What's Hot

Dennis Latimore: The Arizona transfer could be the surprise of the conference. The 6-foot-8, 253-pounder served as a camp counselor this summer at Reebok ABCD Camp and performed well in pickup games against other highly regarded college players. Expect Latimore to help Notre Dame with defense and rebounding at the power forward slot, complementing center Torin Francis.

Hakim Warrick: Warrick averaged 2.5 dunks per game last season for Syracuse, but that doesn't begin to describe his improved game. The senior, who likely would have been a top-20 NBA pick had he turned pro last summer, is capable of scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds nearly every game. Warrick once lacked the strength to compete in the post as well as an outside jump shot, but not anymore. He has expanded his shooting range and gives Syracuse a chance to win its second national title in three years.

Point guards: Consider the Big East a poor man's ACC. The top four teams are strong, although not quite as strong as the upper echelon of the ACC. And much like the ACC, the Big East is defined by its point guards. Notre Dame's Chris Thomas, Pittsburgh's Carl Krauser and Syracuse's Gerry McNamara should engage in dramatic matchups. Connecticut doesn't have a comparable point guard, which may hurt the Huskies.

What's Not

Old school Big East: The only way this season will resemble 1985 is if fans flip the standings upside down. St. John's is looking to rebuild under first-year coach Norm Roberts. Georgetown hopes to do the same under John Thompson III. Both programs appear to be considerably overmatched this season in a conference that features the past two national champions: Connecticut and Syracuse.

Jason Fraser: The prize of Villanova's recruiting class three years ago hasn't had an injury-free season, and he already has had a setback this season. Fraser was one of the best high school players in the country who decided to attend college three years ago. But the junior had knee surgery in spring 2003, broke his foot twice last season and recently had minor knee surgery. Villanova hopes Fraser will be available for the season-opening game against Maryland-Baltimore County.

Wait 'til next year: That mantra won't work for any team in this league this season. If you want to sneak up in the standings, do it this season. Next year, Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette, DePaul and South Florida will join the conference, putting it nearly on par with the ACC.

Syracuse senior forward Hakim Warrick, who has built up his strength and extended his shooting range, could lead the Orange to its second NCAA title in three years. Villanova junior forward Jason Fraser, once a big recruit, had knee surgery in spring 2003, broke his foot twice last season and recently had minor knee surgery.