NEW YORK -- Pittsburgh is the choice to win the 2010-11 BIG EAST men’s basketball regular-season crown in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The Panthers, who finished 25-9 overall and tied for second place in the conference at 13-5 last season, collected 12 first-place votes from the head coaches who did not place their own teams on their ballots.
The Panthers return four starters from last year’s squad, including Preseason All-BIG EAST selection Ashton Gibbs. Coach Jamie Dixon’s club sits atop the preseason poll for the first time since 2006-07. Pitt is the only team in the conference to win at least 10 BIG EAST contests in each of the last nine seasons.
Villanova follows Pitt in the poll in second place. The Wildcats had 208 points which included one first-place vote. Villanova tied the Panthers for second place in BIG EAST play last year with a 13-5 record and is coming off a 25-8 season. This year, the Wildcats are expected to depend on senior guard Corey Fisher, a Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team member, for production and leadership.
Syracuse, last year’s regular-season league champion, was picked third. The Orange corralled a pair of first-place votes and a total of 187 points in the poll. In 2009-10, SU compiled a 15-3 BIG EAST mark after being picked sixth in the preseason poll. Coach Jim Boeheim directed Syracuse to a 30-5 overall record.
The coaches placed Georgetown fourth. The Hoyas, who can lean on Preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year Austin Freeman and three other returning starters, totaled 173 points in the poll. Georgetown finished 23-11 last year.
West Virginia was slotted for fifth place. The Mountaineers won their first BIG EAST Championship last March and advanced to the NCAA Final Four. WVU’s final record was 31-7 overall, including 13-5 in conference play. This season, the Mountaineers can build around junior forward Kevin Jones, a Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team selection.
St. John’s received one first-place vote and finished sixth in the poll. The Red Storm have not been picked higher than ninth in the preseason poll since 2002-03. St, John’s has 10 seniors and a new coach, Steve Lavin. The league coaches feel the Red Storm are capable of making a big jump. St. John’s finished 6-12 in league play last year and 17-16 overall.
Notre Dame was in seventh place with 123 points. The Fighting Irish were 23-12 last year and 10-8 in the league standings. Louisville and Marquette tied for eighth place in the poll just behind the Irish with 121 points. The Cardinals and Golden Eagles also tied in the standings last year at 11-7.
The coaches put Connecticut 10th and Seton Hall 11th. Both teams were NIT participants last season. The Huskies, who finished 18-16, had 113 points, while the Pirates, who were 19-13, garnered 104 points.
Cincinnati took 12th place in the poll with 91 points. Last year, the Bearcats tied Connecticut for 11th place in the standings with a 7-11 BIG EAST mark. Cincinnati finished 19-16 overall and made the NIT.
The coaches have tabbed Providence for 14th place followed by Rutgers and DePaul.
2010-11 Preseason Coaches’ Poll
1. Pittsburgh (12) 222
2. Villanova (1) 208
3. Syracuse (2) 187
4. Georgetown 173
5. West Virginia 164
6. St. John’s (1) 145
7. Notre Dame 123
8. Louisville 121
10. Connecticut 113
11. Seton Hall 104
12. Cincinnati 91
13. USF 54
14. Providence 36
15. Rutgers 32
16. DePaul 26
First-place votes in parentheses