Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Summer Big East Report, Part II

Posted by Zach on July 25, 2008

Here’s Part II of the summer edition of the Big East Report:

Marquette
– The same core of Dominic James, Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal have starred together for three years now for Marquette, but have yet to reach a regional in the NCAA tournament, a goal new coach Buzz Williams believes is undoubtedly within range this upcoming season. McNeal emerged as the true stud of the group late last season in the Big East Tournament and in his compelling performance vs. Stanford in the second round of the NCAA. Joining McNeal is James, an erratic and still-developing point guard who shows flashes of brilliance but struggles with the jumper, and Wes Matthews, a powerful wing player who can slash and score but disappears all too often. Lazar Hayward is an under-the-radar candidate for all Big East honors this year, while David Cubillian and Maurice Acker help spread the floor with their three-point threats. Marquette will play in the Chicago Invitational and have non-conference games at Tennessee in Nashville and vs. Wisconsin, with multiple conference games against Georgetown, DePaul and Villanova.

Pittsburgh
Ranked #2 in my preseason Top 25, Jamie Dixon returns a squad with the ultimate goal of an NCAA title. The talent Pitt returns both inside and outside is sensational, starting with senior leader Levance Fields at the point guard position, a true outside shooting threat and constant floor presence. Joining Fields is the total package in Sam Young- scoring, rebounding, defense, passing. Also, don’t discount the work of DeJuan Blair in the post, who starred in more than one Big East game as a freshman with his low post scoring ability. The Panthers only lost Ronald Ramon to graduation and may get Mike Cook back for a sixth year depending on an NCAA decision. Pitt will play in the Legends Classic in New Jersey and while also playing at Florida State and still searching for an opponent at their second home, Madison Square Garden, in December. Pitt faces Connecticut in two exciting matchups, while also drawing West Virginia and DePaul twice.

Cincinnati
– The Bearcats and coach Mick Cronin boast one of the best players in the conference and in the nation: 6’1 guard Deonta Vaughn out of Indianapolis. Vaughn showed future stardom as a freshman by scoring at 14.3 per game, but bolted that total up to 17.3 PPG last season and finish with 30 points against the stellar Pitt defense. He could win Big East Player of the Year honors if Cincy can receive any contributions from their role players, specifically Adam Hrycaniuk from Poland and forward Rashard Bishop. Cincy was one of the most erratic teams in the nation last year, losing games vs. Bowling Green and Belmont, but also beating Louisville, Syracuse, Villanova and Pittsburgh, then losing six in a row to end the year. The Bearcats play in a Las Vegas tournament with Cal, UNLV and Florida State and play Memphis, Xavier and Florida State in non-conference. Cincy fortunately drew Georgetown, Providence and Saint John’s twice.

Connecticut
– Once Jim Calhoun recovers from a scary bout with skin cancer, the Huskies can take the floor touting one of the best teams in the nation collectively. Connecticut certainly has the athleticism to match any team in the nation, starting with 7’3 center Hasheem Thabeet, a future lottery pick who is clearly the best shot blocker in the nation, but needs his offensive game to develop leaps and bounds. If A.J. Price can recover fully from his ACL tear, Connecticut has one of the best guards in the conference. One of the most complete players is always efficient Jeff Adrien, a daily double-double candidate who shoots 50% from the floor. Jerome Dyson is an excellent compliment to Price in the backcourt. The Huskies did lose Curtis Kelly and Doug Wiggins to transfer and the status of Stanley Robinson is unknown, although he could return in the second semester. The Huskies will face Notre Dame, Seton Hall and Pittsburgh twice in conference while participating in the Paradise Jam and Gonzaga in Seattle during the non-conference slate.

Providence- The Friars hired Keno Davis away from Drake in a program-changing move after former coach Tim Welsh failed to get Providence over the hump. Jeff Xavier is back for Providence to boost the backcourt. The former Manhattan standout led the Friars in scoring last season at 12.4 PPG and will be joined by Weyinmi Efejuku, another double-digit per game scorer who teamed up with Xavier in a quality win vs. Connecticut in March of last season. Brian McKenzie is back as a junior and contributed with big performances early in the season before fading in Big East play. Lost is Dwain Williams to Oregon State, a stellar presence in the backcourt who shoots 90% from the line. With Providence returning seemingly everyone  from last season, look for Keno Davis to send Providence to the tournament as the Big East’s tenth team. Providence plays at Boston College and in the Anaheim Classic with Arizona State, Wake Forest and Baylor. The Friars will play Cincinnati, Rutgers and Villanova twice in a good draw.

Syracuse– Head coach Jim Boeheim will tell you he feels like the Syracuse basketball team has underachieved greatly the last few seasons, and to avoid any retirement pressure from critics and fans alike, the Cuse needs to excel this upcoming campaign and make the NCAA Tournament. Returning is speedy point guard Johnny Flynn, a true floor leader and dynamic scorer simultaneously who can distribute the basketball with outstanding precision and is a future NBA PG. Syracuse hopes to get contribution from Andy Rautins, a three-point specialist who tore his ACL early last season and is finally recovered. Eric Devendorf scored 17 PPG for the Orange last season in a widely underrated season, also improving his FG% from 41% to 47% along the way. Donte Greene departed too early for the NBA, so players like Scoop Jardine and Arinze Onuaku, along with budding star Paul Harris, will have to step up their games down low. Cuse plays in the CBE Classic with Kansas, Florida and Washington while also hosting Virginia and playing at Memphis. Georgetown, Villanova and Rutgers show up twice on the conference slate.

DePaul
– Superstar Draelon Burns is gone, so freshman standout Dar Tucker has to take the reigns and lead this DePaul squad if they want to make any sort of national splash. Tucker displayed his raw ability by dropping 22 on Louisville, 28 on Notre Dame and 23 on Pitt during conference season, so coach Jerry Wainwright may have a star on his hands. Tucker does need to develop more of a complete floor game, averaging just 1.0 APG in 07-08 and shooting 32% from long range. DePaul also returns big man Mac Koshwal as a double-double candidate straight from DePaul’s backyard in Chicago. They receive former Ohio State guard Eric Wallace as a transfer, as well. The Blue Demons play in the Las Vegas Invitational, at California and against UCLA in the Wooden Classic. Marquette, South Florida and Pittsburgh will be showing up twice on their conference schedule.

South Florida
– Stan Heath lost quite a few players this summer- Aaron Holmes, Solomon Bozeman, Orane Chin and Amu Saaka- but did manage to lure in Augustus Gilchrist from Maryland. The most devastating loss will be of big man Kentrell Gransberry, one of the best scorers (16 PPG) and rebounders (10.8 RPG)  in the conference last season. Dominique Jones was a godsend for USF last year as a 6’4 freshman, averaging 17.1 PPG while shooting 46% and putting up stellar performances all around: 30 in consecutive games in December, 31 vs. Seton Hall and 29 vs. Syracuse and Villanova. They’ll play in the San Juan Shootout with Wright State, Murray State and Oral Roberts, while also facing Virginia, UAB and Vanderbilt all on the road. The Bulls will play Louisville, West Virginia and DePaul twice.

I was going to do player and team rankings but have to gather more and more about each team before finishing a definitive list. Check back later for this.

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