Full disclosure: My Big East preseason ballot
This is always an uncomfortable post for me, but the Times has a policy stating that its reporters can only cast ballots for preseason polls or postseason honors if they disclose their ballots publicly. Again, it'd be hypocritcal of me to complain about the coaches' ballots being secret during the season if I weren't making my own available for public scrutiny.
I just filed my rankings for the Big East's preseason media poll, which will be released at the conference's preseason media gathering in Rhode Island late next month. Again, this wasn't easy, and so many things are still in flux. Before I meander too much into details, here's my ballot:
1. West Virginia
There you go. I don't think USF will finish higher than third in the media balloting, but one thing I think could help the Bulls is the schedule. Of the three teams I have immediately below USF, all three have to come to Tampa this season. The middle of this league was such a logjam last year -- remember that every team had at least two league losses, and everybody but Syracuse had at least three league wins. Remarkable parity, and except for Syracuse, you can make a case for any of the other seven team making a real push.
I started my ballot by putting West Virginia at the top and Syracuse at the bottom -- I'm less sure about the Mountaineers, primarily because their defense will be so unproven and inexperienced. I can certainly see a situation where USF and West Virginia are undefeated in league play entering their final showdown, and I give the edge to West Virginia because they'll host that game with a lot on the line.
Similarly, I have Connecticut ahead of Pittsburgh because the Huskies host the Panthers that same December weekend, and beyond that, I just am more impressed with Connecticut and just haven't bought into Pittsburgh turning things around yet. Again, the depth of the league shows when Cincinnati and Rutgers are in the bottom half of the projections -- if the Bearcats could get Ben Mauk, I might bump them up as high as third, but with an inexperienced quarterback, I'm not as sold on them.
There you have it. I'll open things up to your comments, and invite you to list your own rankings from top to bottom. We can revisit this in December and see how far off we were -- I know I had Louisville second this time last year, and that didn't exactly work out. (Here's my '07 ballot from last year's blog). I think West Virginia will get a huge majority of the first-place votes, but their defense certainly isn't championship caliber yet, and we're talking about a first-year head coach. The difference between third and sixth in this conference could be one game ...