 year point guard.

That's a lot to lose. Notre Dame's coach Mike Brey is an offensive genius. He must be; his offenses have been excellent for 10 years running, whether guard-focused or post-focused, whether point guard focused or not. But he hasn't lost a player like Harangody before. Moreover, before Luke, his teams were a lot closer to .500. And the offensive excellence seems to stem from not ending possessions with a turnover rather than constant scoring.

Granted, Scott Martin, Tim Abromaitis, and Ben Hansbrough can score. But can Hansbrough distribute? Can Abromaitis deal with being the first threat on offense? Harangody was a special talent with a special drive, and Notre Dame fans cannot ignore that truth. Can the forwards who have been languishing on the bench replace that rebounding? Was the play of the team without Luke a fluke?

Upside: 5th in the league, 2nd round NCAAs. I wouldn't put it past this team. A lot of good shooters are on this team, and the incoming talent could be actually good at defense.

Downside: 12th in the league, 1st Round NIT. This team wasn't great at defense last year. In fact, the defense was worse than their 8-10 Big East season in 2008-09 with the rebounding of Harangody to eliminate second shots. Moreover, a freshman point guard (Eric Atkins) and a shooting guard will be manning the point...





09-10 Conf W L Possessions Team OE Opp OE Eff Margin
Connecticut 7 11 68 100.2 100 0.2
Lost Gained
Jerome Dyson (G), Stanley Robinson (F), Gavin Edwards (F), Ater Majok (F), Darius Smith (G – transfer), Jamaal Trice (G – transfer) Michael Bradley (C/F), Jeremy Lamb (G/F), Shabazz Napier (G), Tyler Olander (F), Roscoe Smith (G/F), Neils Giffey (G/F), Enosch Wolf (C)

U Conn LogoJim Calhoun seemed like a guy who absolutely hated his team last year. Like he might drive them to Salem and toss them in a fire. And it was a rough team to watch - Dyson took a LOT of shots for someone who missed so much. Gavin Edwards' defense was mediocre, though his rebounding was solid. Stanley Robinson was talented yet frustrating as always. Calhoun might be happy to be rid of them, a team that laid down at times.

But those guys take a lot of shots, with no one returning on the roster to replace them. The defense was good, anchored by Alex Oriakhi. But the remaining offensive players were actually very bad. Worse than... well, almost the rest of the league. So to get some points up, Calhoun's going to turn to freshmen like Roscoe Smith, Jeremy Lamb, and Niels Giffey, along with point guard Kemba Walker.

Really? The forwards - Oriakhi and Charles Okwandu - will average more rebounds than points. But they will have to play. Unless one of them discovers a shooting touch around the basket, that's not a good look. Maybe Smith and Lamb will be high-level scorers from the outset, but this looks like a team that will struggle to score when they don't get turnovers. Kemba Walker has improved at scoring, but he is not the kind of player that should be taking the bulk of the shots; he is a passer, and a phenomenal one at that.

Upside: 7th in the league, one-and-done in NCAAs. This is counting on a great defense and/ or two of the freshmen being efficient scorers who can take a lot of shots.

Downside: 12th in the league, 2nd round NIT. This team could be very bad. It could be worse than this. There are a lot of freshmen to bring along, and so far, Calhoun seems to want to start the less offensively touted of them.





09-10 Conf W L Possessions Team OE Opp OE Eff Margin
Cincinnati 7 11 66 100.9 106.2 -5.3
Lost Gained
Lance Stephenson (G), Steve Toyloy (C), Deonta Vaughn (G). Kelvin Gaines (C), Justin Jackson (F)

Here's a reason to think things are looking up for the Bearcats: last year's mix of players was a completely ludicrous idea. The year before, Yancy Gates and Deonta Vaughn took over 50% of the shots; they liked to shoot (if not always score).

Last year, Lance Stephenson came in, and either took or was allowed to take 26% of the shots; Gates took 23% and Vaughn took 21%, and all three looked out of sync. Vaughn needed the ball in his hands to overdribble and shoot jumpers. Gates needed the ball in his hands in the post. And Lance Stephenson needed the ball in his hands to overdribble and miss jumpers, with a dunk or two interspersed in his shot selection.

