Once again time for the SEC/Big East Challenge. This event started in 2007 and the Big East has the edge with a 16-12 record. Last year they won 8-4. Check out my previews and predictions of Syracuse at Arkansas and DePaul at Auburn.
Coach: Jim Boeheim (36 seasons at Syracuse 890-304)
2011-12: Record 34-3 overall, 17-1 in Big East (1st)
Starters Returning (2) Brandon Triche, Rakeem Christmas
Preseason Tournament: Gotham Classic
Top Non-Conference Games: vs. San Diego State, at Arkansas
Transfer In: Michael Gbinjie (Syracuse)
Sat Out: Trevor Cooney (redshirt)
Early Departure: Dion Waiters, Fab Melo
The Orange had a great regular season last year only losing 1 game in Big East play. However, they failed to make the Final Four somewhere they haven’t been since 2003. The Orange do lose 3 of their 4 scores off last year’s team but they is plenty of talent at Syracuse. Last year the Orange was the deepest team in the country, so their reverse from last year have plenty of experience. Boeheim also once again brings in 2 very talented recruits. The Orange are headed to the ACC next season.
Leading Syracuse in the backcourt will be Brandon Triche (9.4 ppg). Triche is a very versatile guard, so far in his career he has done it all to off guard to point guard. Triche made the 2nd most threes on the team last year and he can also attack the rim. Joining Triche in the backcourt will be Michael Carter-Williams (2.7 ppg). Although he is 6’5” he is a very good ballhandler and will likely run the point guard duties. He averaged 10 minutes per game last season and he still managed 2.1 assists pg. Williams is also a great athlete that can score in a multiple of ways. Depth could be a concern here mainly because of inexperience and lack of numbers. The top option off the bench will be redshirt freshman Trevor Cooney. His biggest strength is his shooting ability. The rest of the depth will come from a host of walk ons.
The Cuse will have a talented frontcourt with plenty of depth here unlikely the backcourt. Leading the way here will be small forward C.J. Fair (8.5 ppg). Fair was the 2nd leading rebounder for the Cuse last season. He is very athletic as he can play on the wing or inside. He does most of his scoring damage inside or with his midrange game. At power forward it will likely be Rakkem Christmas (2.8 ppg). He started a lot last season but did not see a lot of minutes that will change this season. He is a fine rebounder and shot blocker but he needs to work on his offensive game. At center will be five star freshman DaJuan Coleman. Coleman is a big body that is a back to the basket player that has great post moves, hands, and strength. The top option off the bench will be James Southerland (6.8 ppg). Southerland is a versatile player that can knock down the three. Also providing depth will be Baye Keita (2.3 ppg) and freshman Jerami Grant. Keita is another strong rebounder and shot blocker. While Grant is another versatile athletic forward.
Coach: Mike Anderson (1 season at Arkansas 18-14) Overall 218-111, 10 years
2011-12: Record 18-14 overall, 6-10 in SEC (9th)
Starters Returning (2 ) Mardracus Wade, Rickey Scott
Preseason Tournament: Las Vegas Invitational
Top Non-Conference Games: vs. Syracuse, vs. Oklahoma, at Michigan
Transfer Out: Julysses Nobles, (Devonta Abron TCU)
Transfer In : Alandise Harris (Houston), Fred Gulley (eligible after first semester)
Sat Out: Marshawn Powell (Injured)
Last season was an up and down season for the Razorbacks. The starting out hot at 15-5 looking like an NCAA tournament team but they were could down the stretch just going 3-9. Mike Anderson is on his way to rebuilding this program, as they have a quality roster this season with no seniors. They return their top 3 scorers from last season and bring back another top player backer from injury.
Leading for Arkansas in the backcourt is point guard BJ Young (15.3 ppg), who flirted with the NBA but came back to school. Young is just a flat out scorer . He can shoot over 40 % from three and he can take the ball to the rim with his athletic ability. He needs to improve his passing skills. Also joining Young in the backcourt are guards Rickey Scott (9.1 ppg) and Mardracus Wade (10.8 ppg). The 3 guard lineup allows Anderson to use his style of basketball. Wade is a flat out deadly shooter shooting 48 % from three last season will Scott was a top rebounder from his guard spot last season. Scott also led the team in assists last year. The top option off the bench will be Rashad Madden (6.6 ppg). Also providing depth will be 3 freshman Michael Qualls, Anthlon Bell and DeQuavious Wagner and Davion Spivey. This unit will get a boost when Oklahoma State transfer Fred Gully becomes eligible after the first semester.
