Big East ShootAround: League down at top, but plenty of talent remains
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10 offseason storylines
By Dana O'Neil
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Those inside the WVU program feel confident Darryl Bryant will suit up for the Mountaineers this season. His return is critical.
10 key players
By Dana O'Neil
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With Marquette's star-studded backcourt all gone, big man Lazar Hayward has the spotlight to himself for now.
10 freshmen we can't wait to see
By John Stovall
Chris Williams/Icon SMI
Pittsburgh lost plenty of star power, but gained some back with the arrival of McDonald's All-American Dante Taylor.
10 nonconference games we can't wait to see
By Dana O'Neil
James Lang/US PRESSWIRE
It'll be fascinating to see how Butler goes after Georgetown's Greg Monroe in a Jimmy V Classic showdown at MSG.
A quick look around the league
Somewhere in Ohio, Deonta Vaughn is screaming "Finally!" The senior no longer has to carry the Bearcats by himself. With a vaunted rookie class that includes Lance Stephenson and, technically, Cashmere Wright, Cincinnati should make plenty of noise this season. Connecticut
The Huskies lost a lot, but the cupboard is never empty in Storrs. Kemba Walker, who starred during the NCAA tournament, should slide easily into the starting point guard role, replacing A.J. Price. Mix in Stanley Robinson, who was sensational once he became eligible in December, and it's easy to see why the Huskies will remain among the league contenders. DePaul
Nowhere to go but up; that has to be the Blue Demons' motto. After waiting until the Big East tournament to win its first league game of the season, if DePaul wins once between January and March it's a big improvement. That Mac Koshwal is back increases the odds of that happening. Georgetown
The Hoyas' tumble last season was stunning and confounding. The problems seemed to have more to do with personalities than talent, so it's hard to predict whether that will improve this season. Losing DaJuan Summers hurts, but not dramatically for a team with a solid nucleus returning. Louisville
Rookie Samardo Samuels took a backseat to the overall talents of Terrence Williams. Now, with Williams and Earl Clark gone, the Cardinals will need Samuels to get stronger and more consistent in the low post. Louisville's strength should be in its backcourt, where Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith are joined by McDonald's All-American Peyton Siva. Marquette
The Golden Eagles will be as good as their freshman class is. Highly touted and well-regarded, the rookies will have to grow up in a hurry as Marquette loses the core of its team: Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews and Dominic James. Notre Dame
Luke Harangody's decision to return, coupled with the addition of transfers Ben Hansbrough (Mississippi St.) and Scott Martin (Purdue) should lift the Irish out of the middle-of-the-pack doldrums from a year ago. Pittsburgh
Interesting year for Jamie Dixon. The Panthers have built their success on veteran leadership, but there's none of that left. The guts of Pittsburgh, namely Levance Fields, Sam Young and DeJuan Blair, are gone. Dixon has plenty of talent coming in, though, and solid role players like Brad Wanamaker. Providence
A young lineup gets a boost from the return of Sharaud Curry. The savvy point guard averaged 11 points and 4 assists last season, his first back after a serious knee injury. He gets some backcourt help in the form of Marshon Brooks, a talented sixth man last season. The frontcourt will have growing pains until it gets settled, but redshirts Jamine Peterson and Russ Permenter may help. Rutgers
Adding Florida transfer Jonathan Mitchell and juco addition James Beatty at the point gives the Scarlet Knights a quick hit in talent. The real key to this team, though, is how improved sophomores Mike Rosario and Gregory Echenique are this year. St. John's
The Red Storm, who will get some extra practice with a Labor Day trip to Canada, were a much-improved 16-18 last season, despite competing without Anthony Mason Jr. and a bucketful of sophomores. With everyone back, it's easy to understand why there is a great deal of cautious optimism surrounding St. John's. Seton Hall
The addition of three key transfers will steal the headlines, but the fact is, the Pirates have had one of the league's best secrets for three years. Last season, guard Jeremy Hazell finished second in scoring in the league despite Seton Hall's struggles. With more talent to take some of the pressure off, expect Hazell to soar. South Florida
