Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Big East Preview: #11 South Florida Bulls

Previewing all 15 teams in the Big East from #15 to #1

By:  Shane McCarthy

To say that South Florida was a pleasant surprise last year is a vast understatement. They more than doubled their win total from the previous year (10 to 22) and quadrupled their conference win total (3 to 12). That is unprecedented for a team that had been a perennial bottom feeder in the mighty Big East since joining the conference in 2005.

Who’s Back:

Anthony Collins –G– Soph – 32.7 Min, 9.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 5.2 apg 
Victor Rudd Jr. –F– Junior – 27.7 Min, 9.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.3 apg
Toarlyn Fitzpatrick –F– Senior – 25.5 Min, 8.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 0.9 apg
Jawanza Poland –G– Senior – 22.0 Min, 8.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 0.8 apg
Shaun Noriega –G– Senior – 11.9 Min, 3.6 ppg, 0.5 rpg, 0.3 apg
Jordan Omogbehin –C– Redshirt Freshman – 7-3 291

Incoming Recruits:

JaVontae Hawkins – [Small Forward] – 6 foot 5, 202
ESPN’s 33rd ranked Small Forward
Rivals.com’s 117th ranked player and 25th ranked Small Forward

Zach LeDay – [Power Forward] – 6 foot 7, 223
ESPN’s 52nd ranked Power Forward

Incoming Transfers:

Musa Abdul-Aleem – [Shooting Guard] – 6 foot 5, 221
As member of Georgia Perimeter College last year, Musa was named Freshman Player of the Year in the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association.  He averaged 14.7 ppg and 5.5 rpg and was named team MVP.  Musa was a highly recruited JUCO transfer who has deep range and excellent slashing ability. 

Martino Brock – [Guard] – 6 foot 5, 205
During the 2010-11 season at South Alabama, Brock was seventh in scoring in the Sun Belt Conference with 14.2 ppg and fourth in steals with 1.7 spg.    He was forced to sit out last year per NCAA transfer rules.

Kore White – [Forward] – Senior – 6 foot 8, 241
During two seasons at Florida Atlantic, Kore averaged 8.0 ppg and 4.8 rpg.  He will be immediately available this season to provide front court depth for the Bulls.

Who’s Out:  Augustus Gilchrist, Ron Anderson Jr., Hugh Robertson, Blake Nash


The Bulls are coming off an extraordinary season in which they reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1992 and only third time in the history of the university.  And if that wasn’t exciting enough – they not only got their first ever tournament victory (two actually), but they fell two possessions short after a late 10-0 run by Ohio of reaching the Sweet 16.

Last year was a fun ride for South Florida and their fans to say the least, but I do not expect that success to spill over to the upcoming season.

Not to take anything away from the Bulls, and all the credit to them, because they were able to take advantage of a downtrodden Big East conference last year.  But they did struggle against the top of the conference.

South Florida finished tied for 4th in the conference with Georgetown and Cincinnati, and behind Notre Dame, Marquette and Syracuse.  Against these five teams they went 1-4.  They were 11-2 against the rest of the conference, including two wins each over Pittsburgh and Villanova.  In years past those would have been great wins, but Pitt and Nova had abnormally poor seasons last year.

But the Bulls had no control over their schedule or the quality of their opponents.  They took care of business and beat teams they should have beaten (and even defeated Louisville at Louisville) to earn a Tournament berth.  However, even the selection committee was skeptical as they placed them in the quasi ‘play in’ game early in the week.  Nonetheless, they proved doubters wrong by beating California, followed up by Temple, before losing a close one to Ohio to prove to the country that they belonged.

This year I do not see them repeating last year’s success. Not because they got worse, but because the rest of the conference is going to be better.  The Big East was still one of the most difficult conferences in the nation last year, but some of the usual contenders (Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Villanova) were far from their usual self’s.

Even though the Bulls lost three starters, they still have a solid core in Anthony Collins, Victor Rudd and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick.

We should expect this team to be able to defend at a high level again, but will they be able to score? Scoring 59 points per game with a menacing defense may have worked last year, but my intuition tells me that can only work once in a while.  

This is where incoming transfers Musa Abdul-Aleem and Martino Brock will be looked upon – helping in the scoring department.  And this team will likely go as far as Anthony Collins takes it.  Otherwise, it seems likely to expect the status quo.

