2008 Big East Conference Preview

Tue, 11/06/2007 - 6:47am
2008 Big East Conference Preview

ByKevin Duffy

Team By Team Analysis and Projected Order of Finish.

[img_assist|nid=3633|title=Roy Hibbert - Credit: Jeff Conner/Icon SMI|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=450]1. Georgetown Hoyas

Last Season: 30-7 (13-3) Reached Final Four
Key Losses: Jeff Green (14.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg)
Key Returnees: Roy Hibbert (12.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Jonathan Wallace (11.4 ppg), Vernon Macklin (9.8 ppg), DaJuan Summers (9.2 pg)
Key Newcomers: Austin Freeman, Chris Wright
Key Non-Conference Games: at Memphis, at Alabama.

Season Preview: Despite the loss of Jeff Green, the Hoyas are still in terrific position to contend for another Final Four and make a run at a national title. Roy Hibbert will be the focal point of a methodical Georgetown attack that wore down opponents last year. DaJuan Summers, a versatile forward with similar skills to
Green, will fill the void left by the graduation of the Big East Player of the Year. The solid and underrated backcourt of Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp returns, and the depth is bolstered by the addition of blue chip freshmen Austin Freeman and Chris Wright. Overall, this Georgetown team may be better even than last year’s squad. Anything less than National Championship run for the Hoyas will be a dissapointment.

NBA Prospects:

1. Roy Hibbert is a massive center (7-foot-2 278 lbs) with good fundamentals inside and a steady jumpshot. Some question his athleticism, but Hibbert’s combination of size and shooting and his work ethic will likely make him a top 10 pick in 2008. (No Hibbert isn't considering a career in major league baseball but he did throw out a first pitch at a Phillies game during the summer).

2. DaJuan Summers has size, skills, and athleticism of a prototypical NBA small forward. He's also an excellent shooter. His expanded role this season will allow him to showcase those talents, but he still needs some polishing before he can succeed at the next level.

3. Vernon Macklin is a big-time athlete who will also see his role increase with the departure of Green. He had a slow freshman season, but should take a huge step forward this year. Depending on how much he progresses and how Georgetown finishes, Macklin could even be a candidate for the 2008 draft.

2. Louisville Cardinals

Last Season: 24-10 (12-4) Reached Sweet 16
Key Losses: None.
Key Returnees: Juan Palacios (8.9 ppg), David Padgett (9.5 ppg), Earl Clark (5.9 ppg), Terrence Williams (12.4 ppg, 7 rpg), Derrick Character (8.1 ppg), Edgar Sosa (11.4 ppg).
Key Newcomers: George Goode, Clarence Holloway (open-heart surgery, out indefinitely)
Key Non-Conference Games: at UNLV, vs. North Carolina/Old Dominion

Season Preview: Louisville is being discussed as a championship contender as they return an absolutely loaded roster that advanced the Sweet 16 last year. The Cardinals will dominate opponents with their depth and size up front, but the backcourt should not be ignored. Edgar Sosa is a tremendous scoring point guard (11.4 points per game as a freshman), but will need to become a better playmaker/decision maker in order for Louisville to utilize all of their options. Swingman Terrance Williams is a dynamic athlete who can dazzle, but his shot-selection and streaky three-point shot have hurt the Cardinals at times. George Goode, a lanky freshman small forward, has a world of potential but will likely play a supporting role in his first season. A trip to San Antonio is a real possibility for the ultra-talented Cardinals.

NBA Prospects:

1. Derrick Caracter - Has been a household name since he was in 7th grade. Caracter has the big body and post game that NBA scouts crave. The only questions surrounding Louisville’s mammoth sophomore concern, well, his character. Nonetheless, he has the talent to be high first-round pick,
but questions about his weight and work ethic could push him to the late teens/early 20s, similar to Zach Randolph in 2000.

2. Earl Clark - Has phenomenal length and athleticism and could make a big jump in his sophomore year. He has a lot of potential, but must mature, increasing his skill level and decision making.

3. Terrence Williams - Likely to find a spot in the second round either this or next year based on his athleticism and potential. His jumpshot is the only thing preventing him from being a first-round pick.

4. David Padgett - Padgett has battled through health problems his entire career, particularly his surgically repaired knees, but he still has intriguing size and a skill set that merits consideration.<

5. Edgar Sosa - Can really score from the point guard position and possesses very good quickness and instincts, but his size and play-making ability hold him back from being a can’t miss NBA prospect.

