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2009-10 College Basketball Preview: Big East


Written by Paul Banks of NBC Chicago and the Washington Times, and David Kay of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
All other e-mail, including advertising and link proposals, send to: wpc112@gmail.com



THE FAVORITES:

1. Villanova (4th in Big East in ’08-’09, 13-5 in BE, 30-8 overall, Final Four)

2009-2010 Outlook:

The Wildcats boast one of the best backcourts in college basketball, but as usual, will not have a lot of size down low. They have a very talented recruiting class and if those in-coming freshmen can replace the three seniors 'Nova lost, they should be the team to beat in the Big East. The newcomers will have some early chances to show their potential as Reggie Redding has been suspended for the first semester after being found with marijuana in his car. The addition of Duke transfer Taylor King should make the Cats even more lethal from the outside.

Projected Depth Chart

F/C: Antonio Pena (Sr)/Mouphtaou Yarou (Fr)/Maurice Sutton (So)

F: Reggie Redding (Sr)/Isaiah Armwood (Fr)

G/F: Corey Stokes (Jr)/Taylor King (So)/Russell Wooten (Sr)

G: Corey Fisher (Jr)/Dominic Cheek (Fr)

PG: Scottie Reynolds (Sr)/Maalik Wayns (Fr)

Gone: F-Dante Cunningham, F-Shane Clark, G/F-Dwayne Anderson

Player to Watch: Fisher- As a sophomore, Fisher averaged almost 11 points per game coming off the bench. He will have an expanded role as a starter this season and should take some of the point guard responsibility off of Reynolds’ shoulders which should open Scottie up to be more of a shooter. Fisher could be poised for a break-out season as he has a tremendous scoring ability.

2. West Virginia (7th, 10-8, 23-12, NCAA First Round)

2009-2010 Outlook:

Originally, I had the Mountaineers as the favorites to win the Big East. But indefinite suspensions to point guards Truck Bryant and Joe Mazzulla, have the Bob Huggins’ crew very thin at the point. Once again, they will rely on their defense and long, versatile, athletic forwards to carry them. If Bryant and/or Mazzulla are re-instated to the team, expect West Virginia to be a top-ten caliber team in the country.

Projected Depth Chart

C: Wellington Smith (Sr)/Cam Thoroughman (Jr)/Deniz Kilicli (Fr)

F: John Flowers (Jr)/Kevin Jones (So)

F: Devin Ebanks (So)/ Dalton Pepper (Fr)/Josh Sowards (Sr)

G/F: De’Sean Butler (Sr)/Casey Mitchell (So)

PG: Johnnie West (Jr)/Truck Bryant (So)?/Joe Mazzulla (Jr)?

Gone: SG-Alex Ruoff

Player to Watch: Ebanks- His freshman season didn’t get off to the start that many hoped, but Ebanks really elevated his game the last two months of the season. He might be one of the most versatile defenders in the country which fits perfectly with Huggins’ style. If he can become a more consistent threat from the outside, watch out!



BOUNCING BACK

3. Georgetown (12th, 7-11, 16-15, NIT)

2009-2010 Outlook:

After a very disappointing 2008-2009 campaign, JT3’s Hoyas should be back near the top of the conference. For that to happen, Greg Monroe will need to establish himself as a dominant player which he is very capable of doing. Depth will be a concern for G-Town especially on the wing. Their freshmen will need to contribute right away if Georgetown is going to finish this high.

Projected Depth Chart

C: Henry Sims (So)

PF: Greg Monroe (So)/Jerrelle Benimon (Fr)

SF: Nikita Mescheriakov (So)/Hollis Thompson (Fr)

SG: Austin Freeman (Jr)/Vee Sanford (Fr)

PG: Chris Wright (Jr)/Jason Clark (So)

Gone: F-DaJuan Summers, G-Jesse Sapp, G/F-Omar Wattad (transfer-Chattanooga)

Player to Watch: Sims- The highly recruited freshman failed to make a major impact in his first year. Both he and Vernon Macklin were unable to provide the Hoyas with the inside presence the team needed. In order for Monroe (and ultimately Georgetown) to take his game to the next level, Sims will need to establish himself beyond the 1.9 points and 1.7 boards a game he averaged in less than ten minutes per game last season.