Maybe South Florida will prove me wrong by morphing into an up-tempo team that can fill the basket.  Every year is different, and this team is a bit deeper and more versatile than last year's.  But why drastically change something that worked so well last year?  Maybe Coach Heath is thinking the same way I am and knows that they must score a lot more than last year.  And that this year’s team is poised to do just that with Collins, Rudd and the transfers.

If that's the case, and they somehow don't have a significant drop-off on the defensive end, then my outlook is likely off.  But this is a prediction piece, and I predict that they will play a similar style to last year.  With that, they are due for a regression as the overall talent pool in the Big East is slated for an improvement.

Twitter:  @shane_t_mac  

Big East Preview: #12 Connecticut Huskies

Previewing all 15 teams in the Big East from #15 to #1

By:  Shane McCarthy

After going through a season in turmoil, the Huskies are prepping to start the 2012-13 season without their Hall of Fame head coach and four starters from a year ago.  The sense of déjà vu mid-season seems likely.

Who’s Back:

Shabazz Napier –G– Junior – 35 Min, 13.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.8 apg
Ryan Boatright –G– Soph – 30.1 Min, 10.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.0 apg
Tyler Olander –F– Junior – 17.6 Min, 4.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.2 apg
DeAndre Daniels –F– Soph – 12.1 Min, 3.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 0.5 apg
Niels Giffey –F– Junior – 11.7 Min, 2.6 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 0.4 apg
Enosch Wolf –C– Junior – 1.3 Min, 0.3 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 0.0 apg

Incoming Recruits:

Omar Calhoun – [Shooting Guard] – 6 foot 5, 195
ESPN’s 32nd ranked player and 7th ranked Shooting Guard
Rivals.com’s 39th ranked player and 10th ranked Shooting Guard

Phillip Nolan – [Power Forward] – 6 foot 9, 210
ESPN’s 23rd ranked Power Forward
Rivals.com’s 118th ranked player and 21st ranked Center

Leon Tolksdorf – [Small Forward] – 6 foot 8, 220 

Incoming Transfers:

R.J. Evans – [Shooting Guard] – 6 foot 3, 210
R.J., a transfer from Holy Cross, will have one year of eligibility as he will be a graduate student at UConn.  He was named Patriot League Rookie of the Year for the 2008-09 season and averaged 12.5 ppg and 5.0 rpg during his career at Holy Cross.

Who’s Out:  Jeremy Lamb, Andre Drummond, Alex Oriakhi, Roscoe Smith


When it comes to sports, I had always been of the view that talent will prevail no matter the circumstances.  I stuck with UConn last year given the fact that their front and back court was better than almost every team they played on a game to game basis. 

I’m also an avid NFL fan, and didn’t think much of the Saints going to a second interim coach being a huge detriment.  I mean they were still going to roll out Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham and a plethora of other stars to run up the scoreboard on Sundays. 

But UConn ended up being very average last year as they suffered through a roller coaster season, barely snuck into the NCAA Tournament, and quickly exited after being handled with ease by Iowa St. 

The Saints are also enduring a disastrous season compared to the juggernaut they have been in recent years. 

With those two most recent examples, I am finding it difficult to be bullish on the Huskies for the 2012-13 season.

They lost their legendary coach to retirement, two starters to the lottery and two starters who transferred.  I acknowledge that they still have a talented back court with Napier, Boatright and Calhoun, but they have little to no talent in the front court. 

This is without mentioning the fact that they are not even eligible for postseason play of any sort.  A team in turmoil with nothing to play for?  I hope this team shows up on a nightly basis to play for pride, their school and their teammates, but the motivation factor worries me. 

At this point there is no way of knowing how good of a coach Kevin Ollie will be.  I hope he picks up right where Calhoun left off, and that the Huskies remain a powerhouse of the Big East.  But last year they were 3-5 with Calhoun away from the team and will be depending mightily on their guards to win games. 

It’s difficult to be overly optimistic about UConn when they are essentially starting from scratch with so many changes from last year.  I want to believe that talent and tradition will prevail, but that thinking has burned me recently.  

Twitter:  @shane_t_mac

Monday, October 29, 2012

Big East Preview: #13 Seton Hall Pirates

Previewing all 15 teams in the Big East from #15 to #1

By:  Shane McCarthy

After being so close to making the NCAA Tournament last year, will the Pirates be able to overcome key losses to make it back to the big dance for the first time since 2006?

