Big East coaches pick Villanova to win conference
NEW YORK -- Villanova, which returns five starters from last year's team that reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament, was picked Wednesday to win the Big East this season by the league's coaches.
The Wildcats received nine first-place votes, two more than Connecticut, which has four starters back from last season's team that tied for the regular-season title.
"It is an honor being picked by coaches in a league like this," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "Now we have to go out and earn it."
Louisville, one of the Big East's five new members that all moved from Conference USA, was third in the voting. The Cardinals tied a school record with 33 wins last season when they advanced to the Final Four.
"Basketball-wise, this is as good as it gets," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "The competition will be on the court and in recruiting and that's huge."
Syracuse was fourth, followed by West Virginia, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, St. John's, DePaul, Marquette, Providence, Rutgers, Seton Hall and South Florida.
Cincinnati, DePaul, Marquette and South Florida are the other new members. Boston College, a charter member of the 25-year-old Big East, left for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"We are too big, but everything in America is too big," Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said. "We just happen to be a little bit bigger than the others."
Asked if he was worried that there wouldn't be enough at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament to accommodate all of the quality teams in the conference, Tranghese said "I'm not concerned about it at all."
Syracuse senior guard Gerry McNamara and Connecticut sophomore forward Rudy Gay were selected preseason co-players of the year.
McNamara averaged 15.8 points as a junior and is the Orange's all-time leader with 297 3-pointers.
The 6-foot-9 Gay was the league's co-rookie of the year last season with Georgetown's Jeff Green.
Joining Gay and McNamara on the 10-member preseason all-Big East team were: Josh Boone, Connecticut; Taquan Dean, Louisville; Carl Krauser, Pittsburgh; Daryll Hill, St. John's; Randy Foye, Villanova; Allan Ray, Villanova; Curtis Sumpter, Villanova; and Kevin Pittsnogle, West Virginia.
Syracuse's Eric Devendorf, a 6-4 guard, was chosen the preseason rookie of the year.
Sumpter, a 6-7 senior forward, re-injured his left knee in practice last week and is out indefinitely. Sumpter tore his ACL against Florida in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The coaches were polled before Sumpter's injury.
"Are they going to give us an asterisk?" Wright asked with a laugh. "Curtis is going to have surgery on Nov. 11. At first we were devastated but we just went back to work."
Only 12 of the 16 teams advance to the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press