Posted on: November 14, 2008 1:27 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2008 9:46 pm

Final thoughts on the upcoming Big East season

Now that every team has been previewed, it's time for me to collect my thoughts. This league is probably one of the toughest in history to predict, but I'm going to take a shot at it. First I'll arrange the teams by tiers, then I'll project the finish, and finally I'll have some thoughts on how the conference teams will do in the preseason tournaments. I had about 80% of this finished when my browser crashed before, so this is more hurried and probably has dropped in quality; apologies for that.

I believe that the nine-team-in projection is not at all far-fetched, and that as many as 12 might see some postseason play or other. It will all depend on nonconference performance and the new conference tourney format. I'm excited for the first Big East games tonight, starting at 7 PM, and can't wait for the season in general. Now, on to business...

Tiers of Teams

Stratifying the league even this way is difficult. There are four preseason title contenders, and I agree that they're the most likely winners, but I doubt they finish 1-4. The next groups of teams are hard to separate, with a lot of teams bearing hugely talented rosters and similar weak spots. Regardless, I think I have come up with a reasonable, though admittedly subjective, set of crieteria for differentiating what we've got. (Each tier is listed alphabetically)

Tier One:

Connecticut, Louisville

These teams have the best combination of talent, balance, and depth to be the clear-cut favorites. They aren't the only two who could win the league, but I'd be surprised if either finished outside the top 4.

Tier Two:

Notre Dame, Pittsburgh

These teams have a ton of returning talent, but lack either the balance (Pitt) or the depth (ND) to be favored over the above teams. The next group of teams could easily displace either of these, but I'd be surprised if either finished lower than sixth.

Tier Three:

Marquette, Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia

Between tiers three and four is in my opinion the toughest place to draw a line. The distinction I drew is that these four teams I believe have the biggest chance to sneak into the top four, and would surprise me the most to finish out of the top half of the league.

Tier Four:

Georgetown, Providence

I believe one of these two teams will be left out of the Big Dance, and neither looks to me to have the talent to sneak into the top 4. Either one could surpass some of the teams in tier three, though, if things break the right way.

Tier Five:

Cincinnati, Rutgers, Seton Hall

These are the teams between NCAA rosters and terrible. I don't believe any is capable of squeezing into the top half of the league, but the one who puts together the best resume will probably land in the NIT. I think any of these could be competitive in some other conferences out there.

Tier Six:

DePaul, South Florida, St. John's

This is the dead weight. A 13th place finish would be a major victory for any of these three teams. I hate to be that harsh, but there's just no comparison between these rosters and most others in the Big East.

Projected Final Standings:

I'm not kidding when I say how hard this is. So before you flame me, homers, for having your team too low, remember that I've probably considered every legitimate argument your team has and decided that the others' have slightly more weight. Finishing tenth in this conference is not an insult...that team will be a very good one whether it's my pick or not. So before you say there's "no way" it could be your team, really consider the competition. I believe anyone but my top five could actually end up in the ten spot. OK, no more hedging, here's my order.

  1. Louisville (NCAA) They're my pick thanks to an easier schedule than the Huskies
  2. Connecticut (NCAA) They have the most talent, but a very rough road.
  3. Pittsburgh (NCAA) I pick them here largely because they get my next two teams at the Peterson Events Center, where they don't lose many games.
  4. Syracuse (NCAA) Someone will oust one of the "top four" and my pick is the Orange. I choose them because I believe they have the best combination of returning scorers and new talent from my "tier three" teams.
  5. Notre Dame (NCAA) I choose them to be bumped from the top four because I believe they are the least set up for the long haul. Their talent makes them capable of beating any team, but its concentration in two or three players makes them vulnerable.
  6. Villanova (NCAA) Experience wins my vote among some hard to separate squads.
  7. West Virginia (NCAA) The Mountaineers return more talent than most realize, and have an excellent recruiting class. They will have the best defense of several BE teams relying on forwards and no center up front.
  8. Marquette (NCAA) I hate to pick a team with this much talent this low, but teams 1-7 are that good.
  9. Providence (NCAA) They have the schedule to make something of a run, and more talent than you think.
  10. Georgetown (NIT) There. I did it. The Hoyas are reloading and I think it costs them. If they prove me wrong (higher than 8th place) I'll eat my crow.
  11. Seton Hall (NIT) I throw them up here largely because of Cincinnati's injuries, but also recognizing that here are some good pieces in place here.
  12. Cincinnati (CBI) They were going to be my surprise NCAA pick until they lost three players. Watch out for this team in 2009-2010
  13. Rutgers (none) They have enough players I like to keep them out of the bottom three.
  14. St. John's (none) Down at this level, experience is king, and they have grown together as a team and are well-coached.
  15. DePaul (none) I give them a slight edge over the Bulls.
  16. South Florida (none) I could really see a 1-17 conference record here, with a home win over DePaul.
So there it is. Teams 8 and 9, whether they are my picks or not, had better 1) excel in the ooc and 2) not flame out in the BE tournament. If that happens it will get the top 12 a chance to play in a postseason tournament. Of course, teams 9-12 had better win those opening round games, too...

