2011 Big East Basketball Predictions and Futures Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 11/8/2011
It could take me about 18,000 words and five articles to accurately and full break down the 16-team behemoth that is the Big East conference. By the time I was finished we would already be breaking down March college basketball odds and pouring over the first round NCAA Tournament odds.
Instead, I will try to keep it relatively brief and to the point while discussing the best college basketball conference in the country. Here are my 2011-12 Big East basketball predictions to help you with your college basketball picks (with the odds to win the Big East in parentheses):
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The Favorite: Syracuse (+250)
This is one of the most talented Syracuse teams of the last 25 years and they could legitimately go 11-deep. Truly, as I look at their roster I don’t see a single guy that can’t play and I think their No. 7-No. 11 players could form a Top 40 team.
The Orange rely on a trio of three-year starters – Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche and Kris Joseph – that are proven commodities.
Disappointing Fab Melo looks like a different player this year and could be a dominating post presence in the middle of Syracuse’s patented 2-3 zone.
But the problem is that they don’t have one guy that can take over a game and they are a little hazy on who the go-to guy is between Scoop and Joseph. Also, chemistry could be an issue.
With so much talent in the freshman and sophomore classes but so few minutes to go around Jim Boeheim will have to be masterful in his management of egos and expectations. But this is definitely one of the most talented teams in the nation.
The Challenger: Connecticut (+250)
The defending National Champions are still basking in the glow of their historic run through the Big East and NCAA Tournaments last year.
They have a preseason ranking in the Top 10, and with four of five starters back a lot of people think they can make a strong push at back-to-back titles.
However, the one starter lost was one of the best players in the nation (Kemba Walker) and you can’t just replace that guy. He made everything easier for his running mates and made some people look a lot better than they really are.
The Huskies have zero seniors on the roster. However, you can’t say that the champs are inexperienced. But dealing with success can be nearly as difficult as dealing with failure for some young players.
Jeremy Lamb is a stud. But he played ball all summer for USA U-19 team. Will he wear down in February? We will see.
The Dark Horse: Pittsburgh (+400)
Coach Jamie Dixon just keeps feeding the machine. And despite the graduation of three starters the Panthers have enough to talent to make a run at that elusive Final Four berth.
Ashton Gibbs is one of the best shooters and scorers in the nation and gives Pitt a go-to guy. Beyond that Pitt will need some former role players to step up (they always do) while waiting for some of the freshmen or sophomores to “arrive” (they always do, too).
This team may be Dixon’s worst in the last five years. But the system is strong and Pitt will find a way to grind this season down.
They will defend, they will be dominating at home, and they will end up with a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. They will then blow that top seed and lose before they should. That’s the Pitt Way.
The X-Factor: Louisville (+500)
The Cardinals have been a tough team to get a handle on over the past few years. Their roster is always in a near-constant state of turnover, yet Rick Pitino always coaxes an excellent season out of his troops.
They have finished in the Top 4 in the best conference in the country in four of their last five seasons and they will be in the mix again.
Graduation and a preseason injury to touted freshman Wayne Blackshear have sapped the Cards of some of their strength. But Peyton Siva, Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric give the Cards a trio of guards that can shoot, defend, handle and, most importantly, win.
I don’t think the Cardinals have the interior strength for a championship run, but they will be in the race down the home stretch.
The ATS Machine: DePaul (+1500 - Field)
I don’t think that DePaul is in for some dream season. But this team is 2-34 over the last two conference seasons and they have been routinely blown out of the gym by 20 or more points by the top-tier teams in the league.
Expectations are nil and that is the reason they earn this distinction.
This is Oliver Purnell’s second year installing his full-court system. He has one of the more athletic rosters in the league and I feel like the talent gap is shrinking between them and the rest of the field.
Sophomore’s Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young are a nice inside-out duo and I think that transfer Donovan Kirk will make an impact.
This team went on a European tour in August and I think that they are going to be competitive night-in and night-out in the Big East this year. That will be good enough to cover the monster spreads they will likely benefit from.
The Disappointments: Georgetown (+1500)
Last season was a disappointing one for the Hoyas, who have been among the nation’s elite teams over the last five or six seasons.
Their roster was extremely thin last year, and now they lose two of the best guards in the country in Austin Freeman and Chris Wright.
Shooter Jason Clark, solid, but limited sophomore Nate Lubick, and athletic Hollis Thompson do stand out. But all three are really just role players and I don’t see any names on the roster that look ready to fill the shoes of the departed seniors.
John Thompson has an excellent system and the Hoyas won’t fall off the map. But they are significantly worse than last year when they closed the season losing six of seven games.
They were one-and-done in the Big East and NCAA Tournaments and I think that swoon is a sign of things to come from this group this year.
Notre Dame (+1200)
You just can’t lose the talent and experience that the Irish benefitted from last year and expect to keep winning.
The Irish had the oldest starting five in college hoops last year, but only two of those players are back, forwards Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin.
