In predicted order of finish:
Last season: 25-9, 13-5 Big East. Lost to Xavier in the second round of the NCAA Tournament
Coach: Jamie Dixon, eighth season, 188-54
Top players: Junior guard Ashton Gibbs, senior guard Brad Wanamaker, senior center Gary McGhee.
The skinny: Experienced and well-balanced, athletic and tough. The Panthers return their starting backcourt of Gibbs and Wanamaker and will be anchored inside by McGhee. Should be one of the best defensive teams in the nation, which is becoming a trend.
Last season: 25-8, 13-5 Big East. Lost to St. Mary's in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Coach: Jay Wright, 17th season, 10th at Villanova, 325-184 overall.
Top players: Senior guard Corey Fisher, senior guard Corey Stokes, senior forward Antonio Pena.
The skinny: The Wildcats lost Scottie Reynolds, but are extremely deep. Emerging players in sophomore center Mouphtaou Yorou and sophomore guard Maalik Wayns will support the Coreys and Pena.
Last season: 23-11, 10-8 Big East. Lost to Ohio in the first round of the NCAA Tournament
Coach: John Thompson III, 11th season, seventh at Georgetown, 207-104 overall
Top players: Senior guard Austin Freeman, senior guard Chris Wright, junior guard Jason Clark
The skinny: The Hoyas lost center Greg Monroe to the NBA but return four starters. Freeman is the conference's preseason player of the year. The Hoyas are loaded in the backcourt.
Last season: 30-5, 15-3 Big East. Lost to Butler in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
Coach: Jim Boeheim, 35th season, 829-293.
Top players: Junior forward Kris Joseph, senior forward Rick Jackson, sophomore guard Scoop Jardine.
The skinny: Wesley Johnson is gone after one season, but hyped freshman center Fab Melo will start and adds size to the frontcourt, while Jardine, Brandon Triche and freshman Dion Waiters should make this another high-scoring Orange team.
Last season: 22-12, 11-7 Big East. Lost to Washington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Coach: Buzz Williams, fourth season, third at Marquette, 61-39 overall.
Top players: Senior guard/forward Jimmy Butler, junior guard Darius Johnson-Odom.
The skinny: Marquette is looking to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth consecutive year. The loss of Lazar Hayward will have to be compensated for by Butler, Johnson-Odom and freshman point guard Vander Blue.
Last season: 17-16, 6-12 Big East. Lost to Memphis in the first round of the NIT.
Coach: Steve Lavin, eighth season, first at St. John's, 145-77 overall.
Top players: Senior guard/forward D.J. Kennedy, senior guard Dwight Hardy, senior forward Justin Burrell
The skinny: Lavin has given St. John's a buzz again and he has done a remarkable job recruiting. He also inherits 10 seniors from previous coach Norm Roberts, and the Red Storm are expected to make a major play in the conference.
Last season: 31-7, 13-5 Big East. Lost to Duke in national semifinals.
Coach: Bob Huggins, 29th season, fourth at West Virginia, 670-241 overall.
Top players: Junior forward Kevin Jones, junior guard Darryl Bryant, senior guard Joe Mazzulla
The skinny: The Mountaineers rode the backs of Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks to the Final Four, and their departures leave a frontcourt void. Jones, however, is among the top forwards in the nation. He's a terrific rebounder and skilled scorer, inside and out.
Last season: 18-16, 7-11 Big East. Lost to Virginia Tech in the second round of the NIT.
Coach: Jim Calhoun, 39th season, 25th at UConn, 823-358 overall.
Top players: Junior guard Kemba Walker, sophomore forward Alex Oriakhi, freshman forward Roscoe Smith
The skinny: Walker should be one of the best guards in the nation, but there is an unproven supporting cast. The Huskies have many questions to answer, and a lot of new faces, as they look to return to the NCAA Tournament. Rebounding and scoring beyond Walker are the biggest concerns.
