Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Big East Preview: Syracuse And Notre Dame Will Challenge Louisville For The Big East Thrown

The long wait will soon be over when the first official NCAA basketball game of the 2012-13 season will tip-off on Nov. 15. Some of our favorite players have moved on the ranks of professional athletes, new recruits have been polishing their games in gyms with recognizable logos on the court, and schools have switched conference allegiances. Through a series of conference previews, the BDD crew will do its best to prepare you for the next 4.5 months of collegiate hoops.

Peyton Siva and Louisville have their eye on the Big East Title. (thesportsbank.net)

Favorite: Louisville Cardinals

The Cardinals made it to the Final Four last year, and many are starting them out as the No. 2 team in the country in preseason polls. The main reason for this besides seeing the coaching job Rick Pitino did last year is senior point guard Peyton Siva. He only averaged 9.1 ppg and 5.6 assists, but Siva is the leader of this team and when he plays well, the Cardinals usually win. Louisville is having to replace last year's leading scorer Kyle Kuric and guard Chris Smith, but this is a balanced-scoring team who has a fairly easy schedule except for traveling to Memphis and the rivalry game against Kentucky heading into Big East play.

Dark Horse: Notre Dame

Notre Dame is returning all five starters from a team that went 22-12 last season. The Fighting Irish struggled at times a season ago, losing games they shouldn't have to Georgia and Rutgers, but Notre Dame also knew how to string big wins together. During a stretch in 2011-12, the Irish knocked off No. 1 Syracuse, No. 19 UCONN and No. 15 Marquette in a span of four games. Mike Brey's squad doesn't have nearly as challenging of a non-conference schedule this year, and should compete with Louisville and Syracuse for the top of the Big East.

Player of the Year: Peyton Siva, Louisville

Siva epitomizes the term "Most Valuable Player." He probably won't score the most points in the conference and have the best numbers, but Louisville is a much better team when he is on his game compared to when he struggles. Siva was selected as the Big East Preseason Player of the Year, so he clearly has the conference and the nation's attention. If Siva can cut back on the turnovers this year (he averaged more than three per game last season) and continue to be a scoring threat, the award is his to lose.

Newcomer of the Year: Steven Adams, Pitt

Last year was a season to forget for the Pitt Panthers, and Steven Adams is a freshman that can help fade the memories of the 22-17 overall and 5-13 conference records in 2011-12. The 7-foot center from New Zealand was the No. 6-ranked player on the ESPN 100, and has been praised for his athletic ability. Adams has the build and athleticism to be a force in the paint from the first game he plays and that presence in the low post could be what Pitt needs to return to their successful ways in the Big East.

Coach of the Year: Jim Boeheim, Syracuse

Louisville is the clear favorite to win the conference, but they will have to take down the defending Big East champions in Syracuse, who went 17-1 in conference play last season under Boeheim. The Orange lost a talented group in Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters and Fab Melo, but now it is Brandon Triche and Rakeem Christmas' turn to run the show and a preseason ranking of No. 9 in the country shows this team not expected to falter. With the loss in talent from a year ago, if Boeheim's team can breeze through a semi-challenging non-conference schedule and lead this team to a conference championship or within a game or two of that mark, he will have a strong case for the award. This could be the last chance Boeheim has to win the award before Syracuse and Pitt move to the ACC.

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