The Big East has always been one of the toughest conferences for college basketball, this year will be no different. There should be a bit of a shuffle as to who will win the conference compared to what happened last year. UCONN was chosen as the preseason number one, followed by Louisville, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame wraps up the top four. Defending Big East Champion, Pitt, is in the top four, but will have to fight to contend this season.
Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody (20.4 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.7 apg) was the Big East’s Player of the Year for last season, will be the player to watch this year. Top players to watch in the league this year are, Hasheem Thabeet (10.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, .4 apg), AJ Price (14.5 ppg, 3.5 rbg, 5.8 apg), Johnny Flynn (15.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 5.3 apg), Sam Young (18.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.2 apg) Terrence Williams (11.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 4.5 apg). Other key players to watch are Earl Clark, DeJaun Blair, Jerel McNeal and Jeff Adrien.
Connecticut finished the conference last year 13-5 and overall 24-9. They are the preseason pick for the top of the Big East. Junior C Hasheem Thabeet, senior G AJ Price and senior F Jeff Adrien will be the leaders on this team. The expulsion of Nate Miles has hit the team hard. Look for junior G Jerome Dyson, junior F Gavin Edwards and senior G Craig Austrie play supporting roles.
Louisville went 15-3 in the league and rounded the season out at 28-6. They were chosen as the #2 spot in preseason. The Cardinals are returning four starters, including stand out, senior F Terrence Williams. Louisville does have a depth issue this season, but could get a little help in the front court from freshman F George Goode. Also look for a decent contribution from Mississippi State transfer, Reginald Dell.
Pittsburgh finished the season 27-10 last year, but also won the Big East Championship. Sophomore F DeJaun Blair will be a key factor for the Panthers success this season. Rounding out the starting line-up, senior G Levance Fields, freshman G Jermaine Dixon, sophomore F Gilbert Brown and senior F Sam Young. Travon Woodall and Ashton Gibbs, both freshmen could also contribute to the Panthers defending their Big East Title.
Notre Dame went 14-4 in the conference and 25-8 overall. Last season’s Big East POY, F Luke Haragody to pave the way to the Fighting Irish to be in the mix for contenders for the league.
Villanova finished last season 22-13. They were voted to finish as fifth in the conference. Junior G Scottie Reynolds should be a standout for the Wildcats. Senior F Dante Cunningham was the only player on the team to start every game last season, the wildcats will be looking to him for leading on and off the court.
Marquette wrapped up last season 25-10. While returning 3 seniors, Marquette lacks front court depth. Senior G Jerel McNeal and senior G Dominic James are key factors for the team. The best contribution from the bench will most likely come from JUCO transfer, Joseph Fulce. Junior G David Cubillan is recovering from off season surgery, look for him to resume his role with the team once he’s recovered.
Georgetown finished last season 28-6. The Hoyas lack depth in the back court, which could be a large flaw for the squad. Their two reserve guards do not seem able to handle the PG duties. Junior F DaJuan Summers and freshman F Greg Moore are the players to watch out for this season. Transfer Henry Sims, could make a huge contribution as a big man for Georgetown.
Syracuse went 21-14 last season. They are picked to finish eighth in the Big East. There does not seem to be a depth issue with this squad. Sophomore G Jonny Flynn and junior G Andy Rautins are key players for Syracuse this season, once they fully recover from their injuries.
West Virginia was picked to finish ninth overall in the league. Coach Bob Huggins believes the Mountaineers will finish higher, as has been the trend in the past few seasons. The key player for this team is freshman F Devin Ebanks, look for him to make a huge contribution for West Virginia.
Providence was picked in the preseason poll to finish tenth in the Big East. The Friars return all five starters this season. Senior G Jeff Xavier led the team in scoring last year.
Cincinnati was picked to finish eleventh overall in the conference. Cashmere Wright has a torn ACL in his left knee, he is out for the season. With Wright out of the line-up, it reduces the Bearcats 8 man roster to 7. Look for Cincinnati to dominate in the paint this year and to have a strong defensive presence with the combination of Anthony McClain and Yancy Gates.
Rutgers was picked to finish twelfth overall in the Big East. Senior F JR Inman is out for 3-4 weeks. Look for senior G Anthony Farmer and junior C Hamady Ndiaye to have big rolls for the Scarlet Knights.
Seton Hall, chosen to finish thirteenth in the league has little depth. The depth issues are worsened with the eligibility of Herb Pope and Keon Lawrence.
St John’s, DePaul and USF wrap up the preseason polls for the Big East. St. John’s Malik Boothe could make a challenge for PG. DePaul’s Mario Stula is sitting out for a few weeks, and when he returns could be a force off the bench. USF is dealing with eligibility issues for Maryland transfer Gus Gilchrist.