Who’s Back:

Fuquan Edwin –G/ F– Junior – 33.6 Min, 12.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.3 apg
Aaron Cosby –G– Soph – 29.9 Min, 7.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.4 apg
Patrick Auda –F– Junior – 24.0 Min, 6.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.1 apg
Brandon Mobley –F– Soph – 20.3 Min, 6.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.1 apg
Haralds Karlis –G– Soph – 16.6 Min, 3.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.6 apg
Aaron Geramipoor –C– Junior – 9.2 Min, 1.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 0.1 apg
Freddie Wilson –G– Soph – 8.1 Min, 1.8 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 0.7 apg 
Kevin Johnson –C– Soph – sat out last year

Incoming Recruits:

Tom Maayan  - [Point Guard] – 6 foot 1, 180

Incoming Transfers:

Brian Oliver – [Guard/Forward] – 6 foot 6, 226
Former swingman at Georgia Tech, Oliver transferred to Seton Hall and sat out last year, leaving him two years of eligibility with the Pirates.  He is a scorer, who has been known to light up the stat sheet in a big way from time to time. 

Gene Teague – [Center] – 6 foot 9, 290
Teague also sat out last year after transferring from Southern Illinois and will have two years of eligibility remaining.  He has been credited for contributing to the success of Herb Pope last season as he provided a big athletic body to practice against on a daily basis.  With Pope now gone, the Pirates need him to fill that void, and Coach Willard has high expectations for him.  

Kyle Smyth – [Shooting Guard] – 6 foot 4, 185
A graduate transfer from Iona, Smyth will be eligible immediately to provide guard and scoring depth.

Who’s Out:  Jordan Theodore, Herb Pope


Seton Hall was likely a win away from the NCAA Tournament last season.  A bad loss at DePaul (86-58 on March 3rd) essentially forced the Pirates to get a quality win in the Big East Tournament.  They beat Providence in the first round, but then lost to the eventual Big East Tournament champions, Louisville, in the second round; landing them in the NIT.

This year the Pirates will try to make that leap without their two most important players from a year ago – Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope – who were both lost to graduation. 

Without any highly touted recruits (only one incoming recruit), the Pirates will have to fill the void with transfers. 

Enter Brian Oliver and Gene Teague, each who sat out last year and will have two years of eligibility remaining. 

Oliver, who can bang it down low or play on the perimeter, can score from any spot on the floor and can very well be the leading scorer on the Pirates come the end of the season. 

Teague is a true center who provides a low-post presence that Seton Hall hasn't had in years.  He could evolve into the focal point in which the offense revolves around. 

And it is not like this team isn't returning any experience from last year. 

Fuquan Edwin returns to provide upperclassmen leadership along with being the most talented player on the Pirates.  Aaron Cosby (whose season may be delayed a few weeks due to a knee injury), Patrick Auda and Brandon Mobley, who all played in more than half the minutes in games they appeared in last season, all return.

The 2012-13 Seton Hall Pirates are probably not the 13th best team in the Big East this year.  I fully expect that this team can be just as good, if not better, than the next four or five teams I have ranked ahead of them. 

But the problem is – I expect them to struggle for a while trying to find their identity without Theodore and Pope.  And it sounds like Cosby (the heir to the Theodore role) could potentially be out for an extended period of time. 

I hope the Pirates prove me wrong.  And if they do – the jump to the NCAA Tournament is not out of the question.  

Twitter:  @shane_t_mac

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Big East Preview: #14 DePaul Blue Demons

Previewing all 15 teams in the Big East from #15 to #1

By:  Shane McCarthy

With two talented upperclassmen scorers returning, DePaul is on the right track to make noise in the Big East.  But the continuation of glaring struggles will likely keep this team near the bottom of the conference.

