MarquetteHoops Big East Preview

With Marquette opening its third season of Big East play tonight at the Bradley Center, staff writers Jeff Wolf and Marco Radenkovich size up the other 17 members of America's toughest conference and give their season predictions.

With Marquette opening its third season of Big East play tonight at the Bradley Center, staff writers Jeff Wolf and Marco Radenkovich size up the other 17 members of America's toughest conference and give their season predictions.



It's hard to find anyone in the Big East capable of matching up with Roy Hibbert.  He is as solid as they come inside, having improved his game tremendously in the last two years. Yet the Hoyas will go the way of their guards.  Like Hibbert, Jonathan Wallace and DaJuan Summers have matured tremendously.  They are averaging 10.3 ppg and 12.5 ppg, respectively, and are both shooting at least 40.0 percent from three-point range.  Georgetown also goes deep, with a bench that features Vernon Macklin and Jeremiah Rivers.  The Hoyas are the odds-on favorite to win the conference, and Big East schedule makers haven't given them any breaks.  Their home-and-home opponents are Syracuse and Louisville.


Notre Dame

Rob Kurz and Luke Harangody combine to form one of the strongest frontcourts in the conference.  Add high-scoring point guard Tory Jackson and three-point specialist Kyle MacAlarney, who returns to school after being expelled for marijuana possession last year, and the Irish are certainly a dangerous bunch.


Scottie Reynolds leads a typical Jay Wright squad in Philadelphia.  The Wildcats are a guard-heavy team that likes to play fast and force constant pressure.  Reynolds' primary running mates include Dante Cunningham and Shane Clark.  Villanova's roster also includes a pair of kid stars named Corey – that's Fisher and Stokes, not Haim and Feldman.  The two former McDonald's All-Americans are averaging 12.0 ppg and 3.4 ppg, respectively, going into conference play.



Donte Green is one of the Big Easts' elite players and has played like it so far this season, averaging 18.7 ppg going into conference play.  The Orange lost point guard Eric Devendorf for the season when he suffered an injury on January 15, but they still have highly regarded freshman Johnny Flynn, who has been consistently scoring in double-figures.  Syracuse has a tough conference slate, facing both Georgetown and Villanova twice, but never count out Jim Boeheim's bunch in the Carrier Dome, especially when that 2-3 zone is working well.



Senior center David Padgett practically willed himself back from what was supposed to be a season-ending foot injury to play in his final Big East season.  His return helps solidify a Cardinals front line that is never quite sure what it is going to get from sophomore Derek Caracter.  Terrence Williams is a strong defender and consistent scorer, and Wauwatosa native Jerry Smith is always capable of providing a spark on the offensive end.  The Cardinals have a tendency to lose focus on defense, and they have already been on the wrong end of several upsets this season, including a home loss to Cincinnati on New Years Day.  But Louisville went through a similar rough patch at the beginning of last season and went on to finish conference play as one of the hottest teams in the country.


West Virginia 

Bob Huggins returns to the Big East at his alma mater in Morgantown, and he has an exciting group of athletes at his disposal that have adjusted well to his up-tempo style.  Alex Ruoff has been one of the best offensive players in the country early on, averaging 16.1 per game and shooting 46.4 percent from three-point range.  And Joe Alexander is a slasher with tremendous talent who will fit very well into Huggins' system.



The high the Panther's rode to a surprising 11-0 start quickly evaporated over the course of their last two games.  They lost Mike Cook for the season during their victory over Duke at Madison Square Garden.  Then Levance Fields went down in their loss to Dayton and won't return for eight to 12 weeks.  A lot of pressure will fall on Sam Young and freshman DeJuan Blair to carry the load in the meantime.  Blair, who grew up in Pittsburgh mere minutes from campus, has already made a strong case for being Big East Freshman of the Year, averaging 11.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.



The kids are getting better in Storrs.  Jeff Adrien and Jerome Dyson lead a Huskies starting lineup that includes four sophomores.  Their conference slate isn't too rough, but they have a few other challenges on the schedule.  They dropped a heartbreaking 85-82 score to then-No. 19 Gonzaga and have a tough road game at No. 12 Indiana sandwiched right in the middle of their Big East schedule.