It looked like a playground game. I would expect the team to look a little more cohesive this coming year, except Mick Cronin's teams have never looked consistently cohesive on offense, and they haven't been world beaters on defense either. His bench has a lot of eager shooters who manage to turn the ball over a lot - from one-on-one plays and bad drives. There's a reason to think things are looking sideways.

Upside: 8th in league, one-and-done NCAA's. It's entirely possible the Bearcats will shoot better, especially from the outside. Though the post players might want to try a pass every now and then. Yancy Gates could be a difference-maker, and Cashmere Wright could be a decent playmaker, helping this offense flow.

Downside: 13th in the league, no postseason/ CBI. Without Vaughn. the perimeter scoring will fall to Rashad Bishop, Sean Kilpatrick, and Jaquon Parker. Good shooters, but are they able to get their shot off on their own? Can Wright get them shots? And at times, Yancy Gates' effort has been questioned. If he's not bringing it in the post, the team may struggle.




South Florida:

09-10 Conf W L Possessions Team OE Opp OE Eff Margin
South Florida 9 9 66 103.6 109 -5.4
Lost Gained
Dominique Jones (SG), Chris Howard (PG), Mike Mercer (G) Ron Anderson (F), Jawanza Poland (G), LaVonte Dority (G), Shedrick Haynes (G), Hugh Robertson (G)

South Florida logoLast year, South Florida was outscored in conference play.

They very well could have had a losing record. Of course, they also came close to pulling out a few MORE games than they did. All this means: Dominique Jones was great. And there is no replacement for that. He got himself shots, he got others shots, he baked bread, he cleaned oily pelicans. He did it all. Almost. Chris Howard spent his final year being efficient and making good passes.

That's a lot of backcourt to lose. Anthony Crater returns and WOW he shot some bricks. And kept shooting them. So the JUCOs Jawanza Poland, Shedrick Haynes, and Hugh Robertson have a chance to make a fast impact. Yes, the front court is good, but what use is that if the guards can't get them the ball (see: Echenique, Greg, RUTGERS)? Jarrid Famous was solid but not a world-beating rebounder, and turned it over an awful lot for a guy who doesn't dribble. Meanwhile, Gus Gilchrist is in love with his jump shot. I'd like to break the fourth blog wall for two sentences. The jumper is not all of that, Gus. Get in the paint.

Upside: 9th in the league, bubble team. There is a lot of new on this squad, and sometimes, new players end up being very good. If the guards can hang on to the ball and make plays, and if the staff limits the time of those who can't, the front court might get this team to the NCAA bubble.

Downside: 14th in the league, no postseason/ CBI. There is a lot of new on this squad, and a lot of talent in the Big East. It could be a rough adjustment.





09-10 Conf W L Possessions Team OE Opp OE Eff Margin
Providence 4 14 73 108.6 116.5 -7.9
Lost Gained
Sharaud Curry (G), Brian McKenzie (G), Jamine Peterson (F- dorm room foolishness), Kyle Wright (G-transfer), Johnnie Lacy (G - unwanted pugilism), James Still (F - unwanted pugilism), Russ Permenter (C) Gerard Coleman (SG), Dre Evans (G), Brice Kofane (PF), Ron Giplaye (PF), Bryce Cotton (G), Lee Goldsbrough (F)


There was some thuggery at Providence. If you don't know about it, no need to rehash; but Keno Davis loses a number of players from a squad that played summer league playground defense on the hottest day - lazy, indifferent, non-physical. But man, could they go after missed shots! Jamine Peterson lived up to his nickname of "Greedy", and he was excellent at scoring. And rebounding. But not excellent at playing defense down low. And now he's gone.


Gerard Coleman will get first crack at putting up scads of points along with returning Marshon Brooks; Vincent Council was a revelation at the point. Bilal Dixon can rebound a bit, and Brice Kofane and Ron Giplaye come in with rebounding reputations. Maybe the loss of some players who didn't play defense and shot like an eager teenager will help. At 4-14, there's not much more down to go to.

