Surprise team: Pittsburgh. Really, though, would anyone truly be stunned if the Panthers found themselves in contention for a league title in their final trip through the Big East? Pittsburgh averaged 27 victories in coach Jamie Dixon’s first eight seasons before missing the NCAA tournament last year.
Hot seat: Kevin Ollie, Connecticut. The former Huskies star takes over at his alma mater after the retirement of Jim Calhoun. The catch? He has only a one-year commitment from the school, and UConn is ineligible for the postseason.
Three key players
F Jack Cooley, Notre Dame. A preseason first team all-conference pick, Cooley averaged 12.5 points and 8.9 rebounds and was a vital part of the Fighting Irish overcoming a tough start and reaching the NCAA tournament. He’s on the spot to do even better this year.
G Vincent Council, Providence. The Friars will be short-handed this season, which means the 6-foot-2 Council will play even more. Fans shouldn’t mind, since Council averaged 15.9 points and 7.4 assists and is among the country’s most underappreciated players.
G Peyton Siva, Louisville. One of the top point guards in the country, Siva’s improvement in the final two months of his junior season helped propel the Cardinals to a Big East tournament title and then on to its first Final Four since 2005. To repeat both feats, Louisville needs Siva at his best.
Three key newcomers
C Steven Adams, Pittsburgh. The 7-foot- freshman from New Zealand could quickly emerge as a centerpiece for the Panthers, who missed the NCAA tournament last year for the first time since 2001.
C Dajuan Coleman, Syracuse. The burly 6-foot-9 center is a central New York product who figures to fill part of the void created with Fab Melo’s departure after a tumultuous sophomore season.
G Luke Hancock, Louisville. Hancock was last seen daggering Villanova in the 2011 NCAA tournament’s round of 64 for George Mason. He missed the next game with the flu, then transferred to Louisville after coach Jim Larranaga departed Fairfax. He’ll have a consistently bigger stage with the Cardinals.
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Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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