RE-LOADING, BUT STILL DANCIN’

4. UConn (2nd, 15-3, 31-5, Final 4)

2009-2010 Outlook:

Another trip to the Final Four seems highly unlikely for UConn as Jim Calhoun loses three major weapons in Thabeet, Adrien, and Price. Walker should step into the full-time point guard role without missing much of a beat while Dyson and Robinson will be counted on to pick up the scoring slack. The question will be up-front where newcomers Oriakhi and Mojak (who won’t be eligible until mid-December) will be asked to step in and contribute right away.

Projected Depth Chart

C: Alex Oriakhi (Fr)/Charles Okwandu (Jr)/Jonathan Mandeldove (Sr)

PF: Gavin Edwards (Sr)/Ater Mojak (Fr)

SF: Stanley Robinson (Sr)/Jamal Coombs-McDaniel (Fr)

SG: Jerome Dyson (Sr)/Donnell Beverly (Jr)/Jamaal Trice (Fr)

PG: Kemba Walker (So)/Darius Smith (Fr)

Gone: C-Hasheem Thabeet, PG-A.J. Price, PF-Jeff Adrien, SG-Craig Austrie, SG-Scottie Haralson (transfer-Tulsa)

Player to Watch: Dyson- The Huskie shooting guard missed the final seven games of the season and the entire NCAA Tournament due to a knee injury. He will need to come back at full strength as he is the only established outside threat UConn will have. Calhoun will also likely count on Dyson to emerge as the team’s go-to scorer, a change from his previous complimentary role.

5. Syracuse (6th, 11-7, 28-10, Sweet 16)

2009-2010 Outlook:

Losing Jonny Flynn was understandable as he ended up being the sixth overall pick, but why Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris left early still baffles me. Despite losing their top three scorers, the 'Cuse shouldn’t fall off too much. Iowa State transfer Wesley Johnson will be a major addition on the wing and getting redshirt sophomore Scoop Jardine back should fill some of the void at the point. Adding freshman DeShonte Riley alongside upperclassmen Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson will give the Orange one of the best frontcourts in the Big East.

Projected Depth Chart

C: Arinze Onuaku (Sr)/DeShonte Riley (Fr)

PF: Rick Jackson (Jr)/Kris Joseph (So)

SF: Wesley Johnson (Jr)/Mookie Jones (So)/James Southerland (Fr)

SG: Andy Rautins (Sr)

PG: Scoop Jardine (So)/Brandon Triche (Fr)

Gone: PG-Jonny Flynn, G-Eric Devendorf, G/F-Paul Harris, F-Kristof Ongenaet, C-Sean Williams (transfer-Cal State Fullerton)

Player to Watch: Johnson- Jim Boeheim has spoke very highly of the former Cyclone this summer and thinks he will be a very special player this season. Syracuse will need Johnson to pick up a good chunk of the scoring slack left behind by Flynn, Devendorf, and Harris.

6. Louisville (1st, 16-2, 30-6, Elite 8)

2009-2010 Outlook:

Don’t expect another re-peat of conference regular season and tournament champs for Louisville. The loss of T-Will and Clark is huge as Rick Pitino will struggle to find someone to replace their leadership and all-around game. The Cards’ guard play should be solid which means their full court pressure will once again be prominent. There is young talent up-front, but the wing play will determine how good L-Ville will be this season. It will also be interesting to see if Pitino’s off-the-court escapade serves as a lingering distraction throughout the season.

