1. Villanova

Last season, the Villanova Wildcats won 24 regular-season games, matching their second-highest total in school history, but even with a No. 2 seed in the NCAA, they barely hung on against Robert Morris (73-70 overtime win) before losing to Omar Samhan and the St. Mary's Gaels. Now the Wildcats must come off their disappointing campaign without their first-team All-American guard and 2,222-point scorer, Scottie Reynolds. He wore down late and the team lacked another go-to player. This season, the Wildcats feature another guard-oriented attack led by seniors Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes. Stepping in to replace Reynolds will be sophomore guards Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek, solid contributors off the bench last year.

Their four-guard attack could become more low-post oriented with the development of Mouphtaou Yarou. He missed the first seven weeks of his freshman year when he was diagnosed with Hepatitis B, but rebounded at the end of the season, as he became the team's lead offensive option, scoring 17 points and securing eight rebounds in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He will be aided by senior Antonia Pena's low-post play, Villanova's leading rebounder with 7 per game. Vying for playing time in the frontcourt rotation is incoming freshman and former-McDonald's All-American JayVaughn Pinkston.

This team seems poised to return to the top of the Big East's elite and advance past the first weekend of postseason play.

Player to watch: Corey Fisher, Guard
  2. Pittsburgh 

Most teams expected Pittsburgh to take a step back last season without star forward DeJuan Blair, however, Ashton Gibbs flourished, leading the Panthers in scoring at 15.7 points and earning the Most Improved Player honors in the Big East. By his side is senior guard/forwards Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown, a former sixth man who will move into the starting role with the departure of Jermaine Dixon. Wanamaker is a tough matchup because of his ability to slash through the lane for buckets or step back behind the arc where he shot 36% last season. But he also does many things without the ball as he averaged nearly 6 rebounds and 5 assists per game. Brown is a prototype NBA-type athlete, but will need to show more consistency in his supporting role. The frontcourt rotation will also feature senior Gary McGhee and former McDonald's All-American Dante Taylor, a disappointment in his first season in Pittsburgh.

Player to watch: Ashton Gibbs, Guard
  3. Syracuse 

Coach Jim Boeheim must deal with the departure of three starters: Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku. Johnson was the conference's player of the year, while Rautins and Onuaku were fifth-year seniors- that's 14 years of college basketball experience and 39.1 points and 17 rebounds that need to be replaced. However, Boeheim returns Brandon Triche to take over the point guard duties, while incoming freshman Dion Waiters will likely start from Day 1 at the other guard spot. Kris Joseph, last year's sixth man, and third leading scorer and rebounder will play one of the wings on the 2-3 zone. He will be counted on for a much-increased role, upping his minutes and production to replace Wes Johnson, a top-five pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Rick Jackson eventually surmounted Onuaku as the top post option last season mid-season, will again lead the way in the front court. He will have a similar role to last year as Syracuse was able to land one of the top center prospects in the nation- Fab Melo. Melo is a 7-footer oozing with potential who should start right away over another 7-footer, sophomore DaShonte Riley.

Will the Orange miss a beat? They won't win 15 Big East Conference games again or lead the league in field goal percentage without Onuaku or finish near the top in 3-point percentage without Rautins and Johnson, but they have the talent to replace their stars and reload for another run.

Player to watch: Kris Joseph, Forward
  4. Georgetown

Despite 23 wins, an opening round NCAA Tournament loss to Ohio overshadowed the Hoyas' season. Even with all-conference forward/center Greg Monroe moving on the NBA, guards Austin Freeman and Chris Wright are big reasons why Georgetown should compete for the Big East title. Add in Jason Clark and John Thompson III returns one of the best backcourts in the nation. The trio averaged 42 points, 10.5 rebounds and almost 9 assists per game. Clark and Freeman were two of the best perimeter shooters in the league, complementing Wright's drive-and-kick abilities. The only thing Georgetown's backcourt needs is more rest- All three guards averaged more than 33 minutes last season.

