Big East Conference Preview (Part Three)

Big East Conference Preview (Part Three)
Oct 26, 2005, 02:14 am
Projected order of finish

1. Connecticut
2. Villanova
3. Louisville
4. Georgetown
5. Syracuse

6. West Virginia
7. Cincinnati
8. Pittsburgh
9. Notre Dame
10. Rutgers
11. Depaul
12. Marquette
13. Providence
14. St. John’s
15. Seton Hall
16. South Florida

The jockeying for position has taken place. Teams have moved on. The media and coaches have put their two cents in. Now, all that is left for the sixteen team basketball juggernaut is to actually play the season. Nobody really knows how this is going to turn out. The Big East looks like the strongest conference in the nation with the additions of Louisville, Cincinnati, DePaul, Marquette, and South Florida. However, there are serious issues that have yet to be resolved. How many NCAA bids can a conference this big recieve? Will the unbalanced schedule work out? Is this leage geographically viable, now that it includes teams nearly all the way out to the Mississippi? And what about balance? In this league, how does team number sixteen ever hope to compete with team number one? The inaugural new Big East season will go a long way in answering some of these questions.

Those ranked teams ranked at the top of this conference are the true heavyweights, eating up the media spotlight and tv time. The contenders are very strong, though various issues have weakened each of the top three teams. Laptopgate will continue to be the Big East's most watched off the court story, and will effect Connecticut's season dramatically, depening on whether Marcus Williams is allowed to play. Villanova's Curtis Sumpter is likley out for the season, knocking the Wildcats out of the preseason top spot. Finally, Louisville's Juan Palacios is likley to miss a chunk of the non-conference slate at the very least, and leaves Rick Pitino a bit thin in the frontcourt. These issues leave the conference title very much up for grabs, and the next group of teams - Georgetown, Syracuse, and West Virginia - is ready to pounce.

I would like to thank the good people over at the Big East Basketball Report for some much appreciated collaboration on this article. You won't find a better source for Big East hoops on the internet, so make sure to check them out on a regular basis.

Draft Express 2006 Preseason Big East Teams and Awards

All Big East

First Team

G Allan Ray, Villanova
G Taquan Dean, Louisville
SF Rudy Gay, Connecticut
PF Eric Hicks, Cincinnati
C Josh Boone, Connecticut

Second Team

PG Carl Krauser, Pittsburgh
G Randy Foye, Villanova
G Darryl Hill, St John's
SG James White, Cincinnati
PF Jeff Green, Georgetown

Third Team

PG Gerry McNamara, Syracuse
PG Kyle Lowry, Villanova
SG Mike Gansey, West Virginia
F Brandon Bowman, Georgetown
PF Juan Palacios, Louisville

Fourth Team
PG Sammy Mejia, DePaul
SG Quincy Douby, Rutgers
F Steve Novak, Marquette
PF Terrence Roberts, Syracuse
C Torin Francis, Notre Dame

Fifth Team

PG Marcus Williams, Connecticut
PG Chris Quinn, Notre Dame
SG Dwight Brewington, Providence
PF Kelly Whitney, Seton Hall
C Kevin Pittsnogle, West Virginia

All-Newcomer Team

PG Dominic James, Marquette
SG Eric Devendorf, Syracuse
SF Anthony Mason Jr, St John's
F Sam Young, Pittsburgh
F Wilson Chandler, DePaul

All-Newcomer Second Team

G Jabari Currie, DePaul
SG Jerel McNeal, Marquette
SF Terence Williams, Louisville
F JR Inman, Rutgers
C Luke Zeller, Notre Dame

MVP: Allan Ray, Villanova
Defensive Player of the Year: Josh Boone, Connecticut
Most Improved Player: Kyle Lowry, Villanova
Newcomer of the Year: Dominic James, Marquette
Coach of the Year: Jay Wright, Villanova


2005 Record: (23-8, 13-3)
Postseason: NCAA, lost to NC State in 2nd round
Head Coach: Jim Calhoun

Key Losses:

PF Charlie Villanueva (13.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg)

