Here’s a look at Syracuse University’s Big East opponents, in the order in which they were picked to finish in the preseason coaches’ poll (SU was picked third, with two first-place votes). The records and statistics are through Jan. 1:
(12 first-place votes)
Coach: Jamie Dixon (eighth year) 2009-2010: 25-9, 13-5 Big East (second round NCAA) 2010-2011: 13-1, 1-0 Big East Player to watch: Junior guard Ashton Gibbs was the Big East’s Most Improved Player a year ago and one of its best players so far this season (16.8 points per game). He’s the Big East’s most prolific 3-point shooter (3.07 per game) and a lock-down defender, too.
Did you know? Among Big East teams, Pitt has the longest current streak of NCAA Tournament appearances with nine. The Panthers have won at least 20 games overall and 10 conference games in each of those nine seasons.
Vs. Syracuse: at Pittsburgh Jan. 17, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN).
(one first-place vote)
Coach: Jay Wright (10th year) 2009-2010: 25-8, 13-5 Big East (second round NCAA) 2010-2011: 11-1, 0-0 Player to watch: He’s not quite as electric as former Wildcats guard Scottie Reynolds, but senior guard Corey Fisher (14.6 ppg, 4.7 assists per game) is close.
Did you know? The Wildcats have notched 20 or more wins for a school-record six consecutive seasons and counting.
Vs. Syracuse: at the Carrier Dome Jan. 22, noon (ESPN); at Villanova Feb. 21, 7 p.m. (ESPN).
Coach: John Thompson III (seventh year) 2009-2010: 23-11, 10-8 Big East (first round NCAA) 2010-2011: 12-2, 1-1 Player to watch: Senior forward Austin Freeman was the coaches’ pick as Preseason Player of the Year. Only Walker’s otherworldly season will prevent Freeman (19.2 ppg) from winning the award. Did you know? Thompson III entered this season with a record of 139-62 (a .692 winning percentage) in his first six years at Georgetown. His father, legendary coach John Thompson, was 106-61 (.634) in his first six years with the Hoyas.
Vs. Syracuse: at the Carrier Dome Feb. 9, 7 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN2); at Georgetown Feb. 26, noon (CBS).
West Virginia Mountaineers
Coach: Bob Huggins (fourth year) 2009-2010: 31-7, 13-5 Big East (NCAA Final Four) 2010-2011: 8-4, 0-2 Player to watch: While 2009 National Junior College Player of the Year Casey Mitchell has become WVU’s go-to scorer, senior forward Kevin Jones (13.5 ppg, 6.3 rebounds per game) remains the Mountaineers’ best all-around player.
Did you know? The Mountaineers are 80-30 in the three seasons since Huggins, the former Cincinnati coach, returned to his alma mater.
Vs. Syracuse: at the Carrier Dome Feb. 14, 7 p.m. (ESPN).
St. John’s Red Storm
(one first-place vote)
Coach: Steve Lavin (first year) 2009-2010: 17-16, 6-12 Big East (first round NIT) 2010-2011: 9-3, 2-0 Player to watch: Senior guard Dwight Hardy has been rotating between shooting guard and point guard and leads the team in scoring (16.3 ppg) and ranks second in assists (2.5 apg).
Did you know? What luck for former UCLA coach and ESPN analyst Lavin, who inherited a team with four returning starters and 10 seniors.
Vs. Syracuse: at St. John’s Jan. 12, 7 p.m. (ESPNU).
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Coach: Mike Brey (11th year) 2009-2010: 23-12, 10-8 Big East (first round NCAA) 2010-2011: 12-2, 1-1 Player to watch: Tim Abromaitis is a 6-foot-8 forward who can score in the post and also shoot the 3. He ranks among the Big East leaders in scoring (16.3 ppg) and rebounding (7.2 rpg). Did you know? Star center Luke Harangody, who’s now with the NBA’s Boston Celtics, missed all or part of six games last season and the Irish went 4-2 in those games.
Vs. Syracuse: Syracuse won 70-58 Jan. 1 at the Carrier Dome.
Coach: Rick Pitino (10th year) 2009-2010: 20-13, 11-7 Big East (first round NCAA) 2010-2011: 11-2, 0-0 Player to watch: Senior guard Preston Knowles (15.7 ppg), who was investigated this past spring for punching his girlfriend’s stepfather, is the Cardinals’ best 3-point shooter.
Did you know? The Cardinals lost four starters from last year’s team, including center Samardo Samuels, who decided to enter the NBA two years early (he wasn’t drafted but signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers).
Vs. Syracuse: at Louisville Feb. 12, noon (ESPN/ESPN2).
Marquette Golden Eagles
Coach: Buzz Williams (third year) 2009-2010: 22-12, 11-7 Big East (first round NCAA) 2010-2011: 10-4, 1-0 Player to watch: He’s experiencing some growing pains, but keep an eye on freshman guard Vander Blue, a McDonald’s All-American who led USA Basketball’s under-18 team to the gold medal last summer. Did you know? The Golden Eagles won three consecutive road games in overtime last February at Cincinnati, St. John’s and Seton Hall.