Upside: 12th in the league, 2nd round NIT. Coleman is regarded as a scorer; and post players who do the simple things (like defend) might be a boon to the perimeter-oriented style Davis seems to like his teams to play.

Downside: 16th in the league, no postseason. The defense has to improve, and we do not know yet if Keno Davis can improve it; meanwhile, the offense really could take a step back with the loss of two efficient performers who took the bulk of the shots while on the floor.





09-10 Conf W L Possessions Team OE Opp OE Eff Margin
DePaul 1 17 65 95.1 111.1 -16
Lost Gained
Mac Koshwal (F/C), Will Walker (G), Kene Obi (C- transfer), Jerry Wainwright (Coach) Oliver Purnell (Coach), Cleveland Melvin (F), Moses Morgan (G/F), Brandon Young (PG)

DePaulWill Walker and Mac Koshwal took a lot of shots, and missed a lot of shots. Sometimes, that's a cause for celebration - more shots for the rest of the team. But in this case, the players left behind aren't very adept at shooting. From anywhere. They're the worst in the country at the free throw line. They were lower than 300th in two-point shooting and near that level in three-point shooting. Coupled with a lack of defense (especially turnovers), this doesn't look like a major conference team.

That's okay. Oliver Purnell is here to make it better. He specializes in scrappy teams, in overlooked talents, in forcing turnovers (it gets ugly when they don't force turnovers), and in effort. having seen the preseason games, the effort is there. The shooting is still missing; and the newcomers will have to get better in the course of the season to give the Blue Demons an offensive attack. Brandon Young will be a player eventually, and Jeremiah Kelly and Devin Hill's improvement could get this team closer to respectable.

Upside: 13th in the league, CBI. I think this team could be good enough to compete in the NIT, but there will be some embarrassing losses early on. Additionally, the style of defense allows for the Demons to knock off a real contender one night... and lose to a bottom feeder another. A winning record should be considered a success.

Downside: 16th in the league, no postseason. There is a lot of hill to climb for this team, and not a lot of talent to shoot them to a win. Scoring has to come off of the defense, but the players as a unit may not be athletic enough to force the turnovers they need to win.





09-10 Conf W L Possessions Team OE Opp OE Eff Margin
Rutgers 5 13 68 97.2 113.8 -16.6
Lost Gained
Mike Rosario (G- transfer), Greg Echenique (F/C- transfer), Patrick Jackson (F- transfer), Hamady N’diaye (C), Fred Hill (coach- baseball on-field imbecility). Mike Rice (coach), Gilvydas Biruta (PF), Mike Poole (G/F), Robert Lumpkin (SF- transfer), Austin Carroll (G), Tyree Graham (G)

Rutgers logoIt's gonna hurt.

Rutgers actually had a bigger negative efficiency margin differential than DePaul did. Part of that has to be mailing in some games, part of it was guys like Rosario going for theirs (as in points/ stats), but part of it is that the team wasn't very good, and played a pair of fairly high-turnover guards in James Beatty (who didn't shoot) and Mike Coburn (who did shoot).

Along with those two, the returnees include Dane Miller, who is talented but not yet offensively discerning; Jonathan Mitchell, a perimeter-oriented forward, and Austin Johnson, who didn't seem to do very much. The incomers are not world beaters who can replace Rosario's shot-taking abilities, and no one will replace the shot blocking and rebounding of Hamady N'Diaye.

There's room for the Scarlet Knights to be less-than-embarrassing, but not much more than that.

Upside: 13th in the league, NIT/ CBI. I will also concede that some effort could help improve the defense; and the team shot so poorly, it has to improve, right?

Downside: 16th in the league, no postseason. I don't know where the scoring comes from on this team at all. The team is thin, they don't have enough bodies to go deep into the bench... this team could be worn out by conference play. If Rice has to kick anyone off the team or account for injury, his walk-ons will get some run.