September 19, 2010

Which league race will be the best?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport. We had two questions this week, one Saturday and one today.

TODAY'S QUESTION: We're less than a month away from the start of practice, so that means it's a good time to ask what league race you think will be the most fun to follow this season.

David Fox's answer:
The Big East, with the sheer number of teams and also good teams, usually is the most intriguing race on an annual basis. I think that's the case again this season, though it's tempting to pick the Big Ten. The Big Ten is incredibly competitive at the top, but I don't see the bottom five or six teams in the league being particularly interesting. It's the opposite in the Big East. Villanova, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Georgetown will be among the nation's elite, with West Virginia and Marquette also in the discussion. Connecticut and Louisville were No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament only two years ago. The next tier of the conference could surprise, with St. John's and Seton Hall having veteran rosters and new coaches. That makes any game between the top 11 teams in the Big East must-watch basketball.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I think the three teams that will legitimately vie for the Big Ten title (Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue) will be three of the best teams in the nation, but I think the Big East race will be more entertaining just because I think more teams will be in the mix. It's impossible to pick a preseason favorite in the Big East. In addition, ask 10 basketball fans to pick the top eight teams in order in the league, and I'd bet you'd come up with 10 entirely different answers. The mystery in the Big Ten race is which of the "big three" will win it. But the mystery in the Big East race extends to at least five teams and maybe even seven. That makes the Big East race the one that will be the most fun.

Jason King's answer:
The easy answer here is the Big Ten, where Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State should engage in a conference title race that should be just as entertaining as the one fans were treated to last season. But how about the battle for the championship in the SEC East? Kentucky will be one of the nation's most talented teams - especially if forward Enes Kanter is deemed eligible by the NCAA. But the Wildcats are young and don't have the "elite" kind of talent that made them almost unbeatable last season. That opens the door for much-improved teams at Georgia and Florida. The Bulldogs have two future first-round picks in Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie. Florida has one of the best guards in the league in Erving Walker and a clutch shooter in Chandler Parsons. All three of those teams - along with Tennessee - should contend for the title.

Steve Megargee's answer:
The Big Ten race definitely will be interesting, but the Big East intrigues me most of all. Who's the favorite? I really can't tell. The Big East probably has more quality teams than any other conference, which means it has plenty of legitimate contenders for the conference title. And all have questions. Syracuse must find a go-to guy now that Wes Johnson has departed. Villanova must replace Scottie Reynolds. Pittsburgh must provide Ashton Gibbs with more help. Georgetown must replace Greg Monroe and end its recent history of inconsistency. West Virginia lost Da'Sean Butler. Marquette lost Lazar Hayward. Louisville and Connecticut must bounce back from relatively disappointing seasons. All these teams are capable of making a run at the conference title, but there isn't one team that stands out from the crowd. I'm also interested in seeing how Notre Dame fares in the post-Luke Harangody era and how St. John's and Seton Hall fare under new coaches. Those three teams likely won't compete for the Big East crown, but each is capable of reaching the NCAA tournament.

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