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October 24, 2006

Many Big East teams have holes to fill

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As the basketball season begins to unfold, there is one question almost every coach in the Big East Conference will be asked at Wednesday's Media Day in New York.

"How will you replace the scoring lost by the departure of __________?"

The Big East lost a lot of top-tier talent following the 2005-2006 season - it had 11 players drafted into the NBA, more than any other conference last year.

What is lost in that number is the impact of the numerous other players who graduated or left the team. More than 80 percent of the schools in the conference must replace their leading scorer from last season and six of those lost their second-leading scorer, too.

If the assumption is made that at the collegiate level your leading scorer is your best player, then that is good news for those returning their stars.

DePaul, St. John's and Georgetown bring back their leading point-producers. Sammy Mejia, Lamont Hamilton and Jeff Green will all need to continue to grow and lead their teams. DePaul finished second-to-last in the conference. St. John's was 13th in the Big East. Georgetown returns its top two scorers from last season and has to be mentioned with the top programs in the conference.

For some teams, they rest their hopes on veteran leadership. Pittsburgh, Villanova, and Marquette will turn to the able play of potential All-Americans, Aaron Gray, Curtis Sumpter and Dominic James.

Others have lost so much they might turn to incoming freshmen to get back to the Big East Tournament. Syracuse, UConn, and West Virginia may have to turn the reigns over to Paul Harris, Jerome Dyson, DeSean Butler and other less experienced players.

For some new faces in new places, they will learn as they go.

Cincinnati, Seton Hall, and Rutgers all enter the season without their leading scorers or coaches from last season. Mick Cronin, Bobby Gonzalez and Fred Hill all take over teams in a clear rebuilding mode. Each coach has brought in a high-profile high school recruit or one of the nations top JUCO players.

How each coach copes with the departed point production will go a long way in determining the outcome of the conference race.

"How will you replace the scoring lost by the departure of __________?"

Fans of the 16 Big East Conference teams are looking for answers.

Rivals.com will be on hand to deliver in-depth coverage of Big East Media Day on Wednesday and will provide the latest Big East basketball news throughout the season.

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