I felt like Notre Dame overachieved a bit last season, and heading into the year the back court rotation for Mike Brey looks muddled at best.
I feel that early in the season the oddsmakers are going to treat them like the group that was dominating the Big East last year. But the chemistry and experience on that group is long gone and what remains is a team that may struggled to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
This program is a persistent overachiever in the Big East, and this year will be no different.
Jae Crowder is one of my favorite players in the country, and he pairs with Darius Johnson-Odom to give Marquette what I feel is the best one-two punch in the conference.
Several other solid athletes, including some key transfers in Jamil Wilson and T.J. Taylor, will join the fold and should buy into Buzz Williams hard-nosed, give-it-your-all system.
Marquette will be a player in the league’s top half once again.
West Virginia (+1200)
Bob Huggins has his work cut out for him this year. WVU has been on a slight downward trajectory over the course of the past two years because they have not been able to replace scorers as fast as they have lost them.
Kevin Jones can do it all and Deniz Kilicli has some moments. But outside of that I see a bunch of guys that can defend for days but can’t score if you give them a week.
Huggins has a lot of talent coming in next year, and this season may just be a bridge year before a return to form.
The Wildcats are right there with Georgetown and West Virginia as teams that have fallen hard, fast.
They are just three years removed from a Final Four and just two seasons removed from a No. 2 seed.
Last year they finished No. 11 in the league and they lost their three best players from that team.
The junior class of Maurice Sutton, Dominic Cheek, Maalik Wayns and Isaiah Armwood has been a dud. These guys don’t look very court savvy and don’t look like they want to play with one another.
They have some talent and experience. But they still aren’t very good and are running out of time to prove otherwise.
Last season was a coming out party for Mick Cronin and the Bearcats. They went 26-9 and won a game in the Big Dance.
This season four of their top six players are back to make another run.
Yancy Gates seemed to turn a maturity corner last year, and if the big man is right (and gets just a little help) he could be a force in the Beast this year.
Cashmere Wright, Dion Dixon and Sean Kilpatrick form a nice backcourt that can do a bit of everything.
But can they elevate their games enough to beat teams with top-end talent? That’s the big question in regards to whether Cincy can take that Next Step.
South Florida (+1500 - Field)
At this point the Bulls program just kind of is what it is. That it is not very good.
They always have that one player that gets you excited and this year That Guy is underrated Augustus Gilchrist. But he has absolutely nothing to work with around him.
Six of their top eight players are back from last year. But that team went just 10-23 overall and 3-15 in league play.
They could be a surprise team at the window because of their experience. But I wouldn’t expect a big spike in their overall win total.
The CIT might be their ceiling.
Providence (+1500 - Field)
New Coach Ed Cooley left a dynamite team at Fairfield to take over the Friars. In the long-term it is the right move. But right now he inherits an absolute disaster of a program.
The Friars lost super-scorer Marshon Brooks and they were among the worst defensive teams in all of basketball last year (No. 310 overall).
Cooley is a defensive-minded guy, so it will be interesting to see how the rag-tag scraps that he was left to play with take to his new system.
The Scarlet Knights always seem like they are just a year or two away from having their ship pointed in the right direction but they never quite seem to get there.
Mike Rice did yeoman’s work with a depleted roster last year.
They lost their starting backcourt as well as their leading scorer from last year’s sub-.500 group. This year they will rally around Dane Miller. But 10 of their 12 players are freshmen and sophomores and they have no seniors on the roster, so I will go ahead and say that they will be two years away from being any good. Again.
St. Johns (+1500 – Field)
I don’t even know if you can call what St. John’s is doing rebuilding. Only one player in their top 10 has ever played in a Big East game before.
They have seven freshmen, two JUCO transfers, a guy that averaged 3.3 points per game last year, and the coach that rounded them all up (Steve Lavin) is at home recovering from prostate cancer surgery.
This is going to be a l-o-n-g year for the Johnnies, who lost the highest percentage of scoring and experience of any team in the country from last year.
Seton Hall (+1500 – Field)
Trust me when I say this: never bet on the Pirates when they are laying points as a favorite. Just don’t do it.
Seton Hall is another team that lost six guys, including one-man gang Jeremy Hazell and his 40 shots per game, and is struggling to rebuild after the attrition.
Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope are talented three-year college starters and Fuquan Edwin showed flashes of being one of the league’s better players.
But The Hall is still a mess and I don’t predict anything good coming out of Jersey this year, if ever.
Projected Big East Standings:
7. West Virginia*
10. Notre Dame
12. Seton Hall
13. South Florida
16. St. John’s
*Projected NCAA Tournament Teams
Robert Ferringo is a writer and a professional sports handicapper for Doc’s Sports. He is considered one of the best college basketball handicappers in the country and has earned his $100-per-Unit clients nearly $30,000 in the last four years with his nonconference handicapping. He has earned his clients over $16,000 since the end of July and is ready for another great college hoops season. You can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here.
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