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November 5, 2008
Rivals.com Big East Conference preview
Big East picks
The Big East comes off a season in which it tied its record of eight NCAA tournament bids.
Anyone for nine? Go ahead – throw out 10 if you want.
Yes, the Big East is that good this season. Seven of its teams are in each of the top 25 polls, and the Rivals.com Top 65 had nine Big East teams among the top 32.
Anyone who survives should get a medal. Anyone who finishes .500 or better should get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
"Look around at many of the preseason polls and we have eight teams in the top 25 in the country," Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said at the league's media day. "We return 10 of our leading 11 rebounders from last year. We return 13 of our leading 18 scorers. We return our player of the year, our defensive player of the year and our co-rookies of the year. … That in itself is enough to scare you if you're coaching in this league."
Louisville coach Rick Pitino isn't one to be scared. He has one of the Big East teams ranked the highest in the polls (the Cardinals are No. 3 in both polls; Connecticut is No. 2 in both). But he is bracing himself.
"Since I've been a coach 33-some odd years, I think this is the strongest league in the history of college basketball in terms of its depth, in terms of the returning players coming back," he said. "I've never seen a league with 11 teams that could be ranked in the top 30."
Team on the rise: Rutgers
Rivals.com Preseason All-Big East Teams
Notre Dame's Luke Harangody is our preseason Big East Player of the Year.
The 2007 recruiting class included five-star center Mac Koshwal (10.7 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and four-star guard Dar Tucker (13.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg). Each was solid as a freshman, but it wasn't enough to get the Blue Demons back on track in the Big East. Now, they lose leading scorer Draelon Burns and leading assist man Cliff Clinkscales, and the league's coaches tabbed them 15th in the preseason vote. This season's recruiting class included only one player in the Rivals150, point guard Jeremiah Kelly at No. 141. Some teams have to lose, and lose a lot, in a league where it's possible nine teams make the NCAA tournament.
Coach on the rise: Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon
Coach on the hot seat: St. John's Norm Roberts
Best offensive player: Notre Dame's Luke Harangody
Best 3-point shooter: Notre Dame's Kyle McAlarney
Best defensive player(s): Connecticut's Hasheem Thabeet and Marquette's Jerel McNeal
Best player you don't know yet: Marquette's Joseph Fulce
Deepest bench: Louisville
Impact newcomer: Louisville's Samardo Samuels
Freshman sleeper: Louisville's Jared Swopshire
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