In the frontcourt, Julian Vaughn, Henry Sims, Jerrelle Benimon and Moses Abraham will have the responsibility to replace Monroe's 16 points and 10 rebounds per game; his playmaking and passing abilities in the frontcourt will be sorely missed. Vaughn faded down the stretch, but possesses the power low-post game to demand attention away from the guard attack.

Player to watch: Austin Freeman, Guard
  5. West Virginia 

What can Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers do for an encore to 31 wins, a Big East Tournament championships and a Final Four appearance? It will be difficult to follow last season up without Da'Sean Butler, the team's leading scorer and heart and soul as well as the versatile Devin Ebanks. West Virginia does return a wealth of experienced players, including budding-star Kevin Jones. Jones was the second-leading scorer and rebounder from last year's squad as well as the top 3-point shooter, knocking down over 40% of his attempts. Joining him in the frontcourt and helping to replace Butler and Ebanks are the athletic forward John Flowers and WVU muscle-men Deniz Kilicli and Danny Jennings. Dilicli could be the best of the bunch but played sparingly in 15 games after returning from an NCAA enforced suspension for his eligibility playing in Turkey. Freshman Kevin Noreen could see some time as well.

In the backcourt, Darryl "Truck" Bryant and Joe Mazulla return to play the point, while Huggins also brings in in-state product Noah Cottrill to compete for time. Bryant and Mazulla specialize in their defensive abilities and are simply asked to set up the offense, but both are returning veterans with injury concerns.

The Mountaineers will again rally around their defense, the No. 2 scoring defense in the league last season. Their inability to make shots from the field (.430 from the field, 12th in the conference) will hurt them, especially without Butler's and Ebanks' big play ability this season.

Player to watch: Kevin Jones, Forward
  6. St. John's

Steve Lavin has a history of winning, which is exactly what the Red Storm need after sporting a 17-16 overall record last season. Lavin will be in charge with getting St. John's back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002. With nine seniors and four starters returning, the Red Storm could surprise if they buy into Lavin's system. Leading the way is D.J. Kennedy, a 6'5" swingman who topped the team in scoring (15.1 points per game), rebounds (6.1 rpg), assists (3.1 apg) and 3-point shooting (38.3%). He needed assistance from a low-post scorer which figures to be a committee of players in Sean Evans a bulky 6'8" forward, Justin Burrell, an inside-outside threat, and Justin Brownlee. A late addition could be the difference. Dwayne Polee Jr., a 6'7" swingman with tremendous scoring and rebounding abilities was the Los Angeles City Player of the year last season for Westchester High.

Paris Horne and Malik Boote are two more seniors whose scoring and playmaking will be counted on. The two combined to average 14 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, but Horne seems poised to build upon last season's breakout campaign. Dwight Hardy suffered a knee injury late in the season, but showed enough (10.5 points per game, 38.3% from 3-point range) to merit more playing time if healthy.

An experienced coach with a track record of winning along with nine returning senior contributors could mean the Red Storm are back this season.

Player to watch: D.J. Kennedy, Guard-Forward
  7. Norte Dame 

The Fighting Irish will have much fighting to do to stay in the top-half of the Big East with four-year contributors Luke Harangody and Tory Jackson gone to graduation. These two players led Notre Dame to more wins over a four-year period than any other players in Notre Dame basketball history. Replacing Harangody, the program's all-time second-leading scorer and rebounder, may actually be easier to replace than Jackson. Harangody missed some games down the stretch and was replaced with the production of Tim Abromaitis, Tyrone Nash and Carleton Scott. Abromaitis emerged as one of the top perimeter scorers in the Big East where he averaged 18+ points per game in league play. He was just short of the rare-shooting tri-fecta of the 50-40-90 club; he finished shooting 49.5% from the floor, 42.9% from behind the arc, and 87.3% from the charity stripe. By his side, Carleton Scott and Tyrone Nash found comfort in Mike Brey's offensive system. Now can they continue to provide steady contributions on both ends of the court?

