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The Big East will have a different feeling this year without Jim Calhoun’s shadow looming over the conference. But Rick Pitino’s Louisville squad figures to be one of the nation’s best while Jim Boeheim brings back a stacked Syracuse team for his final year in the conference. With other top coaches Mike Brey (Notre Dame) and John Thompson III (Georgetown) still in the conference and deep Pittsburgh and Cincinnati squads waiting in the wings, this conference could send as many as seven teams to the Big Dance.

Predicted Order of Finish*

1. Syracuse
2. Louisville
3. Notre Dame
4. Cincinnati
5. Pittsburgh
6. Georgetown
7. St. John’s
8. Marquette
9. South Florida
10. Villanova
11. Rutgers
12. Seton Hall
13. DePaul
14. Providence

*Connecticut is ineligible for postseason play

SYRACUSE ORANGE

2011-12 SU Record: 92% (34-3)
2011-12 ATS Record: 47% (17-19)
2011-12 Over (Total): 47% (16-18-2)
Returning Starters: 2
Odds to win 2013 NCAA Championship: 25/1

Jim Boeheim’s squad will look quite different without last year’s two leading scorers Kris Joseph and Dion Waiters, plus Fab Melo no longer roaming the paint and Scoop Jardine not running the point anymore. Now is Brandon Triche’s (9.4 PPG, 2.6 APG) time to shine as the senior leader of this squad. He’ll be joined in the backcourt by Michael Carter-Williams (2.7 PPG, 2.1 APG) who displayed strong court vision in his limited duty last season (10.3 MPG). Freshman 6-foot-10 C DaJuan Coleman will be charged with replacing Melo from game one, and should be able to do that as one of the top recruits in the conference. He will be joined in the paint by fellow first-year player Jerami Grant, the son of former NBA player Harvey Grant. Throw in C.J. Fair (8.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG) and James Southerland (6.8 PPG, 34% 3-pt FG) on the wing and this team will have no shortage of assets as it tries to match last year’s 17-1 Big East record.

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS

2011-12 SU Record: 75% (30-10)
2011-12 ATS Record: 63% (22-13-2)
2011-12 Over (Total): 42% (15-21)
Returning Starters: 3
Odds to win 2013 NCAA Championship: 7/1

This year is Rick Pitino’s chance to make the Big East his conference, entering the season as the No. 2 team in the nation. The Cardinals didn’t reach their potential last season until the NCAAs, finishing 10-8 in the conference even though they had six players averaging at least 9.0 PPG. Although last year’s leading scorer Kyle Kuric is gone, junior Russ Smith (11.5 PPG, 2.2 SPG) is back in the fold after posting those numbers in just 21.1 MPG last year. Sophomore Chane Behanan (9.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG) should be ready to take an even bigger step this year after producing strong numbers from the post in his first campaign, with 13.2 PPG and 8.0 RPG in the NCAA Tournament. Throw in a veteran point guard in senior Peyton Siva (9.1 PPG, 5.6 APG, 1.7 SPG) and a rapidly improving center Gorgui Dieng (9.1 PPG, 9.1 RPG), and you can see why expectations are so high in Louisville. This experienced club will be joined by a highly-rated newcomer Montrezl Harrell. Although the 6-foot-8 forward was originally set to go to Virginia Tech, the firing of Seth Greenberg there gave Pitino an opening to score another player who should contribute immediately in this deep frontcourt.

NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH

2011-12 SU Record: 65% (22-12)
2011-12 ATS Record: 44% (12-15-1)
2011-12 Over (Total): 33% (9-18-1)
Returning Starters: 2
Odds to win 2013 NCAA Championship: 100/1

Any Mike Brey squad can compete, and this year’s team has the potential to do way more than that with all five starters returning from a squad that finished third in the conference with a 13-5 record. Jack Cooley (12.5 PPG, 8.9 RPG) is one of the Big East’s premier bigs, coming off an uber-efficient campaign in which he made 62.5% of his field goals and swatted 1.6 shots per game. But the backcourt figures to be just as dangerous led by Jerian Grant (12.3 PPG, 5.0 APG) and Eric Atkins (12.1 PPG, 4.1 APG). Both are strong passers and shooters, who should have no problem making this offense flow alongside 6-foot-8 swingman Scott Martin (9.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG). He is a matchup nightmare with a guard’s skillset and a forward’s body. Throw in some fresh blood with small forward Cameron Biedscheid and power forwards Austin Burgett and Eric Katenda, and this team has no shortage of talent in the frontcourt.

