Villanova is the coaches' top choice for the first time since the 2005-06 poll, which was the first season that the BIG EAST included 16 teams. The Wildcats boast a deep backcourt led by senior Scottie Reynolds. West Virginia's No. 2 position this year is the highest in the preseason poll for the Mountaineers since they began competing in BIG EAST basketball in 1995-96. WVU has four starters returning from a club that finished 23-12 last season.
Connecticut, the third-place pick with 185 points, received the other first-place selection. The Huskies joined Villanova at the Final Four last year and finished 31-5. Louisville, the defending regular-season and league tournament champion, was a close fourth, earning 179 points. The Cardinals have advanced the NCAA Elite Eight in each of the past two seasons.
Georgetown was the fifth-place selection with 161 points followed by Syracuse in sixth place with 152 points. The Hoyas, who stumbled in league play last year with a 7-11 mark, can build around sophomore center Greg Monroe, the 2008-09 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year. Syracuse was 28-10 last year and 11-7 in conference play. The Orange have posted 12 straight 20-win seasons.
The conference head coaches feel Cincinnati is capable of moving up in the standings. They placed the Bearcats, who were 8-10 in league play each of the past two seasons, seventh with 135 points, just ahead of Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish, who had 132 points in the poll, want to improve on last year's 8-10 league mark.
Pittsburgh is ninth with 119 points with Seton Hall placing 10th at 110 points. The Panthers will aim to maintain their contending role despite losing four starters from last year's 31-5 team. Seton Hall, 17-15 a year ago and 7-11 in the BIG EAST, welcomes back sharpshooting guard Jeremy Hazell and three other starters.
St. John's, which returns its top eight players from last season, picked up 82 points in the poll, which was good for 11th place. Marquette, which lost four starters from last year's 25-10 squad, was 12th at 78 points.
2009-10 BIG EAST Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Villanova (10) 218
2. West Virginia (5) 215
3. Connecticut (1) 185
4. Louisville 179
5. Georgetown 161
6. Syracuse 152
7. Cincinnati 135
8. Notre Dame 132
9. Pittsburgh 119
10. Seton Hall 110
11. St. John's 82
12. Marquette 78
13. Providence 52
14. USF 44
15. Rutgers 43
16. DePaul 15
*First-place votes in parentheses
Only one player from Louisville was honored on the preseason Big East team. Sophomore forward Samardo Samuels, a starter on Louisville's Elite Eight team last season, was honored on the preseason second team after averaging 11.8 points and 4.9 rebounds last year as a freshman.
2009-10 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
2009-10 BIG EAST Preseason Rookie of the Year
Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
2009-10 Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame (Player of the Year), F, Sr., 6-8, 255, Schererville, Ind.
Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati, G, Sr., 6-1, 190, Indianapolis, Ind.
Greg Monroe, Georgetown, C, So., 6-11, 247, New Orleans, La.
Lazar Hayward, Marquette, F, Sr., 6-6, 225, Buffalo, N.Y.
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova, G, Sr., 6-2, 195, Herndon, Va.
Da'Sean Butler, West Virginia, F, Sr., 6-7, 225, Newark, N.J.
2009-10 Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team
Jerome Dyson, Connecticut, G, Sr., 6-3, 190, Potomac, Md.
Kemba Walker, Connecticut, G, So., 6-1, 172, Bronx, N.Y.
Samardo Samuels, Louisville, F, So., 6-9, 260, Trelawny, Jamaica
Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall, G, Jr., 6-5, 185, Bronx, N.Y.
Dominique Jones, USF, G, Jr., 6-4, 205, Lake Wales, Fla.
Devin Ebanks, West Virginia, F, So., 6-9, 210, Long Island City, N.Y.
* a tie in the balloting created six positions
2009-10 Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention
Stanley Robinson, Connecticut, F, Sr., 6-9, 210, Birmingham, Ala.
Arinze Onuaku, Syracuse, C, Sr., 6-9, 275, Lanham, Md.