Projected Depth Chart

C: Samardo Samuels (So)/George Goode (So)

PF: Terrence Jennings (So)/Jared Swopshire (So)/Rakeem Buckles (Fr)

G: Reginald Delk (Sr)/Kyle Kuric (So)/Mike Marra (Fr)

G: Preston Knowles (Jr)/Edgar Sosa (Sr)

PG: Jerry Smith (Sr)/Peyton Siva (Fr)

Gone: G/F-Terrence Williams, F-Earl Clark, G-Andre McGee

Player to Watch: Jennings- The 6’10 sophomore is the wild card for Louisville. He showed definite signs of improvement at the end of his freshman season. If he can combine with Samardo Samuels to be a formidable duo down low, it will open up more opportunities outside for the guards, thus making the Cards a more rounded team.



ON THE BUBBLE

7. Cincinnati (9th, 8-10, 18-14)

2009-2010 Outlook:

The Bearcats made nice strides last season and that should continue as they return everyone from ’08-’09. Adding super-freshman Lance Stephenson is a major get as long as he behaves himself becomes a team player at Cincy. This team could be the sleeper in the BE especially with Cashmere Wright, who missed of all last season with an injury, back and healthy.

Projected Depth Chart

C/F: Steve Toyloy (So)/Anthony McClain (So)

PF: Yancy Gates (So)/Ibrahima Thomas (Jr)/Rashad Bishop (Jr)

G/F: Lance Stephenson (Fr)/Darnell Wilks (Jr)

G: Deonta Vaughn (Sr)/Dion Dixon (So)/Larry Davis (Jr)

PG: Cashmere Wright (Fr)/Eddie Tyree (Jr)/Jaquon Parker (Fr)

Gone: F-Alvin Mitchell (dismissed from team), F-Mike Williams

Player to Watch: Thomas- The Oklahoma State transfer will be eligible for the Bearcats after the fall semester, in time for Big East play. He started seven games for the Cowboys last season and should form a double-threat inside with Gates. He could be the x-factor for a potential Cincy run to the tourney.

8. Seton Hall (11th, 7-11, 17-15)

2009-2010 Outlook:

Everybody’s back and transfers Herb Pope, Jeff Robinson, and Keon Lawrence are eligible this season, adding some much needed depth for the Pirates. I would by no means be shocked if they finished above .500 in the conference as their experience should be a major plus, but I am not ready to throw myself out there and guarantee them a spot in the tourney. Jeremy Hazell might be one of the better players in the country who receives little love on the national scene.

Projected Depth Chart

C: John Garcia (Sr)/Mike Davis (So)

PF: Robert Mitchell (Sr)/Herb Pope (Jr)/Brandon Walters (So)/Matt Cajuste (So)

G/F: Jeremy Hazell (Jr)/Jeff Robinson (So)/Ferrakohn Hall (Fr)

G: Paul Gause (Sr)/Keon Lawrence (Sr)

PG: Eugene Harvey (Sr)/Jordan Theodore (So)/Pete Peregrin (Jr)

Gone: Nobody

Player to Watch: Pope- The New Mexico State transfer averaged 11 points and almost seven boards a game in his freshman season with the Aggies. The Pirates starting five is in tact from last season, but they lacked a boost off the bench which Pope should be able to provide, especially inside.

9. Notre Dame (9th, 8-10, 21-15, NIT)

2009-2010 Outlook:

A lack of depth was a major issue as the Irish failed to live up to their lofty expectations last season, and it will once again be a concern as four important seniors graduated. Luckily, Luke Harangody chose to come back for his senior season and Ole Miss transfer Ben Hansbrough (yes, Tyler’s little bro) should step into the starting line-up right away. A Harangody and a Hansbrough on the same team; the hatred should be plentiful for ND this year. Tory Jackson should be a steadying presence as he enters his fourth year as the team’s starting point guard.