Ben Hansbrough becomes the top choice to handle the basketball with Tory Jackson out of South Bend. He is fitting of the part with a superb 2.4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in addition to his 12 points and 41.4% shooting from behind the arc. Purdue transfer, Scott Martin, missed last season with a knee injury, but Brey has called the senior the most talented and versatile scorer he has ever coached. Adding depth at both guard spots will be Eric Atkins, a highly regarded freshman point guard, and Alex Dragicevich, a 6'6" combo guard.

Player to watch: Tim Abromaitis, Guard-Forward
  8. Connecticut 

Last season, the Huskies did what they do best in block shots and field-goal percentage defense, but finished with just 18 wins and a NIT appearance because of their inability to make shots and take care of the ball. Coach Jim Calhoun loses three veteran starters- Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson and Gavin Edwards, meaning this season could be another rocky year. Junior guard Kemba Walker is one of the quickest guards in the country and is armed with tremendous scoring abilities. He will need support from senior wing Donnell Beverly and rising freshman Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier. Lamb is just 165-pouns, but is an excellent scorer from the perimeter, just what UConn needs after finishing last in the conference with a 31% 3-point shooting percentage. Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, the athletic 6'7" wing is looking to bounce back from a horrendous shooting first-year, will be pushed by an even longer perimeter threat, 6'8" Roscoe Smith, the top rated freshman in UConn's class.

The Huskies' success will depend on an unproven frontcourt. Alex Oriakhi was a Big East All-Rookie Team pick last season after averaging 6.6 rebounds per contest. He needs to improve his offensive repertoire and emerge as the inside force that he has the potential to be. By his side will be the ever-developing Nigerian center Charles Okwandu who will simply be counted on as a defensive presence. Freshman Michael Bradley is a project who needs to add strength to his 6'10", but may be counted on to contribute based on lack of depth.

Player to watch: Kemba Walker, Guard
  9. Marquette 

Buzz Williams led his undersized squad to 22 wins and an NCAA Tournament appearance. Inside-outside star Lazar Hayward (18.1 points, 7.5 rebounds), along with guards Maurice Acker (8.7 points, 3.7 assists) and David Cubillan (6.8 points, 2.7 assists), three players averaging almost 30+ minutes each are gone. Jimmy Butler is a rising star in his senior season. The 6'7" wing averaged 15 points, 6 rebounds and made 16 of his 32 3-point attempts last year.  Also returning is fellow-wing Darius Johnson-Odom, a 6'2" guard, one of the top 3-point shooters in the nation. The lefty will need to cut down on his team-high 68 turnovers and improve his sub-70% free-throw shooting. Joining the rotation are two fresh faces, Vander Blue and Jae Crowder. Blue played on the Under-18 Championship team for Team USA in the FIBA Americas Tournament as the team's lockdown defender, but he is a tremendously versatile player who will gain experience at all three guard spots. Crowder, a junior college transfer, was the NJCAA Player of the Year who averaged 19 points and 9 rebounds at Howard College in Texas.

If Maruqette can continue to take care of the basketball and emphasize high percentage shots, they can overcome their lack of depth and size to finish near the top of the Big East.

Player to watch: Jimmy Butler, Guard-Forward
  10. Seton Hall 

Head Coach Bobby Gonzalez led Seton Hall to their first postseason berth in four years, however, he did so by almost destroying the program. Taking over is Kevin Willard, the former Iona head coach who turned around their program from a 2-28 to a 21-game winner last season. He will have plenty of talent left over, but it's a matter of getting that talent on the court. Herb Pope, one of the most underrated big men in the country is extremely talented but has a troubled past that worries scouts and coaches. Just as he seemed poised to turn things around, he was ejected in the first half of the NIT opening round for a below-the-belt cheap shot on a Texas Tech player. And then over the summer, he collapsed during a NBA Draft workout. He, along with Jeremy Hazell and Jeff Robinson, tested the draft waters but return to school. If Pope is not able to play, Willard will be in trouble with inexperienced, undersized options. Willard brings in Patrik Auda and Aaron Geramipoor, two big men from the Canarias Basketball Academy have a chance to gain immediate playing time. The backcourt, however, is one of the Pirates' biggest strengths. They return 20-point per game scorer, Hazell, along with Keon Lawrence and Jordan Theodore to replace four-year starter Eugene Harvey who has exhausted his eligibility. Seton Hall also got a boost when Eniel Polynice transferred from Ole Miss- he averaged 9 points and four assists last season for the rebels.