The Big East in preseason tournaments

Connecticut - Paradise Jam
They get an opening round matchup with La Salle that should be an easy win. Anything short of winning this tournament would be something of a failure, but Miami, San Diego, and Wisconsin are all very dangerous. I'd most like to see the SD - UCONN matchup in the final. I'll say UCONN wins it, but it won't be easy.

Georgetown - Old Spice Classic
There' a very winnable opening round game against Wichita State, followed by a matchup with Siena or Tennessee. That second round game could be tough for the Hoyas to win. I think they face Tennessee (though Siena could surprise some folks) and lose. That would put them in the 3rd/5th place game with either Gonzaga or Michigan State, both games I think they would lose. With its 5th place finish, I think we will learn that Georgetown isn't a top 25 team just yet.

Notre Dame - Maui Invitational
OK, I have said that I think Indiana could stun Notre Dame in this opening round game for a number of reasons. Understand that that only means I give them about a 10% chance. Notre Dame should win that game. If they avoid that crazy upset, I believe they will defeat Texas and face UNC in the title game. Anything could happen there with Hansbrough out, or even with him playing 80%. This is an opportunity for the Big East to really flex a muscle early.

Pittsburgh - Legends Classic
This almost doesn't deserve mention, but it is a preseason tournament...Pittsburgh first hosts Akron and Indiana (PA) (Fairleigh Dickinson, though in the tournament, doesn't count as part of the tournament in tonight's game @ Pitt). If Pitt loses either of those...OK, let's not think about that, but even if they do they meet Texas Tech in the semifinal and then either Mississippi State or Washinton State in the final. If Pittsburgh doesn't win the thing it will be a major failure.

Providence - Anaheim Classic
This is to me one of the more intriguing preseason tournaments, as it is loaded with teams trying to sneak into the national discussion but no clear powerhouses. There will be no easy games for the Friars, but I'm going to say they knock off Baylor, Arizona State, and Wake Forest consecutively to take home the title and secure one heck of an ooc resume. I realize I'm out on a limb, but Providence is better than the attention they're getting, and I look for them to prove it in a big way.

Seton Hall - Puerto Rico Season Tip Off
The Pirates will be without transfer Robert Mitchell for this tournament, and because of that I think they lose to USC with little contest. I do think they can win the loser's bracket and capture fourth place, though, with Chattanooga and Missouri as the likely opponents.

St. John's - NIT Season Tip Off
Cornell is a better team than St. John's, so I will say the Red storm likely go home early. However, if they pull that upset, the next round against Boston College or Loyola (MD) is easier. Again, I expect one-and-done, but if they win the first they might just win two. I see very little chance of further advance than that.

Syracuse - CBE Classic
This is the same format as the Legends Classic but less of a joke. Syracuse has all but assured wins in LeMoyne and Richmond to get things going, followed by a tough smeifinal against Florida. I say that Syracuse gets it done, beating Florida and then the defending champs. I think Florida will be the tougher of the two games, but this is the Orange's Chance to say "we're here."

Roundup: So, I see four preseason tournament champions (Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Providence, and Syracuse), one runner-up (Notre Dame) and two top half finishes (Georgetown, Seton Hall) for the Big East. The lone one-and-done I suspect will be St. John's. 

Note tournaments that I couldn't find brackets for include: West Virginia and DePaul in the Las Vegas Invitational, Cincinnati in the Global Sports Classic, Villanova in the Philly Classic, Marquette in the Chicago Invitational Challenge, and South Florida in the San Juan Shootout.  Of those, the most important game I'm aware of is a WV-Kentucky matchup, which I'll go ahead and pick the Mountaineers to win.

So, there you have it, my complete opinion on Big East basketball '08-'09. Thanks to everyone who took the time to bother reading all this the last few weeks; I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did putting it together. Let me know what you think, even if you think I'm an idiot, because I want to hear it! Also, check out the Second Annual year-long Big East thread for constant discussion of all relevant Big East topics. Go Big East!
Posted on: November 2, 2008 2:15 pm

Big East Preview 9, Providence Friars

Providence is drawing a lot of attention as this year's dark horse team, with the return of Sharaud Curry.  Now that Cincinnati has taken some hits to its roster, Provy is really the only candidate for that role, because nine other teams are being projected into the NCAA field and the rest of the pack is simply not that talented.  Their MO is great guard play without much up front, and it appears that will continue into 2008-2009.  They are the kind of team that can get on fire in terms of scoring against almost any defense, and thus are very dangerous.  They have a great chance to make an argument for the Big East in the Anaheim Classic.  Saint Mary's, Wake Forest, Baylor, and Arizona State are all receiving votes in preseason polls but none is so strong that Providence couldn't upset them.  A strong showing, or even a victory, in this tournament by the Big East's supposed tenth strongest team would plant and early and strong image.

