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2011-12 Big East Conference Preview

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Columns

The Big East Conference as a whole is in flux as we start the 2011-12 college basketball season, but all that realignment is still a year or more in the future. The strongest basketball conference in the country last year sent a record-setting 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament.

The Darlings of the Dance were the Kemba Walker-led Connecticut Huskies who went on a tear winning five straight games to capture the Big East’s automatic bid by winning the conference tournament. The Huskies went on to win six more games and win the national title, defeating the Butler Bulldogs, 53-41. … Continue Reading

Cincinnati Bearcats 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Conference Notes

Cincinnati Bearcats

 

Last Year:

26-9 overall, 11-7 Big East (T-6th)

Coach:

Mick Cronin (6th season, 87-77)

Projected starting five:

G: Cashmere Wright, Jr.
G: Dion Dixon, Jr.
G: Sean Kilpatrick, So.
F: Justin Jackson, So.
C: Yancy Gates, Sr.

Important departures:

Rashad Bishop 8.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.7 apg
Ibrahima Thomas 5.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg

Inside the numbers:

66 percent scoring returning
64 percent rebounding returning

Additions:

F: Shaquille Thomas, 6’6”, 165 – Rivals #81
F: Jermaine Sanders 6’4”, 205 – Rivals #131
G: Jeremiah Davis, 6’3”, 195 – ESPNU Pos. #43

Schedule:

Toughest nonconference game: 12/10 at (15) Xavier
Toughest in-conference stretch: 1/18 – 1/23 at (4) Connecticut, at West Virginia, at (5) Syracuse

Prediction:

5th in BE; 25+ wins; Second weekend of NCAA Tournament

What to expect:

A lot of how the Bearcats do this year is dependent on Yancy Gates and his “want-to.” Gates has been hit-or-miss in his time in Cincinnati, playing up to his potential at the end of last season, which has given Bearcat fans the hope that he will continue his upward trend. However, Gates’ midseason dismissal for lack of effort looms in the back of the minds of Cincinnati fans.

Returning four starters from last year should help the Bearcats continue their trend of regaining national prominence. Sean Kilpatrick has a lot of expectations to fulfill this year. The sophomore is touted as UC’s microwave, giving Cincinnati an outside threat to balance Gates on the inside.

Coach Mick Cronin has handled predicament well over the past six years at the helm. Taking some hits along the way, the Cincinnati native has once again brought the Bearcats into the preseason rankings with the belief that 22nd is the lowest they will be ranked all year. A solid starting five and a talented young bench should help the Bearcats build on their second-round dismissal from the NCAA Tournament a year ago.

Next: Connecticut Huskies

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Connecticut Huskies 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Conference Notes

Connecticut Huskies

 

Last Year:

32-9 overall, 9-9 Big East (T-9th)

Coach:

Jim Calhoun (25th season, 605-228)

Projected starting five:

G: Shabazz Napier, So.
G: Jeremy Lamb, So.
F: Alex Oriakhi, Jr.
F: Roscoe Smith, So.
C: Andre Drummond, Fr.

Important departures:

Kemba Walker 23.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.5 apg 37.6 mpg
Jamal Coombs-McDaniel 5.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 16.6 mpg
Charles Okwandu 2.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 15.4 mpg

Inside the numbers:

53 percent scoring returning
70 percent rebounding returning

Additions:

C: Andre Drummond, 6’10”, 275 – ESPNU #2
G: Ryan Boatright, 6’2”, 165 – Rivals #42
F: DeAndre Daniels, 6’8”, 180 – Rivals #10

Schedule:

Toughest nonconference game: 1/21 at Tennessee
Toughest in-conference stretch: 2/6 – 2/18 at (8) Louisville, at (5) Syracuse, vs. DePaul, vs. (21) Marquette

Prediction:

3rd in BE; 25+ wins; Second weekend of NCAA Tournament

What to expect:

Despite losing their All-Everything floor general Kemba Walker, the defending national champs might have even more talent in 2011-12 than they did on the title squad. Returning All-Rookie team selections Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier, the Huskies also have big man Alex Oriakhi as well as a top recruiting class that expects to see major playing time right out of the gate.