Without Pope cleared to play, the Pirates become a much smaller, quicker team that will struggle to score around the rim and rebound.

Player to watch: Jeremy Hazell, Guard
  11. Louisville

After two straight Elite 8 appearances, the Cardinals backtracked to a 15-point loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. To make matters worse, the team lost four starters including Samardo Samuels, Louisville's top scorer and rebounder last season. The current top scorer on the roster is forward Jared Swopshire with 7.5 points per game last season. Pitino brought in a seven-man recruiting class but he hopes that two talented pieces can step up and lead the way. Former-five-star recruit, Terrence Jennings will play significantly more minutes this season with Samuels gone, but is offensively raw. Peyton Siva is the other player Pitino can't wait to put on the court; he is another former five-star recruit. The 5'11" point guard is a playmaking pass-first point guard, but won't have many options to pass to as this will certainly be a down year for the Cardinals.

Player to watch: Terrence Jennings, Forward
  12. Cininnati  

Cincinnati will have a difficult time repeating last year's seven conference wins and 19 wins overall without its top scorers, Deonta Vaughn who exhausted his eligibility and Lance Stephenson who moved on to the Indiana Pacers of the NBA. Coach Mick Cronin is counting on a breakout year from junior forward Yancy Gates, who has displayed flashes of potential, but has yet to put it together for a full season; he averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds in three games in the Maui Invitational last year, but his numbers dropped over the course of the season. Ibrahima Thomas, 6'11" transfer from Oklahoma State, will need to become more of an offensive force for the Bearcats.

For a team that struggled to score last season, this year won't be much easier. Redshirt freshman Sean Kilpatrick could pick up some of the offense. He is a 6'4", 210-pound guard who moves well without the ball and can step in and knock down shots.

Player to watch: Yancy Gates, Forward
  13. South Florida

The Bulls are looking to build on their breakthrough season, but things will be difficult for a team that lost one of college basketball's stars in Dominique Jones. USF's NCAA draught will likely be extended to 19 seasons. The bright spot on this year's squad is the frontcourt, led by Gus Gilcrhist and Jarrid Famous. Gilchrist averaged 13 points and 6 rebounds, scoring from the low blocks or stepping out to the perimeter and knocking down a 3-point field goal. His breakout year was decimated in December when he suffered a high ankle sprain and was no-where near as effective when he returned. But will Gilchrist and Famous have the guard play to distribute the ball and keep the double-teams away? Returning junior guard Anthony Crater and junior college transfer Shedrick Haynes will be counted on heavily.

Player to watch: Gus Gilchrist, Forward-Center
  14. Rutgers

Without even coaching a minute for Rutgers, Mike Rice has already impacted the program through his recruiting skills. He signed 6'4" sharpshooter Austin Carroll, forward Gilvydas Biruta for this upcoming year and received a commitment from Kadeem Jack, a top-ranked power forward for 2011 after a year at prep school. Even though Rutgers lost Mike Rosario and Greg Echenique before Mike Rice got to school, Rutgers hopes are up. They return Dane Miller, a 6'7" small forward who finished just behind Lance Stephenson for Big East Rookie of the Year. Also returning to the frontcourt is Jonathan Mitchell, a 12-point 6 rebound per game player a year ago. Biruta will see significant time this year as will fellow incoming freshman Mike Poole. A significant addition to the backcourt is Tyree Graham, a former Texas Tech transfer and junior college guard who averaged 17 points and 6 assists last season. Rutgers is still a few years away, but it's a nice start for Mike Rice.

