Men’s 2006-2007 Big East Breakdown

Michael Zipf

Last year, the Big East Conference sent a NCAA record high of eight teams to the NCAA Tournament with two of these teams, UConn and Villanova, reaching the Elite Eight, thus solidifying itself as the No. 1 conference in America. Although the conference will unlikely be as dominant as it was last year, it will still remain one of strongest this season. Seven teams could potentially qualify for the NCAA tournament, and anywhere from four to six teams are projected to be in the Preseason Top 25 poll.

Recently, Pittsburgh narrowly edged out Georgetown in the Preseason Big East Coaches’ Poll as the favorite to capture the regular season Big East title. As the Big East Conference looks to build upon last season’s record-tying four-team representation in the Sweet 16, here is a look at the teams who will be dancing in March, the teams that are on the bubble and the teams that may have better luck next season.

No. 5 Pittsburgh

(25-8, Big East 10-6)

The return of this year’s Big East Preseason Player of the Year, 7-foot center Aaron Gray, has the Panthers seeking a national title. Gray, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, will team up with fellow forwards Levon Kendall and Sam Young to create a formidable frontline. Coach Jamie Dixon’s three-guard attack is led by junior point guard Ronald Ramon and sophomore guard Levance Fields. Guards junior Keith Benjamin and senior Antonio Graves should also provide major contributions for the Panthers as eight of their top 10 players return from last season’s 25-8 squad.

No. 8 Georgetown

(23-10, Big East 10-6)

Forward Jeff Green, who earned All-Big East Second Team honors last season, is a star. He is versatile and athletic and could potentially capture the Big East Player of the Year Award. Green and fellow Preseaon All-Big East Team Player center Roy Hibbert have restored Georgetown to prominence. Newcomers Patrick Ewing Jr., who sat out last season after transferring from Indiana University, and five-star freshman recruits Vernon Macklin and DaJuan Summers compliment Green and Hibbert. They make Georgetown’s frontline one of the best in the nation.

No. 20 Syracuse

(23-12, 7-9)

When most teams lose the heart and soul of the team, like when Syracuse lost Gerry McNamara, they figure they will experience a substantial drop in the level of skill. However, heralded five-star and No. 12-ranked freshman Paul Harris has many experts thinking that this team could be better than last year’s Big East Tournament Champions. They are led by a trio of senior forwards, including Preseason All-Big East Team Player forward Terrence Roberts, small forward Demetris Nichols (the team’s lead returning scorer) and center Darryl Watkins.

No. 17 Marquette

(20-11, Big East 10-6)

This year, Marquette could use a lineup that many Villanova and Big East fans grew accustomed to seeing last year. Yes, that’s right, Marquette could employee Villanova’s famous four-guard attack. Marquette’s backcourt, led by a trio of sophomores, might be one of the best in the nation. One of these stellar sophomores is last season’s Big East Rookie of the Year and this season’s Preseason All-Big East Team Player, Dominic James. Jerel McNeal returns as the team’s second leading scorer behind James.

No. 18 Connecticut

(30-4, Big East 14-2)

Imagine losing your top six scorers and having four of your players picked in the first round of the NBA Draft. For most college teams this would be the mark of a major rebuilding season, but not for Coach Jim Calhoun and the Connecticut Huskies. They will be able to overcome this loss, since this year’s top 10 recruiting class is loaded with deep talent. Prize recruits Stanley Robinson, Curtis Kelly and Hasheem Thabeet have Connecticut ranked in the top five in the Big East Conference. However, much of the Huskies’ success lies in the hands of sophomores A.J. Price and Preseason All-Big East Team Player Jeff Adrien, who averaged 6.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game last season.


(21-13, Big East 6-10)

After missing the NCAA Tournament last season and enduring several injuries, this year’s Louisville squad shows all indications that it is ready to dance this season. Taquan Dean, an ever-present threat from beyond the arc, is gone. However, the Cardinals are still coached by Hall of Fame coach, Rick Pitino. This year they will be led by senior forward Juan Palacios, who was All-Big East First Team Player, and center David Padgett. Two top 25 freshman recruits, Derrick Carracter and McDonald’s All-American Earl Clark, should help supplant the loss of All-American Taquan Dean. With a healthy Palacios and Padgett, the Cardinals are ready to make some noise in the Big East Conference and in the NCAA Tournament.


(28-5, Big East 14-2)

The departure of guards Randy Foye, Allan Ray and Kyle Lowry and inside force Jason Fraser leaves the Wildcats with only one-fourth of their scoring and one-half of their rebounding players remaining. However, ‘Nova returns one of most important players in NCAA basketball this season: the Preseason All-Big East Team Player and potential All-American candidate, Curtis Sumpter.