Projected Depth Chart

F/C: Luke Harangody (Sr)/Thomas Knight (Fr) /Mike Broghammer (Fr)

F: Tyrone Nash (Jr)/ Carleton Scott (Jr)/Jack Cooley (Fr)

SF: Scott Martin (Jr)

SG: Ben Hansbrough (Sr)/Joey Brooks (Fr)

PG: Tory Jackson (Sr)/Jonathan Peoples (Jr)

Gone: G-Kyle McAlarney, G/F-Ryan Ayers, C-Luke Zeller F-Zach Hillesland

Player to Watch: Martin- The Purdue transfer started in eight games for the Boilermakers during his freshman season. He is a well-rounded player who can hit from the outside and will need to be a perimeter compliment to Hansbrough as sharp-shooters McAlarney and Ayers (who combined for 218 three-pointers last season) have both graduated and Jackson is inconsistent from deep.

10. Pitt (2nd, 15-3, 31-5, NCAA Elite 8)

2009-2010 Outlook:

I realize this is low for Jamie Dixon’s team. But losing four starters in Blair, Young, Fields, and Biggs means 59% of their scoring, 63% of their rebounding, and 60% assists from a year ago need to be replaced. If their role players from last year can adjust to being starters under the tutelage of Dixon, there is a good chance Pitt will be tourney bound. Returning sixth man Gilbert Brown will miss the first semester after being suspended for the first semester due to academic issues.

Projected Depth Chart

F/C: Gary McGhee (Jr)/Talib Zanna (Fr)/J.J. Richardson (Fr)

F: Nasir Robinson (So)/ Gilbert Brown (Jr)/Dante Taylor (Fr)/ Dwight Miller (Fr)

G: Jermaine Dixon (Sr)/Lamar Patterson (Fr)

G: Brad Wanamaker (Jr)/ Tim Frye (Jr)

PG: Ashton Gibbs (So)/Chase Adams (Sr)/Travon Woodall (Fr)

Gone: C-DeJuan Blair, SF-Sam Young, PG-LaVance Fields, PF-Tyrell Biggs

Player to Watch: Gibbs- The reins of the Pitt offense will be put in Gibbs’ hands. He helped lead the Jamie Dixon-coached U.S. U-19 team to the gold medal this summer which should be a big confidence booster as he only averaged ten minutes per game off the Panther bench last season. Dixon needs someone to step into the leader role on the floor with four starters gone, and Gibbs will have to be that guy. Spending a year learning from Fields could have only helped his preparation to be the Pitt floor general.



NIT Bound

11. Marquette (5th, 12-6, 25-10, NCAA Second Round)

2009-2010 Outlook:

Like Pitt, Marquette loses four starters who accounted for 67% of their scoring and 83% of their assists including their trio of four-year starting guards (McNeal, Matthews, and James.) It will be a major transition this season as MU tries to find their new identity. Buzz Williams has done a nice job of recruiting as six new faces join the Golden Eagles, although expected starting point guard, freshman Junior Cadougan, will be out for the season after rupturing his ACL. If they can build their chemistry early in the year and Hayward emerges as a go-to player, there’s still a chance Marquette could be dancing.

Projected Depth Chart

C: Chris Otule (So)/Youssouhpa Mbao (Fr)

PF: Lazar Hayward (Sr)/Joe Fulce (Jr)

SF: Jimmy Butler (Jr)/Jeronne Maymon (Fr)/Erik Williams (Fr)

SG: Dwight Buycks (Jr)/David Cubillan (Sr)

PG: Mo Acker (Sr)/Daruis Johnson-Odom (So)/Junior Cadougan (Fr-out for season, ACL)

Gone: SG-Jerel McNeal, G/F-Welsey Matthews, PG-Dominic James, C-Dwight Burke

Player to Watch: Mbao- For a team that has lacked a real inside presence the past few years, having a 7’2 threat like Mbao will finally give Marquette a shot blocking threat they haven’t seen since Jim McIlvaine or Amal McCaskill. It will just be a matter of how much Mbao will be able to contribute in his first season. He is still rail thin and very raw, but if he can play 12-15 minutes a night right away at a very unsettled position, it could be a major boost for the Golden Eagles.