Player to watch: Dane Miller, Forward
  15. Providence

Providence lost only two seniors to graduation from last year's 12-19 team. The returning talent set the Friars up to climb out of the cellar of the Big East, however three players were then dismissed from the team including Jamine Peterson, a double-double waiting to happen with his 20-point, 10-rebound per game average. The program must move on without him and focus on returning center, Bilal Dixon and red-shirt freshman Kadeem Batts. Marshon Brooks, a 6'5" small forward will also be asked to play some frontcourt minutes this season with the lack of depth. Guard production will be heavily counted on from Gerard Coleman, a 6'4" athlete with excellent scoring instincts. However, as good as Providence may be, the team still needs to be able to stop the opponent. The Friars finished last in scoring defense, allowing 82.2 points per game.

Player to watch: Gerard Coleman, Guard
  16. DePaul

Oliver Purnell has rebuilt several programs during his coaching tenure, but DePaul is a large task looming ahead. The Blue Demons have won just one regular-season conference game over the past two seasons, sporting a 1-35 record and the team losses its top two players from a year ago too. There isn't much remaining talent- only one player averaged more than 7 points per game last season, Mike Stovall. Stovall will be DePaul's featured scorer this upcoming season and the star on defense as well. His aggressive defense will fit right into Purnell's pressing style.

Player to watch: Mike Stovall, Guard
Big East Preview
The Big East has been the conference under the most construction- this season, West Virginia heads to the Big 12, while consistent hoops competitors Syracuse and Pittsburgh are on their farewell tour. For a conference that has set records for its teams making NCAA Tournament appearances, this is the last hurrah of its year-after-year regular-season dominance.

3 Burning Questions

Will Syracuse re-load?

In short, yes. This team still has plenty of talent left-over. Sure, they lost three starters and their sixth man and sure these contributors were the top-scorers, rebounders and set-up men on the roster, but Jim Boeheim went 10-deep in his rotation last year. His depth is heightened by the physical development and maturation of players like Michael Carter-Williams, Baye Moussa Keita and CJ Fair, while adding in two talented rookies, DaJuan Coleman and Jerami Grant, to bolster Syracuse's frontcourt talent.

Can former powers re-load?

There has never been a season in the Big East that featured both Villanova and Pittsburgh at the bottom of the barrel, so both the Wildcats and Pittsburgh are out to prove 2011-12 was just a fluke. Pittsburgh has a better likelihood of returning to conference contention in their farewell tour as point guard Tray Woodall (11.7 points, 6.1 assists) is back from a nagging-injury and Jamie Dixon has part-time starters Talib Zanna and Dante Taylor back to anchor the frontcourt. One of them will be relegated to the bench as New Zealand-er Steven Adams, a physically-imposing center, is one of the top talents in the freshman class.

Villanova has more of a challenge on their hands with Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek departing early for the NBA Draft (and both going unselected), but this team, given the talent on their roster, drastically under-performed a year ago. The frontcourt will be a point of strength with the bulky Mouhtaou Yarou and the husky JayVaughn Pinkston combining for 20 points per game. Jay Wright brought along Daniel Ochefu, a 6'9", 225-pound power forward to come in and compete right away and enhance depth up front. And while the backcourt has been severely compromised, point guard Ryan Arcidiacono will pair nicely with James Bell on the wing.

Will Louisville return to the Final Four?

Despite finishing seventh in the regular-season standings, the Cardinals caught fire late in the year, winning eight straight before bowing out at the end of March to eventual champion, Kentucky. The losses of Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith hurt more on paper than they will to the team on the floor. Peyton Siva will still handle the reigns of the team. Rising-sophomore Wayne Blackshear returns from injury for a full season of health and NBA dreams, while classmate Kevin Ware will come off the bench and offer just as much potential, athleticism and scoring punch.

Up front, Rick Pitino brings back starters Chane Behanan, a 240-pound ball of muscle with a face-up game that helps combat a lack of size at 6'7", but also shot-blocking extraordinaire, Gorgui Dieng, with the length and athleticism to serve as the next great defensive key. George Mason-transfer, Luke Hancock is eligible after sitting out last season, adding depth and inside-outside scoring.

