South Florida eager to show championship form

South Florida eager to show championship form
August 24, 2010
This continues our series of daily articles previewing each men's and women's college conference. All the conference previews can be found here. And don't forget to check out our Conference Top 20 College Players To Watch.

As the Big East jumps back into action, some of the top teams in the country are striving to live up to their name.

The usual suspects – like St. John's(m), Notre Dame and Connecticut – are again in the mix, but several underdogs are clamoring to make a title run. Here’s a rundown of each Big East teams’ chances in 2010.

Red Division

mens college soccer playerSverre Wegge (St. John's)
Defending champion St. John’s(m) will look to win its conference-record ninth Big East title in 2010. All-conference performers Sverre Wegge and Tadeu Terra will again lead the Red Storm, while promising freshmen such as midfielder Kovi Konowiecki and forward Dom Sarle provide quality depth on a roster loaded with talent.

First-team All-American Colin Rolfe and 2009 Big East Coach of the Year Ken Lolla headline a Louisville squad looking to improve on a 2009 season that saw them win everything but the conference title. The Cardinals are stacked again, but will have to train harder than ever to get over the playoff hump.

After a 14-4-3 record and another run into the playoffs in 2009 – but no title – USF(m) is eager to prove it is more than a regular-season wonder. With enviable strength at key positions – including All-American goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, midfielder Bernardo Anor and defender Javed Mohammed – the Bulls have all the tools to prove their point.  

Villanova and Rutgers, two teams who squeaked into the playoffs last season but failed to make an impact, will be hard-pressed to make a stronger push in 2010. Villanova senior defender Chris Christian and Rutgers senior midfielder Yannick Salmon are solid, but inexperienced squads will put their leadership skills to the test.

DePaul must find a way to replace departed senior all-conference forward Steffen Vroom to remain in contention in a tough divisional race. Sophomore forward Antonio Aguilar is a good start, but the Blue Demons still need plenty of help.

Cincinnati and Syracuse find themselves at the bottom of the barrel after finishing 2009 with the two worst records in the division. Syracuse will need someone to step up and fill departed senior forward Hansen Woodruff’s shoes, while Cincinnati coach Hylton Dayes is desperate to have an upperclassman emerge to take on a leadership role.

Blue Division

After advancing to their 12th consecutive NCAA championship last year, the Connecticut Huskies are primed to make another run in 2010. Junior midfielder Tony Cascio has the talent and supporting cast to lead his team to the Big East title that eluded them in 2009.

mens college soccer playerAaron Mund (Notre Dame)
Stalwart defenseman Aaron Mund again heads the charge for Notre Dame, after leading his team to the Big East championship match in 2009. The Fighting Irish are as balanced a team as they come, and midfielder Dillon Powers will emerge as a bona fide star after an impressive freshman season last year.

With one of the stingiest defensive units in the country, West Virginia frustrated opponents on their way to the Big East tournament in 2009. Goalkeeper Zach Johnson and defender Raymon Gaddis pack a punch, and will anchor the Mountaineers’ 2009 campaign.

Georgetown and Providence both qualified for the Big East tournament in 2009, but lacked the firepower to seriously contend for a title. The road doesn’t get any easier in 2010. Providence will need to replace graduated forward Tim Ritter, while Georgetown will rely on sophomore midfielder Ian Christianson to generate the bulk of its attack.

Marquette snuck into the Big East tournament with a 4-11-3 overall record last year, but the Golden Eagles are unlikely to have such fortune on their side in 2010. Coach Louis Bennett faces a daunting coaching challenge as he tries to make a relatively thin roster coalesce.  

Brayan Martinez was one of the few bright spots on a Seton Hall squad that managed only one win in 2009, and will again shoulder the load for the Pirates in 2010. Pittsburgh struggled with a 2-13-2 overall record in 2010, and coach Joe Luxbacher will try to make the most out of a shallow talent pool. The road to contention is steep for both teams.
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