The Big East is the biggest in
terms of number of schools and arguably the best
basketball conference in the nation.
The league is home to the NCAA champion Connecticut Huskies who defied
huge odds to win the national title. With the victory came a new found respect
for the Huskies program which had fallen from the ranks of college basketball’s
elite teams. Thanks though to Kemba Walker and his electrifying performance in
both the Big East and NCAA tournament, U-Conn regained its stature as one of
the top teams in the sport.
Once again in 2011-2012, the Big East will once again be ‘loaded’ with
talented teams from top to bottom. Louisville is considered the team to beat
followed by Syracuse, Pitt, St. Johns and Connecticut.
Here’s a look at the preseason Top 5 in the Big East.
Louisville Cardinals (25-10, 19-12 ATS)
Love him or hate him Rick Pitino can flat out
coach. Last year Louisville notched its eight consecutive 20-win season going
20-13 and 11-7 in conference. Pitino recruited like
crazy during the off-season and got commitments from six blue chippers who will
be counted on to contribute immediately. In past years the Cardinals have
defended opposing teams to death but this year, Pitino plans to speed up the
tempo with his young team. The Cardinals are at +850 in the betting odds for the NCAA Championship next season.
Syracuse Orange (27-8, 15-18 ATS)
The Orange started 18-0 last season in large part
because of Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche who formed one of
the best backcourts in the country. Both players return this season and that should
help the ‘Cuse as they look to improve on their third-place conference finish
from a year ago. Kris Joseph who averaged 14.3 points per game elected to
return to school rather than seek employment in the NBA and he’ll get the
majority of ‘touches’ this season. 5Dimes have Syracuse at +1300 for the NCAA title.
Pitt Panthers (28-6, 15-14 ATS)
After going 27-4 during the regular
season and capturing the Big East regular season title, the Pittsburgh Panthers flopped in
the opening round of the conference tournament losing to Connecticut and then
exited in the third round of the NCAA tournament losing as a regional #1. Coach
Jamie Dixon will have Ashton Gibbs (16.8 ppg) back for another year after the
talented guard opted out of the NBA draft to return for his senior season but
will it be enough.
St. Johns Red Storm (21-12, 15-17 ATS)
Storm program is once again alive and well thanks to head coach Steve Lavin.The
former UCLA head coach led St. Johns to a surprising third-place finish in the
Big East and a berth in the NCAA tournament. Despite an early departure from
the conference tournament and a one and done performance at the dance, Lavin’s
team exceeded expectations by a mile. Now he’s secured one of the best
recruiting classes which should guarantee St. Johns another high finish in the
conference. Players like God’s Gift
Achiuwa and Sir'Dominic Pointer headline the list of blue chips headed to
Connecticut Huskies (32-9, 23-12 ATS)
The Huskies stunned
just about everyone with their improbable run to the national title last
season. They were just 9-9 in conference play but went 5-0 in the conference
tournament to earn an invite to the Dance and the rest is history. In all Jim
Calhoun’s Huskies went 14-0 in tournament play last year (Maui Invitational,
Big East, NCAA tourney) en route to the crown.
Kemba Walker the catalyst for
UConn’s unlikely title drive has departed for the riches of the NBA but
sophomore Jeremy Lamb who was second on the team in scoring (11.1) will take
over the lead role. The NCAA basketball odds makers think that without Kemba the Huskies are long shots to reclaim their title, they are at +2800.
The Big East is known as a defense first conference and last year’s O/U
numbers bear that out. Three teams in particular were highly profitable in the
‘under’ category. Marquette was 20-11 to the low side with Seton Hall (18-9)
and Cincinnati (19-11) right behind. Only four teams in the conference had a
better than .500 record to the ‘over’.
In a consensus of several preseason basketball rankings, four Big East Schools are listed in the
Top 10. #4 Louisville, #6 Pitt, #7
Syracuse and #10 St. Johns with the Big Ten Buckeyes taking #1.