As usual, Cincinnati is a scrappy bunch that has the potential to sneak up on a lot of teams, as they did in a huge New Years day upset at Freedom Hall.  Sophomore Deonta Vaughn is the Bearcats' top scoring threat, and senior PG Marvin Gentry provides quickness off the bench.  Keep an eye on Adam Hyrcaniuk, the Polish import is technically a freshman but he will only have one year of eligibility after the NCAA ruled that he played semi-pro ball in his homeland.


South Florida

Kentrell Gransberry is one of the best players in the country that nobody's heard of.  The 270-pound center from Baton Rouge, La. is averaging a double-double going into conference play.  Freshman guard Dominique Jones already has two 30-point games under his belt.



Sharaud Curry is one of the most athletic guards in the conference, if not the country, but he has missed most the Friars' early season games due to injury.  Junior guards Jeff Xavier and Weyinmi Efejuku have stepped up their scoring in his absence.


St. John's

Junior forward Anthony Mason, Jr. leads a Red Storm team that is a glutton for punishment.  They face Georgetown twice and have a stretch on their schedule in which they face four straight teams now ranked in the top 16 – Villanova, Marquette, the Hoyas, and Duke.


Seton Hall

The Pirates are a high scoring bunch, averaging 84.6 points per game going into Big East play.  Brian Laing, a senior from the Bronx, averages over 20 points per game.  Eugene Harvey and Jeremy Hazell also average in double figures.



It could be a long winter in Lincoln Park for a team that played a brutal non-conference schedule and came away with a 4-8 record.  Draelon Burns and freshman Dar Tucker lead the way for a squad that must shoot the ball well in order to be successful.



J.R. Inman is the best talent on a team that doesn't have much else going for it.



BE Final Standings Predictions:


Jeff Wolf                                Marco Radenkovich

1.     Georgetown – (26-3, 16-2)                     Georgetown (15-3)

2.     West Virginia – (24-7, 13-5)                   Marquette (14-4)

3.     Marquette – (24-6, 13-5)                       Villanova (13-5)

4.     Villanova – (23-7, 13-5)                          West Virginia (12-6)

5.     Louisville – (22-9, 12-6)                         Notre Dame (12-6)

6.     Notre Dame – (22-8, 12-6)                     Connecticut (11-7)

7.     Syracuse – (21-10, 11-7)                         Syracuse (11-7)

8.     Pittsburgh – (20-9, 10-8)                         Pittsburgh (10-8)

9.     Connecticut – (19-12, 9-9)                      Louisville (10-8)

10.   Cincinnati – (13-17, 8-10)                       Providence (9-9)

11.   South Florida – (17-14, 8-10)                 South Florida (8-10)

12.   Providence – (15-15, 6-12)                     Seton Hall (7-11)

13.   Seton Hall – (13-17, 4-14)                      DePaul (4-14)

14.   St. John's – (10-20, 4-14)                       St. John's (4-14)

15.   DePaul – (7-23, 3-15)                             Cincinnati (2-16)

16.   Rutgers – (10-21, 1-17)                           Rutgers (2-16)



Tournament Teams:


GU, WVU, MU, NOVA, UL, ND                GU, MU, NOVA, WVU, ND,

CUSE, (PITT) UCONN                                 (CUSE), (PITT), (UL), (PROV)

*parenthesis indicates bubble teams



All-Big East First Team:


Roy Hibbert, GU                                            Hibbert

Donte Green, CUSE                                       Green                         

Luke Harangody, WVU                                 Sam Young, PITT

Scottie Reynolds, NOVA                               Brian Laing, SH

Dominic James, MU                                      James



All-Big East Second Team:


Kentrell Gransberry, USF                               Blair

DeJuan Blair, Pitt                                            Harangody

Deonta Vaughn, CINC                                   Joe Alexander, WVU

Alex Ruoff, WVU                                          Jerel McNeal, MU

Jonathan Wallace, GU                                    Reynolds

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