The overriding story of the early season has been the "rebirth" of the Big East, put to rest by ESPN last March. Entering play yesterday, no other conference had been more impressive. Yesterday was less kind as St. John's, Creighton, Xavier & Marquette all lost. That's probably closer to reality but the early season success will help the league come March.
Entering the season, I thought Villanova, Xavier & Georgetown would be tourney bound. I liked Providence more than most and was high on Seton Hall. The pleasant surprise thus far has been Butler & Creighton. I shouldn't have been surprised by Butler. The Bulldogs showed flashes last year but were beat down by the end of the season. Getting Roosevelt Jones back puts them firmly in the discussion as a potential tournament team.
St. John's again has plenty of talent and gave Gonzaga some fits at moments last night but got themselves into foul trouble. What it also tells me is, the teams after Villanova between 2-8 are going to battle nightly and no game is going to be a sure thing in conference play. The Big East conference play will be fun and fascinating. The 8th place team will be a very good team.
DePaul and Marquette are bringing up the rear. Both have bad losses. DePaul lost to Lehigh and Marquette lost to Nebraska-Omaha. Between the two, I'd look for Marquette to steal a few league games. Despite the sluggish start to the season, you've seen improvement and adjustments. Matt Carlino will probably steal a game or two himself.
The league has been better than expected but will probably regress towards the mean. That's not a terrible thing. the November success helps immensely in March. It should be a great conference season and hopefully will pay dividends on the recruiting trail.
Eric summarizes it pretty well. Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin, and Gonzaga all
look great. Were those his original
Final Four…no he had Arizona instead of Wisconsin? Those were my original Final Four until I
took out Gonzaga and replaced them with Texas.
Guess who else looks good…Texas!
The Maui Invitational starts today and there’s going to be a
great game later with BYU playing San Diego State. It’s a classic case of a great offense
against a great defense. Whoever
dictates their will on the other team will win.
I look forward to the winner of this game against Arizona in the
Championship. I suggest watching BYU-SDst instead of the
Also on the docket is VCU versus Villanova. Nova struggled a bit against Bucknell but I
still think they are a potential 2-3 seed come March. This would be a huge win for VCU for their
NCSOS and resume early in the season.
PS: Marquette looks to bounce back from the Nebraska-Omaha
loss against NJIT. This non-conference
schedule reeks of Buzz Williams or Jim Boeheim.
Turns out that I missed 1 team through my breakdowns' so I'm adding in Memphis since Kurlinski was on board with them.
1 seed vs 16 seed
Kentucky (SEC) vs Hartford(Aeast)/NWst(Sland)
Arizona (P12) vs Hampton(MEAC)/AlabamaST (SWAC)
Wisconsin (B1G) vs High Point (Bsouth)
Duke (ACC) vs C.Connecticut St (NEC) 2 seed vs 15 seed
Gonzaga (WCC) vs American (Pat)
Villanova (Beast) vs E.Washington (Bsky)
Texas (B12) vs Wofford (Socon)
Kansas vs Florida GC (Asun) 3 seed vs 14 seed
Virginia vs Oral Roberts (Summit)
Florida vs William&Mary (Colonial)
North Carolina vs Murray St (OVC)
Wichita St (Mvalley) vs Cleveland State (Horizon) 4 seed vs 13 seed
Michigan State vs UC-Irvine (Bwest)
Nebraska vs New Mexico St (WAC)
Louisville vs Western Michigan (MAC)
Iowa State vs Iona (MAAC) 5 seed vs 12 seed
Colorado vs Georgia State (Sbelt)
Ohio State vs Georgia/Illinois
VCU (A10) vs Miami/Northern Iowa
San Diego St (Mwest) vs Rhode Island 6 seed vs 11 seed
Pittsburgh vs UTEP
Stanford vs Boise State
Oklahoma vs Utah
SMU (AAC) vs Memphis 7 seed vs 10 seed
Georgetown vs Arkansas
Michigan vs Cincinnati
UCLA vs Minnesota
Dayton vs Louisiana Tech (Cusa) 8 seed vs 9 seed
Connecticut vs BYU
Harvard (Ivy) vs Xavier
Syracuse vs George Washington
Kansas State vs Iowa
Marquette plays a scrimmage today against Wisconsin Lutheran. The starting lineup is Juan Anderson, Steve Taylor, Derrick Wilson, Matt Carlino & Sandy Cohen. I imagine the starting lineup will change a lot early in the season, similar to what our local NBA team has done. It's going to be a season of transition, discovery, tough times and hopefully by the end of the season, some promise.
