Monday, 9 November 2009

NCAA Basketball Big East Preview

In 2008-09, the Big East was the best and deepest conference in America, sending 7 teams into the NCAA Tournament, including three teams that garned a #1 seed. However, they lost a lot of talent to the NBA and to graduation in the offseason, leaving room for a lot of potential change within the conference.

Villanova and West Virginia look like they will be the main challengers for the conference title. Villanova might have the best guard play in the conference (led by senior Scottie Reynolds, hero in the NCAA Tournament), as Jay Wright's teams are always strong in this area. The Wildcats also have some very talented big men coming into the program, and the speed of their development could dictate how much success Villanova will have this season.

The Mountaineers have the best duo in the Conference, with forwards Devin Ebanks and Da'Sean Butler. Both are potential All-Big East performers, and Ebanks could be the best player in the Big East. If they can get consistent guard play from Joe Mazzulla and Darryl Bryant, Bob Huggins team could have a chance to go all the way to the Final Four.

There is uncertainty after that. Connecticut and Louisville will likely be down a bit after #1 seeds last season, but they should still challenge for spots near the top of the conference. If Stanley Robinson can play up to his potential for UConn, they should be considered the favorite to finish third in the Big East, especially with sophomore Kemba Walker and veteran guard Jerome Dyson in the backcourt. The Cardinals will have to deal with a lot of off the court things after Rick Pitino's tumultuous offseason, but they have the talent to be very good once again.

Luke Harangody is the best player in the Big East and could be the favorite for National Player of the Year. He put up huge numbers last season, and returned for his senior year of college poised to break all types of Notre Dame records. He likes the Irish' chances of getting back to the NCAA Tournament, but they will be on the bubble all season. Seton Hall could be a big surprise, as they welcome in a trio of talented transfers into the mix. Bobby Gonzalez could get the Pirates back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.

The Big East is not as strong at the top and doesn't have as many great teams as it did a season ago, but it should still be very strong and deep. In particular, the middle of the conference, with teams like Seton Hall, St. John's, and Rutgers, should all be improved this season, meaning that there will be no easy night in the Big East. Well, except maybe DePaul.