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 26, 2008 4:21 pm

Big East Preview 4, Georgetown Hoyas

Sorry to those who have actually been reading these.  I got a little behind.  Hopefully I can pound out one late tonight and get a little more on track.  This one is one of the more interesting teams, in the Hoyas.  They lost a lot, but are bringing in a very solid recruiting class.  Can they hang in the Big East with the new blood?  Will the Hibbert loss be as huge as it seems?  Where will they finish amid nine or ten teams with real NCAA aspirations?


28-6 overall, 15-3 Big East (1st)
Lost Big East Championship game to Pittsburgh
Eliminated second round NCAAs (Davidson)  [and let me say, that was one TOUGH half-region...Kansas State, Wisconsin, Davidson, Georgetown...all for the right to play Kansas.  Ouch.]


Tyler Crawford               G/F
Patrick Ewing, Jr.            F
Austin Freeman              G
Roy Hibbert                      C
Bryon Jansen                   F
Vernon Macklin                F
Nikita Mescheriakov       F
Jeremiah Rivers             G
Jessie Sapp                    G
Dajuan Summers           F
Jonathan Wallace           G
Omar Wattad                   G/F
Chris Wright                     G


Crawford, Ewing, Hibbert, Macklin, Rivers, Wallace

That's quite a list, highlighted by Hibbert.  When six players go from a team that had such great results the last two years, it leaves some shoes to fill.


Julian Vaughn      F  (transfer from Florida State) with so many players leaving, this was good news for the Hoyas.  Still, he didn't really light the world aflame at FSU, averaging just 13.3 minutes and 3 points.  I expect him to have only limited impact.

Greg Monroe        F
Jason Clark         G
Henry Sims          C

This group makes Georgetown the third of the four teams I've previewed so far with an outstanding recruiting class.  Monroe should be a nice tandem with Summers, and Sims and Clark should be great in the future.

The schedule:

Nonconference Games:  Jacksonville, Drexel, Wichita State, American, Savannah State, Memphis, Mount St. Mary's, Florida International, Duke

Two tough ones in Memphis and Duke, and a couple of dangerous but "easy" ones.  I'm not sure that slate will prepare them for the conference season, sine Duke comes later...

Two-time Opponents:  Syracuse, Marquette, Cincinnati

Really not a bad draw.  Two second-tier teams, and one on the outside looking in.  All three are very dangerous opponents, though.

Remaining Roadies:  Connecticut, Note Dame, Seton Hall, South Florida, Villanova, St. John's

That starts tough, but softens up a little.

Home Games:  Pittsburgh, Providence, West Virginia, Rutgers, Louisville, DePaul

The Hoyas Big East slate isn't all that rough as such things go, but they open it in a gauntlet.  How's this for a stretch of games: @ Connecticut, Pittsburgh, @ Notre Dame, Providence, Syracuse, @ Duke, West Virginia? Ouch!  Four of those are in most people's preseason top tens, and the other three are very talented, and in the case of Provy and 'Cuse very hungry, teams.

The Outlook
Best Case Scenario
     Sims is ready to go on day one, and makes people forget about Hibbert right away (well, almost).  Summers and Monroe add their wieght and make the Hoyas dominant up front.  The returning guards step up their game a level, and while they don't have a real star back their they have the shot when they need it.  They enter Big East play undefeated, including a statement win over Memphis.  Even in the face of the brutal seven-game stretch mentioned above, they get out with only one or two losses, setting the stage for another run at a conference title.  They fall short of that, but finish in the top 3.  They have a good BE tournament showing, and are rewarded with an excellent NCAA tournament seed.  They lack the experience for a real run to a championship, but again impress with a Sweet 16 or even Elite Eight appearance.

Worst Case Scenario
     Sims, Monroe, and Clark aren't ready to be their best when the rough late December/early January stretch rolls around.  They take a loss to Memphis first, then lose 5 or 6 of 7 from December 29-January 22.  Having dug themselves such a hole, they finish tenth in the conference.  The BE tournament isn't much kinder, and their opening round win isn't enough to propel them into the NCAA field.  They have a reasonable showing in the NIT, and regroup for a 2009-2010 season in which they have a chance to do something special.

My Take:
     I like this Hoyas squad.  BUT.  They are very reliant on an (admittedly talented) incoming class, which I don't think is a formula for great success in this conference.  I believe there are four teams clearly better than the Hoyas in this league, and four OTHER teams that are on roughly equal footing.  I don't believe their newcomers will be ready for the rough opening they have to conference play, especially Sims.  He has to face Thabeet, Blair, and Harangody in his first three conference games, and there isn't much depth behind him at the position.  This team has enough talent to be an NCAA tournament team.  I know I sound like a broken record here, but that just isn't enough to challenge in this league.  I believe they will sneak into the NCAAs, finishing somewhere between 7th-9th in the league.  I wouldn't be surprised if they landed in the NIT, though, nor would I be surprised if they finished fourth or fifth.  There is just really that great a range of possibility here.  The reason I err on the low side is that they are one of the few Big East teams to have lost so much, and their recruiting class, while very solid, isn't really better than several others.  Inexperience will hurt them; the question is how much.
Category: NCAAB
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