This season has been a boon to the Big East because of all the new teams.
Among others, Marquette, Cincinnati and Louisville came aboard to join powerhouse schools like Connecticut, Syracuse, Pitt and Villanova to form a 16-team Super Conference. UConn won college basketball’s national championship two years ago and several conference powers will be knocking on the door again.
UConn: Who wouldn’t Jim Calhoun’s powerful frontcourt of 6-foot-9 sophomore Rudy Gay (16 ppg, 6 rpg), 6-10 junior Josh Boone and 6-11 senior Hilton Armstrong Jr? The Huskies have beaten LSU, Arizona, Gonzaga, Georgetown, Syracuse, Louisville, Pitt and New Hampshire. (Just joking with that last one to see if you were paying attention.) Throw in 6-5 senior Rashad Anderson and 6-6 senior Denham Brown, and coach Calhoun has another star-studded lineup. Favored in every game, UConn started 6-2 SU/ATS on the road. The Huskies host Villanova on Sunday in a revenge game.
Pitt: The Panthers have their own power frontcourt behind 7-foot, 265-pound junior center Aaron Gray (13 ppg, 11 rpg) and 6-9 junior Levon Kendall. Pitt allows 61 ppg and started 4-0 ATS as an underdog, winning outright twice. Veteran PG Carl Krauser (16 ppg) leads in scoring, and 6-6 freshman Sam Young is a comer. Pitt had a pair of tough losses three weeks ago, losing back-to-back at UConn (80-76) and at Georgetown (61-58). The Panthers have just one road game left, Monday at West Virginia next Monday.
Villanova: The Wildcats have been hot all year behind a three-guard attack of 6-4 senior Randy Foye (20 ppg), senior Allan Ray (18.9) and junior Mike Nardi. Villanova runs with their guards, averaging 77 ppg (the "over" is 8-6). Nova overcame a huge challenge last week, defeating No. 1 UConn 69-64 as a +3 home dog. Along with a powerful offense, Villanova plays great defense (allowing 60 ppg on the road). The Cats opened 8-1 SU on the road and are 2-0 ATS as a dog.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers parlayed last year’s exciting tournament run into another strong season. West Virginia has a solid 1-2 punch with 7-foot Kevin Pittsnogle (19 ppg and a fine 3-point shooter) and guard Mike Gansey. They are 4-3 SU and 5-1 ATS as a dog, including an impressive win at UCLA and a 76-75 loss to Texas as a +6 dog. The Mounties also won as a +11 dog at Villanova, 91-87. When their long range shooting is on, this team is tough.
Georgetown: The Hoyas use an outstanding frontcourt to play tough defense, allowing just 59 ppg. G’town is 6-3 "under" the total at home, allowing just 57 ppg. The frontcourt sports 7-2 soph Roy Hibbert and 6-9 senior Brandon Bowman, while Ashanti Cook runs the backcourt. Coach John Thompson Jr’s squad just went on a 5-0 run "under" the total, holding St. John’s to 41 and DePaul to 44!
Seton Hall: The Hall has a strong duo in Donald Copeland (15 ppg), along with 6-foot-8 senior Kelly Whitney (15 ppg, 8 rpg). The Pirates started 6-2 ATS as an underdog. The Hall showed great resiliency after UConn routed rolled to a 99-57 win, bouncing back the next game as a +4 home dog to top West Virginia 71-64.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles have a strong 1-2 punch in 6-10 senior Steve Novak and freshman guard Dominic James. Marquette has played well (8-4 ATS) as an underdog, losing 77-71 at Pitt (+10), at Villanova as a +12 dog. However, they play their best ball at home. The Golden Eagles started 2-6 outside Milwaukee, allowing 81 ppg.
Syracuse: In January, the Orangemen suffered a 4-game skid, only the third of such length in Coach Jim Boeheim’s 30-year tenure. The Orange is led by senior guard Gerry McNamara (16 ppg), along with the junior font court of 6-8 Demetris Nichols (15 ppg), 6-9 Terrence Roberts (11 ppg, 8 rpg) and 6-11 Darryl Watkins (7 rpg).