May 2, 2008

I regularly try to praise the NBE Basketball Report for a good reason. It is one of my daily reads and has gone beyond being the best link round-up on Big East Basketball. The site also features regular and original recruiting news of Big East targets provided from the fine writers at Pittsburgh Sports Report, CAA Insider, Northstar Basketball and others. So if you want to follow the Pitt and other Big East recruiting make sure you read it daily.

Here’s a sampling of some key stuff from the past few days.

I never got around to linking to a Q&A done with Dante Taylor from Pittsburgh Jam Fest.

Chris Dokish provides a look at Pitt recruiting 2008 through 2010.

There is also a look at 2009 big man target, Aaric Murray.

A couple other big man targets include Zeke Marshall and Mouphtaou Tarou. Brian Crownover of CAA Insider has a look at how they, Dan Jennings and other BE targets did in the King James AAU Tournament.

One of the AAU teams, DC Blue Devils provided a specific report on how some of their players did. Not to mention that another member Talib Zanna — a 6-9 BF/C — is getting interest from Pitt.

Meanwhile, looking at the 2008 NBA Draft, Chad Ford lists players who are in, who aren’t really in and who should have. Sam Young makes his list of players who should have declared this year.

Young is 23 years old and coming off a breakout season. He should’ve struck while the iron was hot.

Louisvlle’s Earl Clark also falls in that category.

The Big East as Andy Katz at writes will be an especially brutal conference.

The Big East had only three players declare early — West Virginia junior Joe Alexander, Marquette junior Jerel McNeal and Syracuse freshman Donte Greene.

So far none have signed with an agent, meaning they all retain their amateur eligibility. Alexander and Greene are projected to go in the first round, with the chance that they could still slide to the second round. That means they may ride it out until the June 16 deadline to withdraw from the draft. McNeal is likely going to return to Marquette.

Connecticut’s Hasheem Thabeet stayed in school, a decision that Villanova coach Jay Wright said amazed him. So, too, did Louisville’s Earl Clark. Pitt’s Sam Young decided against leaving. Marquette’s Dominic James and Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn opted to remain as well. Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody, the Big East’s Player of the Year, didn’t give leaving much of a thought.

“We could have easily lost two or three more guys,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We’re not losing guys. It’s going to be a superstrong league again.”

Of the 15 underclassmen on the first two All-Big East teams last season, 12 are coming back. Seniors accounted for only four of the conference’s top 25 scorers and three of its top 20 rebounders. And there were no seniors among the top nine leaders in assists.

The projected favorites of the league — Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame and Pitt — are all potential Final Four teams.

This is why Marquette has to have extra anxiety with the loss of Crean and hiring an assistant. The way the conference is stacked right now, it is really easy to get buried in the conference. Really easy.

Given the depth and number of returning players and teams nearly intact –UConn, ND, Marquette, Villanova and Pitt all only lose a couple players who seem replaceable –  it is going to be real easy to have a good season and finish 5th or 6th.

Just look at this top-25 projection. Pitt is 2nd. UConn 1st, ND 4th and Louisville 8th. 4 of their top 8 from the BE. Along with G-town Marquette and Villanova in the top-20. WVU is left out for now (probably pending Joe Alexander’s decision).
As you look at that depth and the fact that this season the 3-point line moves to 20-9 — a foot further out — and you do at least get why Coach Jamie Dixon decided he needed to bring in a new JUCO for the shooting guard position rather than risk relying on a freshman to be ready.

While the women’s BE schedule was announced, the men’s won’t be until after June 16 — when the conference will know about which players are staying in the draft. The TV contracts and slightly unbalanced schedule demand waiting. I do expect Pitt to have one of the toughest conference schedules this year.

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