Top 5 Big East teams through Week 5 — Tuesday Top 5

Photo Courtesy of News House/Flickr

1. Syracuse (8-0) – The Orange remain unbeaten and pick up a non-conference top-10 win over Florida.

2. Louisville (7-0) – Peyton Siva and his Louisville Cardinals look very impressive early, like Cuse, picked up a big win in the Big East/SEC Challenge over No. 19 Vanderbilt.

3. Marquette (7-0) – Have to move the Golden Eagles up in the rankings after winning a road game at the Kohl Center over Wisconsin. It’s rare to win on the road against Bo Ryan’s Badgers and it needs to be recognized.

4. Connecticut (7-1)Ryan Boatright has already started to help this team and now the Huskies can also move up in the rankings next week if they beat newly-ranked Harvard this week.

5. Pittsburgh (7-1) – Still waiting for Jamie Dixon and Ashton Gibbs to really make this team move. After a weird loss to Long Beach State, the Panthers have won five straight. A positive is Pitt doesn’t play a ranked opponent until 2012, which means Pitt should be racking up more and more wins.

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Top 5 Big East teams through Week 4 — Tuesday Top 5

1. Syracuse (7-0)

Photo Courtesy of SU Basketball/Flickr

The Orange look good to start off the year with a NIT Season Tip-Off Championship and solid wins over Virginia Tech and Stanford, but the real test comes Friday, Dec. 2 vs. Florida. Syracuse has the deepest team I’ve seen in a while with 10 guys that can contribute. I like the slimmer versions of Dion Waiters and Fab Melo to go along with a great core that includes Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine, and Brandon Triche.

2. Louisville (7-0)
Louisville remains unbeaten and got a nice victory over Butler without starting point guard Peyton Siva. With Siva running the show I think the Cardinals could be an explosive team. For that to be true Louisville also needs to stay healthy, especially the strong backcourt of Siva, Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric.

3. UConn (6-1)
Blowing a 17-point lead and losing to Central Florida was a wakeup call to the defending National Champions. It was the first tournament loss in a long time, but showed the gaps they need to fill without Kemba Walker. The next day in an overtime win over No. 20 Florida State, the Huskies may have found it in Ryan Boatright. The freshman guard is another playmaker and can help running the team with Shabazz Napier being an improved scorer this season.

4. Marquette (6-0)
I’ve been saying this all offseason, that Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder will be the one-two punch that carries the Golden Eagles. They are undefeated, but still they haven’t played anyone. Besides the two-point nail biter against Norfolk State, Marquette hasn’t been challenged. They will this Saturday though, when they take on the No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers on the road at the tough-to-win-at Kohl Center. If they win, a slide up in the rankings is likely.

5. Pittsburgh (5-1)
The Panthers took a rough 86-76 home loss to Long Beach State early in the season, but have recovered with three straight. I still like this team. Ashton Gibbs is a great player to have at the center of your team and if Khem Birch can do what he’s done in his first two starts (10 rebounds vs. Penn; 11 vs. Robert Morris –both wins), Pitt might have a shot this year.

Tuesday Top 5: Players Ready for a Breakout Season

5. Augustus Gilchrist, senior F – South Florida

Photo courtesy of SUBasketball/Flickr

Last season Gilchrist averaged 13 points and six rebounds a game. He is a long body at 6-foot-10. Gilchrist has battled through injuries in the past, but if he can remain healthy this guy is primed for a big season.

Once again he’ll be the focal point of the offense. He has a lot to offer on the offensive end, as he is one of the few big men with a solid mid-range jumper, which expands the defense.

4. Cleveland Melivn, sophomore F – DePaul

Photo courtesy of SUBasketball/Flickr

Melvin surprised a lot of people when he averaged 14 points per game on his way to Big East Rookie of the Year honors. Barring a sophomore slump, Melvin should have an even better season. He will be the leader of a young, but talented DePaul team.

After a year of Big East basketball under his belt, expect big things from this sophomore forward. At 6-foot-8 and 210-pounds, Melvin is tough matchup due to his size and mobility.

3. Yancy Gates, senior F – Cincinnati

Photo courtesy of Pat Strang/Flickr

The senior forward, Gates averaged 12 and seven last season for an improving Bearcats team.

Gates is a handful on offense, he can step away from the basket and shoot, although his shooting needs to improve. He can also punish defenders in the paint.

Gates may not have eye-popping numbers this year, but he could be a name you hear often, as he will be the headlining attraction to an up-and-coming Cincy team.

2. Peyton Siva, junior G – Louisville

The Louisville Cardinals point guard returns after an improved sophomore campaign. Siva averaged just under 10 points a game, dished out five assists, and recorded three rebounds a game even though he is listed at 5-foot-11.

Siva is ready for a breakout season because he crafty and strong point guard. Siva penetrates as well as any guard in the conference and is a tough defender (two steals per game 2010-2011).

