2008-09 Big East Men’s Hoop Forecast

By Richard Kent
Updated: November 9, 2008

CONNECTICUT — Here is a capsule look at the 2008-09 Big East men’s basketball race.


Connecticut – The coaches’ favorite to win the Big East. UConn compiled a 24-9 record last season and are led again by Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun. This year, the Huskies’ hopes revolve around the trio of center Hasheem Thabeet, guard A.J. Price and forward Jeff Adrien. Calhoun calls Thabeet much improved heading into the start of the season.


Louisville – They advanced the farthest of all Big East teams in last year’s NCAA Tournament, reaching the East regional finals before falling to North Carolina in North Carolina. This year, coach Rick Pitino welcomes back four starters from a team that finished 28-6 and was 15-3 in Big East Play.


Pittsburgh – They are the defending Big East Championship titlists, winning four games in four days at Madison Square Garden and finishing 27-10 overall.


Notre Dame – They welcome back the reigning Big East Player of the Year and forward Luke Harangody a certain first round pick in the NBA draft.


Villanova – They were 22-13 last season and advanced to the Sweet 16 and should be even better at the guard position this year. They return all of their key players for head coach Jay Wright. Leading the way for the Wildcats once again this season is guard Scottie Reynolds, who is coming off a season in which he averaged 15.9 ppg.


Georgetown – They lose a lot for head coach John Thompson III, but have a system based on the Princeton style which Thompson played in and which often times the players are interchangeable.


Syracuse – Led by another Hall of Fame head coach in Jim Boeheim, the Orangeman played with a number of injuries last year. Boeheim lost Donte Greene to the NBA but returning back is senior Eric Devendorf who returns from a torn ACL.


Marquette – New coach Buzz Williams takes over for Tom Crean who jumped ship for Indiana. Williams returns a wealth of talent led by guard Dominic James who was injured for a large part of last season, but decided to come back instead of declaring for the NBA. He averaged 15.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg and 5.4 apg as a freshman.


Providence – This could be one of the surprise teams of the Big East. They lost only two players from last year’s roster and they were both seldom used. Guard Jeff Xavier is now a senior and he led the Fryers in scoring last season.


Cincinnati – They lost their two big men in John Williamson and Adam Hrycaniuk but they return a young and talented team filled with two juniors, seven sophomores and four freshmen.


West Virginia – They finished 24-10 last season and lost forward Joe Alexander to the NBA. On the positive side they returned guard Alex Ruoff. He can score.


Rutgers – The Scarlet Knights bring in one of the top freshmen classes in the country led by guard Mike Rosario, the first McDonald’s All-American player to ever attend Rutgers. Star forward J.R. Inman will be back after sitting out an early season suspension as will center Hamady Ndiaye. The Knights also return a trio of guards in Anthony Farmer, Cory Chandler and high scoring Mike Coburn.


St. John’s – They have struggled for a few years but return Anthony Mason, Jr. who is one of the top players in the Big East and the son of a former NBA star.


DePaul – Head coach Jerry Wainwright is pinning his hopes on swing man Dar Tucker.


Seton Hall – They had some chemistry problems last year but do have talent led by star guard Eugene Harvey. They have two top notch transfers, Keon Lawrence and Herb Pope who will have to both sit out this year. Another talented recruit, Melvyn Oliver’s eligibility is still in question.


South Florida – They are clearly the weakest team in the Big East and were last season. Coach Stan Heath doesn’t have much talent to work with but he will get some in the form of Georgia transfer Mike Mercer who will become eligible in December. As a freshman at Georgia, Mercer was on the all SEC freshmen team but injuries and discipline hampered his growth.