Not only does Louisville have experience and confidence, but the talent to back up their improbably run a year ago and make this year's run much more predictable.
Conference Rankings
1. Louisville

Louisville Cardinals: The Big East's representative in the final weekend of March should be back to headline the conference again in 2012-13. Rick Pitino did lose two of his top three scorers (Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith), but that opens up the door for two rising-sophomores who are certainly talented, but saw limited action due to the log jam- guards Wayne Blackshear and Kevin Ware. Both have good size, strength and athleticism to complement the slashing abilities of point guard Peyton Siva, one of the nation's best playmakers.

Expect great production from starting forwards Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng, yet, it will still seemingly fly under the radar. Behanan can muscle his way on the inside or knock down the mid-range jumper to spread the floor, while Dieng's offensive game is much-further behind, but he makes up for it with his length and athleticism as a shot-blocker.

Where Louisville will really miss Kuric and Smith is on the perimeter- they were the team's best two three-point shooters a year ago, combining for nearly 150 of the Cardinals' 233 makes from behind the arc. George Mason-transfer, Luke Hancock, a versatile wing, automatically becomes the team's best 3-point shooter and will give Pitino options off the bench.

Player to watch: Wayne Blackshear, Guard
  2. Syracuse

Regular-season champion, Syracuse, lost three starters (leading-scorer Kris Joseph, Defensive Player of the Year, Fab Melo, top assist-man Scoop Jardine) and the Big East's Sixth Man of the Year, Dion Waiters. That's a heck of a lot of impact players gone from a 34-win team, but coach Jim Boeheim had the luxury of going 10-deep last season, so filling the voids won't be too hard. Brandon Triche (9.4 points, 2.6 assists) will run the point, splitting time with the high expectations of sophomore Michael Carter-Williams (2.8 points, 2.2 assists). The combo-guard couldn't quite crack the crowded backcourt, but should easily take over a starting gig and key role with the '12-'13 Orange. 

In the frontcourt, as the team learned when Fab Melo was out due to suspension, his shot-blocking was sorely missed. Syracuse will go smaller, quicker and more athletic with stretch forwards James Southerland (6.8 points, 3.1 rebounds) and C.J. Fair (8.5 points, 5.4 rebounds) locking down starting spots. Rakeem Christmas, a top recruit a year ago, will "start" again and hopefully build on last season's 10.8 minutes per game. Off the bench, Baye Moussa Keita (2.3 rebounds, 1.0 blocks) brings very good shot-blocking, but not much on the offensive end of the floor. Freshmen DaJuan Coleman, a massive, massive force at 6'10", 280 pounds offers a post-presence and can finish with either hand, and combo-forward Jerami Grant, should impact the rotation right away.

Player to watch: Michael Carter-Williams, Guard
  3. Notre Dame

Mike Brey's lone loss from last season's 22-win squad and third-place finisher in the Big East was '11-'12 pre-season conference first-teamer, Tim Abromaitis, but injuries prevented him from playing in only two games. Other than that, the Fighting Irish return everyone: power forward Jack Cooley (12.5 points, 8.9 rebounds), guards Jerian Grant (12.3 points, 5.0 assists), Eric Atkins (12.1 points, 4.1 assists) and even sixth-year senior Scott Martin (9.5 points, 5.7 rebounds). Cooley was named to the second-team All-Big East squad and the conference's Most Improved Player, but he really didn't hit his stride until about ten games in when he started to get regular minutes.

The guard play of Atkins and Grant will again be key- the two paced the team last season, helping Notre Dame push for the sixth best assist-to-turnover ratio in the country (1.45:1), while simultaneously locking down opposing guards and forcing turnovers.

Player to watch: Jerian Grant, Guard
  4. Marquette

Marquette finished second in the conference during the regular-season behind Buzz Williams' aggressive, in-your-face strategy. With superb athleticism at every position, it didn't matter that the Golden Eagles were undersized, they attacked  offensively, defensively and hit the glass hard. While Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder and his scoring-mate Darius Johnson-Odom are both gone, Marquette has solid perimeter players in combo-guard Vander Blue, point guard Junior Cadougan and reserve 2-guard Todd Mayo. 6'5" Arizona State transfer Trent Lockett will likely start at the 3 given his size and rebounding ability. It's a toss-up between Lockett and Blue as the team's best player, but still, the Golden Eagles have a collective team-first approach. The frontcourt has questions surrounding Davante Gardner, a productive player in limited minutes due to his massive size, and Chris Otule in the middle who is coming off a season-ending injury.