Stan Heath's rebuilding job continues in Tampa. He brings in another solid recruiting class, including highly touted juco transfer Jarrid Famous. The 6-11 Famous and the 6-10 Gus Gilchrist should make for tantalizing twin towers for the Bulls. Syracuse
The subtractions are big, but the additions are impressive. Scoop Jardine, redshirted with a stress fracture in his leg, returns. Iowa State transfer Wesley Johnson is a talented scorer, and Brandon Triche, whose uncle Howard played at the Cuse in the 80s, was the New York Gatorade Player of the Year. Villanova
Jay Wright is at the point where he is reloading, not rebuilding. The Wildcats bring one of the top recruiting classes in the country, headlined by Dominic Cheek and Maalik Wayns, to go with the nucleus from the Final Four team. Senior guard Reggie Redding, arrested for marijuana possession, will be ineligible until mid-December. But with plenty of depth at the guard position, Villanova ought to survive without him. West Virginia
Sharp-shooting Casey Mitchell, the juco national player of the year, should make up for the loss of Alex Ruoff. Mix in a boatload of returning players and Bob Huggins with another year to implement his style and it's easy to see why the Mountaineers could be a very dangerous team.
2008-09 Big East standings
|Big East record||Overall record|
For all the Big East news and notes, check out the conference page.
2009-10 predictionsBy Jay Bilas
ESPN It's never too early for predictions. Jay Bilas offers up his thoughts on the upcoming season in the Big East: 1. Villanova: The Wildcats are a bit younger, but very talented at every position. Jay Wright has guards that he encourages to make plays, and Villanova is versatile enough to attack mismatches on offense and switch every screen on defense. Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes form one of the nation's strongest backcourts, and all can get into the lane and to the free-throw line. Freshmen Dominic Cheek and Maalik Wayns can play right away. But making up for Dante Cunningham and Dwayne Anderson will be a challenge. 2. West Virginia: The Mountaineers will play hard, and they will defend and rebound. With another outstanding recruiting class, Bob Huggins has more talent to put around Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks. Butler is an outstanding scorer, and Ebanks is an emerging star. West Virginia is long, athletic and hard to guard. If Truck Bryant plays, West Virginia can be the best team in the Big East. 3. Connecticut: The Huskies will have firepower on the offensive end, but will UConn be the defensive team it has been over the years? Connecticut led the Big East in defensive field goal percentage and blocked shots last year, but without as many long-armed shot-blockers, Jim Calhoun may go with more of a pressing style to create turnovers. Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker should blossom together, but a real key is Stanley Robinson. He showed he could be a star last year. If he jumps into the void, UConn can be Big East champs. 4. Georgetown: The Hoyas were better than their record last year, and finished in the top half of a brutal league in almost every important statistical category. But the Hoyas were deficient on the backboards and in turnover margin, the two areas that provide extra possessions. In short, Georgetown needed to be tougher. This season, the Hoyas will be back in the NCAA tournament. Greg Monroe will be an All-American and Chris Wright and Austin Freeman will take over as better leaders. I like Georgetown's chances. 5. Syracuse: Much of Syracuse's hope seems to hinge upon the play of Wesley Johnson, and he is the real thing. But the key will be getting really good guard play to go along with the interior strength of the Orange. Replacing the 45 points per game of Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris won't be easy, but Jim Boeheim likes his team, and he is consistently the best mood ring for Orange predictions. 6. Louisville: The Cards should be very good, but there is no telling how the off-court distractions will affect this team. Losing Terrence Williams and Earl Clark is a blow, but there is talent. Louisville's backcourt is back along with freshman Peyton Siva, but the firepower will be up front in Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings. Louisville will probably not be as effective a pressing team, and needs to play inside-out. 7. Pittsburgh: Is this the year Pitt takes a small step back? It certainly hasn't happened yet, despite previous predictions. The heart and soul of the team graduated to the NBA, but the leadership and toughness of Levance Fields will be the toughest to replace. Pitt is younger and less experienced, but the Panthers will still play hard and tough. I am looking for Gilbert Brown, Ashton Gibbs and Jermaine Dixon to step forward, but the freshmen have to produce. Dante Taylor needs some time, but he has a chance to be special. 