06/15/2009 4:27 PM ET
Big East preseason predictions
A look at this fall's basketball season
By Adam Zagoria / SNY.tv
The return of Luke Harangody for his senior season makes the Irish a force in the Big East and a potential Top 25 team. (AP)

The Big East will lose at least a half dozen players to the NBA Draft on June 25, including Syracuse's Jonny Flynn, UConn's Hasheem Thabeet, Georgetown's DaJuan Summers, Louisville's Earl Clark and Terrence Williams and the Pittsburgh duo of DeJuan Blair and Sam Young.

Yet several special Big East players withdrew from the draft before Monday's deadline and opted to return to campus, most notably Villanova's Scottie Reynolds and and Notre Dame's Luke Harangody.

Now that we know who is in and who is out of the draft, it's time to forecast the upcoming Big East basketball season.

Here are preseason rankings for the 2009-10 season.

1. Villanova (30-8, 13-5)
Key Losses: Shane Clark, Dante Cunningham
Key Additions: Isaiah Armwood, Dominic Cheek, Taylor King (Transfer), Maurice Sutton (Redshirt), Mouph Yarou, Maalik Wayns
Bottom line: Reynolds returns to bolster an experienced core that includes Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes and Reggie Redding. The Wildcats also feature a top-five national recruiting class that should make Jay Wright's team the class of the Big East.

2. West Virginia (23-12 10-8)
Key Losses: Alex Ruoff
Key Additions: Deniz Kilicli, Dan Jennings, Casey Mitchell, Dalton Pepper
Bottom line: Newark native Da'Sean Butler could challenge for Big East Player of the Year honors, and the talented New York trio of Truck Bryant, Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones now has a year of conference experience under its belt. Guard Joe Mazzulla remains indefinitely suspended because of a domestic battery charge and it remains unclear if he will return.

3. UConn (31-5, 15-3)
Key Losses: Jeff Adrien, Scottie Haralson (Transfer), A.J. Price, Hasheem Thabeet
Key Additions: Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Alex Oriakhi, Darius Smith, Jamaal Trice
Bottom line: The Huskies aren't a Final Four team without their departed stars, but they still have enough talent with Kemba Walker, Jerome Dyson and Stanley Robinson to win their share of games and make the NCAA Tournament. Ater Majok, a raw 6-10 big man who withdrew from the NBA Draft, could also return and Oriakhi is a 6-foot-9 245-pound center who could start for Thabeet from Day One.

4. Louisville (31-6, 16-2)
Key Losses: Earl Clark, Terrence Williams
Key Additions: Rakeem Buckles, Mike Marra, Peyton Siva, Chris Smith (Walk-on transfer), Stephen Van Treese
Bottom line: Clark and Williams led Louisville to the No. 1 overall seeding in last year's NCAA Tournament, but the Cardinals remain talented with big men Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings and guards Preston Knowles, Jerry Smith and Edgar Sosa. Coach Rick Pitino may be distracted by the extortion case he is in involved with and some believe that he may still have to take time away from the team to deal with it. Pitino's new assistant and old friend Ralph Willard, the former Holy Cross coach, may be called upon to steady the ship at times.

5. Notre Dame (21-15, 8-10)
Key Losses: Ryan Ayers, Kyle McAlarney
Key Additions: Scott Martin (Transfer), Ben Hansbrough (Transfer)
Bottom line: The return of Luke Harangody for his senior season makes the Irish a force in the Big East and a potential Top 25 team. Tory Jackson comes back to play the point and the 6-8 Martin and the 6-3 Hansbrough are viewed as starters who are more complete players than Ayers and McAlarney.

6. Syracuse (28-10, 11-7)
Key Losses: Eric Devendorf, Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris Key Additions: Wesley Johnson (Transfer), DaShonte Riley, James Southerland, Brandon Triche
Bottom line: The Orange loses a lot in the backcourt from last year's team, but Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku remain one of the most formidable front lines in the league. Andy Rautins, Mookie Jones, Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche, New York State's Gatorade Player of the Year, will anchor the backcourt under the Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim.

7. Cincinnati (18-14, 8-10)
Key Losses: Mike Williams
Key Additions: Sean Kilpatrick, Jaquon Parker, Ibrahima Thomas, Cashmere Wright
Bottom line: The Bearcats should move up into the conference's top eight with the return of Rashad Bishop, Yancy Gates and Deonta Vaughn. Kilpatrick, out of White Plains, N.Y., could add a shooting presence on the wing.