CINCINNATI BEARCATS

2011-12 SU Record: 70% (26-11)
2011-12 ATS Record: 55% (17-14)
2011-12 Over (Total): 45% (14-17)
Returning Starters: 3
Odds to win 2013 NCAA Championship: 100/1

The Bearcats hung around amongst the Big East elite last year, tying for fourth with a 12-6 conference record and reaching the Sweet 16. They bring back their leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick (14.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG), who averaged 2.5 three-pointers per game last year and isn’t afraid to shoot the ball. Although the next two leading scorers—Dion Dixon and Yancy Gates—are gone, Cashmere Wright (10.9 PPG, 4.6 APG) is back to give this team a senior presence running the point. If fellow senior JaQuon Parker (9.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG) improves on his play from last season with increased minutes, this will be a nasty backcourt. It remains to be seen, though, if guys like Justin Jackson (5.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG), 6-foot-10 sophomore Kelvin Gaines and freshman Shaquille Thomas can step up in the post for Mick Cronin to make this team compete with the conference’s best.

PITTSBURGH PANTHERS

2011-12 SU Record: 56% (22-17)
2011-12 ATS Record: 44% (15-19)
2011-12 Over (Total): 52% (17-16-1)
Returning Starters: 2
Odds to win 2013 NCAA Championship: 40/1

Head coach Jamie Dixon has his work cut out for him this year, replacing two double-digit scorers from last season in SG Ashton Gibbs and SF Nasir Robinson. But any team with a senior point guard like Tray Woodall (11.7 PPG, 6.1 APG) is going to be dangerous, as he is a threat to drive, shoot (1.8 threes per game) or hit his open targets as an elite passer. The question for this team is who he will be passing to, with the most potential resting in the hands of 6-foot-10 freshman C Steven Adams, arguably the best recruit in all of the conference. But also look for 6-foot-5 swingman Lamar Patterson (9.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG) to emerge as more of a scoring threat, with the ability to post up but also extend defenses, making 41% of his threes last season. Senior Dante Taylor (5.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG), a former McDonald's All-American, should also be ready to assume a bigger role in his final go-around after making great use of his limited 18.8 MPG last season.

GEORGETOWN HOYAS

2011-12 SU Record: 73% (24-9)
2011-12 ATS Record: 57% (16-12)
2011-12 Over (Total): 46% (13-15)
Returning Starters: 2
Odds to win 2013 NCAA Championship: 50/1

John Thompson III had three double-digit scorers last season: Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims, who are all gone. That makes for a younger Hoyas squad that if it succeeds, it will be led by 6-foot-8 sophomore Otto Porter (9.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG). But he didn’t even start last year, with the two returning starters being G Markel Starks (7.1 PPG) and F Nate Lubick (3.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.0 APG). Throw in freshman SG D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and SF Stephen Domingo, this is a team filled with talent, but a dearth of experience.

ST. JOHN’S RED STORM

2011-12 SU Record: 41% (13-19)
2011-12 ATS Record: 48% (13-14-2)
2011-12 Over (Total): 48% (14-15)
Returning Starters: 4
Odds to win 2013 NCAA Championship: 200/1

After having the conference’s most inexperienced team last year, Steve Lavin's team is back in full force this year, returning four starters from a team that struggled to compete with a 6-12 Big East mark. Moe Harkless is gone after averaging 15.3 PPG and 8.6 rebounds last year, but last year’s leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison (17.0 PPG) is back and should only get better in his sophomore campaign. God’sgift Achiuwa (9.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG) is also back for his second year with the Red Storm, while Lavin added another solid freshman in the frontcourt in Christopher Obekpa. If sophomore Phil Greene IV (7.6 PPG, 3.0 APG) can mature in the point guard role, this team has an outside shot at dancing in March.

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MARQUETTE GOLDEN EAGLES


2011-12 SU Record: 77% (27-8)
2011-12 ATS Record: 58% (18-13-1)
2011-12 Over (Total): 59% (19-13)
Returning Starters: 3
Odds to win 2013 NCAA Championship: 100/1

The Golden Eagles return three starters, but lose their two most important ones—Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, who were the team’s only double-digit scorers and combined for nearly 36 PPG last year. But they bring back 6-foot-11 C Chris Otule, who missed most of last season with an ACL injury, and Davante Gardner, a 6-foot-8, 290-pound weapon who was third on the team in scoring (9.5 PPG) and second in rebounding (5.3 RPG) last season. They should form an above average frontcourt alongside Jamil Wilson (7.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG). However, the backcourt will need point guard Junior Cadougan (6.3 PPG, 5.4 APG) to step up his scoring output and effectively distribute the ball to his fellow perimeter weapons Todd Mayo (7.9 PPG) and Vander Blue (8.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG).

