Syracuse Season Preview

2011-2012 Projected Starting Lineup 

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Katchen/Flickr

PG Scoop Jardine, senior
SG Brandon Triche, junior
SF Kris Joseph, senior
PF Rakeem Christmas, freshman
C Baye Moussa Keita, sophomore

Key reserves: C.J. Fair, sophomore; Dion Waiters, sophomore; Fab Melo, sophomore; Michael Carter-Williams, freshman; James Southerland, junior

In 2010 Syracuse had 30 wins. In 2011 the Orange had 27. One thing remains: postseason failure.

Syracuse once again has a quality team to put on the floor, but NCAA Tournament collapses still hangs over its head. In 2010 the Orange lost to darling Butler Bulldogs in the Sweet Sixteen. Last season, Big East rival Marquette pulled off the upset.

The Orange look solid in the backcourt and at the small forward position. Although Jardine can get trigger happy he did average almost six assists per game. Triche will be in his third year in the starting lineup and is a consistent No. 2; he knocked down 33 percent from deep.

Joseph is one of the conference’s best finishers and Fair had a brilliant freshman campaign a season ago.

The frontline could be an issue. Melo, a McDonald’s All-American, had a disappointing freshman season after being picked as the preseason Big East Freshman of the Year. What made things worse was Melo’s off court issues. His girlfriend has accused him of being physically violent.

Moussa Keita has an edge to get the starting job, but he is very limited offensively.

Photo Courtesy of Peter Manzari/Flickr

Syracuse will have to rely Christmas to contribute early. Christmas, another Philadelphia recruit for Jim Boeheim, is a tough defender, while being a difficult matchup for his opposition. Carter-Williams is the other highly-touted freshman, who possesses a smooth stroke.

The Orange is moving to the ACC, so Boeheim will like to make the most of his last Big East season.

Syracuse may not be the best team in the Big East, but it will definitely contend for the title. But for Cuse, its focus should be on success in March.

UConn Season Preview

Courtesy of Matt Wurtz/Flickr

UConn 2011-2012 Projected Lineup

PG Shabazz Napier, sophomore
SG Jeremy Lamb, sophomore
SF Roscoe Smith, sophomore
PF Alex Oriakhi, senior
C Andre Drummond, freshman

Key reserves: Tyler Olander, sophomore; Michael Bradley, freshman (redshirt); Niels Giffey, sophomore; DeAndre Daniels, freshman

Kemba Walker left one year of eligibility on the table, opting to go pro, getting drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats.

Walker put up a season for the ages, but if it wasn’t for the play of his supporting cast, there’s no way UConn wins the national title.

Now the supporting class is in the driver’s seat ready to defend their title.

Napier looks to replace Walker at point. He’s a capable point guard with a knack for knocking down big shots.

But Jeremy Lamb is going to be the one to replace Walker as the go-to player. Lamb emerged later in the season and was the key to UConn’s march to the championship.

Courtesy of Matt Wurtz/Flickr

On August 26th, UConn got a commitment that every team in the nation was trying to get. Center Andre Drummond announced his commitment via Twitter.

“It’s official I’m heading to the university of Connecticut to be a husky this year! Do I hear #repeat #huskyfam @aoriakhi34” – @AndreDrummond03

Drummond is projected as the top pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, so his stay in UConn won’t be long. Drummond will start at center, moving the 6-foot-9 Alex Oriakhi to power forward, which is probably a more comfortable fit.

Drummond joins a team full of returners from the national title team. Even with Jim Calhoun missing the first three Big East games due to suspension, look for the Huskies to be the top team in Big East this season.

Preseason All-Big East

Jeremy Lamb, UConn

2010-2011 stats
PPG: 11.1
RPG: 4.6
APG: 1.6

Lamb is also my preseason Big East Player of the Year. He came on late last season and provided that extra scoring option alongside Kemba Walker, which was needed for the eventual national champions. Lamb is a top NBA prospect entering his sophomore campaign. He is a lanky 6-foot-5 with a deadly stroke and moves extremely well without the ball. Lamb can also able to create for himself by getting to the rim. With an incredible wingspan that stretches out over seven feet Lamb is also a good rebounder and underrated defender.

Kris Joseph, Syracuse

2010-2011 stats
PPG: 14.4
RPG: 5.0
APG: 2.1

Joseph could have left for the NBA this summer and probably would have been a first-round pick. But he decided instead to return for his senior season in hopes of winning a national title. Last season Joseph was asked to fill the role of Wesley Johnson and he did a nice job once he began to play his own game. Joseph is a great athlete. He’s quick and is hard to stop once he penetrates the lane. He’s also versatile defender. Jump shot still needs work, but overall it seems Joseph improves each year.

