It's Big East Media Day this morning in Gotham, which means we can all wash the tongue-biting blood out of our mouths and start talking about what should be one of the best conferences in the modern history of college basketball. If you're excited, give a small fist pump that no one sees and do a limb-flailing dance in your head.
This list is a bit top-heavy, but it's still a significant step up from the Jeff Xavier-led group of a year ago.
10. Steve Toyloy, Jr, F, Cincinnati
TRANSFERRED FROM: Miami-Dade Community College
Toyloy, a physical specimen at 6-8, 255, may be relied upon more than initially expected with the recent dismissal of Nick Aldridge and John Riek unlikely to be cleared by the NCAA anytime soon.
9. Charles Okwandu, So, C, Connecticut
TRANSFERRED FROM: Harcum Junior College
A 7-foot-1 import from Nigeria, Chukuma "Charles" Okwandu has shown enough polish in the opening days of practice to warrant talk of him stepping in and immediately serving as Hasheem Thabeet's primary backup. Odds are 3:1 that he'll be the nation's leading shot-blocker in 16 months.
He's Nigerian, not an alien, he knows how to wave
8. Dee Proby. Jr, F, West Virginia
TRANSFERRED FROM: Angelina College
Proby, who originally committed to Oklahoma State, will see immediate playing time in Morgantown for the sole reason that he's just about the only size Bob Huggins has to work with. The 6-10 junior isn't quite Kevin Pittsnoggle, but he can knock down the open jumper from 10-15 feet out, and his 240-pound frame will have to be on the floor for the Mountaineers to compete in a Big East conference rich with post talent.
7. Julian Vaughn, So, C, Georgetown
TRANSFERRED FROM: Florida State
Vaughn played at Florida State during the 2007-2008 season, but obtained a waiver from the NCAA that made him eligible to play for Georgetown right away. A former four-star recruit out of vaunted Oak Hill Academy, he'll have to compete with freshmen studs Greg Monroe and Henry Sims for playing time.
6. Alejandro Rivas Sanchez, Jr, C, South Florida
TRANSFERRED FROM: Pratt Community College
Rivas Sanchez's average of 12 rebounds per game ranked sixth nationally in junior college a year ago. Though he lacks the offensive skill set to be a real threat to opposing Big East big men, he has the athleticism - and the lack of roster competition - to come in and be a starter right away. His feet are going to need to grow about seven sizes if he wants to fill the prints left by Kentrell Gransberry.
5. Reginald Delk, Jr, G, Louisville
TRANSFERRED FROM: Mississippi State
Delk is a deadly outside shooter who will likely see time at both the two and the three, perhaps beginning the season as the starter at the latter with senior Terrence Williams recovering from a knee injury. He averaged 9.5 points and shot just under 45% from the field for Mississippi State in the 2006-2007 season.
4. Jermaine Dixon, Jr, G, Pittsburgh
TRANSFERRED FROM: Tallahassee Junior College
Dixon, the younger brother of former Maryland star Juan Dixon, was rated as one of the top five junior college transfers in the country after becoming the first player in Tallahassee JC history to lead the team in scoring (20.9 ppg), rebounding (6.7 rpg) and assists (98) last season. He'll be expected to step in immediately and alleviate some of the pressure on Levance Fields by helping to fill the void left by graduated sharp-shooter Ronald Ramon.
3. Mike Mercer, Jr, G, South Florida
TRANSFERRED FROM: Georgia
Rated as the No. 22 overall prospect in the class of 2006 by Rivals.com, Mercer's career at Georgia didn't exactly go as planned. After making the SEC All-Freshman Team in his rookie season, the talented guard's sophomore campaign was cut short by a season-ending ACL tear in February of 2007. Then, after already having been disciplined for academic issues, Mercer was dismissed nine months later by head coach Dennis Felton for "failure to adhere to team standards and policies."
Mercer won't be eligible until after the conclusion of the fall semester, but with guards Dominique Jones, Chris Howard and Jesus Verdejo all coming off of solid seasons, Stan Heath may be forced to pick up the tempo and go super small once the talented transfer joins the fray.
2. Mike Williams, Sr, F, Cincinnati
TRANSFERRED FROM: Texas
The man who likely would have topped this list a year ago had he not ruptured his Achilles tendon during a preseason workout comes up a spot short 12 months later. Williams, a former McDonald's All-American, is expected to headline a much improved Bearcat frontcourt despite not doing a whole lot during his two seasons in Austin. If he can produce the way people thought he would coming out of high school, he may end up being the most valuable player in the league.
1. Robert Mitchell, Jr, F, Seton Hall
TRANSFERRED FROM: Duquesne
In his lone season at Duquesne, "Stix" Mitchell averaged 16.4 points and 5.4 rebounds on his way to being named Atlantic-10 Freshman of the Year. He'll be expected to come in and assume the role Brian Laing played so well over the course of his Pirate career, but he'll have to wait until after he serves a two game suspension for riding the team bus when he wasn't supposed to last season.