3. Syracuse Orangemen

Last Season: 24-11 (10-6) NIT

Key Losses: Demetrius Nichols (18.9 ppg), Daryl Watkins (8.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.4 bpg), Terrence Roberts (8.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg)

Key Returnees: Eric Devendorf (14.8 ppg), Paul Harris (8.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Josh Wright (6.6 ppg, 3.8 apg)
Key Newcomers: Donte Greene, Johnny Flynn
Key Non-Conference Games: at Virginia.

Season Preview: The Orange lost three starters but inked a top-notch recruiting class to help ease the pain. Donte’ Greene, a rangy small forward who draws comparisons to Rashard Lewis, and Johnny Flynn, a speedy point guard who was a high school teammate of ‘Cuse’s Paul Harris, headline Jim Boehiem’s 2007 class. They will help provide depth to a backcourt that took a huge hit when shooting extrodanaire Andy Rautins was lost for the season with a knee injury. With Nichols gone and

Rautins sidelined, Eric Devendorf will be counted on to shoulder more of the scoring load and provide leadership from the perimeter. The frontcourt situation is Syracuse’s biggest concern. Daryl Watkins
and Terence Roberts underachieved throughout their career, but there was very little depth behind them. The Orange will need to hope that a young big man, such as 6’11’’ freshman Sean Williams, can emerge if they plan on being serious contenders in the Big East.

NBA Prospects:

1. Donte’ Greene is a multidimensional forward who has put on a great deal of strength who projects as a lottery pick and likely won’t be hanging around campus past his freshman year.

2. Paul Harris is considereded by NBA scouts as the biggest mystery in college hoops. He has the physical strength and athleticism to dominate in the NBA, but unless he develops a jumpshot, he won’t hear his name called in the first-round. Harris is unlikely to make the jump until at least his junior year.

4. Pittsburgh Panthers

Last Season: 29-8 (12-4) Reached Sweet 16

Key Losses: Aaron Gray (13.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg), Antonio Graves (9.2 ppg)

Key Returnees: Mike Cook (10.5 ppg), Ronald Ramon (8.8 ppg), Levance Fields (9.2 ppg)
Key Newcomers: DeJuan Blair, Bradley Wanamaker
Key Non-Conference Games: at Washington, vs. Oklahoma State, vs. Duke

Season Preview: Pitt has been one of the most consistent teams in the country over the past six years as the Panthers have reached the Sweet 16 on four separate occassions. The loss of Aaron Gray will hurt, but Pitt re-loaded with a dynamite recruiting class and also will expect high-flying sophomore Gilbert Brown to play a huge role after appearing in just three games in 2006. DeJuan Blair and Bradley Wanamaker should make an instant impact, and the toughness and leadership of Ronald Ramon and

Levance Fields should spread to the rest of the team. There’s reason to believe another Sweet 16 birth is in store for Jamie Dixon’s crew.

NBA Prospects:

1. Gilbert Brown is a lean, long athlete who can defend and score in transition. His game needs some polishing, but he has the makings of a future pro.

5. UConn Huskies

Last Season: 17-14 (6-10)
Key Losses: None.
Key Returnees: Jeff Adrien (13.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg), Hasheem Thabeet (6.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.8 bpg) , Jerome Dyson (13.8 ppg)
Key Newcomers: Donnell Beverly
Key Non-Conference Games: 2K Sports Classic, vs. Georgia Tech, vs. Gonzaga, at Indiana

Season Preview: UConn will attempt to rebound from a disastrous 2006-2007 campaign that saw this perennial powerhouse suffer blowout losses to schools such as DePaul and Providence. The Huskies were extremely young last season and with a year of Jim Calhoun’s schooling under their belt, UConn seems primed to take a huge step forward. The team still has some lingering question marks, most notably at the point guard position. As of right now, Jerome Dyson, a natural wing, is handling the point guard duties and sharpshooter Craig Austrie is slated to start at the shooting guard spot. Last year’s starting point man, AJ Price, has looked very good in the preseason and will push to earn his job back. Aside from Price, the one X-factor may be Stanley Robinson. If he can become a reliable scorer and defender, the Huskies have a chance to be playing late in March.

NBA Prospects:

1. Hasheem Thabeet figures to leave after this season. He is still a huge project offensively, but would have likely been a mid-first round pick based on size and potential had he come out after his freshman
campaign. If he improves his back-to-the-basket skills, the 7’3’’ native of Tanzania could be a top ten pick in next year’s draft.

2. Stanley Robinson has a world of ability, but he’ll have to produce more than he did as a freshman to merit a first-round selection.

3. Jerome Dyson, AJ Price, and Jeff Adrien all have first-round potential, but it is unlikely that any of them will enter the professional ranks until 2009.