Maalik Wayns, Villanova

2010-2011 stats
PPG: 13.8
RPG: 2.8
APG: 4.5

Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher are both gone. Villanova’s offense this season will go through junior point guard Maalik Wayns. He’s the Wildcats top scoring threat and he’s a good one. He came on later in the season, averaging over 20 in Villanova’s last four Big East games. He is one of the quickest players in the Big East. Despite his 6-foot-1 stature, Wayns has no problem getting into the lane and scoring over bigger opponents. His shot needs to improve and Wayns needs to continue to cut down on the turnovers.

Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh

2010-2011 stats
PPG: 16.8
RPG: 2.3
APG: 2.8

Gibbs tested the waters of the NBA Draft this summer, but decided to return to Pitt. Good news for head coach Jamie Dixon, he retains one of the conference’s best three-point shooters. Gibbs knocked down a remarkable 49 percent of his threes last season. Gibbs has a pure stroke from deep. He can come off the dribble or catch and shoot. Gibbs is steady with the ball and rarely turns it over. With only two returning starters this season for the Panthers, Gibbs will have to step up his game, not just his scoring.

Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame

PPG: 15.4
RPG: 6.1
APG: 1.9

Like Gibbs, Abromaitis is another great shooter from deep. Abromaitis knocked down almost 43 percent of his three-point attempts last season. Although he known to stretch the defense with his shooting, the 6-foot-8 senior, is not a bad scoring threat inside. He uses an array of shot fakes and ball fakes to get his defender off balance and then beats them with mid-range jumper or finishes at the basket. Overall, he’s a complete player offensively.

Honorable mention: Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette; Peyton Siva, Louisville; Yancy Gates, Cincinnati; Kevin Jones, West Virginia

Big East just got KO’d

Photo courtesy of John Andri/Flickr

I sort of feel like the former WBC Welterweight Champion Victor Ortiz. He waited 16 years to get the chance to take down Floyd “Money” Mayweather. Saturday night, Ortiz got that chance. But in the fourth round, after losing a point for headbutting, “Vicious” Victor, while not paying attention, took a straight right from Mayweather and hit the canvas for a knockout defeat.

I’m right there with you Victor.

I’ve always loved Big East basketball. I remember the days of Pittsburgh and Connecticut’s battles at Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament title. I stayed up for all six overtimes between Syracuse and UConn in 2009.

And just when I get the chance to cover the Big East through this blog (which was created Friday), poof; it’s gone.

Just like Ortiz, I waited all this time to do something, only to get knocked flat on my ass.

Of course I’m talking about the downfall and maybe the end of the Big East Conference as we know it.

Over the weekend, basketball powerhouses Syracuse (a charter member of the Big East) and Pittsburgh both applied and got accepted as the 13th and 14th members of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

More teams such as UConn and even Rutgers are willing to jump ship and follow the Orange and Panthers to the ACC.

UConn head coach Jim Calhoun has already said he wants the Huskies to play in the best conference in the nation. Well with Syracuse and Pitt added to Duke and North Carolina, the ACC looks to be the nation’s best.

It’s just unfortunate for Big East basketball fans. It’s always been the best conference to watch.

From the days of the rough and tough years of the ‘80s when if you went up for a lay up, they had already pulled a stretcher out on the floor to carry you away. To the recent success of the conference, with a record 11 teams getting bids to the NCAA Tournament.

Big East has all the glitz and glamour. It has the New York market with St. John’s, who is a rising team in the nation. It also has Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous arena, for is annual conference tournament in March.

But all of that has been brushed to the side in the name of football. Football brings in the most money, thus football is king.

That’s why the superconferences are forming; that’s why the Big East is sinking.

But is Syracuse and Pitt going to get better competition in the ACC when it comes to football?

Photo courtesy of Kevan Emmott/Flickr

It doesn’t seem to be a step up. It seems to be a step to the side.

Okay, ACC football is a hair better than the Big East. It has more teams and a conference championship. But outside of Virginia Tech, is there a consistently good team?  Remember the U is going to get hammered with violations.

It would have made more sense to switch to the Big 10. Big 10 is less of a stretch geographically along with better football.

But it’s a new day in the world of college sports. Everyone in charge is cursed with greed. Every school goes where the money is, cashing in on the biggest payday.

As we know, the Big East may never be the same. But my gut feeling says the Big East Conference is on its way out along with the Big 12.

Sorry to begin this blog on such gloomy terms. Let’s make it great while it lasts (my blog and the Big East).