Andre Drummond, one of the nation’s top high school centers looks to be inserted into the starting lineup, and Ryan Boatright should see some time as Napier’s backup whenever he becomes eligible. The question in Husky-land isn’t whether or not this team will be able to live up to last year’s accomplishments; it is if they can match them.

The postseason runs through the Big East and NCAA tournaments masked the fact that the Huskies were perfectly mediocre in conference play, ending at 9-9. With most of the championship team returning in 2011 as well as the influx of top recruits, folks in Storrs will be calling this a reloading year, not rebuilding.

Next: DePaul Blue Demons

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DePaul Blue Demons 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Conference Notes

DePaul Blue Demons

 

Last Year:

7-24 overall, 1-17 Big East (16th)

Coach:

Oliver Purnell (2nd season, 7-24)

Projected starting five:

G: Jeremiah Kelly, Sr.
G: Brandon Young, So.
F: Cleveland Melvin, So.
F: Tony Freeland, Jr.
C: Krys Faber, Sr.

Important departures:

Jimmy Drew 6.4 ppg. 3.3 rpg, 2.1 apg
Mike Stovall 5.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1.2 apg
Devin Hill 5.2 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1.0 apg

Inside the numbers:

80 percent scoring returning
78 percent rebounding returning

Additions:

G: Shane Larking, 6’0”, 170 – MaxPreps #68
G: Charles McKinney, 6’4”, 190 – ESPNU Pos. #51
C: Derrell Robertson, 6’9”, 215 – ESPNU Pos. #56

Schedule:

Toughest nonconference game: 11/24 Minnesota
Toughest in-conference stretch: 1/1 – 1/8 vs. (5) Syracuse, vs. (11) Pittsburgh, at Villanova

Prediction:

15th in BE; 10+ wins

What to expect:

DePaul returns a good and young core of last year’s team that showed flashes of possibly big things to come. Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin enter their sophomore seasons after gaining quality experience in the freshman seasons, playing the majority of the games for the Blue Demons.

Senior PG Jeremiah Kelly who led the team in minutes played and steals last season will aid Melvin and Young. Krys Faber will be the Blue Demons’ man in the middle and give Oliver Purnell’s team the big body they need. Tony Freeland will round out the starting five after averaging nearly 10 ppg last year.

Purnell is installing his system of full-court pressing that showed it could keep DePaul close against Louisville, West Virginia and Villanova last year, but unfortunately for Blue Demons fans, it looks like it will take a few more years to realize Purnell’s dream of building the success he enjoyed at Clemson.

Next: Georgetown Hoyas

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Georgetown Hoyas 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Conference Notes

Georgetown Hoyas

 

Last Year:

21-11 overall, 10-8 Big East (8th)

Coach:

John Thompson III (8th season, 159-66)

Projected starting five:

G: Markel Starks, So.
G: Jason Clark, Sr.
F: Hollis Thompson, Jr.
F: Nate Lubick, So.
C: Henry Sims, Sr.

Important departures:

Austin Freeman 17.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.4 apg
Chris Wright 12.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 5.3 apg
Julian Vaughn 7.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.5 apg

Inside the numbers:

43 percent scoring returning
63 percent rebounding returning

Additions:

F: Otto Porter, 6’9”, 200 – ESPNU #42
C: Mikael Hopkins, 6’8”, 210 – ESPNU #78
G: Jabril Trawick, 6’5”, 200 – ESPNU #80

Schedule:

Toughest nonconference game(s): 11/21 at (13) Kansas, 12/1 at (17) Alabama, 12/22 vs. (9) Memphis
Toughest in-conference stretch: 1/28 – 2/8 at (11) Pittsburgh, vs. (4) Connecticut, vs. South Florida, at (5) Syracuse

Prediction:

8th in BE; 20+ wins; NCAA Tournament berth

What to expect:

The Hoyas lost their two leading scorers, Austin Freeman and Chris Wright, but reloaded with the No. 15 recruiting class according to ESPNU. Although we don’t project any of the newcomers to start right away for the Hoyas, don’t be surprised to see Otto Porter, Mikael Hopkins or Jabril Trawick play some significant time for JT3.