4. Curtis Kelly and Gavin Edwards are two guys to keep an eye on. Kelly has jaw-dropping length and has played exceptionally well in the preseason. Edwards is a steady big man with good skills and
athleticism. Both have a chance to get drafted at some point if they continue to improve.

6. Marquette Golden Eagles

Last Season: 24-10 (10-6) Lost in First Round of NCAA Tournament
Key Losses: None
Key Returnees: Dominic James (14.9 ppg), Jerel McNeal (14.7 ppg), Wesley Matthews (12.6 ppg)
Key Newcomers: Trevor Mbakwe, Damian Saunders, Maurice Acker (transfer from Ball State)
Key Non-Conference Games: Maui Invitational (vs. Oklahoma State/LSU, vs. Duke/Princeton/ Illinois/Arizona State), at Wisconsin.

Season Preview: Marquette was extremely inconsistent last season, mostly due to their lack of inside scoring. The Golden Eagles will be in the same boat this year, as they will rely on their three-headed monster backcourt of Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, and Wesley Matthews to shoulder the scoring load. These three guards, particularly James, are tremendous athletes that pose match-up problems for many teams. The extent of Marquette's success, however, will hinge on whether its backcourt can
knock down jump shots consistently, something they struggled to do last season.

NBA Prospects:

1. Dominic James has been itching to enter the draft for the past few years. He failed to impress at the 2007 Orlando pre-draft camp, and his miserable showing could take 2 years to erase in scouts minds. At 5-foot-11, there are few players that can explode off the ground like James, but until he develops a reliable outside shot and improves his decision making, he won’t be considered to be a first-round pick.

7. Villanova Wildcats

Last Season: 22-11 (9-7) Lost in First Round of NCAA Tournament
Key Losses: Curtis Sumpter (17.4 ppg), Mike Nardi (11.8 ppg), Will Sheridan (5.2 rpg)
Key Returnees: Scottie Reynolds (14.8 ppg), Dante Cunningham (8.7 ppg)
Key Newcomers: Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena
Key Non-Conference Games: vs. Bucknell, vs. LSU

Season Preview: The Wildcats will once again be a backcourt-oriented team, as they will rely on Scottie Reynolds and the freshman tandem of Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes to supply most of the scoring. Reynolds, who averaged 14.8 points per game (including a 40 pt. effort against UConn) en route to winning Big East Freshman of the Year last season, will slide to his more natural shooting guard position and allow Corey Fisher to take over the lead guard role. Stokes will serve as a three-point threat, and the frontcourt will be anchored by Dante Cunningham and redshirt freshman Antonio Pena.

NBA Prospects:
1. It remains to be seen how well Corey Fisher adjusts to the college game, but he has all the tools to be a dominant point guard. Given a few years of seasoning under Jay Wright, he is a potential NBA player.

2. Corey Stokes comes in as one of the top shooting recruits in the nation. He has a chance to develop into a pro in time at Villanova.

3. Scottie Reynolds put up huge numbers last year, but lacks the playmaking skills and quickness of a prototypical NBA point guard. He’ll likely stick around for all four years and despite some hype around him appears to be a borderline draft pick.

8. West Virginia Mountaineers

Last Season: 27-9 (9-7) Won NIT
Key Losses: Frank Young (15.3 ppg)
Key Returnees: Darris Nichols (10.9 ppg), Da’Sean Butler (10.1 ppg), Joe Alexander (10.3 ppg), Alex Ruoff (10.3 ppg)
Key Newcomers: Jacob Green, John Flowers, Will Thomas
Key Non-Conference Games: vs. Tennessee, vs. Winthrop, vs. Auburn*, vs. Oklahoma

Season Preview: John Beilein fled Morgantown to take the Michigan job, opening up West Virginia’s head coaching position to Mountaineer alum Bob Huggins. Huggins will use a completely different system, but he has the pieces that could lead to success right away. Joe Alexander and Da’Sean
Butler have tremendous athleticism and Darris Nichols is a proven commodity at point guard, so the potential to suceed is there. The eventual outcome will depend on how well the Mountaineers adjust to a
new system.

NBA Prospects:

1. Da’Sean Butler had a tremendous freshman season and possesses the athleticism and skills to be an NBA player. A few years of Huggins’ coaching will benefit him greatly.

2. Joe Alexander needs to improve his shooting, but at 6-foot-8 225 lbs he has the size and athleticism to be drafted in 2009.

