Coaches see beast back in Big East hoops

Published May 25, 2005

PONTE VEDRA BEACH - Ask Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim just how tough Big East basketball will be next season, and he thinks about West Virginia, which finished eighth in the conference but 12th in the final national rankings after an impressive NCAA Tournament run.

"Our eighth-place team, one more shot, they're in the Final Four," Boeheim said Monday as coaches gathered for the conference's annual meeting. "We're not going from an easy league to a tough league. We're going from a very tough league to a very tough league."

As the league moves to a 16-team lineup, the meetings were the first gathering for all its basketball coaches, and Boeheim said the five new members (USF, Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville and Marquette) already have a new advantage to help them keep up with the league's powerhouses.

"Kids want to play in a good league, so your recruiting is upgraded immediately," he said. "You benefit from being in the league. Kids will say "Syracuse or Connecticut didn't recruit me, but I know I can play against them,' and traditionally, you move up in the league that way."

For USF coach Robert McCullum, this week is his baptism into an elite coaching fraternity, and he said his recruiting class - at seven players and counting - is a testament to the allure of the Bulls' new surroundings.

"We've already seen the impact of the Big East on our recruiting," said McCullum, who remains a contender for DeLand senior Keith Brumbaugh, who has applied for early entry to the NBA Draft but could still opt for college. "And once we take the floor and start competing where prospects can see us in the league, it'll have an even greater effect on our future."

IRISH COMING?: Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White confirmed his school plans to schedule three football games with Big East teams each season, starting in 2009.

White said he has talked with USF athletic director Doug Woolard but has not discussed specific details of any future meetings. One game each season would probably be played at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, White said, but the rest would be home-and-home contracts.

BULLS BITS: Quarterback Carlton Hill, who signed with USF in February but was expelled from Jefferson County High after a campus arrest in March, has completed his classes at an alternative school and will arrive in Tampa on June3 to start informal summer workouts at USF. Hill also has satisfied all the requirements of his probation, according to the Jefferson County state attorney's office. ... Former USF quarterback Marquel Blackwell opens rookie camp today in Canada with the Montreal Alouettes. ... USF is adding a full-time position to its staff this summer: assistant athletic director for marketing. "It's huge," said associate AD Tom Veit, who will oversee the new position. "We've never had a person dedicated solely to marketing here. This will really help get fans in the seats."