Some things we thought we knew about the Big East, it turns out, we really did know - West Virginia good, Syracuse bad - but largely, events conspired in typical fashion to cast the summer scribes as a lot of fools. From the preseason consensus of 18 publications at Stassen.com, from most underrated to most overrated:
|Connecticut||7th||T-1st (5-2)||+ 6||Gold Sheet (5th)||Three 8th Place Picks|
|Cincinnati||6th||T-3rd (4-3)||+ 3||Nine 5th Place Picks||Gold Sheet (7th)|
|South Florida||4th||T-3rd (4-3)||+ 1||P.Steele, J.Feist (3rd)||SureFire, CFN (5th)|
|Pittsburgh||5th||T-5th (3-4)||-||Seven 5th Place Votes||CFN(4th)|
|Syracuse||8th||8th (1-6)||-||Thirteen 8th Place Picks||Five 7th Place Picks|
|West Virginia||1st||T-1st (5-2)||-||Sixteen 1st Place Picks||J. Feist, SportsForm (2nd)|
|Rutgers||3rd||T-5th (3-4)||-2||P.Steele, J.Feist (4th)||Athlon, USAT (2nd)|
|Louisville||2nd||T-5th (3-4)||-3||Athlon, USAT (3rd)||Six 1st Place Picks|
I like that even the teams the prognosticenti pegged exactly right in the summer were party to a pair of the most shocking outcomes in a season defined mainly by shocking outcomes across the country. Anyone could predict West Virginia would dominate the league, Pittsburgh would prove mediocre and Syracuse would be alone again, naturally, in the cellar, and so they did. More challenging would have been the forecaster able to peg the Orange's upset at Louisville in September, which briefly stood (prior to Stanford's win over USC) as the greatest point-spread upset in history, or Pittsburgh's sabotaging the Mountaineers' mythical championship destiny in Morgantown to reach its expected potential.
Speaking of which, my early August assessment of the showdown of the year nationally, Louisville at West Virginia:
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I will say I was gloriously right in July about my opinion that South Florida and Cincinnati looked like equals despite the Bulls' appearance in several top 25 polls and the unanimous opinion in the magazines that USF would finish higher in the conference:
So why such unanimity, and such large disparities between the projected fates of two teams that look so equal? Why zero buzz about the Bearcats' returning talent?
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Who loved ya, baby, to a cautiously reasonable extent?
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Re: Rutgers, and my aforementioned expectations for RU, I found the Knights to be somewhat flukey opportunists in their run to eleven wins in 2006, but guessed they'd roughly equal that success, with or without the breaks, because of some core strengths and key improvements:
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And UConn, well, nobody was right about UConn, or reasonably could have been. Next year, despite the Huskies' skin-of-our-teeth routine, will be a different story.