Georgetown isn’t doing itself any favors with their nonconference schedule, playing three top 25 teams before opening the Big East with Louisville Dec. 28. The last time we saw the Hoyas, they were getting in a little skirmish with a Chinese team, but perhaps that fight could do something for the chemistry of the young team.

Hollis Thompson and Jason Clark will be the leaders of the team with Clark finally getting his time to shine. Thompson is one of those long swing guys who can cause match up nightmares for opposing coaches. Sophomore guard Markel Starks could become the facilitator that the Hoyas lacked after Wright’s wrist injury last year. As usual, JT3’s boys will have the athleticism and talent to beat any team on a given day.

Next: Louisville Cardinals

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Louisville Cardinals 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Conference Notes

Louisville Cardinals

 

Last Year:

25-10 overall, 12-6 Big East (T-3rd)

Coach:

Rick Pitino (11th season, 245-96)

Projected starting five:

G: Peyton Siva, Jr.
G: Chris Smith, Sr.
F: Kyle Kuric, Sr.
F: Chane Behanan, Fr.
C: Gorgui Dieng, So.

Important departures:

Preston Knowles 14.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.1 apg
Terrence Jennings 9.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg

Inside the numbers:

66 percent scoring returning
67 percent rebounding returning

Additions:

F: Chane Behanan, 6’6”, 250 – Rivals #21
F: Wayne Blackshear, 6’5” 210 – Rivals #36
C: Zach Price, 6’1”, 240 – Rivals #67
G: Kevin Ware, 6’4”, 167 – Rivals # 70
F: Angel Nunez, 6’8”, 190 – ESPNU #91

Schedule:

Toughest nonconference game(s): 12/2 vs. (7) Vanderbilt, 12/31 at (2) Kentucky
Toughest in-conference stretch: 2/23 – 3/3 at (22) Cincinnati, vs. (11) Pittsburgh, vs. South Florida, at (5) Syracuse

Prediction:

4th in BE; 25+ wins; Second weekend of NCAA Tournament

What to expect:

One of the strongest recruiting classes in the nation gives the Cards more than enough to replace Preston Knowles and Terrence Jennings. As Louisville showed last year, they don’t have any real standout players, although Siva is on the cusp and Kyle Kuric showed on multiple occasions last season he can take over the game — and win homecoming king.

Louisville’s depth give the Cards the chance to wear out their opponents running Pitino’s full-court press, creating turnovers and forcing tough shots late in the shot clock. With Siva and Kuric in the backcourt, accompanied by Chris Smith, the Cards will look down low to Gorgui Dieng.

Dieng will take Jennings’ place on the low block and will act as the last line of defense if a team were to break the Cardinals’ pressure. Dieng’s length gives him the ability to alter shots around the rim, although Dieng, as well as the team as a whole, could benefit from picking up more boards. If the Cards can get past the idea of only having one ball between their dynamic playmakers, look for Louisville to make a run at a league and possibly, a national championship.

Next: Marquette Golden Eagles

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Marquette Golden Eagles 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Conference Notes

Marquette Golden Eagles

 

Last Year:

22-15 overall, 9-9 Big East (T-9th)

Coach:

Buzz Williams (4th season, 69-36)

Projected starting five:

G: Junior Cadougan, Sr.
G: Darius Johnson-Odom, Sr.
F: Vander Blue, So.
F: Jae Crowder, Sr.
C: Chris Otule, Jr.

