Syracuse, Louisville Lead Big East Preseason Rankings | Zagsblog
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Sunday / April 21.
  • Syracuse, Louisville Lead Big East Preseason Rankings

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    Now that we know who’s in and who’s out of the NBA Draft, it’s time to take a look at the Big East preseason rankings for the 2011-12 season. In this video interview Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim talks about beating cancer and about the Big East’s prospects next season.

    1. SYRACUSE (27-8, 12-6 Big East)

    Key Losses: Sr. F Rick Jackson (13.1 ppg, 10.3 rpg)

    Key Returnees: Jr. F Kris Joseph (14.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Jr. G Scoop Jardine (12.5 ppg, 5.9 apg), So. G Brandon Triche (11.1 ppg, 2.9 apg), Fr. G Dion Waiters (6.6 ppg), Fr. C Fab Melo (2.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg)

    Key Additions: C Rakeem Christmas, SG Michael Carter-Williams, SG Trevor Cooney

    The Skinny: The Orange bring back a ton of experience in Joseph, Jardine and Triche, while the young big men — Melo, C.J. Fair and Baye Moussa Keita all have a year of experience in the vaunted 2-3 zone under their belt. Watch out for Carter-Williams, assistant coach Mike Hopkins’ prized recruit who led the Peach Jam in scoring last summer.

    2. LOUISVILLE (25-10, 12-6)

    Key Losses: Sr. G Preston Knowles (14.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.1 apg), Jr. F Terrence Jennings (9.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg)

    Key Returnees: Jr. G Kyle Kuric (10.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg), So. G Peyton Siva (9.9 ppg, 5.2 apg), Jr. G Chris Smith (9.4 rpg, 4.6 rpg), So. F Rakeem Buckles (6.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg), So. G Mike Marra (6.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg), Fr. C Gorgui Dieng (5.7 ppg, 1.9 bpg)

    Key Additions: SG Wayne Blackshear, PF Chane Behanan, C Zack Price, SF Angel Nunez, SF Ryan Taylor

    The Skinny: The Cardinals made a surprise run to the Big East tournament final, and return virtually their entire team minus Knowles and Jennings, who opted to declare for the NBA Draft a year early. Head coach Rick Pitino brings in ESPN’s No. 9 recruiting class, including four-stars Blackshear, Behanan and Price. Blackshear and Behanan were already talking trash with the Kentucky signees at the McDonald’s All-American Game.

    3. PITTSBURGH (28-6, 15-3)

    Key Losses: Sr. G Brad Wanamaker (11.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 5.1 apg), Sr. F Gilbert Brown (11.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Sr. C Gary McGhee (6.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.3 bpg)

    Key Returnees: Jr. G Ashton Gibbs (16.8 ppg), Jr. F Nasir Robinson (9.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg), So. G Travon Woodall (6.4 ppg, 3.4 apg), So. F Dante Taylor (5.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Fr. F J.J. Moore (3.7 ppg), So. F Talib Zanna (3.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg)

    Key Additions: RS Fr. G Cameron Wright, RS Fr. G Isaiah Epps, C Khem Birch, C Malcolm Gilbert, SG Durand Johnson, SG John Johnson

    The Skinny: Gibbs made the right decision in pulling out of the NBA Draft and figures to challenge for Big East Player of the Year honors. Yes, the Panthers will miss Wanamaker’s steady hand in the backcourt, but Woodall and the 6-4 Wright should help compensate for his loss. Brown and McGhee are both gone from the frontcourt, but Pitt brings in the 6-9 Birch, a McDonald’s All-American, and the 6-11 shot-blocking Gilbert to complement an experienced group that includes Robinson, Taylor and Zanna. Look for Moore, a natural scorer out of Brentwood, N.Y., to step up his offensive production as well.

