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Big East Report: Week 1

by Andrew Force | December 7th, 2008

In my humble Big East predictions, these are the bottom eight teams. Can any of them climb out of the bottom half?

In this week’s Beast Report, paths to ascension are devised.

Marquette

Most experts will disagree with my placement of Marquette in the bottom half of the Big East. The Golden Eagles, however, have lost much luster in the last two years.

There was a time Marquette dreamt of making a repeat run at the Final Four. Dominic James dreamt of having an NBA career. And Tom Crean believed he could become Big East Coach of the Year.

None of these will happen.

All because MU never attracted a legit center to Milwaukee.

Losing 89-75 to Dayton while the Big 3 racked up 63 points proved that Marquette does not have a viable frontcourt. Unless DJ, McNeal, and Matthews each average 8 rebounds a game, Marquette is taking a step back this year.

Providence

The Friars have more relevant seniors than any conference team. But what have these guys accomplished? Their greatest achievement was an NIT berth two seasons ago.

The word out of Rhode Island is that Sharaud Curry’s foot may never fully heal, effectively removing his greatest asset, quickness. He has not been a threat for almost two years now. They need him to recover…desperately.

Geoff McDermott is a nice player. Weyinmi Efejuku can slash a little bit. Their skills just have not translated into wins for this PC group.

Maybe big Jonathan Kale will find a way to put back a few offensive rebounds. He has the tenacity and girth to dominate the paint. Kale appears to be the one player who has not reached his ceiling.

Seton Hall: Jeremy Hazell’s breakout game came last January against the mighty Louisville Cardinals. The lanky shooter buried eight three-pointers, many contested. Now Hazell is on the cusp of stardom.

For Seton Hall to maneuver out of the bottom half, Brandon Walters or Mike Davis needs to become a serviceable backup in the post. A long shot option is Melvyn Oliver, who is awaiting an NCAA decision on his eligibility.

Coach Gonzalez really believes in Oliver, claiming he could revolutionize the program. At 350 pounds, he needs to revolutionize his eating habits to play, but apparently has the agility of a Glen “Big Baby” Davis from LSU or Robert “Tractor” Traylor of Michigan lore.

Cincinnati

For the third straight year, the Bearcats began the season with injury problems.

Missing Mike Williams in 07-08 was a nuisance. Playing without top-flight point guard Cashmere Wright will be downright problematic.

Deonta Vaughn has been dominating the ball his entire Cincy career, forced into point guard duties. The vacancy continues as Wright tore his ACL in late October.

Hometown hero Yancy Gates is uber-important in the paint as the first serious post threat in Cronin’s tenure.

Vaughn can and will score about 25 ppg, but the emergence of Gates will determine if Cincinnati can compete on the road in Big East play.

DePaul

Much like South Florida, DePaul has one respectable Big East player in Dar Tucker. The dude scores.

Power forward Mac Koshwal was a beast as a freshman. Expect him to work as hard as anyone in the paint. He simply needs help.

Of the three centers, Kenechukwu Obi, Krystopher Faber, and Matija Poscic, one should emerge. Though Poscic battles for rebounds, he generally is not a scoring threat. DePaul will spend many Big East nights clawing towards 65 points.

Escorting impotent senior Jabari Currie to the bench is the first step to respectability in this emotionless conference.

Rutgers

The Hurley family better be getting more than a simplistic Christmas card from RU Head Coach Fred Hill.

Father Bob and son Danny delivered two four-star talents to Rutgers this season.

Mike Rosario, who prepped for Bob Hurley at St. Anthony’s, is the first McDonald’s All-American ever for Rutgers.

Joining him in the startling lineup is Venezuelan-born Gregory Echenique, graduate of Danny Hurley’s St. Benedict’s. Rosario’s and Echenique’s teams finished the high school season 32-0 and 24-1 respectively. Their winning attitudes will embolden the Scarlet Knights.

South Florida

If USF is not the worst team in the Big East, then they will certainly challenge for the dubious title. Second year coach Stan Heath is doing his best to restore order in Tampa.

The turnover from last year is tremendous. Six potential returnees transferred out, and the only five that remain are unsurprisingly starters. Playing time matters.

Sophomore Dominique Jones is Big East ready. The 6’4 Florida native has scored in double figures 30 times already in his career.

Critical will be the adjustment of Mike Mercer, a Georgia transfer. Mercer played along Philadelphia 76er Louis Williams in high school. If he can compliment Jones similarly, then USF could creep out of the bottom four of the Big East. Unlikely.

St. John’s

Coach Norm Roberts is entering his fifth Big East campaign bracing the wild seas with the Red Storm. Are they any better now?

The program never has a senior. Though the recruiting classes are impressive, most of the players inevitably leave. Sometimes they flunk out; sometimes their family has an illness. Regardless, the continuity is terrible. You do not win in the Big East without superstars or experience. SJU consistently has neither.

St. John’s best player, Anthony Mason Jr., tore the peroneal tendon in his right foot during the Preseason NIT. He is done for the year. So too is St. John’s.

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5 Responses to “Big East Report: Week 1”  

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  1. John Says:

    @ Andrew.I think it is wrong for the Big East to potentially get 10 teams in the tournament, if that winds up happening. There should be a cap on the number of teams that are allowed to go from each conference. That being said, right now, I think 8 deserve to make the field.

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  2. David Mihm Says:

    John, as you probably know, there is no cap on the number of teams that can make the Tournament from any given conference. I think 10 is going to be difficult for teams to achieve, but if there is a hypothetical low-40′s RPI Big East team that goes 8-10 in conference and 1-1 in the BET for an overall 9-11 record, I think that’ll be good enough. Remember that Arizona made it last year with a similar record in a similarly strong conference.

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  3. John Says:

    I know there is no cap on the number of teams that can make the NCAA Tournament from any given conference and as much as I disagree with Arizona’s inclusion to the NCAA Tournament for just performing mediocre against a difficult non-conference schedule, the Pac-10 only has 10 teams. The Big East is geographically imbalanced, despite the excellence of Louisville and others that are not traditionally located on the East Coast. I do think it is a good idea to allow all 16 teams to participate in the Big East Tournament. I think it is unfair to award mediocrity to a Big East school rather than a mid-major school that cannot get a big name opponent to play them, despite how hard they try. The NCAA should put in a rule stating that you must be .500 or better in your conference to make the Tournament. You are essentially rewarding a ”second tier” team for trying hard rather than a good mid-major team(think Buffalo, Appalachian State or Hofstra in recent years) that actually won games. It is an old argument and one that needs a resolution.

    As an aside, if a mid-major school cannot schedule a ”resume defining” game: (A) What can we do? (B) How can we put these teams on the same level as a Big East or Pac-10 school, as we always should?

    Your thoughts on this?

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  4. David Mihm Says:

    John, I think the Committee has done a pretty good job at taking worthy mid-majors the last couple of years. Just last year I had South Alabama as the last team out and Arizona State as the last team in & was wrong about that call. There was also the case of George Mason.

    While it may be tough for mid-majors to schedule top-tier opponents, I think the Committee does recognize that and has rewarded those kinds of teams with inclusion in the field AND worthy seeds.

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  5. John Says:

    @ David. I’m not saying the committee hasn’t done a good job with mid-majors. My only point with that is that you feel that a team at 8-10 and 1-1 in the Big East Tournament will make the tournament and I feel that is not fair. It is rewarding playing teams tough rather than actually winning games.

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