The Big East Preseason Coach’s poll came out today, with the Louisville Cardinals receiving 14 of 15 first place votes, making them the unanimous selection (head coach Rick Pitino could not put his own team on the ballot). I’ll break down the rankings and tell you what they got right and what they got wrong.
The top four are the Cardinals, Syracuse, Notre Dame , and Cincinnati. That’s my top four, in some order, so I’m completely fine with that. The Cardinals, last year’s Big East champions, return the Big East Preseason Player of the Year Peyton Siva, as well as Gorgui Dieng, Chane Behanan, and more of their ferocious defense from last year. The Orange’s core of Brandon Triche, C. J. Fair, Rakeem Christmas, and James Southerland will mix with two top-40 recruits and make them deadly. Notre Dame and Cincinnati both have a ton of experienced players back from NCAA tournament teams.
Ranked fifth and sixth are Georgetown and Pittsburgh, which I think is a little high for them. The Hoyas do have Otto Porter, but lost Jason Clark and Henry Sims, two crucial players. The Panthers have stud kiwi freshman Steven Adams, but losing their best player, Ashton Gibbs, from last year’s terrible squad hurts. In fact, I like Marquette and South Florida ahead of these two. Despite losing Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, the Golden Eagles are reloading, not rebuilding, with Todd Mayo, Vander Blue, Davante Gardener, and Junior Cadougan. The Bulls have a year under their belts withStan Heath’s stingy defense.
Connecticut comes in at #9, which is mind-blowing to me. Sure, they have a talented front court in Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, but after all the lost talent, coaching changes, and controversy for the Huskies, I think asking them to finish out of the basement is a tall order.
Two squads that are very low are St. John’s at #10 and DePaul at #13. Both have serious potential to finish in the top half of the conference. D’Angelo Harrison is a big-time player who can lead his super-sophomore Red Storm to a dance ticket. The Blue Demons should be much higher. Cleveland Melvin is a legit Big East POY candidate, and Brandon Young and Moses Morgan round out a trio budding with promise.
Finally, there’s a bit of a change I expect at the bottom. Rutgers and Villanova were picked #11 and #12, respectively, while Seton Hall and Providence were picked to finish #14 and #15 respectively. I expect those two pairs to swap. The Pirates have acquired a handful of transfers to go with their young players. The Friars, despite not having Ricky Ledo and Kris Dunn, still have Vincent Council and LaDontae Henton. Meanwhile, the Scarlett Knights and Wildcats have more losses than gains.
Overall, the picks were accurate up top, but a bit off in the middle and the bottom of the conference. However, we really won’t know until the season starts, so stay tuned.