WVU Picked Seventh
NEW YORK -- Connecticut and Syracuse are the co-favorites to win the 2011-12 BIG EAST men’s basketball regular-season crown in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The Huskies, who won the 2011 NCAA national championship, received seven first-place votes and a total of 209 points. The Orange, who finished last season with a 27-8 record, collected five first-place votes. It is the third tie for first place in the history of the BIG EAST with the last coming in 2007-08. The league’s head coaches do not place their own teams on their ballots.
The Huskies, coached by Jim Calhoun, welcome back three starters, including sophomore guard Jeremy Lamb, a 2011-12 Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team pick, and junior forward Alex Oriakhi, a Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team selection. Freshman forward Andre Drummond was named BIG EAST Preseason Rookie of the Year.
The strength of the Orange in 2011-12 starts with senior forward Kris Joseph, a member of the Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team. Junior guard Scoop Jardine who led the BIG EAST in assists with a 6.1 average in league play, is a Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team pick.
Louisville finished third in the poll with 201 points and three first-place votes. The Cardinals return 11 lettermen including three starters from last year’s team that finished 25-10 overall and 12-6 in the BIG EAST. Junior guard Peyton Siva is a top all-around contributor to the UofL success. Last season, he averaged 9.9 points, was fourth in the league in assists with a 5.2 average and second in steals at 2.0. He is a Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team selection.
Pittsburgh is a solid fourth in the poll with 188 points and one first-place vote. The Panthers won the BIG EAST regular-season crown last season and finished 28-6 overall. This year, Pitt will depend on senior guard Ashton Gibbs, the 2011-12 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year.
Cincinnati was placed fifth in the poll, its highest position since joining the BIG EAST in 2005-06. Last year, the Bearcats finished 26-9 overall, 11-7 in the league and earned an NCAA berth for the first time since 2005. Coach Mick Cronin welcomes back three starters, including senior forward Yancy Gates, a Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team selection.
Marquette, placed sixth in the poll, will be aiming for its seventh straight NCAA bid. Guard Darius Johnson-Odom, a Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team pick, will give coach Buzz Williams a proven scorer. Last year, the Golden Eagles finished 22-15 and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003.
Villanova was slotted for eighth place. Like West Virginia, the Wildcats finished 21-12 and were one of the BIG EAST’s record 11 NCAA tourney teams. This season, coach Jay Wright will not have a senior on his squad. Junior guard Maalik Wayns is the top returning scorer with a 13.8 average.
The coaches chose Notre Dame ninth. The Irish recorded the second highest win total in school history last year when they finished 27-7 overall and were 14-4 in the BIG EAST. Notre Dame will miss guard Ben Hansbrough, last year’s BIG EAST Player of the Year, but will lean on Tim Abromaitis who made the 2011-12 Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team.
Georgetown is 10th in the poll. The Hoyas will look to senior guard Jason Clark while finding replacements for Clark’s backcourt partners, all-conference players Austin Freeman and Chris Wright.
Rutgers was tabbed for 11th place, the Scarlet Knights’ highest position in the poll since the BIG EAST became a 16-team conference in 2005-06. Rutgers, under second-year coach Mike Rice, expects to improve on last year’s 15-17 record.
St. John’s is 12th in the poll. Under coach Steve Lavin, the Red Storm earned their first NCAA bid last season since 2002. This season, Lavin will have a team with only one returning scholarship player.
Seton Hall was placed 13th in the poll. USF is 14th followed by Providence and DePaul.
2011-12 Preseason Coaches’ Poll
1. Connecticut (7)
3. Louisville (3)
4. Pittsburgh (1)
7. West Virginia
9. Notre Dame
12. St. John’s
13. Seton Hall
First-place votes in parentheses
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