Last season: 20-13, 11-7 Big East. Lost to California in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Coach: Rick Pitino, 25th season, 10th at Louisville, 572-210 overall.
Top players: Senior guard Preston Knowles, junior forward Jared Swopshire, junior forward Terrence Jennings.
The skinny: A tumultuous offseason included Rick Pitino's extortion case, injuries, freshman Justin Coleman being ruled ineligible and a suspension to Knowles. The Cardinals lost key contributors Samardo Samuels, Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith.
Last season: 20-13, 9-9 Big East. Lost to N.C. State in the first round of NIT.
Coach: Stan Heath, 10th season, fourth at South Florida, 153-131 overall.
Top players: Junior forward/center Augustis Gilchrist, senior forward/center Jarrid Famous, junior forward Ron Anderson.
The skinny: The Bulls lost dynamic scorer Dominique Jones, but Gilchrist, Famous and Kansas State transfer Anderson give Heath one of the top frontcourts in the league. Junior college transfers and freshmen will be expected to contribute outside.
Last season: 23-12, 10-8 Big East. Lost to Old Dominion in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Coach: Mike Brey, 16th season, 11th at Notre Dame, 310-165 overall.
Top players: Senior forward Tim Abromaitis, senior forward Ben Hansbrough, junior guard Tyrone Nash.
The skinny: The loss of Luke Harangody, one of the most dominant players in conference history, and steady point guard Tory Jackson will hurt. Can the long-range capabilities of Abromaitis and Hansbrough make up for that?
Last season: 19-16, 7-11 Big East. Lost to Dayton in the second round of the NIT.
Coach: Mick Cronin, eighth season, fifth at Cincinnati, 130-92 overall.
Top players: Junior forward Yancy Gates, senior forward Rashad Bishop, senior forward Ibrahima Thomas.
The skinny: Lance Stephenson and Deonta Vaughn are gone, which means the Bearcats will be less electrifying. Rebounding and overall post play should be strong. This is a critical year for the program and Cronin, who has yet to lead Cincinnati to the NCAA Tournament.
Last season: 19-13, 9-9 Big East
Coach: Kevin Willard, fourth season, first at Seton Hall, 45-49 overall.
Top players: Senior guard Jeremy Hazell, senior forward Jeff Robinson, senior forward Herb Pope.
The skinny: Offseason of chaos included the arrest of players and the firing of coach Bobby Gonzalez. Willard, previously coach at Iona, has terrific talent outside in Hazell, one of the best streak scorers in the nation, and inside in Pope, who averaged a double-double last season.
Last season: 12-19, 4-14 Big East. No postseason.
Coach: Keno Davis, fourth season, third at Providence, 59-38 overall.
Top players: Senior guard/forward Marshon Brooks, sophomore guard Vincent Council, sophomore forward center Bilal Dixon.
The skinny: The program has made a mess of itself lately, highlighted by the offseason dismissal of the team's best player, Jamine Peterson. Providence has issues with depth and scoring.
Last season: 8-23, 1-17 Big East. No postseason.
Coach: Oliver Purnell, 23rd season, first at DePaul, 394-279 overall.
Top players: Senior guard/forward Mike Stovall, junior guard/forward Eric Wallace, junior guard Jeremiah Kelly.
The skinny: Will Walker and Mac Koshwall are gone, leaving DePaul with another seemingly difficult season ahead as Purnell tries to rebuild. The Blue Demons do not return a player who averaged more than seven points last season.
Last season: 15-17, 5-13 Big East. No postseason.
Coach: Mike Rice, fourth season, first at Rutgers, 73-21 overall.
Top players: Senior forward Jonathan Mitchell, sophomore forward Dane Miller, senior guard Mike Coburn.
The skinny: The Scarlet Knights lost leading scorer Mike Rosario, who transferred to Florida, and their best overall big man, Greg Echenique, who left the team during last season and has transferred to Creighton. Shot-blocking power forward Hamady Ndiaye exhausted his eligibility. Expect many new faces to get a look early on.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times