6’1 PG Robert Garrison, Niagra Falls, NY
6’3 G Craig Austrie, Stamford, CT
6’6 SG Marcus Johnson, Los Angeles, CA
6’6 PF Jeff Adrien, Brewster (NH) Academy

PG – 6’3 Marcus Williams, jr ??
SG – 6’6 Denham Brown, sr
SF – 6’9 Rudy Gay, so
C – 6’10 Josh Boone, jr
C – 6’11 Hilton Armstrong, sr

PG – 6’2 AJ Price, fr ??
PG – 6’1 Robert Garrison, fr
PG – 6’3 Craig Austrie, fr
SG – 6’5 Rashad Anderson, sr
SG – 6’6 Marcus Johnson, fr
PF – 6’8 Ed Nelson, sr

To put it simply, Connecticut should be the number one team in the Big East, perhaps even the nation, this season. Only PF Charlie Villanueva is gone from a team that was much better than its NCAA tournament showing last spring. Jim Calhoun’s team features size, athleticism, experience, and depth at every position. Unfortunately, in the wake of the “laptopgate” scandal, nobody really knows what is going to happen with the Huskies this year. Potential All-American PG Marcus Williams is suspended for the first semester, and so is his backup, freshman AJ Price. Instead, Calhoun will go with two emergency recruits at point guard, players that normally wouldn’t have generated a second look from a program like Connecticut. Thus, a truly special frontcourt, anchored by future lottery picks Rudy Gay and Josh Boone, won’t have a proven creator to get the ball from. While it’s likely that Williams will be reinstated for the second semester, the team’s floor general can’t practice with the team until January. That’s going to take its toll on a team that should be readying for a second national championship run in three years. The team enters the season as the Big East favorite, but only because of Villanova's recent injuries.

Marcus Williams (9.6 ppg, 7.8 apg) took a major step forward last season, and if it weren’t for his extracurricular activities, you might be seeing his name on a few preseason All-American lists. Williams looks to pass first, has very nice size for a point guard, and is a much improved overall floor general. Freshman AJ Price is lucky to be in playing condition after last year’s brain hemorrhage, but he certainly would be a better option at the point than either Craig Austrie or Robert Garrison. Austrie, a one-time Massachusetts commitment, is more of a combo guard. Garrison was headed to prep school in order to garner high-major interest before Calhoun offered him a scholarship in July. While both freshmen are being featured in “keys to the season” type media reports, the reality is that this team’s chances for success will be seriously marginalized if Williams isn’t back out on the court and on the same page with his teammates early in the conference slate.

Elsewhere, Connecticut is loaded with all sorts of NBA-type talent. Sophomore wing Rudy Gay (11.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg) is the prime example of that. Blessed with a unique blend of size, athleticism, and skill, Gay is the near unanimous preseason national player of the year, and many people’s choice for #1 pick in the 2006 draft. While he still needs to improve his ball skills and play with a bit more consistency, there’s no denying that Rudy Gay is a special talent. The offense seemed to bog down some when Calhoun played Gay with two big men last season, so perhaps we will see a bit more of Gay as a 3/4 this year. If having the top draft prospect in college basketball wasn’t enough, Calhoun has two other double figure scorers returning at the wings. Rashad Anderson (11.9 ppg) suffered through health problems and a mediocre overall season, but remains one of the nation’s top outside shooters. The latest news is that Anderson is still struggling with his groin in preseason practice. Denham Brown (10.4 ppg) didn’t develop into a star either, but brings strength and athleticism to the wing position. Freshman Marcus Johnson is around for even more depth.

In the paint, Calhoun will turn to shot blocker Josh Boone (12.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.9 bpg) to pick up the scoring slack for the departed Villanueva. Boone, who reminds many of Emeka Okafor, started off last season on fire. Unfortunately, back problems put a damper on his production down the stretch. The same injuries kept Boone out of international competition this summer. The back isn’t expected to be a problem this season, but is definitely something to keep an eye on. There is all sorts of depth here as well, with seniors Ed Nelson (2.9 ppg) and Hilton Armstrong (3.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg). Armstrong, a 6’11 center with a nice frame and good overall skill, is primed for a breakout season, after three years of playing a reserve role. The freshman class lost a bit of its shine when Andrew Bynum declared for the draft, but undersized PF Jeff Adrien will contribute eventually.

