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New Big East Teams Will Present Challenges

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Editors note: These five teams will enter the Big East beginning in the 2013-14 season.

HOUSTON COUGARS (Conference USA)

The 16-time champion men’s golf team at Houston is a force to be reckoned with and should be the Big East favorite once action begins.

The Cougars are second only to Yale in golf championships and have had 44 All-Americans.

The Houston men’s basketball program, on the other hand, has struggled over the last several years, only making two NCAA tournament appearances since 1992.

And with this year’s junior class not coming in with stellar statistics, Houston will likely struggle for the foreseeable future in the Big East.

MEMPHIS TIGERS (Conference USA)

Similar to Houston, Memphis excels on the golf course. The Tigers return eight letterwinners this season after winning their first Conference USA title last year.

Juniors Will Pearson and Grant Milner, two guiding forces in last year’s success, will be names to watch out for in the Big East next year.

All eyes will be on the Tigers’ basketball team, which has attracted much national attention since Derrick Rose took the team to the national title game in 2008. The Tigers had No. 1 or No. 2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament from 2006 and 2009 but could only muster No. 12 and No. 8 seeds, respectively, in the two most recent tournaments.

CENTRAL FLORIDA KNIGHTS (Conference USA)

This Orlando-based school should be a pleasant surprise on the soccer pitch.

The men’s team, after succumbing to five straight losing seasons, have put together back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances in the past two years.

The basketball team, however, should struggle in the challenging Big East.

Due to a recruiting violation, the Knights must serve a postseason ban this season. The Knights won’t be top-tier contenders, but after an upset over Connecticut last season, Big East fans will need to keep a closer watch on UCF when it rolls into town.

SOUTHERN METHODIST MUSTANGS (Conference USA)

The fourth Conference USA transfer, the SMU Mustangs, has men’s teams that will likely struggle in nearly all sports except for soccer.

The Mustangs were ranked No. 20 in the most recent national poll, and only four Big East teams are ranked higher.

It will have its difficulty playing basketball, as the team has not qualified for the tournament since 1993. But with veteran coach Larry Brown at the helm, SMU is hoping to re-establish itself on the hardwood.

TEMPLE OWLS (Atlantic 10)

The soccer team at Temple, despite producing five Olympians in its history, won’t be a huge threat to top-tier Big East squads. The Owls have only had two winning seasons in the past six years.

Expect men’s basketball to pack a powerful punch.

The Owls have advanced to the last five NCAA Tournaments and have been Atlantic 10 tournament champions three times in that span. With strong recruiting in its backyard of Philadelphia, the Owls should be contenders each year.

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