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Big East Basketball Preview: SLAM Picks Pitt Third

Obviously with football season in full swing, we've been a bit light on basketball. That should change over the next few weeks as it gets closer to the season.

Slam Online has their Big East preview out and picks Pitt third.

In it, they also name their NCAA tournament teams and make their picks for top players. They also talk a bit about conference expansion and the Pitt/Syracuse move to the Big East.

About those moves by Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC:

3. Will the Big East’s tenuous future have any bearing on this basketball season?

It really shouldn’t. For the time being, this remains the deepest and most entertaining conference in the sport. Still, there’s no point in sugarcoating the situation: it stinks that Syracuse and Pitt will soon be playing ACC basketball. The pillaging might not be over either. Rutgers reportedly has the ACC’s eye, and Connecticut has done everything outside beg (oh wait, it has) to convince ACC commissioner John Swofford that it belongs in the new "it" conference.

But thank goodness the 2011-12 college basketball season won’t stop for realignment. If anything, the winds of change will infuse league rivals with even more incentive for contests versus the conference favorites and deserters from Central New York and Western Pennsylvania. How do you think Georgetown will treat its last regular season meeting with the hated Orange?  Is there any way Pitt escapes its final regular season "Backyard Brawl" matchups with West Virginia without a decade’s worth of bruises? Just when you thought Big East play couldn’t get any nastier, an unintended result (and you can call this a glass-half-full outlook if you want) of conference realignment might be a more competitive and cutthroat Big East conference.

The Backyard Brawl basketball games obviously take a backseat the football contests for most of us, but it is worth noting there have been some wildly competitive ones. If the ACC doesn't bring in UConn, I'll miss that rivalry game more than the WVU ones. But playing the Mountaineers in basketball (especially with both programs being successful) is something that will be missed.

Regarding slotting Pitt third, no complaints here. Gibbs coming back will be huge, but I also expect teams will focus on him even more now that the Panthers are going to be a younger team with the losses of seniors Brad Wanamaker, Gary McGhee, and Gilbert Brown. That's a lot of production being lost and while Jamie Dixon always marches on, it's hard to call them an elite team this early on. Plus, third in the Big East is still pretty good in anyone's book.