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: October 19, 2008 12:26 pm

Big East Preview 1, Cincinnati Bearcats

Now that college basketball is practicing for real, I'm analyzing the Big East team by team, alphabetically by school.  I'll culminate the whole thing in a preseason ranking of all 16 teams, but I'm holding off on making exact predictions on where each team will finish exactly until I've done all the research on all the rosters.  What fans of each team will get is a somewhat impartial (except for Pitt, obviously) view of how things will shape up.  The conference is a monster in 2008-2009, so if I think your team isn't going to be in the running it isn't necessarily because I think that team is bad.  We open with Cincinnati, a team with a winning history but recent struggles.  Will they be all the way back in the '08-'09 season?



13-19 overalll, 8-10 Big East (10th)
eliminated 1st round Big East tournament (by eventual champion Pittsburgh)
lost 1st round of innaugural College Basketball Invitational (Belmont)


Kenny Belton       F
Rashad Bishop  F
Larry Davis          G
Marvin Gentry      G
Adam Hrycaniuk C
Anthony McClain C
Brandon Miller     G
Avin Mitchell          F
Marcus Sikes       F
Deonta Vaughn   G
Jamual Warren   G
Darnell Wilks       F
John Williamson F


Gentry, Sikes, Warren, Williamson, Hrycaniuk

The Bearcats lose a lot of minutes in that group, but not really a lot of quality minutes.  Williamson certainly contributed, with 11.6 points per game in 26.5 minutes, but the others really did not take full advantage of their time on the floor.


Mike Williams F (transfer from Texas) He is a talented player, but unproven.  In his tenure with Texas, he only played his freshman season, averaging 13.6 minutes, 2.3 points, and 3.1 rebounds.  He should be able to improve on that, but I'm not sure he will be the impact player that some suspect.

Domonic Tilford
G (transfer from South Alabama) I'm not 100% certain about this, but I believe Tilford has been tabbed to replace JUCO transfer Nick Aldridge, who was kicked off the team for selling drugs.  Any Uc fans have confirmation?  Anyway, I think he could be a bigger addition than Williams, if that's true.  He adds experience to the guard play alongside Vaughn.

Cashmere Wright
Dion Dixon G
Yancy Gates F
Steve Toyloy C
John Reik  C

That's the freshman class, and it looks pretty impressive.  This team will be very deep at guard, and won't lack for talent at Forward, either.  They really didn't get great play at Center last year, and the two newcomers should improve that, especially Reik with his size.  They will be relying on freshmen or Anthony McClain, though, so Center could be their weak spot.

The schedule:

Nonconference games: South Dakota, Texas Southern, Western Illinois, Coastal Carolina, Florida State, UAB, Xavier, Charleston Southern, Mississippi State, Eastern Kentucky, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Memphis

There are four, perhaps five, very dangerous games on that slate, with some real cake in between.  The Bearcats will need to win one or two of those, and avoid any upsets in the easy ones, to look good going into conference play.

Two-time opponents: Georgetown, Providence, St. John's

That is by no means easy, but perhaps as forgiving as one can ask for in this conference.

Remaining roadies: DePaul, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, South Florida, Villanova
Home games:  Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Seton Hall, West Virginia

Not a bad split.  They get three of the four preseason Big East favorites at home, and play none of those twice.

The Outlook

Best Case Scenario:
    Vaughn averages 20 points a game, while Tilford, Dixon, and Wright support him for great depth in the backcourt.  Yancy Gates is as good as advertised, and Mike Williams steps up in a big way.  Reik immediately capitalizes on his height and is spelled capably by McClain and Toyloy.  They blow through a pretty tough nonconference slate with one or two losses, and finish Big East play over .500, win a round or two in the Big East tournament, and get a 7 seed in the NCAAs.  I think NCAA second round is about the best this team can hope for, though.

Worst Case Scenario:
    Let's be clear, this does not include the possibility of injury to a major part of the team.  Vaughn goes a little cold (still good for 12-15 ppg, though).  Williams is not the player they hoped for, and Tilford is unable to keep pace in the Big East.  The talented freshman class just isn't ready to go, as a whole.  Cincinnati meanders into conference play with 5 losses, and just can't compete with the big guns in the conference.  They still manage to knock off a couple of great teams, but return to the CBI.  They're too talented to not win that tournament, if they land there.

My take:
    There is a lot of talent coming to Cincinnati this year.  Their coach got more from them than he should have last year, except down the stretch.  The arrivals are certainly better than the departures, and Deonta Vaughn is among the best scorers in the conference, if not the nation.  This year it won't be Deonta Vaughn and "who else?"  They're improving, but this is the wrong year to be sneaking up on the Big East.  I'm sure the Bearcats will be better, but I'm not so sure that will translate to a much higher finish in the standings.  Most of the teams that finished ahead of them last year are also better.  The Bearcats are going to beat some very good teams this year, but I don't think they're ready to win consistently against top competition.  They have NCAA tournament talent on that roster, but I believe there are 11 teams in the Big East who can make that claim, so getting in will not be easy.  There's a bright future here, to go with a storied past.  Even with Vaughn graduating, I think the 2009-2010 team will be a force again in the Big East as they'll be improving while the top dogs soften a little around them.
Category: NCAAB
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