15-16 Overall, 6-12 Big East (12th)
Lost 1st round Big East tournament (West Virginia)
No postseason tournament


Chris Baudinet         F
Marston Brooks      G/F
Charles Burch          F
Luke Burchett           G
Sharaud Curry          G
Weyinmi Efejuku      G
Ray Hall                     C
Randall Hanke        F/C
Jonathan Kale           F
Alex Kellogg               F
Geoff McDermott      F/G
Brian McKenzie         G
Jamine Peterson      F
Dwain Williams        G
Jeff Xavier                  G

Burch, Williams

Burch was a non-factor up front last season, but Williams contributed 11 points per game.  Those points should be easily replaced by a healthy Sharaud Curry, and his impact could be yet greater.


Trey Anderson     G
Bilal Dixon            F

I actually have only seen Anderson mentioned at one source; can any PC fans confirm?  As for Dixon, I don't think he is enough to fix the problems up front...but he could make a difference between having no inside presence and having a small one.  Will he be both ready to contribute and able to stand up to some of the big-time players in the conference?

The Schedule:

Nonconference Games:  Northeastern, Dartmouth, Sacred Heart, Maine, Baylor (Anaheim Classic, other possible opponents include: St. Mary's, UTEP, Wake Forest, Cal State-Fullerton, Arizona State, Charlotte), Brown, Rhode Island, Jackson State, Boston College, Bryant

Providence has an excellent opportunity, or a tough challenge, depending upon point of view.  The Anaheim Classic could tell us a lot about whether they are ready to make a move.  Only BC really looks like a challenge outside of the tournament, though.

Two-Time Opponents
:  Cincinnati, Villanova, Rutgers

This is a very good slate for a team trying to move up the conference standings.  They get an injured Cincy squad, a weak Rutgers team, and Villanova is a similar team.  Not bad at all.

Remaining Roadies
:  Georgetown, Seton Hall, Connecticut, West Virginia, South Florida, Louisville

Home Games:  St. John's, DePaul, Marquette, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh

It is also key to the Friars' hopes that they avoid dangerous trips to Pitt and ND.  They do travel to Louisville and UCONN, but they won at Connecticut last year.  All in all, they have exactly the schedule they need to surprise some folks IF they can execute.
The Outlook

Best Case Scenario:
     Six players (Curry, Efejuku, Hanke, McDermott, McKenzie, and Xavier) average double figures, and Kale, Kellogg, Peterson, and Bilal rotate well enough to constitute effective forward play.  They shock everyone by winning the Anaheim Classic and finishing the OOC slate undefeated.  They take a few lumps in Big East play, but finish in the top half of the league...perhaps as high as sixth.  They run with that in the Big East tournament, solidifying a good NCAA seed with a good showing there.  Once in the NCAAs, they win one or two to cap a very successful season.

Worst Case Scenario:
    Curry struggles to rediscover his form, and the weakness in the frontcourt is exploited many times.  The guard play isn't enough to get past Baylor, so they wind up in the 4th/6th place game in the Anaheim Classic.  Boston College takes them down, and they add another loss in the noncon to a weaker opponent.  Once Big East play starts, they find themselves in over their heads, and slip as far as 11th or 12th place.  They don't win enough in the BE tourney to land much credit, missing the NIT and ending in the CBI.

My Take:
     This is essentially the same team that finished 12th in the Big East last year.  Yes, the league overall is stronger...but the very bottom is weaker.  The Friars stand almost no chance of finishing worse than last season, and should be at worst the tenth place team.  They have the kind of talent to make an NCAA run, and the key difference from last year is that a healthy Sharaud Curry replaces Dwain Williams.  They have questions to answer in the frontcourt, and only Hanke has shown much, BUT they have four options to rotate and match up.  They really could make a run based on their schedule, because their repeat opponents are not overwhelming and the nonconference features a mostly easy slate with one chance to make a very big statement.  They do not belong in the same conversation as the botom feeders in the Big East, but I'm not yet convinced they should be classified with the nine teams many are projecting into the NCAA field.  Just a few games will make the difference for them between a top half finish and the NCAA tournament and a 9 or 10 finish and an NIT invite, I believe.  I think they are one of ten teams in the conference that will be among the 65 best in the nation, but at least one of those ten will be left out...my guess is the Friars will be the odd man out on Selection Sunday.
Category: NCAAB
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