Big East Pre-season Poll: Who’s #1?
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
A new era in the Big East Conference is ready to begin. Could it be that what is old and familiar - becomes new again?
For 34 seasons, the Big East Conference continually captured the attention of a college basketball-consuming public through rivalry and tradition, outstanding games and teams...and superstar players. The league is re-born this year, headed back to its original 1979 roots as the late Dave Gavitt intended - a basketball-centric league with like-minded schools looking to make a name for themselves.
Football's money lust is nowhere to be found.
In 2013-14, the conference still has its ties to the past with Georgetown, St. John's and certainly Providence a part of the new league...but the Big East welcomes three new partners into the mix, each with aspirations of grabbing a share of the national spotlight. Creighton, Xavier and former NCAA tournament bracketbuster Butler, once dominant in their former homes, now find themselves co-mingling with some of the very schools who might not have given them the time of day if they tried to schedule a game...and if they did meet, tried to beat them down not too long ago.
They'll still try to do that, but it's different now. It's family. Time (and money) has a way of changing perspective...if not changing conference addresses.
The "new" Big East, arguably, may be as competitive as the old Big East once was...as there's just not much wiggle room between first and seventh place in the pre-season poll, released Wednesday in New York. Newcomer Creighton, once a power in the Missouri Valley Conference, enters with not just the western-most outpost within the league footprint, but also with a savvy, NCAA tournament-experienced squad that features a National Player of the Year candidate in Doug McDermott among four returning starters. The Bluejays are picked for third by the Big East coaches. If you've followed this league for awhile, you've heard this about previous teams as well, right?
Marquette isn't exactly part of the old guard within the league, joining in 2005. But their relatively short stay thus far has been impactful, and Buzz Williams has another team long on talent and ability after an Elite Eight run last season. They may be undermanned at the point guard spot, and lost arguably their top three players from a year ago...but still find themselves the overall pre-season favorite. The Golden Eagles' front court of senior Davante Gardner, Chris Otule (back for a 6th season) and 5th year senior Jamil Wilson isn't just experienced. They're also rugged. Georgetown, which certainly can consider itself part of the old guard in the new Big East, lost Otto Porter to the NBA and his potential lineup replacement, Greg Whittington, to an ACL injury. Yet the Hoyas are expected to remain among the favorites to claim the crown, picked for second, with veteran returnees Markel Starks, Nate Lubick, Mikael Hopkins, Jabril Trawick and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera aching to atone for an NCAA flame-out against Florida Gulf Coast.
The middle of the pack is really anything but. St. John's, Villanova and Providence all have experience, depth and scoring ability coming back from post-season teams a year ago. It wouldn't be a big surprise to see any of these teams reach the upper rungs of the Big East ladder. The Red Storm, selected 5th, may have the most pure talent from top to bottom on their roster of any team in the conference...but can Steve Lavin put it all together? D'Angelo Harrison returns from a suspension late last year, and Rysheed Jordan is a name to remember as the Philly freshman comes in with a bit of hype. Ryan Arcidiacono proved himself last year to be a premier shooter for the Wildcats, who edged SJU for 4th. Providence swept the other two (3-0, with two wins against Villanova), yet is picked behind them for 6th in the pre-season poll. The Friars (19-15 overall, 9-9 and tied for 9th in Big East play) return all-Big East first-teamer Bryce Cotton, 3rd team and Most Improved Kadeem Batts, and have a potential newcomer of the year in freshman Brandon Austin waiting in the wings. If they finished in the middle of the pack in the "old" Big East, it stands to reason they could top that in the newer version.
The other two newcomers, Xavier and Butler, each have plusses and minuses to consider for the upcoming season. Xavier, selected 7th, has a potential all-league candidate to watch for in speedy guard Semaj Christon but question marks elsewhere, while Butler (9th) lost its top returning scorer and rebounder Roosevelt Jones to a pre-season wrist injury, and lost its head coach Brad Stevens to the Boston Celtics. New coach Brandon Miller will have his hands full. Big East original Seton Hall and '05 addition DePaul will find themselves competitive, perhaps. The Pirates (8th) have shooter Fuquan Edwin as an all-league caliber player, and the Blue Demons (10th) will ask a lot from talented seniors Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young. But they'll also find themselves running out of steam, and wins, and as a result are probably a year (or more) away from contention.
Newcomers aside, it seems as if most of the old guard in the Big East has a chance to pick right up where they may have left off last March at seasons' end. If they do, the league's national perception should remain strong, giving fans a reason to watch the great games, the great teams and great players like they always have.
And what goes around, comes back around again.
On the women's side, Providence was selected for 8th, with DePaul as the pre-season favorite. Junior guard Tori Rule was selected for the pre-season all-Big East team. The men's all-Big East teams are listed below:
Big East Pre-Season Poll
(First Place Votes in Parentheses)
1. Marquette (5)
2. Georgetown (2)
3. Creighton (1)
5. St. John's (2)
8. Seton Hall
All-Big East 1st Team
Markel Starks, Georgetown
Davante Gardner, Marquette
Bryce Cotton, Providence
D'Angelo Harrison, St. John's
Semaj Christon, Xavier
Player of the Year
Doug McDermott, Creighton
Rookie of the Year
Rysheed Jordan, St. John's
All-Big East 2nd Team
Cleveland Melvin, DePaul
Jamil Wilson, Marquette
JaKarr Sampson, St. John's
Fuquan Edwin, Seton Hall
Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova
JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova
Kadeem Batts, Providence
Chris Obekpa, St. John's