Tag:Golden Eagles
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 28, 2008 7:16 pm

Big East Preview 6, Marquette Golden Eagles

I can't really talk about Marquette without talking about their coaching change.  They replaced an excellent coach with an unproven one.  But I am going to leave that largely out of the rest of my preview here, except where I need it to nudge me a little bit toward something, for two reasons: 1) I haven't really talked about coaches in these previews much and 2) my general approach to thoughts on new coaches is to give them the benefit of the doubt for a couple of years.  Marquette loses little from an NCAA tournament team, but its road there is a little tougher than the last.  What does this say for them?

25-10 Overall, 11-7 Big East (5th)
Eliminated 3rd round Big East tournament by Pittsburgh
Lost NCAA second round to Stanford


Maurice Acker                    G
Ousmane Barro                 F
Lawrence Blackledge       F
Tommy Brice                      G
Dwight Burke                      F
Scott Christopherson       G
David Cubillan                   G
Dan Fitzgerald                    F
Robert Frozena                  G
Lazar Hayward                   F
Patrick Hazel                      F
Dominic James                G
Wesley Matthews             G
Trevor Mbakwe                  F
Jerel McNeal                     G

Barro, Blackledge, Brice, Fitzgerald, Christopherson

No one here was a major part of Marquette's scoring.  In fact, it's a total of 12.6 points on 46.4 minutes, meaning that the average departing player scored 2.52 points and played 9.28 minutes.  Clearly, then, this roster still has NCAA tournament talent.


Jimmy Butler      G    (JUCO Transfer)
Joseph Fulce     F     (JUCO Transfer)  These two guys played ball together in Tyler Texas, which helps.  Can they make a major difference?  I'm not sure.  I don't think they quite replace Nick Williams and Tyshawn Taylor, gone with Crean's departure.

Liam McMorrow  C   (redshirt)   He might be the best new piece, because Marquette lacked a true center last year.  I don't think he can hang with the big boys of the Big East, though.

Chris Otule          C

      The only true freshman coming in is another option at Center, but unimpressive and in my opinion less likely to succeed against Harangody, Thabeet, Blair, Samuels and company than McMorrow.  I don't believe this cast of newcomers stacks up with those from many other Big East schools, though Marquette returns all of last year's top-flight talent.  This is the area where Crean's depature WILL hurt, other areas I leave to be determined by the season.

The Schedule:

Nonconference Games:  Houston Baptist, Chicago State, Milwaukee, Texas Southern, Northern Iowa, Dayton, Central Michigan, Wisconsin, IPFW, Tennessee, Western Carolina, NC State, Presbyterian

That's a long - and not easy - ooc slate.  There are four very dangerous games there.  If they win through it will turn a lot of heads in their direction, but winning them all will be tough.

Two Time Opponents:   Villanova, DePaul, Georgetown

I don't want to call that easy, because 'Nova and G'Town are good teams, but by comparison...

Remaining Roadies:  Rutgers, Providence, Notre Dame, South Florida, Louisville, Pittsburgh

Home Games:   Cincinnati, West Virginia, St. John's, Seton Hall, Connecticut, Syracuse

Don't be surprised if the Golden Eagles are poised in the conversation for a BE title early but fade late.  They visit Louisville and Pittsburgh and host Connecticut, all late in the season, after a relatively soft opening to conference play and a forgiving set of repeat opponents.
The Outlook

Best Case Scenario:
     The impressive returning core of McNeal, James, Hayward, and Matthews all average between 13 and 15 points.  One of the new boys manages to keep the inside game afloat at Center, opening things up for the three stars and other roleplayers at guard.  They lose only one game in the tough nonconference slate, and get on a roll by winnning something like 11 or 12 of their first 13 Big East games.  Their last 5 games bring them somewhat back down to earth, but they finish in the top four for one of those automatic quarterfinal byes.  They play their way into the Big East title game, earning themselves a 3 seed if they lose, a 4 if they win.  A Sweet Sixteen, or Elite Eight finish with the right draw, is not entirely out of their reach.

Worst Case Scenario
    They show that they are still a little soft up front, and the guard play just isn't enough to elevate them very high in the Big East standings.  On top of that, they don't win any statement games out of conference...either because they lose to Dayton, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and NC State or because whomever they beat from that group has a disappointing season.  Despite a fairly strong start to BE play, they finish ninth in the conference and win only one game in the tournament.  There are too many other teams with similar profiles on the bubble, so they are bounced to the NIT.  They play deep into that tournament, and possibly win it.

My Take
    You have to like what they bring back, if not what they're bringing in fresh.  The four guys they return who averaged double figures last year are a solid core for any team, but they lack frontcourt depth in a conference full of teams that like to come at you in the paint.  Lazar Hayward can't be their whole game up front.  They will get excellent production from their guards once again, but will probably struggle to contain a lot of big time inside scorers.  I also doubt their ability to get enough second chance points.  Even with all of those concerns, they have too much returning talent to finish worse than ninth in the league, but I don't see them as likely to finish higher than sixth.  They aren't a worse team than last year's NCAA tournament squad, but neither are they appreciably better...and many Big East teams are.  I will be very interested to see how they handle the conference in Williams's second year as head coach when a lot of talent exits the league.  Don't get me wrong, there's talent here and they should make the NCAAs, but I don't really consider them among this year's elite in the conference.
Category: NCAAB
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