The conference returns 23 of its top 30 scorers, 15 of the top 20 rebounders and 9 of the top 10 assists leaders. WHAT’S DIFFERENT THIS YEAR? All 16 teams will make the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden, meaning Rutgers, Seton Hall and St. John’s are automatically in, unlike last year, when only Seton Hall made it. HOW DEEP IS THIS LEAGUE THIS YEAR? “It’s the best league in country by far, it’s not even close. You can be the 10th best team in the league and one of the Top 50 teams in the country. It’s a joke how deep this league is. I don’t think anybody has any clue who’s going to come out of this thing on top. We know who we think some of the better teams are going to be. But you’re going to take so many body blows in that league throughout the course of the year, who knows how teams are going to react to it over the course of the season?” –ESPN analyst Jay Bilas in a phone interview HOW GOOD IS UCONN? “I’m looking at UConn [as the favorite] with [Jeff] Adrien, the power guy, Hasheem Thabeet, who may be the most improved player in America and then a three-guard lineup of Jerome Dyson, A.J. Price and Kemba Walker.” –ESPN analyst Andy Katz on ESPNU “Connecticut has a chance to do damage in the league and nationally. They’re that deep and talented, they’ve added some people.” —Billy Raftery on ESPNU CAN LUKE HARANGODY WITH BACK-TO-BACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARDS?
“He doesn’t need to worry about defending the Player of the Year trophy, and just throw himself into his team. We’ve talked to him about that, and I think he believes that. And I think you’ll see a little more added to his game; we’ve got him outside some, and we want to move him around a little bit. He just can’t wrestle in the post with the size in the Big East all the time, and he has the ability to get out on the floor a little bit. Fortunately, he has a really good supporting cast to play off of.”–Notre Dame coach Mike Brey on ESPNU ZAGSBLOG BIG EAST REGULAR SEASON PROJECTIONS 1-UConn (24-9, 13-5 Big East) 2-Pittsburgh (27-10, 10-8) 3-Louisville (27-9, 14-4) 4-Notre Dame (25-8, 14-4) 5-Syracuse (21-14, 9-9) 6-Georgetown (28-6, 15-3) 7-Marquette (25-10, 11-7) 8-Villanova (22-13, 9-9) 9-West Virginia (26-11, 11-7) 10-Cincinnati (13-19, 8-10) 11-Providence (15-16, 6-12) 12-St. John’s (11-19, 5-13) 13-DePaul (11-19, 6-12) 14-Rutgers (11-20, 3-15) 15-Seton Hall (17-15, 7-11) 16-South Florida (12-19, 3-15) ZAGSBLOG PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR Luke Harangody, Notre Dame ZAGSBLOG CO-ROOKIES OF THE YEAR Samardo Samuels, Louisville Kemba Walker, UConn ZAGSBLOG PRESEASON ALL-BIG EAST FIRST-TEAM Luke Harangody, Notre Dame, Jr. Levance Fields, Pitt, Sr. Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati, Jr. Jeff Adrien, UConn, Sr. Hasheem Thabeet, UConn, Jr. Dominic James, Marquette, Sr. Jerel McNeal, Marquette, Sr. Eric Devendorf, Syracuse, Sr. Scottie Reynolds, Villanova, Jr. Earl Clark, Louisville, Sr. Edgar Sosa, Louisville, Jr. SECOND TEAM A.J. Price, UConn, Sr. Kyle McAlarney, Notre Dame, Sr. Sam Young, Pitt, Sr. DeJuan Blair, Pitt, So. Terrence Williams, Louisville, Sr. Lazar Hayward, Marquette, Jr. Paul Harris, Syracuse, Jr. Geoff McDermott, Providence, Sr. Anthony Mason Jr., St. John’s, Sr. Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall, So. 2008-09 KEY NON-CONFERENCE GAMES 11/24 – Syracuse vs. Florida 12/6 – Notre Dame vs. Ohio State 12/9 – Villanova vs. Texas (at MSG) 12/9 – West Virginia vs. Davidson (MSG) 12/13 – DePaul vs. UCLA 12/13 – Memphis at Georgetown 12/16 – Marquette at Tennessee 12/20 – UConn vs. Gonzaga 12/28 – Rutgers at North Carolina 1/17 – Georgetown at Duke 2/7 – Notre Dame at UCLA