8. Pittsburgh (31-5, 15-3)
Key Losses: Tyrell Biggs, DeJuan Blair, Levance Fields, Sam Young
Key Additions: Lamar Patterson, J.J. Richardson, Dante Taylor, Talib Zanna
Bottom line: New Jersey products Ashton Gibbs and Travon Woodall will compete for the point-guard spot vacated by the veteran Fields. The Panthers' entire front line will be composed of rookies but watch for McDonald's All-American Dante Taylor of Greenburgh, N.Y., to have an impact right away.

9. Seton Hall (17-15, 7-11)
Key Losses: Paul Gause
Key Additions: Ferrakohn Hall, Jamel Jackson (JUCO), Keon Lawrence (Transfer), Melvyn Oliver, Herb Pope (Transfer), Jeff Robinson (Transfer)
Bottom line: This is the most talented and athletic team of Bobby Gonzalez's four-year tenure. The additions of Lawrence, Pope and Robinson should add depth and skill to a team that won seven league games a year ago. It remains to be seen whether the transfers of big men Mike Davis and Brandon Walters deplete the frontcourt.

10. Georgetown (16-15, 7-11)
Key Losses: DaJuan Summers, Omar Wattad (Transfer)
Key Additions: Hollis Thompson
Bottom line: Summers' departure leaves big man Greg Monroe and point guard Chris Wright as the team's leaders and go-to players. Still, the Hoyas aren't the deepest team in the league and should finish near the bottom of the middle grouping.

11. St. John's (16-18, 6-12)
Key Losses: None
Key Additions: Justin Brownlee, Dwight Hardy, Omari Lawrence, Malik Stith
Bottom line: The Johnnies have the potential to move up in the rankings this year with the return of Anthony Mason Jr., Paris Horne, Malik Booth and D.J. Kennedy and the arrival of a talented young group of guards.

12. Marquette (25-10, 12-6)
Key Losses: Patrick Hazel (Transfer), Dominic James, Wesley Matthews, Jerel McNeal
Key Additions: Dwight Buycks, Junior Cadougan, Jeronne Maymon, Youssoupha Mbao, Erik Williams
Bottom line: Buzz Williams lost three of the best players in the league in James, Matthews and McNeal but brought in a seven-man recruiting class that is probably second only to Villanova's in the league. It should be a rebuilding year at Marquette, but the Eagles have the talent to contend in the future.

13. Rutgers (11-21, 2-16)
Key Losses: Anthony Farmer, Jaron Griffin, JR Inman
Key Additions: Austin Johnson, Brian Okam, Dane Miller, Jonathan Mitchell (Transfer)
Bottom line: The Knights are hoping JUCO point guard James Beatty will commit to them, but if he doesn't Corey Chandler could run the point in Piscataway. The additions of Miller and Mitchell up front should add depth and talent to a frontcourt that already has Hamady N'Diaye and Greg Echenique. Shooting guard Mike Rosario is spending the summer gaining valuable experience in international tournaments.

14. Providence (19-14, 10-8)
Key Losses: Weyinmi Efejuku, Jonathan Kale, Geoff McDermott.
Key Additions: Kadeem Batts, Vincent Council, Bilal Dixon (Redshirt), Johnnie Lacy, Greedy Peterson, Kyle Wright (JUCO)
Bottom line: The Friars lose a lot of experience but still have special players in Marshon Brooks and Sharaud Curry, while Council and Lacy add young talent to the backcourt.

15. South Florida (9-22, 4-14)
Key Losses: Jesus Verdejo
Key Additions: Mike Burwell, Jordan Dumars, Jarrid Famous, Shaun Noriega
Bottom line: With Dominique Jones and Gus Gilchrist back, the Bulls should create some matchup problems for more than a few teams. The 6-11 Famous, out of Westchester (N.Y.) Community College, chose USF over Arizona, Missouri and Seton Hall and Coach Stan Heath expects him to be an impact player immediately.

16. DePaul (9-24, 0-18)
Key Losses: Dar Tucker
Key Additions: Eric Wallace (Transfer)
Bottom line: Jerry Wainwright's entire staff turned over, the Blue Demons lost their leading scorer in Tucker and they aren't bringing in a single impact recruit. 6-10 junior Mac Koshwal returns so going winless for a second year in a row seems unlikely. But there's not much reason for hope in the immediate future.

Adam Zagoria is a regular contributor to SNY.tv. Read his blog at ZagsBlog.com.
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