A Look At The Teams In The Conference

Capsule looks at the men's basketball teams in the Big East Conference. Teams are listed in predicted order of finish:

UConn

Last season: 32-9, 9-9, Big East tournament and NCAA champions

Coach: Jim Calhoun

Top players: Jeremy Lamb, Alex Oriakhi

Keep an eye on: Andre Drummond

The skinny: The Huskies lost Kemba Walker, but have his entire supporting cast and three impressive newcomers to chase another title. Drummond, 6-10, and Oriakhi, 6-9, will be a brutal frontcourt matchup for many teams in the league, and Lamb, a preseason All American, figures to be one of the top scorers in the country. How the scoring load falls with Walker gone will be working itself out.

Syracuse

Last season: 27-8, 12-6

Coach: Jim Boeheim

Top players: Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine

Keep an eye on: Rakeem Christmas

The skinny: The Orange, who were tied with UConn atop the league's coaches poll, have four starters back. Joseph provides firepower and Jardine, a senior, can run the team on the floor. UConn's two games with Syracuse could be the best in the league.

Louisville

Last season: 25-10, 12-6

Coach: Rick Pitino

Top players: Peyton Siva, Kyle Kuric

Keep an eye on: Chane Behanan

The skinny: The Cardinals come in highly regarded, though they have a relatively young and inexperienced team. Top scorer Preston Knowles is gone. Behanan, a McDonald's All-American and sophomore Gorgui Dieng need to develop.

Pittsburgh

Last season: 28-6, 15-3

Coach: Jamie Dixon

Top players: Ashton Gibbs, Nasir Robinson

Keep an eye on: Khem Birch

The skinny: Pitt's promising season ended in disappointing fashion, stung by Kemba Walker's famous shot in the Big East tournament, and Butler in the NCAAs. The Panthers are back for another try, with Gibbs, the Big East player of the year, leading the way. Gibbs hit 49 percent of his three-point shots.

Cincinnati

Last season: 26-9, 11-7

Coach: Mick Cronin

Top players: Yancey Gates, Dion Dixon

Keep an eye on: Cheikh Mbodj

The skinny: After several down years, the Bearcats returned to the NCAA Tournament last year, their season ended by UConn. Under Cronin, they have increased their win total five years in a row. Can they do it again? In addition to a strong returning cast, they have what was considered a top 25 recruiting class.

Marquette

Last season: 22-15, 9-9

Coach: Buzz Williams

Top players: Darius Johnson-Odom, Jae Crowder

Keep an eye on: Jamil Wilson

The skinny: Johnson-Odom made 71 three-pointers last season as the Golden Eagles reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003. They did rank near the bottom of the Big East in key defensive categories, which is trouble in a defense-oriented conference. But they figure to be a threat once again. Wilson, who transferred from Oregon where he started 14 games, should help.

West Virginia

Last season: 21-12, 11-7

Coach: Bob Huggins

Top players: Kevin Jones, Truck Bryant

Keep an eye on: Jabarie Hinds

The skinny: Bryant will do more shooting as the two guard this season, which could help the offense. Hinds, New York's Mr. Basketball, figures to have an impact. It will be a very young team, for what could be West Virginia's last season in the Big East.

Villanova

Last season: 21-12, 9-9

Coach: Jay Wright

Top players: Maalik Wayns, Mouphtaou Yarou

Keep an eye on: Ty Johnson

The skinny: After a promising first half, Villanova faded down the stretch last season, losing to South Florida at Madison Square Garden and then to George Mason in the NCAAs. The Wildcats will be looking for a bigger contribution from Dominic Cheek. With no seniors, this will be Villanova's youngest roster in a few years.