This season, Sumpter will team up with fellow tri-captains, the team’s lead-scorer Mike Nardi and Will Sheridan. Shane Clark and Dante Cunningham add versatility and athleticism to a deep frontcourt. Joining Nardi in the backcourt is this year’s prized recruit, McDonald’s All-American Scottie Reynolds. Although expectations are not as high as last season’s, teams should be wary of the Wildcats, especially if Curtis Sumpter returns to his All-American form. Come tournament time these ‘Cats should be hitting their stride and could be dancing deep into March.


(12-15, Big East 5-11)

After experiencing mixed results in their first year in the Big East Conference, the Blue Demons enjoy a unique luxury. DePaul is the only team in the conference to return four double-digit scorers. They are led by two Preseason All-Big East Team Players, guard Sammy Mejia and forward Wilson Chandler. Last season Mejia led the team in scoring with 15.1 points per game. He returns as the Big East second leading scorer.

St. John’s

(12-15, Big East 5-11)

Third-year Head Coach Norm Roberts has the Red Storm heading in the right direction as the team has the potential to sneak into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002. However, much of the team’s success will depend upon Preseason All-Big East Team Player Lamont Hamilton, who returns as the team’s leading scorer and rebounder with 12.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Hamilton is supported by a strong returning nucleus that features all five starters from last season, including guard Daryll Hill.


(12-15, Big East 5-11)

Last season, Providence had an unprecedented three freshman starters, and six of Coach Welsh’s top eight players were freshmen and sophomores. Sophomore guards Sharaud Curry and Geoff McDermott, who each earned All-Big East Rookie honors as freshmen, lead the Friars’ attack. Unfortunately for Friars fans, this team is still one or two years away from breaking into the NCAA Tournament.

Notre Dame

(16-14, Big East 6-10)

Last year’s squad endured some unfortunate luck. They lost five games in overtime (three in double overtime), and their 14 losses were by a combined 62 points. The departures of Torin Francis and last year’s All-Big East First Team Player Chris Quinn will definitely impact the team. However, guard Collin Falls, an assassin behind the arch, and small forward Russell Carter, should pick up the slack.

West Virginia

(22-11, Big East 11-5)

John Beilein’s club has enjoyed success over the last few seasons, highlighted by its Sweet 16 appearance last year and its Elite Eight run two seasons ago. However, last season’s senior-laden squad leaves this year’s team with less to work with. The Mountaineers return only one starter, forward Frank Young, who averaged 7.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. The departures of seniors Mike Gansey, Kevin Pittsnogle, Johannes Herber and J.D. Collins leave the Mountaineers searching for leadership and offensive firepower.


(21-13, Big East 8-8)

This season, the Bearcats are trying to determine who plays which position and for how many minutes, and is like trying to do a jigsaw puzzle in the dark. With only one returning starter, Cedtric McGowan, the rest of the lineup is full of question marks. A trio of junior college All-Americans, led by John Williamson, should help the transition for new coach, Mick Cronin.


(19-14, Big East 7-9)

Last season, Rutgers fans were screaming, “I Douby-lieve.” With that motto, the Scarlet Knights, under the leadership and scoring of now-departed Quincy Douby, enjoyed a relatively successful season with 19 wins and a bid to the NIT Tournament. Losing him will hurt a lot.

This season, a new coach, Fred Hill, returns four starters including guard/forward Marquis Webb and forward JR Inman. Unfortunately for Scarlet Knight fans, this team still lacks the cohesiveness and defense needed to be a solid team.

Seton Hall

(18-12, Big East 9-7)

Seton Hall’s new coach, Bobby Gonzalez, will face a challenging first season since the Pirates graduated their top two scorers, guard Donald Copeland and forward Kelly Whitney. However, junior guard Jamar Nutter, who averaged 12.1 points per game last season and proved to be a solid 3-point threat, should be a great spark for the Pirates. Nutter and highly-anticipated freshman recruit, Eugene Harvey, form a solid backcourt for Seton Hall.

South Florida

(7-22, Big East 1-15)

The Bulls endured a rough first season in the Big East, recording only one conference victory. The departures of Solomon Jones, who was the team’s leading scorer and an NBA draft pick, and James Holmes, who was ninth in the conference in scoring, leave Coach Robert McCullum searching for answers. Forward Melvin Buckley returns as the team’s top scorer, averaging 12.7 points per game, and looks to be the team’s focal point.