Player to watch: Vander Blue, Guard
  5. Pittsburgh

With injuries, a transfer and stars struggling, Pitt still managed to hit a 22-win plateau and the season ended with a CBI championship, not an NCAA Tournament appearance. Three starters return plus some solid depth led by point guard Tray Woodall and his 11.1 points, 5.9 assists per game. His injury handcuffed the team, shifting now-graduated Ashton Gibbs to an irregular position of point guard. Lamar Patterson (9.6 points, 5.3 rebounds), Talib Zanna (6.3 points, 5.5 rebounds), Dante Taylor (5.8 points, 4.9 rebounds) and J.J. Moore (7.5 points, 2.9 rebounds) all return to the frontcourt and add one of the top centers in freshman Steven Adams from New Zealand, who should be an immediate impact player. Another newcomer, transfer-Trey Zeigler, will be eligible to start at 2-guard from Day 1 and help this team bounce back quickly in their swan song season.

Player to watch: Steven Adams, Forward
  6. Georgetown

Georgetown lost two key seniors, Jason Clark and Henry Sims, and swingman Hollis Thompson, making them the most-likely candidate to fall hard this season. While Sims was not a superstar by any means, the late-blooming center in the middle was the best-passing big man in the country, and Jason Clark, a first-team All-Big East talent, as well as Thompson (honorable mention) means this team is lacking outside shooting. Otto Porter is ready to step into the spot-light as a versatile forward, capable of playing both inside and out. The Hoyas' success will be directly linked to the production and leadership of the 6'8" forward. Point guard Markel Starks, a former highly-touted recruit, is handed the reins at point, but averaged just 1.6 assists and 7.1 points last season. Center Nate Lubick, a coach's dream player with his hustle and fundamentals, will give John Thompson III adequate production, but four-star recruits D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Stephen Domingo will be counted on early and often.

Player to watch: Otto Porter, Forward
  7. Cincinnati

The Bearcats' brawl with Xavier helped mask their slow start and seemed to propel their turnaround when they finished with 26 overall wins, 12 of which were in conference play. Although Yancy Gates (12.2 points, 8.9 rebounds) and his mean right-hook are gone, there is some potential for another season of 20+ win success behind the play of the backcourt. Shooting guard Sean Kilpatrick is often overlooked despite his team-leading 14.3 points and second-team All-Big East selection a year ago. While the Beatcats were known primarily for their defensive play, Kilpatrick and his 92 3-point makes led the conference. Point guard Cashmere Wright (10.9 points, 4.6 assists) and tough-minded wing Jaquon Parker (9.4 points, 5.6 rebounds) return to the lineup as well. The frontcourt will be highlighted by first-year eligible Shaquille Thomas, more of a small forward at 6'6", but that will have to do for a team lacking other options.

Player to watch: Sean Kilpatrick, Guard
  8. Connecticut

Regardless of their success or failure on the court this season, the Huskies will be left out of the 2013 NCAA Tournament per the NCAA's APR standards. The result has left UConn without early-draft entrants Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb and transfers Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith. But even still, the Huskies have talent to finish in the upper-half of the Big East. Electric point guard Ryan Boatright (10.4 points, 4.0 assists) will play his first full-season after missing time last year due to various NCAA inquiries. He is a dynamic playmaker versus the more stagnant play of point-guard wannabe Shabazz Napier (13.0 points, 5.8 assists) who continually takes the team out of an offensive rhythm. Freshman Omar Calhoun will be counted on in a big way and should crack an undersized three-guard lineup. Tyler Olander and DeAndre Daniels have some size and length, but lack the bulk to battle down low and there's really no depth behind them.

Player to watch: DeAndre Daniels, Forward
  9. St. John's

Surprise! The Red Storm are still one of the youngest teams in the country, just with a roster of second-year players and a couple more freshmen added to the mix. 6'3" guard D'Angelo Harrison led the team in scoring a year ago with 16.8 points, but managed to shoot just .374 percent from the floor. Starting point guard Phil Greene didn't make things much easier for anyone with his playmaking (2.9 assists, 1.8 turnovers) or his shooting (.367 field-goal mark). Greene will eventually be unseated by Texas A&M-transfer Jamal Branch when Branch becomes eligible in December. God'sgift Achiuwa is one of the better frontcourt players in the conference due to his size and strength, but he averaged just six field-goal attempts per game as the starting center. He needs to be more aggressive and if not, he will be pushed by four-star recruits Jakarr Sampson and Christopher Obekpa.

Player to watch: D'Angelo Harrison, Guard
  10. Providence

Providence has some tools to escape the cellar quickly, but it's all a matter of how things pan out from here. Top scorers Vincent Council (15.9 points, 7.5), one of the Big East's and nation's most underrated guards, Bryce Cotton (14.3 points) and LaDontae Henton (14.3 points, 8.6 rebounds) are back in uniform along with one of the best recruiting classes in program history featuring two big-time guards Ricky Ledo and Kris Dunn. There's a cloud surrounding Ledo's future due to a shoulder injury and even some eligibility concerns on top of that, but Dunn is an excellent point guard to build around.

Player to watch: Recardo Ledo, Guard
  11. Rutgers

It's been quite some time since Rutgers has been relevant in the Big East, dare we speak too soon? They return nearly their entire roster with the only turnover being forward Gilvydas Biruta (transfer). The youth on this team (5 of their top 6 minute earners were freshmen or sophomores last season) should develop and lead this team. Look for point guard Myles Mack to break out as a sophomore, while Eli Carter continues his solid play. Dane Miller is a proven upperclassman contributor at one forward spot, while Mike Rice is hoping that Kadeem Jack, a highly-touted recruit who underperformed as a freshman, will take big strides in his second-season.

Player to watch: Eli Carter, Guard
  12. South Florida

Based on the history of success for the Bulls, 3 total Tournament appearances, last season was an overwhelming success. Coach Stan Heath slowed the game down and had his team really dig in on defense. The offense was never pretty, but it was just good enough to get the job done. As a follow-up, three senior starters have graduated, including leading-scorer, Gus Gilchrist. This team will be built around rising-sophomore point guard Anthony Collins (9.0 points, 5.2 assists) and his ability to create for himself, as well as be counted on to run a hopefully better-looking offense. After a solid NCAA Tournament, Victor Rudd Jr. is back after testing the NBA Draft process; if he wants to have any shot at hearing his name called next June, Rudd Jr. will need to step up his offensive game.

Player to watch: Victor Rudd Jr., Forward
  13. Seton Hall

Every year, Seton Hall finds themselves on the NCAA Tournament bubble late in the season, only to burst their own bubble before too long. With point guard Jordan Theodore and power forward Herb Pope graduating, the Pirates are down a tremendous amount of production, but the Brightside is that after the duo, there's plenty of youth and depth, just not a whole lot of talent. The best of the bunch is clearly Fuquan Edwin, a very good defensive wing with a developing offensive game. If Texas-transfer Sterling Gibbs is eligible, the Pirates might crawl their way out of the cellar, but even so, it'll be extremely difficult to reach half the number of wins they had a year ago.

Player to watch: Fuquan Edwin, Guard-Forward
  14. DePaul

Cleveland Melvin is one of the most underrated players given his productivity levels (18 points, 7.4 rebounds), yet doesn't get the recognition in large part because his team does not win. Guards Brandon Young (14.5 points, 4.7 assists) and Moses Morgan (9.0 points in 19.6 minutes) also return, but the problem with the Blue Demons is defensive efficiency. They ranked 332nd in points allowed with 76.7 per game, and 336th in opponents' field-goal percentage when they allowed a scorching-hot .482 field-goal mark against. That will make it very difficult to move up in the Big East.

Player to watch: Cleveland Melvin, Forward