Who’s Back:

Cleveland Melvin –F– Junior – 32.1 Min, 17.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 0.8 apg
Brandon Young –G– Junior – 30.5 Min, 14.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 4.7 apg
Moses Morgan –F– Junior – 19.6 Min, 9.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.0 apg
Jamee Crockett –F– Soph – 18.4 Min, 8.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.2 apg
Donnavan Kirk –F– Junior – 18.0 Min, 3.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.2 apg
Charles McKinney –G– Soph – 17.5 Min, 4.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.4 apg
Worrel Clahar –G– Senior – 16.8 Min, 6.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 2.0 apg
Derrell Robertson Jr. - F - Soph - 8.5 Min, 0.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 0.1 apg 

Incoming Recruits:

Jodon Price – [Small Forward] – 6 foot 7, 170
ESPN’s 60th ranked Small Forward
Rivals.com’s 143rd ranked player and 32nd ranked Small Forward

DeJuan Marrero – [Small Forward] – 6 foot 5, 208
ESPN’s 49th ranked Small Forward

Durrell McDonald – [Shooting Guard] – 6 foot 1, 171

Who’s Out:  Krys Faber, Jeremiah Kelly 


In his second season as head coach of the Blue Demons, Oliver Purnell led DePaul to a record of 12-19 and 3-15 in the Big East. Disappointing? No doubt. But it was an improvement over the dismal 7-24 and 1-17 showing in his first year.

Entering the 2012-13 season, Purnell will have the luxury of possessing one of the best scoring tandems in the country.

Cleveland Melvin is the Big East’s top returning scorer at 17.5 ppg. As a duel threat, he should pick up where he left off. He is a 6 foot 8 scorer who can drive or pull up – an absolute nightmare to guard.

His sidekick, Brandon Young, is a talented guard who also possesses the scoring touch. As lethal as he can be, he actually struggles from beyond the arc (28.1%). Given that he is a natural scorer, improvement this season is in the realm of possibilities.

Unfortunately, the story for DePaul practically begins and ends with Melvin and Young.

They lack any sort of low post presence and it is uncertain who will be their point guard entering the season.

The book on this team last year was that they could not play defense or rebound. Frankly, it does not matter how many points you can score (DePaul actually scored the second most points in Big East play last year at 72.1) or what conference you play in; if you can’t defend or rebound you are not going to win on a consistent basis, if at all.

The Blue Demons don’t have to look far for an example of a team going from a bottom dweller to a conference threat - as South Florida did just that in the Big East last year. Maybe Coach Purnell taught this team how to play defense and box out in the offseason, along with the implementation of a slow ‘burn’ offense. But that seems unlikely, and it doesn't seem likely that any of the new guys will provide a drastic change or be that missing piece. 

There are a couple of talented players on this roster, and they will likely win a few more games this season compared to last, but anything more seems doubtful. 

Twitter:  @shane_t_mac

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Big East Preview: #15 Providence Friars

Previewing all 15 teams in the Big East from #15 to #1

By:  Shane McCarthy

The optimism was at a sky high level back in the springtime as the Friars were ready to welcome the 6th ranked recruiting class (by ESPN) to go along with talented pieces already in place.  This optimism was quickly torched by injuries and ineligibility issues.  

Who’s Back:

Vincent Council –G– Senior – 38.7 Min, 15.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 7.5 apg
Bryce Cotton –G– Junior – 38.6 Min, 14.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.3 apg
LaDontae Henton –F– Soph – 37.2 Min, 14.3 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.1 apg
Kadeem Batts –F– Junior – 19.7 Min, 6.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.4 apg
Brice Kofane –F– Soph – 15 Min, 2.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.2 apg
Lee Goldsbrough –F– Junior – 7.8 Min, 0.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 0.2 apg

Incoming Recruits:

Kris Dunn – [Point Guard] – 6 foot 3, 180
ESPN’s 23rd ranked player and 2nd ranked Point Guard
Rivals.com’s 16th ranked player and 1st ranked Point Guard
McDonald’s All-American
Dunn had shoulder surgery in July and is expected to be out ~5 months.  The Friars are hopeful they will get him in the lineup in the middle of the season.

Josh Fortune – [Shooting Guard] – 6 foot 5, 180

Ricardo Ledo – [Shooting Guard] – 6 foot 6, 180
ESPN’s 21st ranked player and 6th ranked Shooting Guard
Rivals.com’s 6th ranked player and 2nd ranked Shooting Guard
Ledo has been ruled academically ineligible to play this season, but can practice with the team.