It’s tough to know exactly where to place this team until the futures of Williams and Price are decided. If both return and Calhoun can get everybody on the same page in a timely fashion, the Huskies are loaded enough to make a national championship run. It not, Calhoun had better spend some extra time developing his replacement point guards, and pray that Rudy Gay is truly the best player in the nation. A team led by Anderson, Brown, Gay, and Boone will still be good, but Marcus Williams is the key to any Husky national championship hopes. With the recent injury disasters over at Villanova, the Huskies become the preseason favorite by default. However, it might not be until well into the Big East season before we figure out what this team is really made of.

Recruiting Update: Calhoun lost four players to the NBA Draft lottery over the past two seasons, graduates 4 key seniors this spring, and is likely to lose Gay and Boone as early draft entrants as well. With that in mind, 2006 is a big recruiting year for Jim Calhoun. So far so good, as he recently stole future NBA wing forward Stanley Robinson away from Alabama, putting the cap on a class that includes four other top 100 recruits. Combo guard Ramar Smith and athletic big man Curtis Kelly are McDonald’s All-American possibilities, while Jerome Dyson is a slick shooting point guard and Jonathan Mandeldove is Calhoun’s latest center recruit to ooze with potential. Most recently, Calhoun jumped on his latest sleeper in skilled forward Ben Eaves.


2005 Record: (24-8, 11-5)
Postseason: NCAA, lost to North Carolina in Sweet Sixteen
Head Coach: Jay Wright

Key Losses:

PF Marcus Austin (1.7 ppg)

6’6 SG Dwayne Anderson, St Thomas Moore (Ct) Prep
6’5 SF Bilal Benn, Hargrave (Va) Military Academy
6’9 PF Dante Cunningham, Silver Spring, MD
6’9 C Frank Tchuisi, Cameroon via St Bennedict’s (NJ) Prep

PG – 6’1 Mike Nardi, jr
SG – 6’3 Randy Foye, sr
SF – 6’2 Allan Ray, sr
PF – 6’8 Will Sherdian, jr
C – 6’9 Jason Fraser, sr

PG – 6’0 Kyle Lowry, so
SG – 6’6 Dwayne Anderson, fr
PF – 6’9 Dante Cunningham, fr
C – 6’9 Frank Tchuisi, fr

It’s amazing how quickly a program’s fortunes can change. Things weren’t exactly panning out for Jay Wright at Villanova, after three mediocre seasons and a heralded 2002 recruiting class that probably wasn’t living up to it’s name. Then, in late January came an 83-62 shellacking of Kansas. The Wildcats would lose just two regular season games the rest of the way, earning a #5 seed in the NCAA tournament and coming within a last-second controversial call of upsetting North Carolina and a trip to the Elite Eight.

Heading into the new season, Villanova looked primed to rise to the top of the Big East. Big men Curtis Sumpter and Jason Fraser appeared to be recovered from off-season surgeries, and the Wildcats’ spectacular backcourt looked more than capable of carrying this team to the final four. Then in one fateful week, fortunes swung back in the other direction. Three Villanova big men went down with injury, the last being 2005 leading scorer Curtis Sumpter, who re-inured the knee he had been rehabbing all summer. Role-player Marcus Austin is done for the season and for his collegiate career, while 7-footer Chris Charles is out for an indefinite amount of time after he hurt his wrist. Jason Fraser and Will Sheridan could still anchor a decent front line, but the loss of Sumpter is a disastrous blow to Villanova’s national championship hopes for a team that was looking forward to having a bit of frontcourt depth for the first time in a while. Now, the team will rely even more on guards Allan Ray, Randy Foye, Mike Nardi, and Kyle Lowry to carry this team. They are capable of it, but Jay Wright needs the back luck to stop right now if the Wildcats are going to contend for the Big East title.

