"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Big East kickoff at Noon - top 20 Big East players and MU picked to finish top 4 with conference slumping

TeamProj WProj LTrend in PomeroyTop 20 BE players
Syracuse153#4 steady all year5, Kris Joseph 6-f-7; 7, James Southerland 6-f-8; 8, Dion Waiters 6-f-4; 12, Scoop Jardine 6-f-2; 18, Brandon Triche 6-f-4
Georgetown144rose from #50 preseason to #1310, Henry Sims 6-f-10; 13, Otto Porter 6-f-8; 14, Jason Clark 6-f-2
Marquette126slid from #6 to #18 since Dec. 42, Jae Crowder 6-f-6; 20, Darius Johnson-Odom
Connecticut117slid from #6 preseason to #284, Shabazz Napier 6-f-0; 6, Jeremy Lamb 6-f-5
Louisville117slid from #6 Dec. 3 to #179, Gorgui Dieng 6-f-10; 15, Kyle Kuric 6-f-4; 16, Chris Smith 6-f-2
Seton Hall108rose from #77 preseason to #423, Herb Pope 6-f-8; 11, Fuquan Edwin 6-f-6
West Virginia108#37 steady all year1, Kevin Jones 6-f-8
Cincinnati99slid from #26 Nov. 16 to #5217, Sean Kilpatrick 6-f-4
Notre Dame99steady #65 since Abromaitis inj.None (Abromaitis out for year)
Pittsburgh99slid from #7 preseason to #50None (Ashton Gibbs can't play PG)
Villanova810slid from #33 Nov. 16 to #64None
Rutgers612steady #124, just upset #11 Flor.None
South Florida513dropped from #86 preseason to #137None
St. John's513dropped from #94 Nov. 10 to #144None
DePaul414steady #15219, Brandon Young 6-f-3
Providence414dropped #111 preseason to #139None

As strange as it sounds after getting blown out by Vanderbilt at home and not playing like a Top 25 team since Chris Otule was hurt, Marquette enters Big East play with their best chance ever at a Top Four finish in the Big East and the resultant double bye in the tournament.

While Marquette has struggled, the Big East has been in free fall. While the good news is that means that MU could finish very high in the conference, the bad news is an 11th place finish this year would result in a trip to the NIT.

Today’s Noon opponent, Villanova, has fallen from #33 early in the season to #64 in Pomeroy, while Marquette is one of three Big East teams (UConn and Louisville) to peak at #6 at one point this season before dropping more than 10 spots, as you can see from the title.

Villanova does have two of the Top 35 players in Maalik Waynes (6-foot-2) and Mouphtaou (6-foot-10), but for perspective so are Vander Blue and Davante Gardner, and Todd Mayo would be with a few more minutes played.

The teams projected to finish in the Top 5 spots this year with 11 or more Big East wins all have at least two of the Top 20 players in the conference.

Jae Crowder has been the 2nd best player in the conference, behind only West Virginia’s Kevin Jones, and DJO has been the 20th best Big East player so far. While that may not sound that great, remember that DJO was barely one of the 50 best players in non-conference play last year before dominating Big East opponents all year. In the best case, DJO explodes again in conference play, and Crowder stays steady this year.

Even when Jae Crowder has a terrible night like in his 0 for 7 shooting start against Vandy, by the end of the game he has drawn a half dozen fouls including charges on big men, leads the team with 4 assists, grabs 7 offensive rebounds going up against two 6-foot-11 players with no help from a center. When that is one of your terrible games, you can see why he is among the nation’s best few players.
The win today is crucial though, because Marquette next plays the only two conference games that look almost unwinnable.

Syracuse has five of the best 18 players in the conference, and Georgetown has three of the top 14 players and a ton of height – which has proven a problem for Marquette. With both those games being on the road, a loss today would almost guaranty an 0-3 start. However, even though a win today will probably just leave Marquette 1-2 in a week, that could be enough to have a very good chance about a Top 4 finish.

While Pomeroy picks MU to finish 12-6 behind only Syracuse and Georgetown, UConn seems to be doing just enough to win, so we assume they can turn it on. Certainly other teams could beat MU, but Louisville is also sliding, and Jones is having to do it all for West Virginia.

Seton Hall is the only team besides Georgetown that is improving, and Cincinnati certainly could rebound with all of their players suspended from the Xavier fight back soon.

However, Ashton Gibbs is having a lot of trouble playing point guard, and the rest of the Big East is really struggling even if MU doesn’t get back to early season form.

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