Ian Baker – [Point Guard] – 6 foot 2, 180
ESPN’s 42nd ranked Point Guard
Unfortunately Ian tore his ACL over the summer and will miss the upcoming season

Incoming Transfers:

Sidiki Johnson – [Power Forward] – 6 foot 10, 240
In the class of 2011, Sidiki was ESPN’s 94th ranked player and 71st on Rivals.  He is not eligible to play until the second semester, but when he does get on the floor he will provide the athletic big body that the Friars desperately need. 

Who’s Out:  Gerald Coleman, Bilal Dixon, Ron Giplaye

The Outlook:

I was really looking forward to the Friars this season.  And who wasn’t?  They retained their core in Council, Cotton and Henton to go along with the talented incomers of Dunn, Ledo and Johnson. 

But now Ledo is ineligible for the year, Dunn is recovering from shoulder surgery and Johnson isn’t eligible until the second semester.

When Dunn and Johnson do get on the court, it will be right as Big East play is starting.  Will they be ready for the gauntlet that Big East conference play is?

And up until these two get on the floor, the Friars have a very short bench (potentially only 7 players) and lack any sort of down low presence.  Johnson is hopefully the solution to the latter, but the depth will remain an issue.  Loads of minutes are nothing new for the vets as Council, Cotton and Henton practically played every available minute last year.  So the new comers should be prepared to get their money’s worth.     

This team has talent and experience, but they lack big bodies and depth.  A talented back court, such that Providence has, can take you a long way in college basketball, but not so much in the Big East.  Don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty of nights that Council and Cotton singlehandedly will this team to victory and the occasional upset,   but it’s not something that should be expected on a regular basis to make this team a contender. 

Coach Cooley has his team on the right track in his second year, and six months ago I thought this team was going to be in the upper half of the Big East.  But it looks as if we are going to have to wait another year for the revival of the Providence Friars.   

But I hope I’m wrong, and the arrival of Dunn and Johnson at mid-season changes the identity of this team and turns them into a dynamic force that can do damage in conference play.  

Twitter:  @shane_t_mac

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Big East Preseason Rookie of the Year Candidates

By:  Shane McCarthy

The conference preseason awards will be announced at the Big East Media Day tomorrow (October 17).  Before that, let's take a look at the candidates for Preseason Rookie of the Year. (Yesterday, I posted the likely candidates and my pick for Player of the Year)

Last year the preseason honor was given to Andre Drummond, the highly touted center at Connecticut. But he never transformed into the dominant player UConn or the country was expecting.  No worries though, he was still the 9th overall selection in the NBA draft because well, NBA teams have a serious infatuation with athletic centers.  And rightfully so – as freakishly athletic centers can transform a team and instantly turn them into title contenders. 

However, as stated - Andre never became that player during his one-and-done year at UConn.  The end of the year Big East Rookie of the Year honors went to St. John’s dynamic forward Moe Harkless.  Moe filled up the stat sheet in the Garden and possessed the build and athleticism to earn him the 15th overall selection in the NBA draft. 

But that was all last year.  Let’s look at the candidates for this year.  In alphabetical order:

Steven Adams – [Pittsburgh] Center – 7 foot 0, 240
ESPN’s 6th ranked player and 4th ranked Center
Rivals.com’s 5th ranked player and 3rd ranked Center

He has the size and athleticism to overwhelm opponents down low and become a dominant force on both ends of the court.  Most college freshman big-men are still growing into their bodies, but Steven is already there, and possesses a high motor to go along with it.

Cameron Biedscheid – [Notre Dame] Small Forward – 6 foot 7, 174
ESPN’s 64th ranked player and 15th ranked Small Forward
Rivals.com’s 28th ranked player and 8th ranked Small Forward

Cameron is more of a hybrid wing-type player who is excellent in transition and has a good shot.  He is not likely to start for the Irish, but he will be heavily involved in their normal rotation.

Omar Calhoun – [Connecticut] Shooting Guard – 6 foot 3, 185
ESPN’s 32nd ranked player and 7th ranked Shooting Guard
Rivals.com’s 39th ranked player and 10th ranked Shooting Guard

Even with the talented back court of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, Calhoun should get considerable playing time given his big time scoring abilities. 

DaJuan Coleman – [Syracuse] Center – 6 foot 9, 275
ESPN’s 14th ranked player and 6th ranked Center
Rivals.com’s 26th ranked player and 5th ranked Center
McDonald’s All-American

Coleman is a big man who should start from day one for the Orange.  Over the summer he made it a point of emphasis to improve his physical conditioning which should help him stay on the floor, dominate the paint and be the center of the vaunted 2-3 zone. 