12. St. John’s (13th, 6-10, 16-18, CBI)

2009-2010 Outlook:

Getting a medical redshirt year for senior Anthony Mason Jr. who played in just three games last season due a torn muscle in his foot was a big-time plus for a program that hasn’t had a winning record in conference play since 2001-2002. They only lose one player who barely contributed and their recent youth movement is beginning to mature. St. J’s could make some noise, but lacks the punch needed to hang with the teams listed above them.

Projected Depth Chart

PF: Sean Evans (Jr)/Dale Coker (Jr)/Phil Wait (Jr)

F: D.J. Kennedy (Jr)/Justin Burrell (Jr)

G/F: Anthony Mason Jr. (Sr)/Quincy Roberts (So)

SG: Paris Horne (Jr)/TyShawn Edmundson (So)/Omari Lawrence (Fr)

PG: Malik Booth (Jr)/Malik Stith (Fr)

Gone: C-Tomas Jasiulionis

Player to Watch: Honre- When Mason Jr. went down with his injury, Horne stepped up his game and finished the season at Storm’s leading scorer. He loves to pull the trigger from deep and could be a solid compliment to Mason Jr.

STILL THE BOTTOM FEEDERS:

13. Rutgers (15th, 2-16, 11-21)

2009-2010 Outlook:

The Scarlet Knights continue to be the prey to the mighty predators of the Big East. They haven’t gone dancing since 2001-2002 and continue to search for an identity. Former McDonald’s All-American Mike Rosario had a promising freshman season, but will not have the supporting cast he needs to lead Rutgers out of their recent rut.

Projected Depth Chart

C: Hamady N’Dyiae (Sr)/Christian Morris (So)/Brian Okam (Fr)

PF: Gregory Echenique (So)/Austin Johnson (Fr)/Tomasz Kokosinski (So)

SF: Jonathan Mitchell (Jr)/Patrick Jackson (So)/Dane Miller (Fr)

SG: Mike Rosario (So)

PG: James Beatty (Jr)/Mike Coburn (Jr)/Mike Kuhn (So)

Gone: PG-Anthony Farmer, G/F-Jaron Griffin, PF-J.R. Inman, SG-Earl Pettis (transfer-La Salle), G-Corey Chandler (dismissed from team)

Player to Watch: Mitchell- A former New York Mr. Basketball, Mitchell becomes eligible this season after transferring from Florida. He is a tough match-up due to his size, strength, and inside/outside game and should likely be in Rutgers’ starting line-up from the first day of practice.

14. South Florida (14th, 4-12, 9-22)

2009-2010 Outlook:

Jones is one of the most talented scorers in the conference, but has very little help around him. There are a lot of young, unproven players coming off the bench which will put a lot of pressure on the starters. Ohio State transfer Anthony Crater should help out at the point guard spot when he becomes eligible after the first semester. (Yes, Jordan Dumars is the son of former Piston Joe Dumars.)

Projected Depth Chart

C: Alex Rivas (Sr)/Jarrid Famous (Jr)

PF: Augustus Gilchrist (So)/Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (Fr)

G: Dominique Jones (Jr)/Jordan Dumars (Fr)/Mike Burwell (Fr)

G: Chris Howard (Sr)/Mike Mercer (Sr)/Shaun Noriega (Fr)

PG: Justin Leemow (So)/B.J. Daniels (So)/Anthony Crater (So)

Gone: G-Jesus Verdejo, F-Mobolaji Ajayi, F-Aris Williams, F-Eladio Espinosa

Player to Watch: Gilchrist- His length and athleticism make him an interesting player for the Bulls. However, he will need to get more physical inside as he only averaged 4.4 rebounds a game last season which is surprising considering his 6’10 height. There were times when he looked like a legit number two option, but just as often failed to show up. Gaining consistency will be a key if SoFla is going to make any noise in the conference.

