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2009 2010 Big East Conference Preview

Big East Conference Teams: Cincinnati, Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Providence, Rutgers, Seton Hall, South Florida, St. Johns, Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia 

It’s hard to Imagine the Big East being able to follow up with a season as exciting as last year’s.  The Big East had 3 teams earn number 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, five in the Sweet 16, three in the Elite 8, and 2 in the Final Four.  The Big East was talented and experienced.  With a young league, there won’t be as much experience on the courts this year, but there will certainly be talent.  Five schools in the Big East have top 25 recruiting classes.  The top half of the conference will need to stay on their toes with those on the bottom prepared to breakthrough and make a name for themselves. 

Read on for a brief 2009-2010 season preview and conference record prediction for each basketball team in the Big East.  Standings/Predictions are listed at the end of the conference preview. 

Cincinnati 
2008-2009 Record: 18-14, 8-10

In his fourth year with the Bearcats, Coach Cronin might see his best season yet.  Cincinnati has seen steady improvement in the past couple of years.  They won 11 in 06-07, 13 games in 07-08, and 18 overall games last year.  They could easily make another leap this year.  Nearly everybody returns and the Bearcats welcome one of the best recruiting classes in the nation.  Forward Lance Stephenson (one of the best ’09 high school basketball players) is among the newcomers.  They’ll also have Cashmere Wright back, who should be fully recovered after missing last season due to a knee injury.  Cincinnati could easily jump forward with 2 or more conference wins than they earned last year.   
2009-2010 Predicted Conference Record: 10-8 

Connecticut 
2008-2009 Record: 31-5, 15-3

Connecticut tied for second in the Big East and scored a Final Four appearance last season.  Connecticut lost a devastating one, as Michigan State stepped over the Huskies on their way to the NCAA National Championship game.   Despite some key losses, Connecticut should have what it takes to see the Sweet 16 and beyond in 2010.  They have a solid recruiting class and arguably one of the best backcourts in the nation.   
2009-2010 Predicted Conference Record: 13-5 

DePaul 
2008-2009 Record: 9-24, 0-18

The Blue Demons couldn’t get anything going last year.  With zero wins in the conference, there’s no debate as to whether or not they should have finished last in the Big East.  It won’t help that top scorer Dar Tucker (18.5 ppg) decided to decline 2 more years of eligibility to aim for the NBA.  Koshwal and Walker are the only two on the team who have proven themselves worthy of Big East play.  Keep an eye on Eric Wallace (Ohio State transfer) who should help provide much needed defensive assistance.  A few guys will need to step up this year if DePaul plans to get even just a few conference wins on the board. 
2009-2010 Predicted Conference Record: 1-16 

Georgetown 
2008-2009 Record: 16-15, 7-11

With a good start, including some impressive wins, The Hoyas cracked the top ten last year.  It didn’t last long.  Georgetown finished 12-4 in their last 16 games, which included quick conference tournament and NIT losses.  The Hoyas lose DaJuan Summers, Jessie Sapp, and Omar Wattad.  They return three starters, including Big East Rookie of the Year Greg Monroe.  Georgetown will have a good foundation to work with this season, but lack of depth may make it hard for the Hoyas to find themselves in the top five of the Big East.   
2009-2010 Predicted Conference Record: 8-10 

Louisville 
2008-2009 Record: 31-6, 16-2

Louisville had an even more successful season last season than the one before.  They finished with 31 wins which included a Big East Conference Tournament Championship and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.  They lost to North Carolina after beating Boise State, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.  Coach Pitino and crew might have a difficult time producing as many wins this season with the loss of 3 starters.  Clark and Williams (both among the losses and NBA bound) were the heart of the team.  The Cardinals still have a talented squad and quick frontcourt development could have them competing for another Big East title. 
2009-2010 Predicted Conference Record: 13-5 

Marquette 
2008-2009 Record: 25-10, 12-6

Coach Williams inherited a decent situation last year.  The Golden Eagles went 25-10, finished 5 in the Big East, and earned an invitation to the NCAA tournament.  They beat Utah State and then lost to number 9 Missouri.  This year, the rebuilding will begin.  Marquette loses a ton of key players, including Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, and Dominic James.  Combined, they scored nearly 50 points per game.  Forward Lazar Hayward returns, which should help, but Coach Williams will need to start from scratch with a top-20 recruiting class.   
2009-2010 Predicted Conference Record: 10-8 

Notre Dame 
2008-2009 Record: 21-15, 8-10

Last season didn’t go quite as well as the Fighting Irish would have liked.  It’s because of this that Luke Harongody decided to stay for his senior year instead of heading for the NBA Draft.  This is great news for Notre Dame who can now look towards this next season with NCAA Tournament thoughts.  Notre Dame loses 3 starters, but they bring in a couple talented transfers.  Ben Hansbrough from Mississippi State and Scott Martin from Purdue join the squad and should help fill what would have been empty spaces.  Expect to see the Fighting Irish NCAA Tournament bound and more closely competing with the top dogs in the Big East. 
2009-2010 Predicted Conference Record: 10-8 