There really isn’t an adequate way to introduce Wright’s fearsome backcourt quartet. Many might pick senior Allan Ray (16.2 ppg) as the team’s go-to scorer. Ray is equally dangerous from behind the arc and off the dribble, able to create his shot from nearly anywhere. He plays with the fire that basketball fans have come to expect from East coast guards, and along with fellow senior Randy Foye (15.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg), gives this team it’s feisty persona. Foye will do many of the same things as Ray, but is more of a distributor and all-around player. When Ray’s shot abandoned him during the NCAA tourney, Foye picked up the offensive slack. Both players are nearly impossible to stop once they get going, and opponents can count on one going off pretty much every night.

If those two ball-handling guards weren’t enough, Wright will utilize two true point guards in the rotation as well. Mike Nardi (8.2 ppg, 3.6 apg) is the one pass-first point guard on the team, but he will be pushed by sophomore Kyle Lowry (7.5 ppg), the truly nasty defender and explosive penetrator that capped off a solid freshman season with an absolutely scintillating NCAA tournament. Only Nardi’s status as a two-year starter will keep Lowry out of the starting lineup for now. Where the “big four” played virtually all the backcourt minutes in 2005, freshmen Dwayne Anderson and Bilal Benn will give Wright the chance to give his stars a bit of a rest. While neither is going to play a large role, both provide some size for the guard rotation.

Curtis Sumpter, an athletic combo forward capable of stepping outside and hitting the three or being disruptive in the lane with his quickness, is likely out for the year. With the more minor losses of Chris Charles and Marcus Austin, only two frontcourt returnees remain. Senior Jason Fraser (6.5 ppg, 6’7 rpg, 2.4 bpg) who would have probably already made his way to the NBA if not for a series of his own chronic knee injuries, simply has to stay healthy. He underwent a risky microfracture procedure on his knees this summer, and is nearly ready to return to the court. Reports have Fraser as pain-free as he has ever been, which has everybody crossing their fingers. He is good enough to be a double-double type of presence for this team, but past history says it’s unlikely he will play at full strength for the entire season.

Junior Will Sheridan (5.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg) is the other returnee. He has anchored the paint by himself in the past, and may be required to take on that role again this season. He is a dependable, physical low-post presence. The newcomers weren’t expected to play a role this season, but will now be pressed into emergency duty early and often. Freshman Dante Cunningham wasn’t a ranked recruit, but has managed to pick up a good buzz this summer and is expected to contribute in the paint. Also available is freshman Frank Tchuisi.

A storyline worth keeping an eye on is the seemingly endless saga of Philly combo forward Shane Clark. He originally committed to Jay Wright, but then was forced to take a prep year and switched his allegiance to Maryland. When a clearinghouse error made him ineligible at Maryland, he set his sights on the Wildcats again. While he hasn’t made it through the clearinghouse yet, Clark is ready to enroll at Villanova for the spring semester. If he does indeed make it onto the court, he could step right into Sumpter’s role as an athletic, versatile frontcourt presence.

This prognosticator was ready to anoint Villanova as the Big East’s preseason favorite. The way that these guards play is simply too exciting to ignore, and it looked like a few of the big men were ready to step up and hold their own. The possibility of a healthy Jason Fraser was truly exciting. Unfortunately, that all went out the window with the loss of Sumpter. He fit in too well with Wright’s perimeter-oriented attack, and it is highly doubtful that anybody else on the roster will come close to matching his production. Villanova’s season may now rest on the fragile knees of Jason Fraser, or unproven newcomers like Dante Cunningham or Shane Clark. In the end, it’s just hard to be as optimistic about Villanova’s chances as we were just last week.

Recruiting Update: Philadelphia has been a hotbed for talent over the past couple of seasons, though Wright’s attempts to mine it have been turned out a bit mixed. While Lowry was a national recruit and very important grab, three likely McDonald’s All-Americans from the area passed on the Wildcats this summer. Wright still has a nice class lined up, including three top 100 players in shooting guard Reggie Redding and power forwards Antonio Pena and Caseim Drummond. Big men Andrew Ott and Kraidon Woods are also names known around the area. It certainly would be nice to see stars like Wayne Ellington, Gerald Henderson, or Earl Clark suiting up next fall, but Wright is still stocking his roster with enough talent to stay competitive in the new Big East.


