Since Wednesday was Big East media day, I wanted to post the preseason Big East coaches standings. Interesting stuff.
4. Notre Dame
9. West Virginia
13. Seton Hall
14. St. John’s
Some quick thoughts:
-- As far as the Irish are concerned, I can live with 4th even though some folks are talking about us as one of the four best teams in America let alone the Big East. I'm pretty comfortable in my skin with Notre Dame basketball, so I'm not going to get all bent out of shape about media perceptions of this program. I know that we are never going to get a lot of preseason hype because we don't LOOK like your typical great basketball team. We start a lot of white guys who don't jump out of the gym or look like great players when you first see them. I get that, so I am not surprised that we are "only" fourth in the polls even though we have been a better team than UConn in the Big East the last couple years. If anything, I'm ok with a little lower ranking because our guys might use it as motivation and play with a chip on their shoulder. ND hoops has done better when we are flying under the radar, so excess preseason hype doesn't really do anything special for us.
And let's be honest, we probably need to get over the hump and make a Sweet 16 or a run to the BET Finals to really cement our reputation in this league to the point where we would be projected in the preseason to win the Big East. The great thing about college basketball is that we will get that opportunity during the season and in the postseason. You prove it on the court in college hoops unlike college football.
ND has a ton of big nonconference and conference games lined up this year, so we are going to get a chance to see how we do against the "heavyweights" of college basketball. Great work by Coach Brey to line up this schedule. We are a veteran team, so this is the perfect year to challenge ourselves. If we do well, we're in line for a top 2 seed. If we don't, then we weren't going to get there anyway with a weak schedule.
-- UConn at #1 is surprising and not surprising. It's not surprising because UConn has been getting a TON of preseason hype and has been ranked as high as #2 in a lot of national polls. However, it's surprising to me simply because I'm not buying this current version of UConn basketball. That's no knock on Jim Calhoun as a basketball coach, and his record of winning championships speaks for itself. But this group of UConn players has been through the ringer for a couple years, and I still haven't seen anything resembling consistent basketball out of them. Hasheem Thabeet is overrated and not as big of a factor in games as he is made out to be, and the same could be said for guys like Jeff Adrien and AJ Price. I'm not ready to buy in on UConn just yet. Calhoun has done it in the past, but I think his "material" this year is not as good as advertised.
-- I raised an eyebrow when I saw Pitt at #3, but then I saw who they still have on their roster. Sam Young is still on the Pitt roster?? Are you kidding me?? How is that even possible?? I feel like he was playing for Pitt in the Ben Howland era. He needs to be called Sam Young 2.0 this year or something like that.
I have all the respect in the world for Pitt basketball, so it's hard for me to dispute a poll that has them as the #3 team in the league. It's not pretty and they will always have some weaknesses (perimeter shooting), but they win games with defense, toughness, and rebounding. They might never win a national title with that type of formula, but it has won them a lot of games and they pretty much own the Big East Tournament. Between Levance Fields, Sam Young, and DeJuan Blair, they have the foundation to be a typical really good Pitt team.
Jamie Dixon is a class act, and I'm glad to have him in the Big East. I'm also glad he's around because Sean Miller wants his job, and he's not going to have a crack at it unless Dixon leaves. I would love to see Sean Miller stay at Xavier forever.
-- For my money, the best team in the Big East this year is Louisville, and I'd probably put them as my #2 team in America behind North Carolina. With Earl Clark, Terrence Williams, Jerry Smith, Ed Sosa, Andre McGee, and this freshman Samardo Samuels guy, they are absolutely LOADED. Throw in Mr. Richard Pitino pacing the sideline, and the Cards are the class of the Big East if you ask me.
-- Possible overrated team: Marquette - I know they have all their best players back (James, McNeal, Matthews, Hayward), but color me nervous about that coaching change. I don't know anything about Buzz Williams and his reputation as a Crean/Gillespie disciple is probably a good sign, but I feel like I have to put them down as the possible overrated team. It can be a good thing for a new coach to have a veteran team, but it might also morph into a situation where guys like James and McNeal are looking to get "theirs" to get to the next level and not going to rally together with Crean no longer around. I'm assuming that they will be a tournament team, but I'm a little leery of the talk about them as a top 10 team.
Sorry Mike, but my other one is Syracuse. Just call me the Debbie Downer of Syracuse basketball, but I've been on this for a couple years. Jim Boeheim is DONE. I know it's blasphemous and I expect some heated words in the commentary, but he has lost his way with the terrible zone defense and the laziness that it breeds. I just don't trust Boeheim anymore, and I think he's wasting a lot of talent. Unless he pulled a Paterno/Bowden in the offseason and turned over the reins of the Xs and Os to an assistant, I'm not on board with the Cuse.
And I'm saying that as someone who has always liked Syracuse basketball and consider Lawrence Moten one of my favorite college basketball players of all time.
-- Most underrated team: Georgetown - Cmon, I know they lost Roy Hibbert and Wallace and others, but Georgetown at seventh??? Where is the respect??? They still have Dajuan Summers and tons of young guards and now they have the #1 big man in the country coming in, Greg Monrore. JTIII is not letting this program fall to seventh in the Big East. I think Gtown will finish minimum in the top 5 in the Big East, and I would not be surprised if they were were one of the best teams in the league by Big East Tournament time.
And I would be doing you readers a disservice if I didn't put in my annual "NEVER COUNT OUT A BOB HUGGINS COACHED TEAM" paragraph into any preseason college basketball discussions. I honestly don't even know who WVU has back, but Huggins is taking that team to the Big Dance this year. Mark it down. Bob Huggins wins college basketball games. That's what he does.
-- How loaded is the Big East this year?? You could make a real good argument that there are 8 Top 25 caliber teams in the Big East this year.
All you ACC or Big Ten or Big 12 fans out there, BRING IT. The Big East is the best basketball conference in the country. I will not give in. Fire away.
-- Here was their All Big East preseason team
2008-09 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
ALL BIG-EAST TEAM
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati
AJ Price, UConn
Hasheem Thabeet, UConn
DaJuan Summers, Georgetown
Terrence Williams, Louisville
Jerel McNeal, Marquette
Kyle McAlarney, Notre Dame
Sam Young, Pittsburgh
Jonny Flynn, Syracuse
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
Jeff Adrien, UConn
Earl Clark, Louisville
Dominic James, Marquette
Can't really argue with too many of those picks. I'd have to sit down and think about some names that may have been omitted, but I like that list. I think Harangody has a great shot to repeat as Big East Player of the Year
That's all I got for now. Stay tuned for more Big East discussion as we head into the college basketball season.