Important departures:

Jimmy Butler 15.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.3 apg
Dwight Buycks 8.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.4 apg

Inside the numbers:

62 percent scoring returning
66 percent rebounding returning

Additions:

F: Juan Anderson 6’6”, 200 – Rivals #61
G: Derrick Wilson, 6’0”, 205 – ESPNU Pos. #32
G: Todd Mayo, 6’3”, 190

Schedule:

Toughest nonconference game(s): 12/3 at (14) Wisconsin, 12/29 vs. (7) Vanderbilt
Toughest in-conference stretch: 1/7 – 1/16 at (5) Syracuse, vs. St. John’s, vs. (11) Pittsburgh, vs. (8) Louisville

Prediction:

6th in BE; 20+ wins; Second round of NCAA Tournament

What to expect:

Marquette, coming off a roller-coaster season that ended with a loss to UNC in the Sweet 16, should have a solid core returning that could make the Golden Eagles a threat to make a little run in the NCAA Tournament again this year.

Despite losing Jimmy Butler and Dwight Buycks, Marquette has guys like Darius Johnson-Odom, Jae Crowder and Junior Cadougan who can fill the void. DJO and Crowder will be the primary scorers for Marquette as Cadougan will be pegged as mainly a facilitator.

Look for DJO and Crowder to flourish as Buzz Williams mixes in Vander Blue, Oregon transfer Jamil Wilson and Derrick Wilson, giving the Golden Eagles plenty of options to have a solid year in the BE and possibly make some noise in the NCAA.

Next: Notre Dame

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Conference Notes

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

 

Last Year:

27-7 overall, 14-4 Big East (2nd)

Coach:

Mike Brey (11th season, 238-120)

Projected starting five:

G: Eric Atkins, So.
G: Pat Connaughton, Fr.
F: Tim Abromatitis, Sr.
F: Scott Martin, Sr.
C: Jack Cooley, So.

Important departures:

Ben Hansbrough 18.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.3 apg, 35.4 mpg
Carleton Scott 11.2, 7.4 rpg, 31.2 mpg
Tyrone Nash 9.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg

Inside the numbers:

50 percent scoring returning
56 percent rebounding returning

Additions:

F: Eric Katenda, 6’8”, 210 – Rivals #118
F: Patrick Connaughton 6’5”, 175 – Rivals #127

Schedule:

Toughest nonconference game(s): 11/21 at (25) Missouri, 11/30 at (23) Gonzaga
Toughest in-conference stretch: 12/27 – 1/7 vs. (11) Pittsburgh, at (22) Cincinnati, at (8) Louisville

Prediction:

9th in BE; 20+ wins; NCAA Tournament berth

What to expect:

After a surprising 2010-11 campaign that saw the Fighting Irish improve after losing Luke Harangody, Notre Dame is looking for a repeat performance, but it could be a little harder this time around without BE Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough, Carleton Scott and Tyrone Nash all lost to graduation.

The silver lining for Notre Dame is fifth-year senior Tim Abromaitis is still around. Abromaitis will miss the first four games of the season because of some exhibition games he played in three years ago, but the Irish should handle that stretch without any problems. When they get into BE play, that’s when some of ND’s weaknesses may be exposed.

The main concern for the Golden Domers will be how Abromaitis’ supporting cast comes together. Scott Martin and Eric Atkins played significant minutes last year, but Pat Connaughton and Jack Cooley will have to prove that they can hang in the Big East. The gelling of the rebuilding Irish squad will prove to be the key if they want a trip back to the NCAA Tournament.

Next: Pittsburgh Panthers

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Pittsburgh Panthers 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Conference Notes

Pittsburgh Panthers

 

Last Year:

28-6 overall, 15-3 Big East (1st)

Coach:

Jamie Dixon (8th season, 260-60)

Projected starting five:

G: Ashton Gibbs, Sr.
G: Travon Woodwall, Sr.
F: Nasir Robinson, Sr.
F: Lamar Patterson, So.
C: Dante Taylor, Jr.

