BIG EAST Coaches Make Preseason Picks
NEW YORK -- Connecticut has been tabbed as the favorite to win the 2008-09 BIG EAST regular-season title in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The Huskies received nine first-place votes and a total of 214 points in the poll. The coaches did not place their own teams on their respective ballots.
Four teams received first-place votes. Those four squads UConn, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame -- were bunched at the top of the poll. Louisville and Pitt, which had three first-place votes each, finished with 205 and 200 points, respectively. Notre Dame received one first-place vote and was fourth with 195 points.
Connecticut compiled a 24-9 record last season, including a 13-5 mark in BIG EAST play. The Huskies, led by Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun, have won or shared a regular-season league crown in four of the last seven seasons. This year, the Huskies’ hopes revolve around the trio of center Hasheem Thabeet, guard A.J. Price and forward Jeff Adrien.
Louisville advanced the farthest of all BIG EAST teams in last year’s NCAA Championship, reaching the East Regional finals. This year, coach Rick Pitino welcomes back four starters, including senior forward Terrence Williams, from a team that finished 28-6 and was 15-3 in BIG EAST play.
Pittsburgh is the defending BIG EAST Championship titlist. Last year, as the tourney’s seventh seed, the Panthers took a memorable path to the crown at Madison Square Garden by winning four games in four days. Pitt made it to the second round of the NCAAs and finished 27-10 overall.
Notre Dame will welcome back the reigning BIG EAST Player of the Year, forward Luke Harangody, and expects to contend for the league crown. Last year, coach Mike Brey, the BIG EAST Coach of the Year for a second straight season, directed the Irish to a 25-8 overall mark and a 14-4 BIG EAST record.
The next four teams in the poll -- fifth place through eighth place -- also were bunched closely together. Villanova was fifth with 153 points, followed by Marquette 146), Georgetown (141) and Syracuse (139).
Villanova was 22-13 last year and advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Championship. Marquette finished 25-10 and played in the second round of the NCAAs. Georgetown also was an NCAA second-round participant after a 28-6 campaign that included a second consecutive BIG EAST regular-season championship. Syracuse made it to the quarterfinals of the NIT en route to a 21-14 record.
West Virginia, also an NCAA Sweet 16 team a season ago, was picked ninth with 121 points. Providence edged Cincinnati for 10th place, 99 points to 91 points.
The coaches believe Rutgers will finish 12th followed by Seton Hall, St. John’s, DePaul and USF.
Preseason Coaches' Poll
2008-09 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year
2008-09 BIG EAST Preseason Co-Rookies of the Year
2008-09 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team
2008-09 Preseason BIG EAST Honorable Mention