Montrezl Harrell – [Louisville] Power Forward – 6 foot 7, 225
ESPN’s 90th ranked player and 18th ranked Power Forward
Rivals.com’s 82nd ranked player and 20th ranked Power Forward

Harrell has exhibited both the explosiveness at the rim and long range ability that a player his size can use to absolutely dominate the competition with.  He is not expected to start for the Cardinals, but given the talent around him, he could be a matchup nightmare for opponents once he gets on the floor.

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera – [Georgetown] Shooting Guard – 6 foot 3, 210
ESPN’s 58th ranked player and 10th ranked Shooting Guard
Rivals.com’s 32nd ranked player and 8th ranked Shooting Guard

Smith-Rivera is an excellent shooter who also has the size to score in the paint.  He has an advanced knowledge of the game and should push for a starting role in the Hoyas’ lineup. 

The Pick:  Steven Adams

I know - it seems easy and cheap to pick the highest recruited player on the list.  But at the same time it does make sense.  Not only because he is the highest ranked, but because he is entering a situation where he will make an immediate impact.   Even though Pittsburgh is coming off an incredibly disappointing season by their standards - they are returning a bunch of talent, but are lacking a true big man.  Enter Steven Adams.  Steven should take the opening tip from game 1 and be a significant contributor throughout the season to help Pitt compete for a Big East title in their last season as a member of the conference.  

Twitter:  @shane_t_mac

Monday, October 15, 2012

Big East Preseason Player of the Year Candidates

By:  Shane McCarthy

Before the conference preseason awards are dished out at Big East Media Day this Wednesday (October 17), I thought it would be useful to look at the likely candidates and pick a winner.

Last year’s Big East Preseason Player of the Year was awarded to Pittsburgh guard Ashton Gibbs.  The season for Gibbs and the Panthers did not go anywhere close to planned.  Pittsburgh finished in the bottom quarter of the league and Gibbs ended up on the Big East Honorable Mention Team come season’s end. 

Those will not be the expectations for the group of candidates below.  The players are listed in alphabetical order. 

Jack Cooley – [Notre Dame] Senior, Forward

Cooley averaged 12.5 PPG and 8.9 RPG last season, earning him Big East Most Improved Player and All-Big East Second Team honors.  Expectations are high for the Irish this season and much of their success will depend on Cooley’s high-motor work ethic in the paint. 

Vincent Council – [Providence] Senior, Guard

Council has morphed into an elite guard in the Big East and his coach, Ed Cooley, went as far this summer to proclaim him THE best guard in the conference.  That's high praise and not at all biased.  But Vincent does deserve a look as he was on the court for almost every minute of the Friars’ games last year (averaging 38.7 per) and averaged 15.9 PPG and 7.5 APG – earning him All-Big East Third Team honors for a team that won only four games in the conference.  Many think of Providence as a cellar dweller in the Big East, but there is potential to surprise this year, and if they do – Vincent will be at the center of that movement.

Gorgui Dieng – [Louisville] Junior, Center

Louisville’s defensive dominance that came to form as the season progressed had a lot to do with the up-tempo press attack they took on, but it also had a lot to do with the development of Dieng.  Gorgui was a raw player on both ends of the floor last year, but another year under the tutelage of Coach Pitino should mold him into an elite big-man.   Expect him to average a double-double and be at the top of the nation in blocks.  If he is not the Big East Player of the Year, expect him to at least be the Defensive Player of the Year in the conference. 

Otto Porter – [Georgetown] Sophomore, Forward

Georgetown, seemingly an elite program year after year, was actually picked to finish in the bottom half of the Big East last year.  The Hoyas ended up surprising the preseason coaches’ picks and finished 12-6; good for 4th in the conference.  A lot of that success had to do with the instant impact of Porter.  Not only is he a skilled big man on both ends of the floor, he also possesses excellent range.  Porter could very well be the best all-around player in the conference. 

Peyton Siva – [Louisville] Senior, Guard

If Louisville is to get back to the Final Four, a lot of their success will depend on Siva.  The Cardinals are loaded with talent all over the court, but it’s the play and leadership of their true point guard that is necessary to make a deep run.  Siva’s play doesn’t fill up the stat sheet, but it is the type of play that wins games. 

