Such are the occupational hazards of playing in the biggest and baddest basketball league in the land.
"You can go from first to 10th in this league in one season," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin told FanHouse. "Pittsburgh went to the Elite Eight last year and they're picked to finish ninth in the league this year.
"Not only is it hard to climb in this league, it's just as easy to fall."
The Big East is stocked with corporation-type programs: Connecticut, Louisville, Syracuse and Georgetown. But those clubs could suffer a slight dip this season.
"Last year we were the best conference in the country, maybe the best conference in the history of the Big East and you knew what to expect," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "There were a lot of first-round [NBA] draft choices.
"Now I think the top teams like us, Syracuse and Pittsburgh come to the middle [of the league] and the bottom teams like St. John's, Cincinnati and South Florida will come to the middle and we'll all come to the middle and compete. Who will be the best in February and March remains to be seen."
Even with a lot of unknowns, the Big East still placed five teams in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll and six teams in the preseason ESPN/USA Today coaches' Top 25 poll. No league could boast as many.
"Yeah, it's a step back this season," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said sarcastically. "We're probably just the best conference in the country this season, rather than the best conference in the history of college basketball."
Predicted to finish at the top is Villanova and West Virginia.
Led by guard Scottie Reynolds, the Wildcats are poised to repeat last year's Final Four run. Other key returners include Reggie Redding, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena and Corey Fisher, last year's Big East Sixth Man of the Year.
The Wildcats are seeking their first NCAA title since their Cinderella NCAA championship in 1985.
"Now we know people are going to come at us from Day One and if we slip early, it's going to be a big thing," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "We were kind of under the radar last year, no one paid much attention to us. It's just part of what we have to deal with now." Devin Ebanks, Da'Sean Butler, Darryl Bryant and Wellington Smith -- from last year's 23-win team. The Mountaineers also have added Casey Mitchell, last year's national junior college player of the year.
"This is the most versatile team I've had," Huggins said. "It's not close to the most talented, not even close. But it's the most versatile."
So what's better: being more versatile or having more talent? "Ask me in March," Huggins joked.
And if this March is like last March, there will be a huge Big East contingent in the NCAA tournament. In the past four seasons, the Big East has sent 29 teams to the Big Dance, including a record eight teams in 2008 and 2006.
UConn coach Jim Calhoun isn't convinced bigger is better. He recalls in the late 1980s-early 1990s when the league only had nine league members, but still sent seven teams to the NCAA tournament.
"I don't know if expansion is going to help us get more teams in," Calhoun said. "It's not going to help us get more in. That's not going to happen. What's going to happen is some very good teams will get left out.
"I never felt [the league] is too hard. But to survive in this league, you have to be tough."
The toughest challenge is for the lower-level teams such as South Florida, DePaul, Rutgers and St. John's, all of which that have never finished in the league's upper half since the league expanded in 2005-06, to climb up the standings.
As former Big East commissioner Dave Gavitt once said about the difficulty of playing in the 16-team league. "There's a lot more bodies you have to climb over," he said.
How deep is the Big East? Every team in the league, with the exception of South Florida, has been to the Final Four.
Cincinnati has never finished higher than eighth in the league, but the Bearcats, with the addition of Lance Stephenson, the preseason rookie of the year, are picked to finish seventh this season.
"Our goal is to get back up there," Cronin said. "But I don't think it's quite as easy to climb the ladder as people think. It hasn't been easy for us to get to the point where we're knocking at the door.
"It's been a grind and it won't be easy breaking into the top five or top six."
Huggins is all too aware of the grind.
"It's work, man," Huggins said. "My wife, I tell her every year, once we get it going I'll have a little bit more time. She tells me I've been saying that for 30 years."
FanHouse Predicted Order of Finish
2. West Virginia
6. Notre Dame
9. Seton Hall
11. St. John's
14. South Florida
FanHouse All Big East: Luke Harangody, Notre Dame; Devin Ebanks, West Virginia; Scottie Reynolds, Villanova; Da'Sean Butler, West Virginia; Jerome Dyson, UConn
Top five TV games: West Virginia at Purdue, Jan. 1; Louisville at Kentucky, Jan. 2; UConn at Michigan, Jan. 17; Texas at UConn, Jan. 23; West Virginia at Louisville, March 6
Biggest surprise: Notre Dame
Biggest disappointment: Providence
Most important player to their team: Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
Best shooter: Andy Rautins, Syracuse
Top rebounder: Harangody
Most underrated: Eugene Harvey, Seton Hall