Notre Dame

Last season: 27-7, 14-4

Coach: Mike Brey

Top players: Tim Abromaitis, Scott Martin

Keep an eye on: Eric Atkins

The skinny: You've probably heard, Abromaitis is really good on a lot of levels. Abromaitis, who grew up in Farmington and is the son of former UConn big man Jim, has to sit the first four games because of a technical violation involving redshirt rules. Otherwise, he will be the centerpiece. Ben Hansbrough will be hard to replace. The Irish do not have a big freshman class, but will rely on players who have been backups to step up, including Atkins, a sophomore at point guard.

Georgetown

Last season: 21-11, 10-8

Coach: John Thompson Jr.

Top players: Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson

Keep an eye on: Jabril Trawick

The skinny: The Hoyas also had a disappointing finish, losing to UConn at the Garden and VCU in the NCAAs. But they had a respectable season in the league. With top scorers Austin Freeman and Chris Wright gone, it will be hard for them to regain that level. However, they have a promising recruiting class, led by Trawick.

Rutgers

Last season: 15-17, 5-13

Coach: Mike Rice

Top players: Dane Miller, Gilvydas Biruta

Keep an eye on: Kadeem Jack

The skinny: Rice, in his first year from Robert Morris, likes aggressive ball, as fans of Central and Quinnipiac know. He has a program Jim Calhoun described as "on the rise" at Rutgers and Rice has talked of posting a winning record in the Big East in year two. It won't help that Jack, with a broken foot, will miss the first couple of months.

Seton Hall

Last season: 13-18, 7-11

Coach: Ralph Willard

Top players: Herb Pope, Jordan Theodore

Keep an eye on: Freddie Wilson

The skinny: The Pirates will miss Jeremy Hazell and his 19.8 points a game, but Willard has predicted that Pope will lead the Big East in rebounding. Seton Hall had a number of off-the-court issues last year; it should be calmer this season. Pope, who nearly died from cardiac arrest a year and a half ago, appears to have recovered and figures to be that much better this season. Wilson, a freshman, played his high school ball at Hillhouse-New Haven.

Providence

Last season: 15-17, 4-14

Coach: Ed Cooley

Top players: Vincent Council, Gerald Coleman

Keep an eye on: Kiwi Gardner

The skinny: The Friars lost their top scorer Marshon Brooks and his 24 points per game. They have most of their other top scorers returning and a new coach. Cooley, who replaces Keno Davis, built Fairfield into a powerful MAAC force in a few short years and he has already had a recruiting impact for Providence. For this year, look for Cooley to prod his team to play better defense and show overall improvement.

St. John's

Last season: 21-12, 12-6

Coach: Steve Lavin

Top players: Malik Stith, Nurideen Lindsey

Keep an eye on: God'sgift Achiuwa

The skinny: The Red Storm, after many years of losing and turmoil, returned to prominence last season with a series of shining victories over ranked opponents, including a win over UConn. Stith is the only scholarship player back, so St. John's will have what it believes is the youngest roster in its long history. As Lavin recovers from prostate cancer, there will be a lot of emotions around the team.

South Florida

Last season: 10-23, 3-15

Coach: Stan Heath

Top players: Ron Anderson, Augustus Gilchrist

Keep an eye on: Jordan Omogbehin

The skinny: The Bulls have some size and muscle up front with Anderson and Gilchrist, and their upset of VCU during the season and Villanova in the Big East tournament showed the group could hang together through a tough season. It will be hard not to keep an eye on the freshman Omogbehin -- he is 7-3, but a project. USF is trying to identify its point guard, which could be transfer Blake Nash.

DePaul

Last season: 7-24, 1-17

Coach: Oliver Purnell

Top players: Cleveland Melvin, Brandon Young

Keep an eye on: Worrel Clahar

The skinny: DePaul, since leaving Conference USA, has yet to gain traction in the Big East. Juco transfer Clahar figures to bring up-tempo style guard play. Melvin was the Big East rookie of the year last season, the only unianimous choice on the all-rookie team. Opponents shot 50.1 percent against DePaul last season, so the Demons need defense, especially improvement inside.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Comments
Loading