Pittsburgh 
2008-2009 Record: 31-5, 15-3

Coach Jamie Dixon has managed to get the Panthers to the NCAA Tournament each season since he’s been Head Coach.  Last season, Pittsburgh beat 3 opponents in the Tournament before losing an extremely close one to Villanova.  The final score:  78-76.  This year, they face some major challenges with four starters departing.  Dixon has dealt with similar circumstances and should do ok this year.  He’ll have some returning talented and a promising class of recruits to work with.   
2009-2010 Predicted Conference Record: 11-7 

Providence 
2008-2009 Record: 19-14, 10-8

Coach Keno Davis got off to a decent start with Providence in his first year as Head Coach.  They won 18 games and tied for 7th in the Big East.  This season will likely be a rebuilding one with 5 key losses.  We’ll get to see how Coach Davis works with new players instead of the already experienced ones.  The Friars will probably take a step back this year.  It would be a surprise to see Providence make a postseason appearance in 2010. 
2009-2010 Predicted Conference Record: 4-12 

Rutgers 
2008-2009 Record: 11-21, 2-16

Rutgers fans are losing patience with 4th year Coach Fred Hill.  In 3 years, he is 32-60.  The Scarlet Knights only won 11 games last year and finished 15th in the Big East.  Talent is improving, but slowly.  They have some talented newcomers, including JC standout James Beatty.  Even with significant improvement, the Scarlet Knights could probably only hope to see themselves move up a spot or two in a competitive Big East. 
2009-2010 Predicted Conference Record: 4-12 

Seton Hall 
2008-2009 Record: 17-15, 7-11

Seton Hall has had a standstill in progress in recent years.  Last year they finished 17-15 (7-11), which was identical to their 2007-2008 record.  This year just might be different.  Three transfers join 4 returning starters.  A few sidelined players from last year will also be eligible.  All at once, it’s looking like the Pirates have all of the ingredients they need to have a “breakout” season.   
2009-2010 Predicted Conference Record:9-9 

South Florida 
2008-2009 Record: 9-22, 4-14

With only 9 wins, South Florida didn’t make much progress last year.  They did, however, have their moments.  One of them was beating 8th ranked Marquette.  It was the Bulls’ first top-10 victory ever.  Generally, inconsistency was the issue for South Florida. The Bulls only lose one key player so they should have the opportunity to improve if they can successfully build upon their experience.  In the long run, Coach Heath will need to bring in more talent if he plans to be successful in the Big East. 
2009-2010 Predicted Conference Record:  5-13 

St. Johns 
2008-2009 Record: 16-18, 6-12

Even with an overall losing record, St. John’s made some improvement last season, winning 5 more than they did the year before and making a short appearance in the College Basketball Invitational Tournament.  Coach Roberts plans to have an even better 2009-2010 season with 7 juniors returning and a promising recruiting class. 
2009-2010 Predicted Conference Record:9-9 

Syracuse 
2008-2009 Record: 28-10, 11-7

With 28 overall wins, Syracuse did alright last season.  They came relatively close to a conference tournament title and won 2 in the NCAA tournament before falling to Oklahoma.  It’s hard to imagine the Orange as good this next season with 3 of their top scorers gone.  As usual, another talented recruiting class should make adjustments easier than one might assume.  Also remember that they’re not the only team in the Big East going through a big transition.  If the team can come together, and fill voids where necessary, they’ll do ok.   
2009-2010 Predicted Conference Record: 11-7

Villanova 
2008-2009 Record: 30-8, 13-5

The Wildcats finished number 4 in the Big East and looked like they might soar through the NCAA Tournament with a trip to the Final Four.  They lost to North Carolina, 83-69.  There’s buzz about Villanova doing even more this year.  The Wildcats are thinking #1 in the Big East and #1 in the country.  It’s possible with Scottie Reynolds skipping the draft to return for another year.  Thanks to his return and a number 2 ranked recruiting class, Villanova has a bright looking near-future. 
2009-2010 Predicted Conference Record:  15-3 

West Virginia 
2008-2009 Record: 23-12, 10-8

While it hasn’t always been easy, Coach Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers have shown that on any given night, they can challenge any team.  They finished last year with 23 wins and tied for 7th in the Big East.  As tough as they’ve been, the 2009-2010 West Virginia basketball team might be the best that Huggins has seen in his 2 years with the school.  Expectations are high in West Virginia.  He’ll be working with nearly all of his own players and they return nearly everybody on the roster.  Expect the Mountaineers to take another step forward with 11+ wins in the conference and a longer postseason. 
2009-2010 Predicted Conference Record: 11-7 

Big East Regular Season Champions:  Louisville

Big East Tournament Champions: Louisville 

Big East Predicted Order of Finish: 

  1. Villanova 15-3
  2. Connecticut 13-5
  3. Louisville 13-5
  4. West Virginia 11-7
  5. Syracuse 11-7
  6. Pittsburgh 11-7
  7. Notre Dame 10-8
  8. Cincinnati 10-8
  9. Marquette 10-8
  10. Seton Hall 9-9
  11. St. Johns 9-9
  12. Georgetown 8-10
  13. South Florida 5-13
  14. Providence 4-14
  15. Rutgers 4-14
  16. DePaul 1-16