Vs. Syracuse: at Marquette Jan. 29, 3 p.m.
Coach: Jim Calhoun (25th year) 2009-2010: 18-16, 7-11 Big East (second round NIT) 2010-2011: 11-1, 1-1 Player to watch: Junior guard Kemba Walker (league-best 26.7 ppg and 2.3 steals per game, 3.8 apg) has almost single-handedly returned the Huskies to their usual spot among the nation’s elite. Did you know? Calhoun entered this season with 823 victories, third on the active list behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (868) and SU’s Jim Boeheim (829).
Vs. Syracuse: at Connecticut Feb. 2, 7 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN2).
Seton Hall Pirates
Coach: Kevin Willard (first year) 2009-2010: 19-13, 9-9 Big East (first round NIT) 2010-2011: 7-7, 1-1 Player to watch: Senior guard Jeremy Hazell, who torched Syracuse for 38 points last season, broke a bone in his left wrist in late November and missed all but three of the Pirates’ non-league games. Did you know? No player has scored more points in an NCAA national championship game since Seton Hall’s John Morton had 35 against Michigan in 1989.
Vs. Syracuse: at Seton Hall Saturday, noon (Big East Network); at the Carrier Dome Jan. 25, 7 p.m.
Coach: Mick Cronin (fifth year) 2009-2010: 19-16, 7-11 Big East (second round, NIT) 2010-2011: 14-0, 2-0 Player to watch: In a league bereft of quality centers, 6-9 junior Yancy Gates (11.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg) is among the Big East’s better big men. Did you know? Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson remains Cincinnati’s all-time leader in points (2,973) and rebounds (1,338)—50 years after his college career ended.
Vs. Syracuse: at the Carrier Dome Jan. 15, noon.
South Florida Bulls
Coach: Stan Heath (fourth year) 2009-2010: 20-13, 9-9 Big East (first round NIT) 2010-2011: 6-9, 0-2 Player to watch: Kansas State transfer Ron Anderson Jr., the son of the former NBA player, is averaging 8.5 points per game and out-rebounding 6-10 teammate Augustus Gilchrist 7.8 rpg to 5.9 rpg. Did you know? The Bulls won only 11 Big East games in their first four years in the conference before winning nine last season.
Vs. Syracuse: at South Florida Feb. 5, 2 p.m. (Big East Network).
Coach: Keno Davis (third year) 2009-2010: 12-19, 4-14 Big East 2010-2011: 11-4, 0-2 Player to watch: Senior guard Marshon Brooks, who averaged 14.2 ppg last season, has elevated his game and trails only Walker in scoring in the Big East (23.1 ppg). Did you know? Davis dismissed All-Big East honorable mention forward Jamine “Greedy’’ Peterson in May for violating team rules.
Vs. Syracuse: Syracuse won 81-74 Dec. 28 at the Carrier Dome.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Coach: Mike Rice (first year) 2009-2010: 15-17, 5-13 Big East 2010-2011: 9-3, 0-0 Player to watch: Senior forward Jonathan Mitchell, a transfer from Florida, leads the Knights in scoring (12.7 ppg) and rebounding (6.0 rpg). Did you know? Rice spent the three previous seasons at Robert Morris, where he led the Colonials to 73-31 record and two NCAA Tournament appearances.
Vs. Syracuse: at the Carrier Dome Feb. 19, 4 p.m.
DePaul Blue Demons
Coach: Oliver Purnell (first year) 2009-2010: 8-23, 1-17 Big East 2010-2011: 6-8, 0-2 Player to watch: Freshman guard Brandon Young (team-best 12.6 ppg) gives hope to a team that desperately needs it. Did you know? Purnell, who turned around programs at Clemson, Dayton and Old Dominion, has his hands full with a DePaul squad that compiled a 1-35 Big East record the past two seasons.
Vs. Syracuse: at Carrier Dome March 5, 4 p.m.
For SU tickets, visit suathletics.com or call the Carrier Dome box office at (888) DOMETIX.
Orange aid: As usual, coach Jim Boeheim has assembled a cast of characters who somehow have meshed into a Top 5 team. Among them (clockwise from top left), freshman forward C.J. Fair, up-and-coming guard Dion Waiters, hot-shot playmaker and fan favorite Scoop Jardine and senior forward Rick Jackson.
2010-2011 Preseason All-Big East Player of the Year:
Austin Freeman, Georgetown
Rookie of the Year:
Fab Melo, Syracuse.
First Team Freeman; Kemba Walker, Connecticut; Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh; Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall; Corey Fisher, Villanova; Kevin Jones, West Virginia.
Kris Joseph, Syracuse; Chris Wright, Georgetown; Jimmy Butler, Marquette; Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame; D.J. Kennedy, St. John’s.
Rick Jackson, Syracuse; Yancy Gates, Cincinnati; Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette.