Big East Summer Roundup: Louisville, Syracuse in title chase
Enjoy a season of (relative) normalcy before 2013's musical chairs.
Aresco will be tasked with landing the league a fat deal when its current contract expires after the upcoming basketball season, no small task given its potentially diminished appeal in a post-realignment world. But Aresco knows the field. Since 1996 he had been CBS Sports' college czar and before that he spent a dozen years at ESPN, where he also oversaw the acquisition and programming of college sports. Among Aresco's stated goals: "I want the schools that left to regret leaving." The job starts at the negotiating table next week, the beginning of the Big East's exclusive negotiating window with ESPN, and the conference's future health will depend on it.
The Big East has a few strong recruiting hauls: Pitt landing 6-10 Kiwi center Steven Adams and point guard James Robinson, Syracuse bringing in big man DaJuan Coleman and power forward Jerami Grant, rebuilding Villanova signing a pair of strong local products in big man Daniel Ochefu and point guard Ryan Arcidiacono. But it was Ed Cooley and Providence that made the most noise -- that is, until what should have been an unmitigated cause for celebration became a more complicated, potentially delayed batch of gratification.
The Friars' top-10 class was headlined by hometown signee Ricardo Ledo, a dangerous 6-6 perimeter scorer. But Ledo, who attended four high schools in five years, remains in NCAA eligibility purgatory, even meeting with officials last week. McDonald's All-American Kris Dunn, arguably the 2012 class's top point guard prospect, found out in June that he tore the labrum in his right shoulder in March, requiring surgery that will likely keep him sidelined until midseason and could mean redshirting. The same fate may await three-star point guard recruit Ian Baker, who tore an ACL during an open gym this summer. This was shaping up to be an exciting fall in Providence, but now it will be interesting to see when (or for that matter, whether) this vaunted class comes to fruition.
Buzz Williams kept his team afloat all the way to the Sweet 16 last season despite playing an extremely small lineup after losing 6-11 center Chris Otule to an ACL injury in January and 6-8 power forward for all of February with a knee sprain. Davante Gardner returned to play in short stints during the postseason and his rate stats -- for the season, he averaged 9.5 points and 5.3 rebounds on 56.1 percent shooting in 19.2 minutes per game -- were impressive. At 275 and 290 pounds, respectively, Otule and Gardner are very big bodies, which means the strains of playing extended time could keep their minutes low even when healthy. But if these two can stay on the court, their size will be difficult for anyone to match and their pairing with Marquette's promising backcourt could make for the kind of season that leads to a third straight visit to the NCAA tournament's second weekend.