The Pick:  Peyton Siva

He is likely the most important player on a team with national championship aspirations.  He should be the favorite – at least for the preseason pick.       

Honorable Mentions:
Anthony Collins – [South Florida] – Sophomore, Guard
D’Angelo Harrison – [St. John’s] – Sophomore, Guard
Sean Kilpatrick – [Cincinnati] – Junior, Guard
Cleveland Melvin – [DePaul] – Junior, Forward
Brandon Triche – [Syracuse] – Senior, Guard

Tomorrow I will take a look at the candidates for Preseason Rookie of the Year. 
Twitter: @shane_t_mac

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Big East Offseason Topics

By:  Shane McCarthy

I am bringing the blog back this year, this time for the entire season (as I started more than halfway through last season), with a new look and with a lot more effort hopefully.

Before Big East Media Day this upcoming week and the quickly approaching games (November 9), let’s take a look at the off-season story lines heading into the upcoming campaign. 

Jim Calhoun Announces his Retirement

After 873 wins (625 with UConn), four Final Four appearances and three national championships – Coach Calhoun has decided to hang it up.  He has been dealing with health issues of late and will hand the reigns off to Assistant Coach and former UConn player Kevin Ollie.  Over the course of his 26 year tenure as head coach at UConn, Calhoun built the Huskies from an irrelevance to a national power-house.  Now the team will embark on its next chapter with the same expectations that Calhoun assembled at the university. 

UConn Ineligible for Postseason Play

Not only will Kevin Ollie have the difficult task of replicating the success of Coach Calhoun, but he’ll have to begin his journey with a season in which his team is not eligible to play in the Big East Tournament or the NCAA Tournament.  The postseason ineligibility is due to the NCAA’s retroactive application of the Academic Progress Rate (APR).  Ollie will also have to deal with a flood of talent that left the program.  Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond were lottery picks in the NBA draft, and Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith transferred.  The Huskies still have a talented backcourt (Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, and Omar Calhoun), but there are question marks elsewhere.  And how motivated will this team be knowing their season is already over once conference play comes to an end?

Farewell Tour for Syracuse and Pittsburgh

Syracuse was a founding member of the Big East Conference in 1979 and Pittsburgh joined quickly after in 1982.  The two schools combined for seven Big East Tournament championships (Syracuse 5, Pittsburgh 2).  Now both teams will play their final season as members of the Big East before they jet for the ACC next year.

Three Big East Teams to Play on a Ship on Opening Day

On Friday, November 9th, three Big East schools will play on the deck of an aircraft carrier:

Georgetown vs. Florida – off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida
Marquette vs. Ohio St. – off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina
Syracuse vs. San Diego State – off the coast of San Diego, California

Notre Dame Announces Their Move to the ACC

Like Syracuse and Pittsburgh, Notre Dame has also announced their intentions to head for the ACC.  But unlike the Orange and Panthers, this is not expected to be their last year in the Big East.  Anything can happen, but the general consensus is that the Irish will spend two more seasons in the Big East. 

Jim Boeheim is set to Enter the 900 Club

Coach Boeheim will be entering his 37th season as the head coach of the Syracuse Orange.  Over the course of his career he has racked up 890 wins and owns a 74.5% winning percentage.  In mid-December he is expected to do what only two other coaches have done – eclipse 900 wins.  Those two other coaches are Bob Knight (902 wins) and Mike Krzyzewski (927 wins).  Expect to see the Dome flooded with ‘900’ signs in December to celebrate this astonishing feat.   

National Championship Expectations for Louisville

The Cardinals return their full arsenal save Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith from last year’s Final Four team.  They were nice pieces and provided necessary leadership, but were not at the talent level of the rest of the team.  In the middle of the season it seemed safe to say that Louisville was far from a Final Four caliber team – I mean they did lose by 31 to Providence – but they were injured and lacked an identity at the time.  As the season progressed they became a defensive powerhouse, but remained extremely erratic on the offensive end (in both the scoring and turnover department).  If the defensive intensity and intelligence remains (as it should) and they improve on the offensive end (which should be expected of Chane Behanan, Wayne Blackshear and Gorgui Dieng), then a trip to the Final Four is not only possible, but will be expected.  

Twitter: @shane_t_mac