The three seniors on the team are PG Derrick Wilson, SF Juan Anderson and transfer guard Matt Carlino. Wilson was a bit of a lighting rod for Marquette fans last year. A good defender, Wilson was a non-factor on offense as teams didn't have to respect him as a scoring option. He reportedly worked hard on his shot in the off-season but he'll have to prove he's a legit threat.
Carlino will be a high volume shooter and can run the offense if necessary. Carlino comes from BYU where his game was inconsistent. A highly touted recruit, he finishes his career at his 3rd school. Anderson is a good rebounder who will have his hands full being one of Marquette's big men.
Joining Anderson in the front court will be Steve Taylor, Jr., the junior from Chicago. More than anyone, Taylor needed a fresh start from the previous regime. Early reports indicate he looks real good. A favorite of the Marquette fans blogosphere, we should see what Taylor can do.
All four of last year's freshmen are back, including redshirt Duane Wilson. Wilson will play either guard spot. Swing JaJuan Johnson will see a lot more time. A touted recruit, he could benefit as much as anyone under the new coach. John Dawson returns to provide depth but my feeling is, he'll be the odd man out.
The best of the sophomores is Deonte Burton. Burton is an offensive weapon who needs to play stronger on the defensive end. He'll be a stat sheet stuffer and highlight machine. If he's not starting, he'll be one of the first off the bench. He'll have to play some inside given the lack of size on the team and foul trouble will be a concern.
The other newcomers besides Carlino are sophomore transfer Luke Fischer and freshman Sandy Cohen. Cohen has been good in practice from reports. Lack of bulk will limit him but the future is bright. Fischer will be a much needed big man who will be eligible in late December.
Of course, the biggest change is on the sideline. Steve Wojociehowski takes over and will play a style that might include an emphasis on scoring. In interviews, Wojo has hinted the team will pressure full court to help offset the height handicap the team has. They'll also look to run when given the opportunity. Of all of Coach K's former assistants, no one has been more touted than Wojo.
Expectations should be this could be the "worst" season in some year's record wise. Lack of height is a concern but so will sloppy play early, given the lack of experience.
I expect Matt Carlino to be a gunner and the lead scorer but what Marquette fans should focus on is how the sophomores do. Most importantly, do they improve as the season continues? If they do, it'll be a successful transition season.
If Taylor shows some Jae Crowder, Carlino channels an inner Bryce Cotton and Fischer can give them solid minutes once he's eligible, they could get themselves on the bubble. Most likely, a .500 season is the ceiling. But like I said, if we see growth from the youngsters like I suspect, then fans should be excited for next year.
With 1 week to the season kicking off we hit the top conference the Bigger East than the Old Big East, the ACC. I fully expect the ACC to lead the college basketball world in bids and have a chance at 3-4 to be top 3 seeds. The bottom quarter of the league is beyond bad but outside of Boston College, they are looking up. I do hope Buzz Williams fails at Virginia Tech but am very interested in what Danny Manning at Wake Forest can do. They are trending upwards with that hire.
League Champion: Duke
Is this the year they finally have a one and done player and do something? Jabari Parker, Kyrie Irving, and Austin Rivers weren’t able to do it but Jahlil Okafor is a different type of player. Parker was a stud but Okafor is being looked at to not only take over his scoring but also lock down the inside on defense. That’s something that’s been lacking since, gulp, Zoubek patrolled the interior. I do expect good things this year from Duke but I’m curious to see Quinn Cook. He’s the lone senior and has been prone to mental mistakes and poor shot selection. If he loses playing time to the other Freshman how will he handle it? That’s a big question
Yep, I have them ahead of North Carolina. I know they lost Jon Harris but they have plenty of players to fill his shoes. Besides, the Cavaliers are not able the players, they are all about the system. There’s the Tony Bennett way, or no way. As long as these kids buy in this is a top tier team.
