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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Tuesday / June 2.
  • Pitt Picked to Win Big East, Freeman Player of Year

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    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.

    1. Pittsburgh  (12 votes)

    2. Villanova (1)

    3. Syracuse (3)

    4. Georgetown

    5. West Virginia

    6. St. John’s (1)

    7. Notre Dame

    8(t). Louisville

    Marquette

    10. UConn

    11. Seton Hall

    12. Cincinnati

    13. USF

    14. Providence

    15. Rutgers

    16. DePaul

    FREEMAN NAMED PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR

    Georgetown guard Austin Freeman has been named 2010-11 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year by a vote of the league’s head men’s basketball coaches.  It is the sixth time in league history that a Georgetown standout has captured BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year honors.

    Syracuse freshman Fab Melo was chosen BIG EAST Preseason Rookie of the Year.  Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own players.

    Freeman, a 6-3½ three-year starter for the Hoyas, was an All-BIG EAST Second Team pick last season while helping the team compile a 23-11 overall record and a 10-8 league mark.  The Hoyas also advanced to the title game of The BIG EAST Championship and earned a bid to the NCAA Championship.

    Freeman averaged 16.5 ppg and led all BIG EAST guards in field goal percentage, connecting on 52.5 percent of his attempts last year.  He was fourth in the league in free throw shooting, making 85.6 percent.  In conference games, he was even more effective, averaging 19.5 points and leading the league in 3-point shooting, making 51.9 percent.

    The other Hoyas to earn BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year honors were Roy Hibbert (2007-08), Alonzo Mourning (1991-92) and three-time honoree Patrick Ewing (1982-83, ’83-84 and ’84-85).

    Melo is a 7-0, 265-pound forward-center from Juiz de Forz, Brazil.  In 2009-10, he played at Sagemont H.S. in Sagemont, Fla., where he earned McDonald’s All-American and Parade All-American honors.

    In addition to Freeman, the Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team includes two members from last year’s All-BIG EAST Second Team and two from the All-BIG EAST Third Team.  All five hail from the New York Metropolitan area, including three from the Bronx, N.Y.

    Pittsburgh’s Ashton Gibbs, a guard from Scotch Plains, N.J., was the BIG EAST Most Improved Player last season and a second-team all-conference selection.  The 6-2 junior led the Panthers in scoring with a 15.7 average and was first in the BIG EAST in free throw shooting, making 88.4 percent.  In league games, his 3-point shooting mark of 44.4 percent ranked third in the conference.

    Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell is the other second-team pick that is a preseason first team selection in 2010-11.  The 6-5 senior is one of the three Bronx natives.  Last season, Hazell finished third in the BIG EAST in scoring with a 20.4 average.  In league games, he finished second in the conference scoring race, averaging 21.7 ppg.  Going into the 2010-11 campaign, Hazell is the league’s active leader in points (1,058), 3-pointers made (169) and steals (93) in BIG EAST play.

    Connecticut’s Kemba Walker and Villanova’s Corey Fisher made the All-BIG EAST Third Team last season.  Walker, a 6-1 junior guard, averaged 14.6 ppg last year.  He led the league in steals with a 2.1 average and was second in assists with a 5.1 mark.  Fisher averaged 13.3 ppg and a team-leading 3.9 assists.  Walker and Fisher both finished second on their respective teams in scoring.  Both call the Bronx, N.Y., home.

    West Virginia’s Kevin Jones helped spark the Mountaineers’ run to the NCAA Final Four last year and the school’s first BIG EAST Championship crown.  A 6-8 junior forward from Mount Vernon, N.Y., Jones averaged 13.5 points and 7.2 rebounds.  WVU finished the season with a 31-7 record.

    The Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team includes three seniors and two juniors.  The seniors are Georgetown guard Chris Wright, Notre Dame forward Tim Abromaitis and St. John’s guard-forward D.J. Kennedy.  The juniors are Marquette forward Jimmy Butler and Syracuse forward Kris Joseph, who was the BIG EAST Sixth Man of the Year last season.  Abromaitis and Butler earned BIG EAST Honorable Mention recognition.

    The 2010-11 Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention group includes Cincinnati forward Yancy Gates, Marquette guard Darius Johnson-Odom and Syracuse forward Rick Jackson.

    2010-11 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year

    Austin Freeman, Georgetown

    2010-11 BIG EAST Preseason Rookie of the Year

    Fab Melo, Syracuse

    2010-11 Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team

    Austin Freeman, Georgetown (Player of the Year), G, Sr., 6-3 ½, 227, Mitchellville, Md.

    Kemba Walker, Connecticut, G, Jr., 6-1, 172, Bronx, N.Y.

    Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh, G, Jr., 6-2, 190, Scotch Plains, N.J.

    Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall, G, Sr., 6-5, 188, Bronx, N.Y.

    Corey Fisher, Villanova, G, Sr., 6-1, 200, Bronx, N.Y.

    Kevin Jones, West Virginia, F, Jr., 6-8, 255, Mount Vernon, N.Y.

    2010-11 Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team

    Chris Wright, Georgetown, G, Sr., 6-1, 208, Washington, D.C.

    Jimmy Butler, Marquette, F, Sr., 6-7, 220, Tomball, Texas

    Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame, F, Sr., 6-8, 235, Unionville, Conn.

    D.J. Kennedy, St. John’s, G/F, Sr., 6-5, 214, Pittsburgh, Pa.

    Kris Joseph, Syracuse, F, Jr., 6-7, 207, Montreal, Quebec

    2010-11 Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention

    Yancy Gates, Cincinnati, F, Sr., 6-9, 260, Cincinnati, Ohio

    Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette, G, Jr., 6-2, 215, Raleigh, N.C.

    Rick Jackson, Syracuse, F, Sr., 6-9, 240, Philadelphia, Pa.



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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.