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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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Saturday / September 30.
  • Big Pressure on the Big East; Preseason Poll & First-Team Picks

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    With the college basketball season about to begin, there is Big Pressure on the Big East.

    The conference went 2-4 in the NCAA Tournament last year and didn’t get a single team into the second weekend of the Big Dance.

    Many of the conference’s traditional heavyweights are now long gone, too.

    In the 15 years from 1999-2013, Big East teams won five NCAA championships, including three by UConn and one apiece from Syracuse and Louisville. Those latter two programs now reside in the ACC.

    UConn, which won its fourth title since 1999 last year as a member of the American, is also an ex-Big East member.

    It has been 30 years since a team currently in the Big East won the title — Villanova in 1985. The Wildcats are the preseason favorite to win the league this year, and should be the conference’s best chance to make a run come March.

    But who else can? Georgetown? Xavier? St. John’s?

    “The Big East losing the people they’ve lost, they’ve taken a tremendous hit media-wise and PR-wise,” longtime New York basketball expert Tom Konchalski told “And they’ve got to get enough teams into the tournament where they’re recognized as a major conference, maybe even get back to the point where they are considered a BCS conference.”

    In predicting the field of 68 for the 2015 NCAAs, Lindy’s projects that only two teams will make the field — Villanova with the automatic bid and St. John’s as an at-large.

    ESPN college basketball analyst Seth Greenberg thinks the league has a couple teams that can do it — and make a run.

    “I think Villanova is a team that can get out of the first week,” he told “I think Georgetown depending on the development of their freshmen. I think Xavier has a mindset, even though they lost a guard, that they could potentially get out of it.

    “After that, who’s the fourth team potentially? St. John’s with their maturity should be a team that competes for an NCAA Tournament bid if they take care of business non-conference.”

    The Johnnies really need to make the Big Dance this year after falling apart and getting smacked in the first round of the NIT last year.

    They return all of their guards, including sophomore Rysheed Jordan and senior D’Angelo Harrison, two of the most dynamic guards in the league. They bring back shot-blocking big man Chris Obekpa, who head coach Steve Lavin believes is a double-double waiting to happen. The main question mark hanging over the team is how their new frontcourt players — Amar Alibegovic, Joey and Adonis Delarosa and Keith Thomas — will perform in replacing JaKarr Sampson and Orlando Sanchez, now with the 76ers and Knicks, respectively.

    “The best way to get in [to the NCAAs] is to win the Big East,” senior wing Sir’Dominic Pointer said. “We can get there if we just work together and play as a team. It’s the last year for us seniors, so we want to go out and play hard and make a run.”

    The good news for the Big East going forward is that the league has done well in recruiting.

    According to, Georgetown’s 2014 class was ranked No. 7 nationally, Seton Hall was No. 13, Xavier No. 23, Providence No. 27 and Villanova No. 37.

    So far in 2015, Marquette is No. 3 under new coach Steve Wojciechowski with a class highlighted by Wisconsin big man Henry Ellenson.

    St. John’s or Seton Hall could also make a big statement by landing Roselle (N.J.) Catholic point guard Isaiah Briscoe, and the Johnnies are also involved for fellow five-star prospects Cheick Diallo and Brandon Sampson. 

    Georgetown is in the mix for several elite recruits, including Ivan Rabb, Skal Labissiere, P.J. Dozier and Tacko Fall.

    “I think the key to the league’s gonna be to continue to recruit at a high level,” Greenberg said. “That, to me, is their challenge is to remain relevant in recruiting. If they remain relevant in recruiting, then the wins are going to take care of themselves because there’s enough established coaches in the league that they’re going to win games.”

    For now, though, the pressure is on the Big East to make something happen this year and deep into March.



    (Last year in parens)

    1. Villanova (29-5, 16-2 Big East)

    2. Georgetown (18-15, 8-10)

    3. St. John’s (20-13, 10-8)

    4. Xavier (21-13, 10-8)

    5. Providence (23-12, 10-8)

    6. Seton Hall (17-17, 6-12)

    7. Marquette (17-15, 9-9)

    8. Creighton (27-8, 14-4)

    9. Butler (14-17, 4-14)

    10. DePaul (12-21, 3-15)



    G – Darrun Hilliard, Villanova (14.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.6 apg)

    G – D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s (17.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg)

    G – D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown (17.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.7 apg)

    F – JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova, (14.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg)

    F – LaDontae Henton, Providence (14.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg)

    C – Matt Stainbrook, Xavier (10.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg)


    Rookie of the Year — Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall

    Player of the Year — Darrun Hilliard, Villanova

    Written by

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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.

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