At-Large: North Carolina
On paper they have more talent than Virginia and possible as more than Duke but it’s all in how they mesh as a team. With all the turmoil going on in the Athletic Department are they able to be focused on the season at hand? I have my questions with this group
Russ Smith is gone but Montrezl Harrell is back and he will give Paige and Okafor a run for their money as player of the year. Pitino always works wonders and this year in the ACC will be no different. A solid 4-5 seed no problem.
Here’s where the break off occurs. The top 4 are in a group by themselves; the next 4 are more likely 9-11 seeds. Pittsburgh always seems to do it with smoke and mirrors. This year will be no different. They will grind out some wins with ugly old Big Ten like basketball. Jamie Dixon will be proud of himself.
The Orangemen had a tough time scoring last year and they lose their top 3 scorers. I expect more of the same but their zone defense will give the bottom half fits and they will have enough non-conference wins over Liberty, North Carolina A&T, and Maine to get in.
At-Large: Florida State
Dominated by Juniors and Seniors this Florida State team has the means to creep up on some people. Leonard Hamilton has done a great job at FSU and I think he’ll be able to squeeze another bid out of this team. They are a little “short” at guard but can boast 3 Seven Footers in the middle
Jim Larrinaga does it again. I’m picking them to be the last team in the bracket. Transfers Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez help rebuild Miami from the Shane Larkin years and Miami gets back in .
Also Considered: North Carolina State, Clemson, Notre Dame
Shockingly, Brian didn't include Indiana in his B1G preview. They're not very good and on top of that, off court incidents have plagued the Hooisers for the past year.
The common refrain from Crean apologists is simple, if Indiana was winning, these issue wouldn't be so magnified. That's probably true. Unfortunately, stories are starting to come out that there are "coach issues" as well. That's not good. Those of us in SE Wisconsin know Crean can be a bit "intense".
I wondered at the beginning of 2011 how much rope he had. I didn't fully grasp what a mess Kelvin Sampson had left. To Crean's credit, he rebuilt based on developing a sound foundation and didn't pursue a quick fix.
But like he said about taking the job, "This is Indiana." The off court stuff is unfortunate and worrisome but sometimes, this happens with college kids. It isn't good or excusable but it doesn't mean it can't be cleaned up. What is real, is the on-court struggles. It seemed Indiana was back two season ago, reaching number one and earning a 1-seed. Two years later, the Hooisers are projected behind Nebraska.
In his defense, Tom Crean's Marquette career saw a similar trajectory. They built towards a Final 4 and took a step back before becoming a tournament regular upon joining the Big East, a move many thought would be a struggle. But, "This is Indiana". Being a tournament regular should be the minimum.
The drumbeats have begun for his removal. The truth is, his contract is pretty cumbersome to simply fire him. It'll cost Indiana a lot of money and that might but Tom Crean some time. But, "This is Indiana". There's no reason for them not to be a Big Ten contender every season. How does he react and how does his team react? Both will go a long way in determining the future of Indiana basketball.
Now we get to the nitty gritty. To be honest as I started researching the Big 10 I wondered if #2 was too high for them. They have a legitimate National Champion contender in Wisconsin but so many other teams lost so much that in might be a down year. Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State have lost so much I’ve seen one magazine list Nebraska as the #2 team in the conference. I’m not willing to go that far but I think the gap between 2 and 5 is small.
League Champion: Wisconsin
Oh so close to a sealing that victory from Kentucky but it just wasn’t enough. Perhaps this is the year. The Badgers return all but Ben Brust from last year and boast not 1 but 2 potential players of the year in Sam Dekker and Frank “the Tank” Kaminsky. There is no doubt this team will go as far as these two take them but I’m interested in seeing how Nigel Hayes plays with Dekker and Kaminsky getting all the attention. I think he can shine out there. Don’t sleep on Duje Dukan either. There’s a ton of talent; they could be my pick for National Champion.
At-Large: Michigan State
They lost 3 of their top players but Tom Izzo always finds a way to piece together a winner. It’ll be a little bit of a struggle this year but he’s got enough left in the cupboard to finish in the top 3 in the B1G.