Arkansas receives a boost in the frontcourt with Marshawn Powell(19.5 ppg), who is returning from an injury. He played in just 2 games last season and nearly averaged 20 points. Powell uses his strength and toughness to score inside. Joining Powell in the frontcourt is center Hunter Mickelson (5.2 ppg). Mickelson is one of the top shot blockers in the SEC. Depth will be a concern here with only two players really providing that depth in Coty Clarke and freshman JaCorey Williams.
Prediction: Syracuse over Arkansas-The Razorbacks might have the best player on the court in BJ Young but Syracuse has the depth. About 5 players on the Orange can go off in any given night. Syracuse guard Michael Carter Williams is averaging 10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 9.3 assists and 4 steals so far on this young season. The Razorbacks will have no answer for the athletic wings of the Cuse in James Southerland, Brandon Triche and C.J. Fair.
Coach: Oliver Purnell (two seasons at DePaul 19-43 ) Overall 413-322, 24 years
2011-12: Record 12-19 overall, 3-15 in Big East (16th)
Starters Returning (4) Cleveland Melvin, Brandon Young, Jamee Crockett, Charles McKinney
Preseason Tournament: Cancun Challenge
Top Non-Conference Games: At Auburn, At Arizona Sate
Transfers Out : Tony Freeland (Long Beach State)
Sat Out: Montray Clemons (injury)
Poor DePaul they have been the Big East’s worst team for a while now. For the past four years they have finished in the basement of the Big East. The good thing for third year head coach Oliver Purnell is this will be his best and most experienced team. The bad news this same roster only won 3 Big East games last season.
The leader for the Blue Demons is no doubt Cleveland Melvin (17.5 ppg). He is the highest returning scorer in the Big East. He is a very athletic power forward that is very versatile. Joining Melvin in the frontcourt will be center Derrell Robertson Jr (.8 ppg). He will of course need to score more this season. Providing depth in the frontcourt will be Donnavan Kirk (3.5 ppg) and Montray Clemons. Clemons sat out with an injury last season. At small forward Mosses Morgan (9 ppg) is the team’s best three point shooter. Look for freshman DeJaun Marrero and Jodan Price to battle for playing time behind Morgan. Update Marrero will miss the season due to a ACL tear.
DePaul will be led in the backcourt by point guard Brandon Young (14.5). Young knows how to score but must improve his three point shooting. He is the returning leader in the Big East for assist to turnover ratio. Worrel Clahar(6 ppg) is a very capable backup at the point. The Blue Demons have plenty of experience at the shooting guard position with Jamee Crockett (8.6 ppg) and Charles McKinney (4.2 ppg). Crockett is super athletic and McKinney is an excellent defender. True freshman Durrell McDonald will also provide depth.
Coach: Tony Barbee (two seasons at Auburn 26-36 ) Overall 108-88 ,6 years
2011-12: Record 15-16 overall, 5-11 in Big East (Tie/10th)
Starters Returning (2) Frankie Sullivan, Rob Chubb
Preseason Tournament: Charleston Classic
Top Non-Conference Games: vs. DePaul, at Boston College, vs. Florida State
Transfers Out : Willy Kouassi (Kennesaw); Bernard Morena (Kennesaw State);
Transfers In: K.T. Harrell (Virginia)
Gone: Josh Langford and Cedric McAfee (Both kicked off the team)
It’s been a very bad off season for the Auburn basketball program. Head coach Tony Barbee had to kick 2 players off the team and 2 more players transferred. Also one of their players from last season Varez Ward was investigated by the FBI for a point shaving allegation.
Frankie Sullivan (12.6ppg) returns as the Tigers leading scorer from last season. He wasn’t even playing at 100 % last season after missing the year before with an injury. Sullivan will likely handle more of the point guard duties this season. Providing depth at point guard is Josh Wallace (3.4 ppg); he is probably the team’s best passer. Battling for the starting spot at shooting guard will be Chris Denson (8.7ppg) and highly touted freshman Jordan Price. Price will get the start now with Denson battling grade issues. Also providing depth in the backcourt is freshman Brian Green Jr. The Tigers will get a boost next season when Virginia transfer KT Harrell becomes eligible.
Leading the way for the Tigers inside will be senior Rob Chubb (8.1 ppg). Chubb is a pretty good rebounder but he will need to improve his shooting percentage. Joining Chubb inside will be Allen Payne (4.3 ppg), who is very undersized at power forward. He had has season cut short because of an knee injury. Look for freshman Shaquille Johnson to start at the power forward position; he is very athletic. If not the starting nod will go to Noel Johnson (2.1 ppg), who transferred into Auburn last season from Clemson. Providing the depth will be JUCO transfer Asauhn Dixon-Tatum and Sharief Adamu plus Freshman Jordan Granger.
Prediction- DePaul over Auburn- Both teams have really struggled thus far in the young season. I am going with the Blue Demons because they will have the two best players on the court in Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young.