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NCAA Basketball Big East BasketballDePaul Blue DemonsPittsburgh PanthersProvidence FriarsRutgers Scarlet KnightsSt. John's Red Storm

Big East Basketball: 5 Teams Ken Pomeroy Projects to Rise

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Big East Teams Looking to Improve

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Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

With Louisville, Syracuse and Notre Dame coming off successful campaigns and returning — or bringing in — enough talent to remain elite in the Big East, other teams have not received as much of the spotlight in the weeks leading up to the season.

But several Big East programs are expected to improve after down years.

Ken Pomeroy created a ratings system based on adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, among other factors, that tends to be a good indicator of a team’s style and their standing among other college teams.

Every year, KenPom releases his preseason projections based on a team’s tendencies from year’s past. It’s generally not as accurate as his final rankings churn out, but we can still look to the rankings to grasp a good idea of how a team might fare in 2012-13.

Several Big East teams struggled last year, ranging from down years to persistent problems climbing out of the conference’s cellar. Pittsburgh was a top 15 team early in the year, but the Panthers spiraled out of control and didn’t even make the NIT.

St. John’s, coming off its first NCAA tournament berth in several years, suffered without Steve Lavin on the sideline and a team of new faces.

After an impressive 2010-11 in Mike Rice’s first season, Rutgers took a step back in 2011-12.

And, despite having some of the league’s most talented players, DePaul and Providence couldn’t buck the losing trend.

For different reasons, all five of the aforementioned teams are expected to improve this year. At least according to KenPom’s preseason rankings.

Take them with a grain of salt, but here’s a look at the schools’ anticipated jumps.

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Pittsburgh Panthers

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Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

2011-12 KenPom Rank: 63

Preseason 2012-13 KenPom Rank: 22

Jump: 41 spots

There’s no need to detail Pittsburgh’s 2011-12 struggles and underachievement.

But even though the Panthers lost Ashton Gibbs to graduation, Jamie Dixon has reason to believe he has a top 25 team. Tray Woodall is back and — hopefully — healthy, and Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler joins him in the backcourt. Dixon also brought in two top recruits in James Robinson and Steven Adams, the latter of which is projected as a lottery pick in June’s NBA draft.

Defense is the primary reason for Pitt’s jump in KenPom’s projections. With Adams’ shot-blocking ability and the defensive upgrade with Zeigler at the two — let’s face it, Gibbs wasn’t the best defender — the Panthers are expected to allow just 94.2 points per 100 possessions.

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DePaul Blue Demons

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Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

2011-12 KenPom Rank: 144

Preseason 2012-13 KenPom Rank: 100

Jump: 44 spots

Coming off a 12-19 season, DePaul is expected to finish in the bottom of the Big East once again. But the Blue Demons have a solid quartet of players, highlighted by Cleveland Melvin, a conference Player of the Year candidate.

Melvin is the league’s top returning scorer at 17.5 points per game. He also averaged 7.4 boards and 1.1 blocks per game as a sophomore, and DePaul’s status precluded him from the attention he’d receive on even a middle of the pack Big East squad.

If Melvin couldn’t receive adequate attention, imagine how much Brandon Young, the team’s point guard, has flown under the radar. The junior averaged 14.5 points, 4.7 assists and 1.6 steals per game last year.

KenPom anticipates a mild offensive improvement and a drastic spike in defensive efficiency from the Blue Demons.

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Providence Friars

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Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

2011-12 KenPom Rank: 124

Preseason 2012-13 KenPom Rank: 78

Jump: 46 spots

Providence fans, this could be infuriating if you're of the glass half-empty breed.

With Vincent Council, Bryce Cotton and LaDontae Henton returning, the Friars have one of the Big East’s best trios. The problem is: they don’t have much else.

However, when Ed Cooley signed recruits Kris Dunn and Ricky Ledo last year, Providence had high hopes about 2012-13. But Dunn injured his shoulder and his level of potential production is in question. Then in Sept., the NCAA ruled Ledo a partial qualifier, meaning he can practice with the team but he cannot play in games.

Even if KenPom’s preseason ranking accounted for some production from Dunn this year, imagine how much the Friars would have catapulted in the rankings with an eligible Ledo.

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St. John's Red Storm

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Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

2011-12 KenPom Rank: 152

Preseason 2012-13 KenPom Rank: 87

Jump: 65 spots

Moe Harkless left for the NBA, but Steve Lavin will return to the sidelines. With Lavin come Jakarr Sampson and several big men. In fact, St. John’s is anticipating such a loaded frontcourt that God’sgift Achiuwa, who averaged nine points and 5.6 rebounds last year, might redshirt to wait for one of the underclassmen to bolt for the NBA.

Additionally, D’Angelo Harrison, the league’s top scoring freshman last year, has a season under his belt and looks to build on his strong finish to 2011-12.

With more weapons both on offense and defense, St. John’s is expected to improve significantly on both fronts, according to KenPom.

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Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

2011-12 KenPom Rank: 119

Preseason 2012-13 KenPom Rank: 52

Jump: 67 spots

Yes, by KenPom’s projections, Rutgers is a top-68 team entering the season.

The promising freshman duo from St. AnthonyEli Carter and Myles Mack — is back for its second year at Rutgers, and Kansas State transfer Wally Judge is eligible.

However, while Rutgers has reason to expect an improvement from last year, the jump might not be as big as KenPom projects. KenPom says Rutgers’ adjusted offensive efficiency will spike to 107 points per 100 possessions, up from 100.8.

With Judge’s added offense and better efficiency from Carter and Mack, both of whom didn’t shoot particularly well from the floor, perhaps Rutgers will improve offensively. But don’t expect the Scarlet Knights to take such drastic strides there.