If there is a player who can win Big Ten player of the year not from Wisconsin it will be Nebraska’s Terran Petteway. This guy (I sound like Jon Gruden now) is a transfer from Texas Tech that averaged more than 18 points a game and led the Cornhuskers to the dance last year. Tim Miles is an underrated coach and this is his breakout year
At-Large: Ohio State
Basically see Michigan State but without the Coaching comments. Instead they will rely on a transfer from Temple, Anthony Lee. He’s really good and should keep Ohio State on the plus side of .500
Even more losses than OSU and MSU but they still have John Beilien. The Wolverines are very young this year and will struggle defending the middle with their lack of size. I expect this team to look a lot like Bielien’s teams from West Virginia back in the day. .500 is a solid goal in the conference.
Iowa losses Roy Marble but return most else. Their up-tempo style fits the team well and gives the bad teams in this conference fits. They should be able to feast on the lower half (hey, look Rutgers is in the Big Ten) but get out coached by the top half. Fran McCaffrey is a nut job.
Richard Pitino is about 2 years from being a contender in the Big Ten. For now he’ll wade around the middle are winning just enough to get a double digit seed in the big dance. His star is on the rise and this is just a stepping stone for better things.
Welcome to Dayton and the First Four. Illinois return their top 2 players but need to mix in a bunch of transfers to fill out the roster. A very average group that gets just enough big wins to get in.
Brian noted Sean Miller is probably regarded as the dreaded "Best Coach Without a Final 4". A mere basket away a year ago, the Wildcats are loaded again despite the losses of Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson.
It's not a stretch to call Arizona the nation's top defensive team. By AdjustedD, they were the best in 2014 and should be as good this year. They were efficient on offense last year, ranking 20th best. They play a pretty slow tempo, 283rd last year, 64 possessions a game. They certainly have the horses to play a little quicker, though.
I'd like to see Arizona play a little more up-tempo this season. They were slightly above average at getting to the line and causing turnovers last season. There are a minimum 4 NBA players on the roster. Sean Miller prides his teams unselfishness but to get over that last hump, a little individual sizzle could go a long way.
Keep an eye on Kadeem Allen, a juco transfer who has the game Arizona could use.
Arizona is and should be a favorite to make it to Indy next Spring. Should they come up short, Coach Sean Miller will have a lot of pressure added to crack the Final 4 code given the talent he has at his disposal this year.
We start out our top 3 with the Pac-12. Right off the bat we get a heavy hitter in Arizona, a team most have picked to make the Final Four. Sean Miller has been called the best coach to never make the Final Four, so this could be a big moment for the Wildcats as they long for the Lute (and Bobbie) Olson years. From a talent perspective they are heads and shoulders above the rest of the league but there are some legitimate contenders out there. Colorado, Stanford, UCLA, and even Utah could push for a top 5-6 seed when all is said and done.
League Champion: Arizona
As mentioned they are a trendy Final Four pick for most. However, most prognosticators have them losing in that round to the likes of Kentucky, Wisconsin, or Duke. I love their talent and although they lost their best player they bring in a stud recruiting class. The problem with Arizona this year though is the same problem they had last year, a lack of depth. One big injury (again) or an off shooting night and they could be done. Ultimately I think they do nail down a 1 seed but I’m going to have a hard time picking them all the way.
Tad Boyle has this program on the up and up and even without Spencer Dinwiddle they should take another step forward. 4 returning starters give them a leg up on the rest of the conference minus Arizona. I might have higher expectations than most but I think they end up in the 3-4 seed range
They lost a ton in the off-season but bring in a stellar recruiting class including Milwaukee’s own Kevon Looney. The biggest question will be point guard which will be handled by the coach’s son. If he can keep his composure under pressure there is enough talent to be a top 25 team all year long
They lose their heart and soul, Dwight Powell, but have a lot of pieces to step in and help close that void. Johnny Dawkins is off the hot seat for now after a big run last year including a huge upset over Kansas. He needs to follow it up with another bid to keep that seat cold
Talk about a team on the rise. At times last year they looked like a potential At-Large team but their Non-Conference Strength of Schedule was abysmal. This year should be different and will a talented roster coming back Larry K could have the Ute’s back in the tournament for the first time in a while. In might be in Dayton on Tuesday but a bid is a bid.