9. Providence Friars

Last Season: 18-13 (8-8)
Key Losses: Herbert Hill (18.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.9 bpg)
Key Returnees: Geoff McDermott (9.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 5.1 apg), Sharaud Curry(15.3 ppg), Weyinmi Efeujuku (14.1 ppg, 4.3 apg)
Key Newcomers: Jamine Peterson, Marshon Brooks
Key Non-Conference Games: vs. Boston College, vs. South Carolina, vs. Florida State

Season Preview: The Friars are emerging as a legitimate Big East team and should be in the mix for an NCAA birth by the end of the season. Sharaud Curry and Weyinimi Efeujuku combine to give Providence one of the conference’s most explosive backcourts. The Friars have good depth and
team speed, and can really wear down opponents with their frantic pace.

The loss of Herbert Hill, the team’s leading scorer and only post threat, will hurt. 6-foot-11 Randall Hank, who averaged 13 points per game as a sophomore in 2005-2006 has re-joined the team after taking a year off for personal reasons and should give the Friars the low-block scoring they desperately need.

NBA Prospects:

1. At 6-foot-8 235 lbs, Geoff McDermott is a big small forward coming off a season in which he battled injuries but has the skills and physical tools to play at the next level. The junior is still learning to utilize his physical gifts, and should end up staying at Providence for all four years with a good chance of getting drafted in 2009.

10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Last Season: 24-8 (11-5) Lost in First Round of NCAA Tournament
Key Losses: Russell Carter (17.1 ppg) , Colin Falls (15.3 ppg)
Key Returnees: Rob Kurz, Kyle McAlarney, Luke Harangody, Tory Jackson
Key Newcomers: Tyrone Nash, Tim Abromaitis
Key Non-Conference Games: vs. Kansas State, vs. Witchita State/Baylor

Season Preview: The Irish return their post players and playmakers from a team that ran into a cinderella (Winthrop) in last year’s tournament, but they lost their two deadly three-point threats in Russell Carter and Colin Falls. Notre Dame will have to adjust their system to allow slashers McAlarney and Jackson to drive and finish rather than kick out to the three-point line.

NBA Prospects: None.

11. DePaul Blue Demons

Last Season: 20-14 (9-7) Lost in quarterfinals of NIT
Key Losses: Wilson Chandler (14.6 ppg), Sammy Mejia (14.1 ppg)
Key Returnees: Draeion Burns (11.6 ppg), Karron Clarke (6.6 ppg)
Key Newcomers: Mac Koshwal, Dar Tucker, Matija Poscic
Key Non-Conference Games: at Creighton, at Kansas, at Vanderbilt, vs. Mississippi, vs. Clemson

Season Preview: Coping with the losses of Chandler and Mejia will be tough, but the Blue Demons reloaded up front with several blue-chip frontcourt recruits. Mac Koshwal (6-foot-10 250 lbs) will be an instant contributor , and junior college transfer Martija Poscic (6-foot-10 235 lbs) will bring instant offense to the DePaul frontcourt. Draeion Burns has experience, and if he can find some help in the backcourt, this team could make a tournament run, especially because it will have a very high RPI due to a tough non-conference schedule.

NBA Prospects:

1. Mac Koshwal may be young, but the Chicago native has the size and potential to get drafted a few years down the line.

12. Seton Hall Pirates

Last Season: 13-16 (4-12)
Key Losses: Stan Gaines (6.2 ppg)
Key Returnees: Eugene Harvey (16.5 ppg), Brian Laing (16.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg), Jamar Nutter (12.3 ppg), Larry Davis (7.5 ppg)
Key Newcomers: Mike Davis, Augustine Okosun
Key Non-Conference Games: at Penn State

Season Preview: The Pirates have added some size and athleticism up front in Mike Davis and Augustine Okosun to compliment one of the most explosive backcourt attacks in the Big East. Harvey and Laing each averaged 16.5 points per game, while Nutter chipped in with 12.3. With another year
under their belt, this backcourt could pose serious problems to Big East teams. Seton Hall is a potential sleeper in the conference.

NBA Prospects:

1. Eugene Harvey may be undersized but his supreme quickness and scoring ability may give him a chance to get drafted down the road.

2. Depending on how much more he improves this season, Brian Laing may also have an outside chance to get drafted in 2008.