2005 Record: (33-5, 14-2)
Postseason: NCAA, lost to Illinois in the Final Four
Head Coach: Rick Pitino

Key Losses:

SG Francisco Garcia (15.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.9 apg)
SG Larry O’Bannon (15.2 ppg)
SF Lorrenzo Wade (3.9 ppg)
PF Ellis Myles (10.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 3.4 apg)
PF Otis George (5.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg)

5’10 PG Andre McGee, Moreno Valley, CA
6’5 SG Bryan Harvey, Compton, CA
6’5 SF Terrence Williams, Seattle, WA
6’8 F Chad Millard, Brewster (NH) Academy
7’0 PF Jonathan Huffman, Birmingham, AL
6’11 C David Padgett, so, transfer from Kansas

PG – 5’10 Andre McGee, fr
SG – 6’3 Brandon Jenkins, jr
SF – 6’3 Taquan Dean, sr
PF – 6’8 Juan Palacios, so
C – 6’10 David Padgett, so

SG – 6’5 Bryan Harvey, fr
SF – 6’5 Terrence Williams, fr
SF – 6’4 Perrin Johnson, jr
F – 6’9 Chad Millard, fr
PF – 6’8 Brian Johnson, (rs) fr
PF – 7’0 Jonathan Huffman, fr

With the last holdover of the Denny Crum era playing his final games in a Cardinals jersey, Rick Pitino took the Louisville program back to where it belongs – the final four. It wasn’t an easy road. The Cardinals battled through tough games against Georgia Tech and Washington, and then overcame a 20-point deficit to defeat an unconscious West Virginia team. Long time contributors Francisco Garcia, Larry O’Bannon, and Ellis Myles are gone. In their place is a group of players that has more talent than what was seen in Pitino’s Kentucky days, but is very short on experience. Senior Taquan Dean will be asked to play the lead role this year, in addition to simply staying healthy the entire season. He will be helped out in the paint by promising sophomore Juan Palacios and touted transfer David Padgett, though both will be sidelined for the majority of preseason practice. A new era of truly dominant Louisville basketball has been ushered in, and while the competition will be at a different level in the new Big East, this team has the talent to compete in any conference.

The backcourt is where the Cardinals were hit the hardest. Senior Taquan Dean (14.4 ppg) was nearly heroic at times during the final four run. The intelligent, smooth operating, sweet shooting combo guard has been hampered by all sorts of medical issues over the years, but with a clean bill of health, Dean could be poised to stake his claim as one of the nation’s top guards. The other returning proven commodity is junior point guard Brandon Jenkins (5.2 ppg). While Jenkins hasn’t put up the offensive numbers many expected from him, he has slowly developed into a player that Pitino can rely on. He makes few mistakes, plays some nasty, physical defense, and actually took major steps as a shooter last season.

The other backcourt contributors will be freshmen, though this isn’t entirely a bad thing. Point Guard Andre McGee has looked impressive since arriving on campus, and is vying to start along with Jenkins and Dean in the type of three lead guard lineup that is catching on all over the country. Bryan Harvey is a silky smooth wing with a nice outside jumper, while Terrance Willams is a bonafide NBA-caliber athlete that needs a bit more polish before ascending to stardom.

The Louisville frontcourt also took a hit with the graduation of underappreciated center Ellis Myles, but Pitino has loaded up on big men over the past two years. Despite losing the super talented Amir Johnson to the draft, this might be his most talented frontcourt group yet. Juan Palacios (9.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg) is a skilled combo forward with a nice bounce to his step. Palacios can beat opponents from just about anywhere, whether it is with his back to the basket or while facing up in the midrange. Joining him in the starting lineup will be former McDonald’s All-American and Kansas big man David Padgett. Padgett was in major need of some bulking up the last time we saw him, but should be ready to be a major producer by now.