    4. CINCINNATI (26-9, 11-7)

    Key Losses: Sr. F Rashad Bishop (8.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg), Sr. G Larry Davis (4.5 ppg). Sr. F Ibrahima Thomas (5.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg)

    Key Returnees: Jr. F Yancy Gates (11.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Jr. G Dion Dixon (11.6 ppg, 2.9 prg), Fr. G Sean Kilpatrick (9.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg), So. G Cashmere Wright (8.9 ppg, 3.9 apg)

    Key Additions: SF Shaquille Thomas, SF Jermaine Sanders, PG Ge’Lawn Guyn, SG Jeremiah Davis, PF Octavius Ellis, PF Cheikh Mbodj

    The Skinny: The Bearcats reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to eventual champion UConn, and Mick Cronin’s club returns an experienced core in Gates, Dixon, Kilpatrick and Wright. The New York/New Jersey pipeline continues with athletic wing scorers Thomas and Sanders, the New York Post’s Manhattan Player of the Year.

    5. UCONN (32-9, 9-9)

    Key Losses: Jr. G Kemba Walker (23.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.5 apg), So. F Jamal Coombs-McDaniel (5.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg), Sr. C Charles Okwandu (2.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg)

    Key Returnees: Fr. G/F Jeremy Lamb (11.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg), So. F/C Alex Oriakhi (9.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg), Fr. G Shabazz Napier (7.8 ppg, 3.0 apg), Fr. F Roscoe Smith (6.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg)

    Key Additions: PG Ryan Boatright

    The Skinny: Kemba-mania is headed to the NBA, yet the defending national champs return an athletic young core in Lamb, Napier, Smith and Oriakhi, who won 11 straight postseason games, including an unprecedented five straight in the Big East tournament. Lamb, Smith and Oriakhi must be the go-to guys in Walker’s absence, and role players like freshmen Niels Giffey and Tyler Olander will have to step up and produce more in the brutal Big East.

    6. MARQUETTE (22-15, 9-9)

    Key Losses: Sr. G/F Jimmy Butler (15.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Sr. G Dwight Buycks (8.8 ppg, 3.4 apg), Sr. F Joe Fulce

    Key Returnees: Jr. G Darius Johnson-Odom (15.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg), Jr. F Jae Crowder (11.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg), So. C Chris Otule (5.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg), Fr. G Vander Blue (5.1 ppg), So. G Junior Cadougan (4.0 ppg, 3.2 apg)

    Key Additions: RS So. F Jamil Wilson, SF Juan Anderson, PG Derrick Wilson, SG Todd Mayo

    The Skinny: The Golden Eagles were one of just two Big East teams to advance to the Sweet 16, where they were hammered by North Carolina, 81-63, in Newark. With the return of Johnson-Odom and Crowder, Marquette features two of the most dangerous players in the Big East. Cadougan is becoming one of the more experienced floor generals in the league, and Oregon transfer Jamil Wilson, Derrick Wilson, Anderson and Mayo should add athletic depth.

    7. WEST VIRGINIA (21-12, 11-7)

    Key Losses: Sr. G Casey Mitchell (13.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg), Sr. F John Flowers (9.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Sr. G Joe Mazzulla (7.7 ppg, 4.2 apg)

    Key Returnees: Jr. F Kevin Jones (13.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg), Jr. G Darryl Bryant (11.3 ppg, 3.0 apg), So. F Deniz Kilicli (6.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg)

    Key Additions: PG Jabarie Hinds, SF Aaron Brown, PG Gary Browne, PF Tommie McCune, PF Keaton Miles, C Pat Forsythe, PF Dominic Rutledge

    The Skinny: The 6-8 Jones out of Mount Vernon tested the NBA waters but returns for his senior season and should be among the league’s best players. Another Mount Vernon product, the jet-quick Hinds, enters to help spell Bryant at the point guard spot. Bob Huggins and company believe Rutledge, a 6-foot-8, 230-pound Newark, N.J. native, will step in and make an impact right away.

