Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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

Big East Preview: #10-#9

Posted by Zach on October 18, 2008

10. Providence Friars– Coach: Keno Davis (1st season)

Backcourt:
The backcourt is the strength of this Providence team. They return their leading scorer from two seasons ago in Sharaud Curry, who is finally 100% healthy from his injured foot that kept him out of important action last season. Also returning is Manhattan transfer Jeff Xavier who hit 76 threes and became the Friars leading scorer last year in the absence of Curry. He also led the conference in SPG and the return of Curry running the offense should lead to more open looks for Xavier. The inconsistent and flashy Weyinmi Efejuku can certainly pile up the points on any given night and then disappear the next. Davis hopes the coaching change will help his attitude and get him motivated for every Big East game. Brian McKenzie is yet another returning double-digit scorer. He finished second to Xavier in three-pointers and will likely play more of the 2-guard spot where he’s comfortable. With Dwain Williams transferring, sophomore Marshon Brooks should get more playing time. Grade: B+

Frontcourt: The frontcourt is boosted by box score filler Geoff McDermott. He’s one of the best passing big men in the country while also attacking the boards with ferocity, evidenced by his 6’8 frame becoming the only player in team history to grab 250+ rebounds and dish out 150+ assists in the same season. An improvement in scoring for McDermott would vault him into elite forward status. 6’11 Randall Hanke is a mystery for the Friars. He displays an accurate scoring touch and possesses a center’s frame, but refuses to maintain any sort of aggressiveness on the boards and plays defense scared. A breakout year is possible if Hanke can harness his abilities. Jamine Peterson is a wild card; his athleticism is unmatched and Peterson flows well with an up-tempo approach on the floor. While his defense desperately needs improvement, Peterson is the type of high-energy player every team needs. The question up front for Providence is depth and defense. They hope to get instant help from incoming freshman Bilal Dixon, who provides bulk for Keno Davis. Grade: C+

Bottom Line: Keno Davis knows how to coach. He proved himself molding a mediocre Drake team into the story of the year in college basketball and a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Now he walks into a situation in Providence where the fans are tired of the underachieving Tim Welsh and need a change. With eight of your top nine scorers returning and plenty of experience, I feel Davis can transform the program in just months time. I feel like this conference could get a record ten teams into the Big Dance, and Providence would be the tenth selection.

Starting Lineup:

G- Sharaud Curry (JR)
G- Jeff Xavier (SR)
G- Weyinmi Efejuku (SR)
F- Geoff McDermott (SR)
F- Randall Hanke (SR)

Key Non-Conference Games: Anaheim Classic, 11/15 vs. Northeastern, 12/20 @ Boston College
Key Conference Games: 1/10 @ Georgetown, 1/28 vs. Syracuse, 2/7 @ West Virginia, 3/5 @ Villanova
Most Valuable Player: Geoff McDermott
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA (One and done)

9. West Virginia Mountaineers
– Coach: Bob Huggins (2nd season)

Backcourt: They’ll have a difficult time dealing with the loss of steady point guard Darris Nichols, who finished second in the Big East in assist-turnover ratio, but I feel Joe Mazzulla has the goods to step in right away and contribute. Mazzulla, who really came on in the NCAA Tournament and in their stunning win over Duke in the second round, distributes the basketball fairly well and shows a keen shooting touch from mid-range. More of those point guard instincts will be smoothed over with increased experience. The backcourt is also boosted by the outside shooting of Alex Ruoff. Coach Bob Huggins wants Ruoff to attack the basket with more frequency, but I’d prefer it if he remains near the perimeter where he sunk 41% of his threes. Freshman Darryl Bryant is a hard-nosed point guard like most that come out of the Bronx (except Sebastian Telfair, he’s just dumb). Huggins may try to play Devin Ebanks at shooting guard at some points, and Da’Sean Butler is more than capable of playing the 2. The flexibility of the West Virginia roster is a big reason why I have them pegged for the NCAA Tournament once again. Grade: B-

Frontcourt: Da’Sean Butler has the chance to step into the spotlight with Joe Alexander departed. Butler can play both inside and outside, is the teams strongest rebounding presence, and also added a 37% three-point accuracy to his resume. The junior made strides as a sophomore to reach double-digit scoring; Huggins hopes Butler can excel to more of a 14-15 PPG threat and continue to create matchup problems. The former Indiana commit turned Mountaineer Devin Ebanks is a force to be reckoned with- a super athlete with great driving ability with an advanced jump shot for his age. He can sink it from anywhere on the floor and may be WV’s best player from day one. Fellow freshman Kevin Jones is another top-75 recruit with versatility with great size and length. Wellington Smith saw increased playing time in March and showed he can take it to the rim and finish, but he’s still nothing more than a seventh or eighth man. Huggins hopes Demetrius Proby or freshman Roscoe Davis can emerge at the five. Grade: B

Bottom Line: Bob Huggins may be a polarizing figure, but the job he did last season taking John Beilein’s system and his players and molding them into a tough, rebound-first, man-to-man, Elite Eight team was a sight to see. Huggins lost his do-everything glue guy in Joe Alexander and point guard in Darris Nichols, two components it takes more than a blink of the eye to replace. Once Joe Mazzulla shows he can be a steady force at point guard and Devin Ebanks takes off in his first season in Morgantown, this is a bubble-in team that could be the eye of much debate on Selection Sunday.

Starting Lineup:

G- Joe Mazzulla (JR)
G- Alex Ruoff (SR)
G/F- Da’Sean Butler (JR)
F- Devin Ebanks (FR)
F- Wellington Smith (JR)

Key Non-Conference Games: 11/28 @ Iowa, 12/3 @ Mississippi, 12/9 vs. Davidson, 12/27 @ Ohio State
Key Conference Games: 1/3 @ Seton Hall, 2/7 vs. Providence, 2/13 vs. Villanova, 2/26 @ Cincinnati
Most Valuable Player: Devin Ebanks
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA (One and done)

#8 Villanova and #7 Syracuse will be up on Monday.

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2 Responses to “Big East Preview: #10-#9”

  1. Great writeups for a great conference, though I am curious as to how 10 teams from a conference would make the NCAA tournament. You’re looking at 9 out of 34 at-larges all coming from the same conference. Inevitably, one or two of those hypothetical teams are going to have .500 or less records in-conference. Couple that with the at-larges from the SEC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10, and ACC – and that’s pushing the 34 total right there – not to mention the usual 5-6 mid-majors who generally have the resumes to get in even if they don’t win their conference tournament.

    I just don’t see how the NCAA Tournament committee will place more than 60% of a conference’s teams in the Big Dance.

  2. Zach said

    You’re right, it’s hard to imagine, and maybe I should have done more calculating like you did so well in the comment. I just feel like this conference could be the best we’ve ever seen, and the NCAA committee will take, say, an 8-8/7-9 Providence or West Virginia from the Big East over the 2nd place finisher in the Atlantic 10 or Missouri Valley this time around. With the expansion of the BET, there’s more opportunities for these middling teams to add another conference win, too. Nine teams can definitely make it. Ten is a stretch but it’s not impossible. And I like going out on a limb.

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