15. Providence (7th, 10-8, 19-14, NIT)

2009-2010 Outlook:

Keno Davis’ crew surprised some last season, but loses five of their top seven scorers to graduation. They will rely heavily on their backcourt this season as they are very young and inexperienced up-front. It will definitely be a re-building year for the Friars who won’t cause near the commotion in the conference this year.

Projected Depth Chart

C: Ray Hall (Jr)/James Still (Fr)

F: Bilal Dixon (Fr)/Jamine Peterson (So)/Kadeem Betts (Fr)/Russ Permeneter (Jr)

G/F: Marshon Brooks (Jr)

SG: Brian McKenzie (Sr)/Duke Mondy (Fr)

PG: Sharaud Curry (Sr)/Johnnie Lacy (Fr)/Luke Burchett (Sr)/Vincent Council (Fr)

Gone: SG-Weyinmi Efejuku, F-Geoff McDermott, G-Jeff Xavier, F/C-Jonathan Kale, C-Randall Hanke

Player to Watch: Dixon- Due to an influx of veteran talent last season, Dixon was red-shirted. Davis was quoted as saying he would have been able to make an impact in limited minutes last season and will need to step in right away for a very inexperienced, unproven group up-front this year. If he can become an inside presence, the re-building process at Providence could be a lot smoother than anticipated.

16. DePaul (16th, 0-18, 9-24)

2009-2010 Outlook:

The Blue Demons should at least win one game in conference play this year, but not many more. Dar Tucker bolted early and ended up not being drafted. Had he returned, DePaul would have potentially been a middle of the pack squad. Koshwal should continue to improve as a post player and Walker can light it up from deep, but the rest of the roster is a question mark.

Projected Depth Chart

C: Mac Koshwal (Jr)/Kene Obi (So)/Krys Faber (So)

PF: Devin Hill (So)/Tony Freeland (Fr)

SF: Mario Stula (Jr)/Mike Stovall (Jr)

G: Will Walker (Sr)/Eric Wallace (So)

PG: Jeremiah Kelly (So)/Michael Bizoukis (So)

Gone: SF-Dar Tucker, C-Matija Pocsic, G-Jabari Currie

Player to Watch: Walker- Dude loves to slang three-pointers like it’s going out of style. He came on strong at the end of last season and will have to pick up the scoring slack left behind by Tucker. If his trigger from deep is on, it should only help Koshwal operate inside and keep the Blue Demons from being a complete laughing stock like last season.

All Big East First Team

(POY) Luke Harangody, Notre Dame

Greg Monroe, Georgetown

Scottie Reynolds, Villanova

De’Sean Butler, West Virginia

Lazar Hayward, Marquette

Second Team

Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall

Wesley Johnson, Syracuse

Jerome Dyson, UConn

Devin Ebanks, West Virginia

Dominique Jones, South Florida

Third Team

Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati

Ashton Gibbs, Pitt

Mike Rosario, Rutgers

Samardo Samuels, Louisville

Tory Jackson, Notre Dame

All-Freshman First Team

(ROY) Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati

Ater Mojak, UConn

Dominic Cheek, Villanova

Cashmere Wright, Cincinnati

Bilal Dixon, Providence

Second Team

Junior Cadougan, Marquette

Peyton Siva, Louisville

Alex Oriakhi, UConn

Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova

Hollis Thompson, Georgetown

Defensive Player of the Year

Devin Ebanks, West Virginia

Most Improved Player

Ashton Gibbs, Pitt

Coach of the Year

Jay Wright, Villanova

Written by Paul Banks of NBC Chicago and the Washington Times, and David Kay of the The Sports Bank.
Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
All other e-mail, including advertising and link proposals, send to: wpc112@gmail.com




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