    8. VILLANOVA (21-12, 9-9)

    Key Losses: Sr. G Corey Fisher (15.6 ppg, 4.8 apg), Sr. G Corey Stokes (14.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Sr. F Antonio Pena (9.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg)

    Key Returnees: So. G. Maalik Wayns (13.8 ppg, 4.5 apg), So. F/C. Mouph Yarou (8.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg), So. G Dominic Cheek (5.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg)

    Key Additions: PG Tyrone Johnson, SG Achraf Yacoubou, C Markus Kennedy, SG Darrun Hilliard

    The Skinny: Fisher, Stokes and Pena combined for more than 40 points a game last season for a Villanova team that lost six straight and eight of 10 to end the season. Wayns, Yarou, Cheek, Maurice Sutton and James Bell will now lead Jay Wright’s team into a new era. One big question mark surrounds freshman forward JayVaughn Pinkston of Brooklyn who expects to return to the team after last season’s legal difficulties. Johnson and Yacoubou should continue the trend of talented New York/New Jersey guards at ‘Nova.

    9. GEORGETOWN (21-11, 10-8)

    Key Losses: Sr. G Austin Freeman (17.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg), Sr. G Chris Wright (12.9 ppg, 5.3 apg)

    Key Returnees: Jr. G Jason Clark (12.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg), So. F Hollis Thompson (8.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Fr. F Nate Lubick (4.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg)

    Key Additions: SF Otto Porter, C Mikael Hopkins, SG Jabril Trawick, C Tyler Adams, PF Greg Whittington

    The Skinny: Freeman and Wright (when healthy) were two of the most dynamic players in the Big East, yet Clark returns, as does Thompson after testing the NBA waters. They figure to join freshman guard Markel Starks and junior center Henry Sims in the starting lineup. The Hoyas also bring in four-star recruits Porter, Hopkins and Trawick in addition to the versatile Whittington, whom the staff is very high on.

    10. NOTRE DAME (27-7, 14-4)

    Key Losses: Sr. G Ben Hansbrough (18.4 ppg, 4.3 apg), Jr. F Carleton Scott (11.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg), Sr. F Tyrone Nash (9.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg),

    Key Returnees: Sr. F Tim Abromaitis (15.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg), So. G Scott Martin (9.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg),  Fr. G Eric Atkins (5.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg)

    Key Additions: SF Pat Connaughton, PF Eric Katenda

    The Skinny: Mike Brey opted to remain at Notre Dame instead of replacing Gary Williams at Maryland, yet his team loses the quartet of Hansbrough, Nash and Scott, who combined to average 39.1 points and 17.2 rebounds per game. Still, Brey is one of the best in the business and must now rely on Abromaitis, Martin, Atkins, and big man Jack Cooley, along with Connaughton, Katenda and guard Jerian Grant, none of whom have played a minute of college hoops.

    11. SOUTH FLORIDA (10-23, 3-15)

    Key Losses: Sr. F/C Jarrid Famous (8.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg)

    Key Returnees: Jr. F/C Gus Gilchrist (13.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg), So. G Jawanza Poland (9.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg), Jr. G Hugh Robertson (8.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg)

    Key Additions: SF Victor Rudd, C Jordan Omogbehin, PG Anthony Collins, C Andre Jackson, PG Blake Nash

    The Skinny: This could be Stan Heath’s most talented team ever. The Bulls can field the tallest team in the Big East with the 7-3 Omogbehin, the 6-10 Jackson and the 6-10 Gilchrist, a future pro. The 6-7 Rudd is an impact transfer from Arizona State and Nash is a second-team JUCO All-American.

    12. RUTGERS (15-17, 5-13)

    Key Losses: Sr. F Jonathan Mitchell (14.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Sr. G James Beatty (8.8 ppg, 3.1 apg), Sr. G Mike Coburn (8.8 ppg, 4.0 apg)

    Key Returnees: Fr. F Gilvydas Biruta (9.6 ppg, 5.6 ppg), So. F Dane Miller (9.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Fr. G Mike Poole (5.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg)

    Key Additions: PG Myles Mack, PF Kadeem Jack, PG Jerome Seagears, PF Derrick Randall, C Greg Lewis, SF Malick Kone, PG Elijah Carter

    The Skinny: Second-year coach Mike Rice brings in a Top 15 recruiting class led by former St. Anthony point guard Myles Mack, who led the Friars to an undefeated season and mythical national championship. The Knights also landed the 6-2 Carter, the Brewster (N.H.) Academy combo guard, in the late signing period to replace the losses of Tyree Graham (Achilles’ injury) and Mike Taylor (prep school). How quickly Mack and Seagears adapt to running the show at the Big East level will go a long way in determining this season’s results.

