Surely Georgetown center Roy Hibbert was gone; he clearly was first-round material, upper half of the first round at that. Marquette point guard Dominic James had many of the requisite skills to make the jump, and he wanted to, too. Villanova freshman guard Scottie Reynolds even was mentioned as a possibility to leave in some circles; his scoring ability certainly grabbed some attention.
Fortunately for the conference, all three return. Big East player of the year Jeff Green did leave Georgetown early, but with Hibbert back, the Hoyas will be just fine.
The league also has added a bevy of talented freshman who will push for spots on the all-conference teams.
The Golden Eagles' point guard strongly considered a jump to the NBA. James averaged 14.9 points, 4.9 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals. He also shot just 38.4 percent from the floor, 27.2 percent from 3-point range and 65.1 percent from the free-throw line. "I've been called on to be more of a scorer here, but the NBA wants to see me lead my team," James told Rivals.com last month. "They want me to make the simple play rather than the spectacular play. They want me to be more consistent with my shot, have better shot selection." So does Tom Crean. James will respond, and Marquette will reap the benefits.
Reynolds, the Big East rookie of the year, proved to be a dynamic scorer (18.4 points per game in Big East play) and a solid distributor (4.0 assists per game). Brought along slowly by coach Jay Wright, Reynolds exploded during conference play. He had three consecutive games of 20-plus points in mid-January, all against teams that made the postseason (27 vs. Notre Dame, 26 vs. Texas, 20 at Providence). It was a bellwether for the stretch run. In Villanova's final eight games Reynolds averaged 24.1 points. He dropped 40 on Connecticut, and the Huskies led the nation in field-goal percentage defense and blocks.
The man in the middle for the Hoyas decided being "just" a first-round NBA pick wasn't enough. He comes back hoping to push Georgetown even further than last year's Final Four trip, the first for the school in 22 years. He's also hoping to push himself into the top five of the 2008 draft. Hibbert averaged 12.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks. But it was his play in the postseason that served notice to the country. From the Big East championship game through the national semifinal loss to Ohio State ? a stretch of six games ? he averaged 14.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks and shot 61.3 percent
He led the Cardinals in scoring (12.4 points), rebounding (7.0) and assists (3.8), one of only a handful of players nationally to pull off that feat last season. He easily could improve on his scoring average with better shot selection; his 36.7 field-goal percentage ? including 26.1 percent from 3-point range ? was the worst among Louisville's four returning starters. He has looked sharp in two exhibition victories, averaging 17.5 points and shooting 62 percent (13 of 21). Coach Rick Pitino has been left gushing: "He's taking good shots and playing good defense. He's playing brilliant basketball."
Adrien is the model of consistency. He never scored less than six points in a game last season (which he did twice) or more than 20 (which he did once). He had at least seven rebounds in 29 of 31 games, but never more than 16. He averaged nearly a double-double (13.1 points, 9.7 rebounds), and that's pretty much what he gave Jim Calhoun every night. He had 15 double-doubles and his rebounding average ranked second in the Big East. Adrien has worked to improve his shooting range, but it's his athleticism, strength and work on the offensive glass that are the keys to his game.