This fall, both Palacios and Padgett have missed time with injury. While Padgett will be back by opening night, this preseason was especially important to him, given that he hasn’t played in an official game a year and a half. Palacios' injury has turned out to be more serious than originally revealed, and he is expected to miss much of the non-conference schedule. Thus, expect redshirt freshman Brian Johnson to move into the starting lineup. Johnson was a highly regarded prep, but chronic knee issues have forced fans to scale back the optimism on any immediate impact. However, Johnson is apparently practicing pain free for the first time in a long time. Things get somewhat sketchy from there. 7-footer Jonathan Huffman is an athletic, perimeter oriented type that needs time to develop, while sophomore Terrance Farley might be an even bigger project.

While Louisville might be a year away from true championship contention, unlike their C-USA counterparts, this team is built to win right away in the new Big East. Dean’s continuing health is a major concern, but he should be able to put in a memorable senior year as the youngsters prepare to take over the program. Palacios and Padgett make up a formidable frontcourt duo, as long as they can get out on the court together, and some very talented freshmen will fill in the cracks. With the injuries to the frontcourt, things might not look so rosy headed into the Big East slate. However, this team’s makeup and recent history would make a stronger finish seem likely. While it is hasty to be labeling this group a preseason top ten team as some experts are doing, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if Louisville was pushing the conference favorites by the end of the year.

Recruiting Update: Burned by top level recruits like James Lang, Sebastian Telfair, and Amir Johnson over the years, Pitino will once again attempt to get a McDonald’s All-American onto campus. He has commitments from two of the top high school seniors in the country, burly big man Derrick Caracter and the super-versatile Earl Clark. One might think that the age limit would have ended any issues over top recruits skipping college, but academics and the prep school route will probably keep Louisville fans crossing their fingers until the very end. Top 50 guards Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith round out one of the top 5 recruiting classes in the nation. If Rick Pitino can get this entire class on campus, Louisville is going to be downright scary next fall.


2005 Record: (19-13, 8-8)
Postseason: NIT, lost to South Carolina in quarterfinals
Head Coach: John Thompson III

Key Losses:

SG Rayshawn Reed (2.4 ppg)

6’2 SG Josh Thornton, Camden, DE
6’3 SG Jessie Sapp, Fort Washington, MD
6’5 SF Marc Egerson, Philadelphia, PA
6’7 F Octavius Spann, College Park, GA

PG – 6’2 Ashanti Cook, sr
SG – 6’6 Darrell Owens, sr
SF – 6’8 Brandon Bowman, sr
PF – 6’8 Jeff Green, so
C – 7’2 Roy Hibbert, so

G – 6’1 Jonathan Wallace, so
SG – 6’4 Tyler Crawford, so
SG – 6’3 Jessie Sapp, fr
SF – 6’5 Mark Egerson, fr
F – 6’7 Octavius Spann, fr

Things are starting to return to normalcy around the Georgetown campus. Optimism has crept back into the Hoya basketball program, and a Thompson is at the helm. John Thompson III brought in his Princeton system and instituted it with great success, putting the Hoyas in a position to secure an unlikely NCAA tournament berth. Georgetown’s young lineup faltered down the stretch, losing five of their last six in the conference, and had to settle for an NIT invite instead. Nonetheless, Thompson returns nearly his entire roster, which will be bolstered by a 4-main recruiting class that features several freshmen ready to play. Forwards Brandon Bowman and Jeff Green rank among the Big East’s best, with Green having serious All-American potential. If Thompson can get some improved guard play, the Hoyas will find themselves back in the promised land come March.

The strength of this team definitely lies in the frontcourt. Senior Brandon Bowman (15.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg) flirted with the NBA Draft, but wisely returned for his senior season. Bowman is long and skilled, and has improved every season as a Hoya. Last year he became a much more effective perimeter player, and Bowman will continue to see a lot of time at three this season due to the presence of super sophomore Jeff Green (13.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg). Green flashed a mature body and some impressive athleticism, but also a surprising amount of skill. He is very comfortable in the high post and facing the basket, able to pass and handle the ball with ease. Green will need to work on being more of a back to the basket presence, but uses his strength and athleticism to pick up plenty of garbage points around the basket.