SOUTH FLORIDA BULLS

2011-12 SU Record: 61% (22-14)
2011-12 ATS Record: 55% (18-15)
2011-12 Over (Total): 30% (10-23)
Returning Starters: 2
Odds to win 2013 NCAA Championship: 200/1

The Bulls surprised many last year by tying for fourth in the conference with a 12-6 record, doing it all with a leading scorer with a mere 9.5 PPG in the now-graduated Augustus Gilchrist. It will be tough for them to match last year’s output, but all eyes will be on Victor Rudd (9.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG) and sophomore point guard Anthony Collins (9.0 PPG, 5.2 APG), who led the team in minutes last year and should be the focal point of the methodical offense.

VILLANOVA WILDCATS

2011-12 SU Record: 41% (13-19)
2011-12 ATS Record: 26% (7-20-2)
2011-12 Over (Total): 68% (19-9-1)
Returning Starters: 3
Odds to win 2013 NCAA Championship: 200/1

With three returning starters, Jay Wright has veteran talent to mold, but it remains to be seen if that talent is enough to compete in this deep conference. Last year’s leading scorers, Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek and their combined 30.1 PPG are gone, leaving a huge scoring void in the Wildcats backcourt. C Mouphtaou Yarou (11.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG) is also back, and the pressure will be on that pair to give this team a chance this year. Wright has also done a solid job recruiting with point guard Ryan Arcidiacono and 6-foot-10 PF Daniel Ochefu both talented enough to play meaningful minutes.

RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS

2011-12 SU Record: 44% (14-18)
2011-12 ATS Record: 35% (9-17)
2011-12 Over (Total): 50% (12-12-1)
Returning Starters: 4
Odds to win 2013 NCAA Championship: 500/1

Even returning four starters, the Rutgers are long shots in this year’s conference without bringing in any top freshmen. Last year’s leading scorer, Eli Carter (13.8 PPG), will be the player to watch for the Scarlet Knights. Swingman Dane Miller (7.9 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 1.3 SPG) is an asset defensively, though his offensive game leaves much to be desired. Guards Myles Mack (9.8 PPG, 34% 3-pt FG) and Jerome Seagears (7.7 PPG, 33% 3-pt FG) will have to shoot with greater accuracy for this team to be competitive.

SETON HALL PIRATES

2011-12 SU Record: 62% (21-13)
2011-12 ATS Record: 57% (17-13)
2011-12 Over (Total): 37% (11-19)
Returning Starters: 3
Odds to win 2013 NCAA Championship: 100/1

It’s going to be an uphill battle for the Pirates to compete in this year’s Big East, after losing their top two players—Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope—who helped them grind out eight conference wins last year. This team looks to swingman Fuquan Edwin (12.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.0 SPG) and Aaron Cosby (7.9 PPG, 38% 3-pt FG) to provide leadership, but they don’t have the surrounding talent to seriously threaten in this year’s conference.

DePAUL BLUE DEMONS

2011-12 SU Record: 39% (12-19)
2011-12 ATS Record: 48% (13-14)
2011-12 Over (Total): 48% (13-14)
Returning Starters: 3
Odds to win 2013 NCAA Championship: 300/1

The Blue Demons might be able to improve on last year’s putrid three conference wins with the return of Cleveland Melvin (17.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG) and Brandon Young (14.5 PPG, 4.7 APG). But this is largely the same nucleus that struggled to compete last year, allowing the most points among Big East teams (76.7 PPG).

PROVIDENCE FRIARS

2011-12 SU Record: 47% (15-17)
2011-12 ATS Record: 50% (13-13)
2011-12 Over (Total): 54% (14-12)
Returning Starters: 3
Odds to win 2013 NCAA Championship: 300/1

Expect another year in the Big East cellar for the Friars, even though point guard Vincent Council (15.9 PPG, 7.5 APG) is a nightmare to guard with his ability see the floor and get to the hole. Providence also returns gifted scorers F LaDontae Henton (14.3 PPG, 8.6 RPG) and Bryce Cotton (14.3 PPG).

CONNECTICUT HUSKIES

2011-12 SU Record: 59% (20-14)
2011-12 ATS Record: 43% (12-16-2)
2011-12 Over (Total): 50% (15-15)
Returning Starters: 1
Odds to win 2013 NCAA Championship: Not eligible for postseason play

Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun is no longer roaming the sidelines for the Huskies, and his former point guard Kevin Ollie will take the reins with zero head coaching experience. It will take Ollie a while to rebuild this team that lost Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond to the NBA and Alex Oriakhi to transfer. Shabazz Napier (13.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5.8 APG) will have to bear the brunt of the burden running this offense while Ryan Boatright (10.4 PPG, 4.0 APG, 38% 3-pt FG) will have to step up in his sophomore year. Omar Calhoun should be a valuable asset at guard in his freshman season, but it will still be difficult for this crew to compete in the conference.

  
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