    13. SETON HALL (13-18, 7-11)

    Key Losses: Sr. G Jeremy Hazell (19.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg), Sr. F Jeff Robinson (12.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg)

    Key Returnees: Jr. G Jordan Theodore (11.0 ppg, 4.4 apg), Jr. F Herb Pope (9.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg), Fr. F Fuquan Edwin (7.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg)

    Key Additions: PG Aaron Cosby, C Kevin Johnson, PF Brandon Mobley, PG Freddie Wilson, PG Sean Grennan, SG Haralds Karlis

    The Skinny: Kevin Willard’s team will enter the post-Hazell Era and must make up for his 20 points per game. Pope is a huge wildcard since he is coming off heart surgery in 2010 and a mediocre campaign as he recovered. If he can return to full health and provide a constant double-double threat down low, he could be a terror in the Big East. Cosby figures to provide some offense in the backcourt alongside Theodore, who had an up-and-down season. Questions surround the academic eligibility of the 6-10 Johnson, with sources close to the situation saying he must go JUCO first. The 6-9 Mobley could also be a factor in the frontcourt.

    14. ST. JOHN’S (21-12, 12-6)

    Key Losses: Sr. G Dwight Hardy (18.3 ppg), Sr. F Justin Brownlee (12.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Sr. F D.J. Kennedy (10.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Sr. G Paris Horne (7.9 ppg), Sr. F Justin Burrell (6.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg)

    Key Returnees: Fr. F Dwyane Polee Jr. (4.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg)

    Key Additions: SF Maurice Harkless, SF Sir’Dominic Pointer, SF JaKarr Sampson, SG D’Angelo Harrison, PF Norvel Pelle, SF Amir Garrett, PG Phil Greene, SG Nurideen Lindsey, PF God’s Gift Achiuwa

    The Skinny: One year removed from their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2002, the Johnnies will be in full rebuilding mode with a recruiting class ranked No. 2 nationally. Polee and So. G Malik Stith are the only returning players and Steve Lavin and his staff will have to begin building for the future around players like Harkless, Harrison, Garrett, Pointer and Pelle. Look for Lindsey to come in and put up points right from the get-go. The former Philly schoolboy star was on his way to breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s Philly record before departing for JUCO.

    15. PROVIDENCE (15.17, 4-14)

    Key Losses: Sr. G. Marshon Brooks (24.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg)

    Key Returnees: So. G Vincent Council (13.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Fr. G Gerard Coleman (10.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg)

    Key Additions: SF LaDontae Henton, PG Kiwi Gardner

    The Skinny: Ed Cooley takes over the Friars after coming over from Fairfield, where he was the two-time MAAC Coach of the Year. He probably wishes he still had Brooks to coach after Marshon led the league in scoring last season. Instead, he’ll build around Council, Coleman and young players like Duke Mondy, Kadeem Batts, Bilal Dixon and Ron Giplaye.

    16. DEPAUL (7-24, 1-17)

    Key Losses: None

    Key Returnees: Fr. F Cleveland Melvin (14.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Fr. G Brandon Young (12.6 ppg, 3.7 apg), So. F Tony Freeland (9.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg)

    Key Additions: PG Shane Larkin, SG Charles McKinney, SG Macari Brooks, C Derrell Robertson, PF Montray Clemons, SF Jamie Crockett

    The Skinny: The Blue Demons have gone 2-52 in Big East regular season play since the start of the 2008-9 season. They have some nice pieces in Melvin and Young and will rely on Larkin offensively and Robertson defensively, but they remain the bottom-feeders in this monster league.

    Written by

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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