He improved a lot from his freshman to sophomore year, let’s see if he can improve from sophomore year to junior year.

1. Maalik Wayns, junior G – Villanova

Villanova has a recent history with short point guards. Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher both had successful careers for head coach Jay Wright. This year, Wayns should take the reigns in the Wildcat backcourt.

Wayns averaged just under 14 points per game last season to go along with four assists. But since January, Wayns really took off. In Villanova’s last 19 games, the 6-foot-2 point guard scoring in double figures 14 times.

Wayns is lightning quick and can get to the rim, but like Siva needs to improve on his shooting.

Tuesday Top 5: Big East games for 2011-2012

1. Syracuse at UConn Feb. 25

The matchup between the projected two top teams in the Big East this season. This could be the last Big East game between the two teams.

2. Pitt at UConn Mar. 2

UConn and Pitt have had memorable games in the past and this game should live up to the billing. It will be the last regular game of the season and both teams should be at the top of the Big East stadings.

3. Marquette at Syracuse Jan. 7

These two teams played a pair of great games, including an awesome third-round game in the NCAA Tournament. With big late-game shooters, Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom and Syracuse’s Scoot Jardine, it would be pure gold if this game is tight in the last few minutes.

4. Cincinnati at West Virginia Jan. 21

This road game for the Bearcats is in between a rough three-game stretch, which begins with a road game at UConn and ends with a home game against Syracuse. If Cincy wants to be considered a top Big East team this season a win at Morgantown could be a big boost.

5. Louisville at Marquette Jan. 16

The Cardinals and Golden Eagles are in the next tier of Big East teams after UConn, Syracuse, and Pitt. This Big East conference game could place one of those teams into the top tier.

Tuesday Top 5: Places to Play/Watch

*Did not include Madison Square Garden because it is not St. John’s official home and every team plays there each year. 

KFC Yum! Center, Louisville

Sports Addiction/Flickr

Awesome new building that opened last year for Louisville. Of course nothing could fully replace Freedom Hall, but this is a nice substitute.

Bradley Center, Marquette

Willy P/Flickr

Been a great home for the Golden Eagles. Fans are more excited there than the Bucks fans are.

Harry A. Gampel Paviilion, Connecticut

Sftrajan/Flickr

Not a bad seat in the house. Also never a bad game either, both UConn men and women play there.

Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh

Arthur Wessel/Flickr

The Zoo makes this arena, one of the most underrated fans sections in college sports. I love watching games when Pitt plays at home.

Carrier Dome, Syracuse

Paul Katcher/Flickr

Playing in front of a maximum crowd of 34,616 people is enough for anyone to want to play there.

Honorable mention: Dunkin Donuts Center, Providence; WVU Coliseum, West Virginai; Edmond P. Joyce Center, Notre Dame; Verizon Center, Georgetown; Carnesecca Arena, St. John’s

Tuesday Top 5: Big East names

5. Cashmere Wright, Jr. Cincinnati

When you have the name “cash” in your name, you better be able to shoot. Cashmere Wright drills 35 percent of his three’s, but only 41 percent overall. Sorry man, that’s only good for fifth place.

4. Kiwi Gardner, Fr., Providence

Kiwi Gardner has some serious handles. I needed to get him into this blog somehow. It’s just that Providence sucks. But this kid is fun to watch with a name to match. Sad this is, his little brother, probably has more handles and a better name: Peewee.
3. Jawanza Poland, Jr., South Florida

Warsaw is the capital of Poland, but in the winter the coolest Poland by far is Jawanza. After seeing this dunk, Poland should legally change the name of Warsaw to Jawanza. Also Jawanza, when I first saw it, reminded me of the movie Juwanna Mann. Also I am watching season six of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm with Vivica A. Fox, who plays Mann’s teammate and love interest. Weird movie.

2. Sir’Dominic Pointer, Fr., St. John’s

I love the apostrophe. Even more I love the title “Sir” in the name. Even if someone doesn’t like him, automatically they show respect for him by calling him by his name. Pure genius. If the prefix “Sir” doesn’t change on in names by 2020, I’ve lost faith in humanity. Sir’Dominic Pointer, would hands down be the No. 1 choice.

1. God’sgift Achiuwa, Jr., St. John’s

God’sgift Achiuwa is by far the best name in the Big East this season. The junior college transfer joins the Red Storm this year. Can you imagine Steve Lavin discussing this year’s recruiting class?
“How’s your recruiting class looking this year, coach?”
“Looks great, I got God’sgift.”
The only thing is there isn’t any good videos of him on YouTube. Shame on you, YouTube, shame on you.

Honorable mention: Shabazz Napier, Soph., UConn; Baye Moussa Keita, Soph., Syracuse; Jared Swoopshire, Jr., Louisville; Vander Blue, Soph., Marquette; Jabarie Hinds, Fr., West Virginia

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

2010-2011
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