The other feature player in the frontcourt will be the massive Roy Hibbert (5.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg), who wasn’t expected to contribute as much as he did in his freshman year. While Hibbert remains a project, Thompson’s ability to play someone of this size next to two forwards like Bowman and Green is a luxury that most coaches will never have. Freshman Octavius Spann could add a bit of a spark off the bench as an athletic, physical, combo forward presence. The three talented big men provide the basis for what Thompson is trying to accomplish, anchoring a physical, tough, defense-oriented front line.

The backcourt isn’t as established, but Thompson will have plenty of bodies to choose from. Senior point guard Ashanti Cook (10.8 ppg, 2.5 apg) probably isn’t the ideal floor general, but has steadily improved over the course of his time as a Hoya. Other returnees include sophomore Jonathan Wallace (6.5 ppg), who made an immediate impact by providing some much-needed perimeter shooting. Thompson got some good news when Darrell Owens (7.3 ppg) was granted an extra year of eligibility. Owens is a solid outside shooter with nice size. There isn’t a whole to get too excited about in the backcourt, but this group can work on being more efficient and getting the ball inside.

The backcourt should be stronger this season, based on the simple fact that Thompson will have a few more options when the established perimeter players aren’t producing. Many Hoya fans are expecting nice things out of sophomore Tyler Crawford. Marc Egerson leads the freshman class, as a mature-bodied, athletic wing capable of creating his own shot. Egerson wasn’t a household name, but many have come away impressed this past spring and summer. Also available are scoring guard Josh Thornton and combo guard Jessie Sapp.

It’s tough to be too high on the Hoyas this early, given how last season ended. Is this the team that played beyond its years and took the Big East by storm last winter, or the team that looked a bit overwhelmed down the stretch? It may be a combination of both, but expect Georgetown to be improved. Jeff Green may end up as an All-American type, and Brandon Bowman is a fine second option. Thompson must get better play from his backcourt, and that might be up to a freshman like Egerson. With a breakthrough recruiting class heading to campus in 2006, this is a program on the rise. As the year begins, this looks like a team capable of putting together an NCAA Tournament-worthy season.

Recruiting Update: John Thompson III is getting it done on the recruiting path as well as the court. The banner year started with the commitment of Jeremiah Rivers, son of Doc, and soon after Patrick Ewing, Jr. announced he was transferring in. Top 50 PF Dajuan Summers soon followed, and Thompson capped things off with the Georgetown’s biggest signing in years. Freakishly athletic Vernon Macklin, a probable future McDonald’s All-American, gives Thompson one of the best recruiting classes in the nation. Highly regarded wing Austin Freeman is another serious possibility.


2005 Record: (27-7, 11-5)
Postseason: NCAA, lost to Vermont in 1st round
Head Coach: Jim Boeheim

Key Losses:

G Billy Edelin
SG Josh Pace (10.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.8 apg)
PF Hakim Warrick (21.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg)
C Craig Forth (4.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg)

6’4 G Eric Devendorf, Bay City, MI
6’5 SG Andy Rautins, Jamesville, NY
6’9 PF Arinze Onauku, Lanham, MD

PG – 6’2 Gerry McNamara, sr
SG – 6’4 Eric Devendorf, fr
SF – 6’8 Demetris Nichols, jr
PF – 6’9 Terrence Roberts, jr
C – 6’11 Darryl Watkins, jr

PG – 6’2 Josh Wright, so
SG – 6’5 Louie McCroskey, jr
F – 6’6 Dayshaun Wright, so
PF – Matt Gorman, sr
PF – Arinze Onauku, fr

Two national champions have been crowned since Carmelo Anthony led the Syracuse Orange to the promised land. His teammates have attempted to carry the load with varying levels of success, and are slowly moving out of the program. This season marks the end of an era for Jim Boeheim’s storied program, but he will get one more season out of Gerry McNamara, the shooting specialist that wowed the nation by hitting six first half three pointers in the national championship game as a freshman. Around him will be a group of faces that never experienced the ultimate achievement in college basketball.