8. Notre Dame: The Irish have Luke Harangody back, which can give you a false sense of security. Harangody is a great offensive player and tough as nails on the offensive end. The key for him and for Notre Dame is for Harangody to be tougher to score upon. Notre Dame needs to gang-rebound and be tougher on defense. When the Irish have been really good under Mike Brey, they have kept people out of the lane and off the backboards. Tory Jackson's leadership will be a big factor. 9. Cincinnati: The Bearcats are ready to turn the corner. Mick Cronin has brought in good talent and has coached them up. Having Cashmere Wright back after his knee injury will be a big plus alongside Deonta Vaughn, and allows Vaughn to work off the ball. Lance Stephenson is a super talent, but the key player is Yancy Gates. He can be as good as he wants to be, and if he exerts himself, nobody can stop him. This is an NCAA tournament team. 10. Seton Hall: Bobby Gonzalez has more horses this year, and he will ride them into NCAA contention. Transfers Keon Lawrence, Herb Pope and Jeff Robinson all step into the fray, but the key players will still be Jeremy Hazell and Eugene Harvey. Hazell can be an All-Big East player, but the most important factor will be the collective toughness of the team. Seton Hall was abused on the backboards last year, and although the Pirates forced turnovers, they gave up way too many easy baskets. 11. Marquette: Buzz Williams really likes his recruiting class, and rightfully so. He has some talent and good pieces to go with Lazar Hayward. But replacing Wesley Matthews, Dominic James and Jerel McNeal will be a very difficult task. Last year's team had a very well-defined identity. This year's team has to build one. That can be tough in a league that punishes youth like the Big East does. In my estimation, 9-9 would be a great record in Big East play for the Golden Eagles. 12. Providence: Last year brought a new system to a team of veterans, and Providence proved it could score. But the Friars never proved they could stop anyone. With a bunch of experienced seniors, Providence finished in the bottom half of the Big East in almost every defensive measure. Most of the experience is gone, but Marshon Brooks and Sharaud Curry are back. I love Keno Davis' style, but the Friars have to guard people and rebound to win in the Big East. 13. St. John's: I really like how hard St. John's plays, but the Johnnies have lacked consistency and could not score last year. The Red Storm put a lot of pressure on its defense, and its defense didn't respond. With Paris Horne, D.J. Kennedy and Anthony Mason, Jr. back, Norm Roberts has some building blocks. The Johnnies need some confidence that they can really compete in the rough Big East, and we should know by Christmas. If St. John's can show well at Duke and beat Siena, Temple and Georgia, the team can take some momentum and carry into Big East play. 14. Rutgers: The key players for Fred Hill will be Mike Rosario and Greg Echenique, and both will be very good. But Rutgers needs to value the ball more. The Scarlet Knights turn it over at too high a rate and do not force enough miscues to get extra possessions. Rosario is a star that carries a really big load and he needs some help. Last year, Rosario was the only player to average double figures. Rutgers took a trip to Spain over the summer, and that is often a great bonding experience that pays dividends. 15. South Florida: Last season, South Florida couldn't shoot, couldn't score and couldn't stop anybody. The Bulls were 9-22 overall, with a 4-14 Big East record. Dominique Jones was the only Bull that could really score, and he led the team in points, rebounds, steals and free-throw percentage. The tough part of that is that Jones led the team in free-throw percentage and shot barely over 70 percent. Mike Mercer has been reinstated to the team, and that will provide more scoring, but South Florida will still struggle for wins in such a tough league. 16. DePaul: The Blue Demons showed some real fight in the Big East tournament after a brutal conference season that saw them go 0-18 with only two games with a margin of less than eight points. DePaul returns two players that averaged double figures in Mac Koshwal and Will Walker. This team will be better, but the Blue Demons still need more firepower.