Back in December, I answered some questions for Pico Dulce over at Rumble in the Garden (at the time, it was known as the East Coast Bias) in his Big East Roundtable: Midseason Edition. Turns out I'm not as great a prognosticator as I pretend to be, as I totally mucked up my prediction of the final Big East standings. Although I did have some decent insight into the Cincinnati and St. John's situations, so I'll take some credit for that, thanks.
Now that the Big East Tournament is tipping off, Pico asked us to answer a few questions looking back at the season that was and the postseason that will be. Answers to the first three questions are already up, and the others should post sometime before the first games tip off. I'll update with a link when they're up. Be sure to head over there, give your input, and talk some smack. Especially to the Pitt fans. Both of them.
In the meantime, you can find my answers after the jump. Make sure to leave your comments regarding how I did, whether I missed anything, and how you might have answered differently. Also, follow Pico on Twitter @ECoastBias and "Like" Rumble in the Garden on Facebook.
1a: your 6 person all-league team, with the player of the year at the top.
1. Ben Hansbrough, Notre Dame (Better team record than other contenders.)
2. Dwight Hardy, St. Johns (MVP, but not POY.)
3. Kemba Walker, UConn (National POY candidate, but team stumbled late.)
4. Marshon Brooks, Providence (Can't ignore his scoring.)
5. Austin Freeman, Georgetown (Preseason POY was solid, but didn't live up to hype.)
6. Ashton Gibbs, Pitt (Pitt is a balanced team, Gibbs is the straw that stirs the drink.)
1b: your pick for newcomer of the year AND rookie of the year (they can be the same person).
Wow. I really don't have one. There hasn't been one young player in the league who has stood out to me so far this year. As tough as this league is, there is a dearth of individual talent, and especially young individual talent.
1c: your pick for Big East coach of the year.
You can make an argument for Rick Pitino and Mike Brey, but Steve Lavin is my choice. Despite the loss to Seton Hall, St. Johns has been a pleasant surprise since the calendar turned to 2011. They were my pick for most disappointing team over the holiday season, and boy did they prove me wrong since then. It's almost like they were reading my analysis and decided to turn it around. Lavin has done a fantastic job of taking 9 seniors, who had been weaned on another coach's system and sold them on his way of playing basketball. Simply a great turnaround for the Red Storm, and one I hope continues for the sake of the conference.
2. Who is the most disappointing team in the Big East? The most surprising?
Based on my mid-season predictions, I'd have to say Notre Dame is the most surprising, with honorable mention to Louisville and a nod to St. Johns, who I thought would turn things around but took a little longer than I thought. Most disappointing...I'm gonna go with Providence. I like Keno Davis as a coach, and they had a decent year last season. I didn't see the regression coming. I still think Davis will succeed there, but it might be a more difficult job than I thought, with Rutgers, DePaul and Seton Hall all making coaching changes and becoming more competitive as well. Even the teams in our league that should suck..don't suck.
3. Who is the surprise (positive) player on your team? Who is the player who has disappointed, relative to expectations?
For WVU to win, Joe Mazzulla, Cam Thoroughman, and John Flowers all need to step up. I'm going with Flowers for WVU's surprise player. He's always been athletic, but this year he is among the league leaders in blocks, he plays great defense, he shoots free throws at a significantly higher clip (improved by 30%!!), and can score in a variety of ways. He may be WVU's most consistent player. If he stays out of foul trouble, WVU stands a much better chance of winning.
As for a disappointment, it's undoubtably Dan Jennings. Before the season, most fans expected Jennings to contribute 10-15 mintues a game, play solid defense, and rebound well. Instead, he decided to leave the team in the middle of a game and has not been heard from since. He wasn't really a factore before that, but to see a kid quit in the middle of the season---let alone a game---is disappointing. He had some ability, but apparently didn't have the attitude to succeed at this level.
4. Early prediction: how will your team do in the Big East Tournament?
I'd be happy with one win, and even that isn't assured. With so much jockeying going on this weekend in terms of seeding, it's hard to predict. Even the teams with first round byes are going to have their hands full playing other NCAA teams. Anything beyond one win is a complete bonus, but I wouldn't be shocked if we made it to the final game either. I know I sound like a homer, but I'm learning to never be shocked by Bob Huggins coached teams. But with a gun to my head, WVU wins one game.
4a. Which team are you afraid to meet in the tournament?
My first thought is Pitt, but I think the better answer is Syracuse. The 2-3 zone frustrates WVU to no end, and the Orange are athletic enough to neutralize WVU on the glass and get easy points in transition. Pitt can be out-toughed, WVU beat Notre Dame already and took Louisville to the wire, so I'm not too afraid of them. Gotta go with Cuse.
5. Let's assume 11 teams from the Big East get to the NCAA Tournament. How many get...
5a. to the Sweet Sixteen? 4 (Pitt, Notre Dame, St. Johns, Syracuse)
5b. To the Elite Eight? 2 (Pitt, Syracuse)
5c. To the Final Four? 1 (Pitt)
5d. Do any play in the championship game? No.
(extra "credit" for naming the teams that will go to each round)
6. For teams who aren't making the NCAA Tournament, what comes next?
I feel like the league can only get tougher. I love the new hires at Providence, Seton Hall, and Rutgers. Those teams face a long road given the strength of the conference, but I have no doubt they can compete. I don't think USF will ever be a key player in basketball, and Purnell has a difficult job at DePaul, but I think he can make them competitive. But if the Big East gets 11 teams in the dance, I don't think any neutral observer will really care about what happens to anyone else.