Important departures:

Brad Wannamaker 11.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 5.1 apg
Gilbert Brown 11.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.7 apg
Gary McGhee 6.9 ppg 7.7 rpg

Inside the numbers:

59 percent scoring returning
55 percent rebounding returning

Additions:

F: Khem Birch, 6’10”, 210 – Rivals #9
F: Durand Johnson, 6’6”, 191 – Rivals #120
C: Malcolm Gilbert, 6’11”, 230 – Rivals #133

Schedule:

Toughest nonconference game: 12/3 at Tennessee
Toughest in-conference stretch: 1/14 – 1/21 at (21) Marquette, at (5) Syracuse, vs. (8) Louisville

Prediction:

2nd in BE; 25+ wins; Second weekend of NCAA Tournament

What to expect:

The Panthers begin and end with Ashton Gibbs. Our pick for BE Player of the Year is also in the running for a host of other honors that are sure to include the Wooden and Naismith awards. Perhaps the best shooter in the country, Gibbs has no problem spotting up or creating his own shot coming off of screens.

Despite returning Gibbs, their leading scorer from a year ago, the Panthers lost three starters to graduation, meaning that younger guys are going to have to step into expanded roles. Travon Woodall should be an easy replacement for Brad Wannamaker. Although Woodall is not the scorer or rebounder Wannamaker was, his quickness and ability to get into the lane and finish or drop the ball off for easy buckets should prove to be sufficient.

Other concerns for the Panthers come from replacing Gilbert Brown and Gary McGhee, a couple of cogs in Pitt’s success over the last few years. Dante Taylor has been the man-in-waiting to fill McGhee’s shoes, and Lamar Patterson will have the tall task of taking Brown’s place. With a top 15 recruiting class, however, Jamie Dixon has a couple of guys that he can rotate in the frontcourt to keep the Panthers in the hunt for another Big East title.

Next: Providence Friars

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Providence Friars 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Conference Notes

Providence Friars

 

Last Year:

15-17 overall, 4-14 Big East (14th)

Coach:

Ed Cooley (1st season, 92-69 at Fairfield Univ.)

Projected starting five:

G: Vincent Council, Jr.
G: Gerald Coleman, So.
F: LaDontae Henton, Fr.
F: Kadeem Batts, So.
C: Bilal Dixon, Jr.

Important departures:

Marshon Brooks 24.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 36.5 mpg
Duke Mondy 7.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg

Inside the numbers:

56 percent scoring returning
60 percent rebounding returning

Additions:

F: LaDontae Henton, 6’6”, 215 – ESPNU Pos. #47
G: Kiwi Gardner, 5’8”, 155 – ESPNU #55

Schedule:

Toughest nonconference game: 12/1 at South Carolina
Toughest in-conference stretch: 1/10 – 1/25 vs. (8) Louisville, at (5) Syracuse, vs. (21) Marquette, at (11) Pittsburgh

Prediction:

16th in BE; 10+ wins

What to expect:

The Friars are coming off an underachieving season that saw standout Marshon Brooks head to the NBA and coach Keno Davis chased out of town. Bilal Dixon and Vincent Council remain as the elder statesmen who plan to take Providence into the Ed Cooley era.

Council will be the leading scoring threat for the Friars this season, but Gerald Coleman should start in the backcourt and give him some offensive help. Down low, Dixon will pair with Kadeem Batts and either LaDontae Henton or Bryce Cotton.

Providence had no problem scoring last season, but their inability to stop a thing is what brought in Cooley and his defensive mindset. It may take some time for Cooley to get his run-and-gun team to buy into the defense-first philosophy, so don’t expect too much from the Friars this year.

Next: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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College Basketball Tonight

COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, who will be joined by former Manhattan and Seton Hall head coach Bobby Gonzalez and many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show will air on AM 970 The Answer in New York City from 7-9 p.m. on every Sunday from Selection Sunday to the Final Four. You can listen to the show here.

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Sept. 9: St. Andrew's
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