Replacing Hakim Warrick will be Terrence Roberts, who is similarly lengthy and athletic. Also being asked to step up are fellow juniors Louie McCroskey, Demtris Nichols, and Darryl Watkins. This group has been groomed to take over for the past two seasons, and now they will get the chance to prove themselves on the floor. While this team might struggle some as former role-players adjust to being focal points, the talent level in the program hasn’t declined. This is a transition year for the Orange, but this team will still be a factor near the top of the Big East.

The heart and soul of the Orange is Gerry McNamara (15.8 ppg, 4.9 apg), one of the most prominent and accomplished players in the conference and the entire nation, for that matter. Nobody leaves more out on the court, and his quick release three point shot is liable to win games single-handedly. McNamara is at his best when he can focus on his perimeter offense, and being the sole offensive option took its toll on his production last year. Thus, it is very important for Syracuse’s other perimeter options to step up. It is no surprise that McNamara played great basketball when Billy Edelin was around to assume a large chunk of the ball-handling duties. Thus, Josh Wright, the sophomore who will back up McNamara at PG, is that much more important. He is a nice change of pace from McNamara, and a few solid minutes a night could really change this team.

The other backcourt options have potential help McNamara out as well. Freshman Eric Devendorf could be the most crucial. A McDonald’s All-American, Devendorf is a skilled combo guard that Boeheim compares to the player he will eventually step in for, McNamara. Juniors Louie McCroskey (5.6 ppg) and Demetris Nichols (3.9 ppg) are two players that Boeheim needs bigger contributions from this year. McCroskey is athletic enough to score and is known as a defensive specialist, but doesn’t shoot well from the outside. Nichols has all the tools, but wasn’t able to contribute much offensively in a part-time role. Neither appears ready to assume a big scoring role, but both will be valuable in replacing all the intangibles that Josh Pace brought to the team. Freshman wing Andy Rautins has mono, and is a likely redshirt.

The frontcourt looks like one gaping hole, with the graduation of four year contributors Hakim Warrick and Craig Forth. However, Orange fans are excited to see what junior forward Terrence Roberts (7.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg) can do in a feature role. Having many of the same physical attributes of Warrick, Roberts will dominate the open floor and the offensive glass. His post game isn’t nearly as polished as Warrick’s, however, and he needs to improve his hands. Roberts surprised some by contributing on the U-21 national team this summer, and could be a capable first option in the post.

The frontcourt is a bit thin on bodies and proven production, as the new starting center is likely to be junior Darryl Watkins (3.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg). Lauded out of high school as a big man with great potential, Watkins may or may not be close to realizing it. An accomplished shot blocker and low post presence, Watkins struggled with consistency, injuries and foul trouble. He will be a major factor one night, and helpless the next. As a replacement for Craig Forth, he will need to at least learn how to stay on the court for a significant amount of time. The other options are redshirt senior Matt Gorman, who is known for his outside shooting touch, and physically imposing freshman Arinze Onauku.

Jim Boeheim certainly has a lot to work with in what might be called a transition year. McNamara is a local hero, and there are talented players at every position. Defensively, expect this team to be very good. There are question marks on the offensive end, where struggles will ensue if McNamara is forced to carry too much of the load. If players like Devendorf, Roberts, and Watkins can provide enough of a consistent scoring presence, this team good be just as good as the one that won 27 games a year ago. Defensively, this team is ready to excel. However, expectations should be tempered a bit as the inexperienced talent finds it’s footing.

Recruiting Update: Boeheim hasn’t managed to add a big man for 2006, but he did secure the pledge of one of the top all-around talents in the nation when Paul Harris committed. Part point guard, part wing, part power forward, Harris is a lockdown perimeter defender and relentless off of the dribble. He has the body of a full grown man, and will be a star from day one. Also on board is top 100 wing Mike Jones. The Syracuse faithful have even more reason to be excited for the future, as Boeheim has nearly completed his 2007 class as well. Maryland combo forward Donte Green is the true prize, while point guard Scoop Jardine and big man Rick Jackson are nationally ranked recruits. Boeheim has also landed Harris’ AAU teammate, PG Johnny Flynn. Boeheim has always been a great recruiter, and continues to get his pick of the top talent in the Northeast.

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