13. St. Johns Red Storm

Last Season: 16-15 (7-9)
Key Losses: Lamont Hamilton (13.4 ppg), Avery Patterson (10.4 ppg)
Key Returnees: Eugene Lawrence (7.2 ppg, 5.6 apg), Anthony Mason Jr. (11.9 ppg)
Key Newcomers: Justin Burrell, Dele Coker, Malik Boothe, Rob Thomas, DJ Kennedy
Key Non-Conference Games: at Miami (FL)

Season Preview: St. Johns enters the 2007-2008 season with a roster containing eight freshmen who will receive significant playing time. The Red Storm returns its starting backcourt, senior point guard Eugene Lawrence (Big East leading 5.6 assists per game) and junior swingman Anthony Mason Jr, but will rely on several freshmen big men to contend on the inside. Justin Burrell, the team’s most highly-touted recruit, seems poised to start alongside Qa’Raan Calhoun. Dele Coker and Rob Thomas,
both graduates of South Kent Prep (CT), will also figure into the mix. If these young big men can provide energy and depth, St. Johns will be a scrappy team that could come up with a few surprising conference wins. St. Johns’ early season non-conference schedule is very weak, and therefore Red Storm fans may have high expectations for a team that could start out 8-0.

NBA Prospects:

1. Anthony Mason Jr. is a gifted athlete who has shot the ball consistently from the outside in his first two years. If he can add some weight to his frame, which his genetics would suggest, Mason Jr. could
be looking at a chance to be drafted in 2009.

14. Cincinnati Bearcats

Last Season: 11-19 (2-14)
Key Losses: Cedric McGowan (8.2 ppg)
Key Returnees: Deonta Vaughn (14.5 ppg), John Williamson (13.5 ppg),
Marcus Sikes (9.5 pgg)
Key Newcomers: Mike Williams (transfer from Texas), Alvin Mitchell, Kenny Belton, Anthony McClain
Key Non-Conference Games: at Xavier, at Memphis, at NC State Season Preview: Oh how the mighty have fallen. The Bearcats, a national contender earlier in the decade, have slipped to the bottom of the Big East and don’t appear to be ready to rebound anytime soon. Deonta Vaughn is a capable scorer, but there is little depth behind him and the team will have to rely on six freshman to grow up quickly if they want to be competitive this season.

NBA Prospects: None.

15. South Florida Bulls

Last Season: 12-18 (3-13)
Key Losses: Melvin Buckley (14.8 ppg), McHugh Mathis (12.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.6 bpg)
Key Returnees: Kentrell Gransberry (15.6 ppg, 11.4 rpg), Chris Howard (5.9 apg), Solomon Bozeman (9.6 ppg)
Key Newcomers: Orane Chin
Key Non-Conference Games: at Wake Forest

Season Preview: The Bulls have been in the basement of the Big East ever since joining the league. This year won’t be any different. South Florida lost its two best players and will once again struggle to be competitive. The one bright spot is Kentrell Gransberry, a 6-foot-9 270 lb center who was spectacular in half a season of action as a junior. The Bulls will need Gransberry to provide them with some Matt Grithe-type magic if they want to avoid another disappointing finish.

NBA Prospects:
1. Kentrell Gransberry has a fair chance at getting drafted based on his huge frame, athleticism, and productivity. He averaged 15.6 points and 11.1 rebounds per game and should only improve on that as a senior.

16. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Last Season: 10-19 (3-13)
Key Losses: Adrian Hill (9.7 ppg), Marquis Webb (10.1 ppg)
Key Returnees: JR Inman (12 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Jaron Griffin (8 ppg), Anthony Farmer (7.8 ppg)
Key Newcomers: Byron Jones, Corey Chandler, Mike Couburn
Key Nonconference Games: vs. North Carolina, vs. Manhattan

Season Preview: Becoming competitive is a steep uphill climb for the Scarlet Knights, especially after losing their best post player in Adrian Hill. Byron Jones, a fifth-year medical redshirt who missed last
season, will fill Hill’s shoes. The backcourt situation is foggy. Anthony Farmer returns as the starting point guard, but he will be pushed by former New Jersey Player of the Year Courtney Nelson and Mt. Vernon product Mike Couburn. Either way, the Knights are a few years off from being a threat in the conference, but Fred Hill has the team headed in the right direction.

NBA Prospects: None


Player of the Year: Roy Hibbert, Georgetown
Coach of the Year: Rick Pitino, Louisville
Newcomer of the Year: Donte’ Greene, Syracuse
Defensive Player of the Year: Geoff McDermott, Providence

All Big East First-Team:

Roy Hibbert, Georgetown
Terrence Williams, Louisville
Edgar Sosa, Louisville
Jeff Adrien, UConn
Donte’ Greene, Syracuse

All Big East Second Team:

Geoff McDermott, Providence
DaJuan Summers, Georgetown
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
Dominic James, Marquette
Derrick Character, Louisville

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