Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports

Villanova picked to win Big East, Friars 4th

October 18, 2017 - 10:23 am

By John Rooke

No real surprise, here.  But are the surprises yet to come?

At the Big East’s annual men’s basketball Media Day inside of New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden Wednesday, the Villanova Wildcats were selected as the preseason favorite to win the league by the conference coaches.

Villanova has claimed the last four regular season Big East championships, a conference record.  So, the question becomes – is there anyone capable of mounting a challenge to the Wildcats’ recent supremacy?

While Villanova received eight of the 10 first-place votes from the league coaches, Seton Hall, Xavier and Providence clearly comprise the upper-crust of conference hierarchy for this season – at least from a preseason point of view.  The Pirates finished second in the polling, followed by the Musketeers and Friars.  Creighton comes in 5th, followed by St. John’s, Marquette, Butler, Georgetown and DePaul.

The Wildcats, winners of the 2015-16 national championship, return two starters from last year’s team that finished 15-3 in league play.  One of those is junior guard Jalen Brunson, who is the preseason Big East Player of the Year.  Brunson was a 1st team all-Big East guard last season, averaging 14.7 points and 4.1 assists per game.  Junior forward Mikal Bridges is the other returning starter for Jay Wright.

Seton Hall’s 2nd place spot is their highest placement in the poll since 2000-01.  Four Pirates return to the floor for Kevin Willard’s team that finished 21-12 overall and reached the NCAA Tournament.  Center Angel Delgado is a Player of the Year candidate after leading the nation in rebounding last season at 13.1 boards per game.

Xavier reached the NCAA Tournament West Regional Final a year ago, narrowly missing out on a trip to the Final Four.  The Musketeers’ three-guard lineup of Trevon Bluiett, J.P. Macura and Quentin Goodin will be one of the best in the league, and perhaps the country.  Bluiett is a returning 1st team all-league pick from last year, and another Player of the Year candidate.

For the Friars, reaching a 4th straight NCAA Tournament a year ago was a bit of overachieving.  But what to do for an encore?  Four starters are back from the 20-13 team of last season, but another potential returning starter (senior forward Emmitt Holt) is dealing with abdominal issues and currently unavailable.  Senior guard Kyron Cartwright led the Big East in assists a year ago, and he and senior forward Rodney Bullock were both 2nd team all-Big East picks.

“We have some leadership and veterans who have played in tough games.  We have some great coaches in this league and we sell this league.  It’s the best basketball conference in America.

“This is the most veteran group I’ve ever coached,” Cooley added.  “We’ll see what the results are, we have a long way to go defensively, but they understand what it means to compete and hopefully that trickles down to our younger guys.”

The 2017-18 Preseason all-Big East 1st team includes three unanimous selections:  Creighton guard Marcus Foster, Seton Hall center Angel Delgado and Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett.  All three are seniors.  The other first team picks are Butler forward Kelan Martin and Seton Hall guard Khadeen Carrington.

Due to a tie in the coaches’ voting, the preseason all-Big East 2nd team has six members with Providence and St. John’s each grabbing two spots.  Both Friars are seniors, Bullock and Cartwright. The two St. John’s selections are guards Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett.  Both made the Big East all-freshman team unanimously last year.  Marquette’s Markus Howard and Villanova’s Mikal Bridges are the other 2nd team honorees.

Providence will open its’ season next week with a just-scheduled preseason exhibition game against former Big East rival UConn.  The schools received a waiver from the NCAA to play the extra exhibition for charity, with all proceeds going to hurricane relief funds sponsored by the Red Cross.  PC and UConn will play on October 25th at Mohegan Sun, and tickets are available to the public. 

Two additional exhibitions will both be played at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, with the regular season opener on November 10th at PC’s Alumni Hall against Houston Baptist.  That game, as well as every regular and postseason game on the schedule, will once again be broadcast on 103.7 WEEI-FM.  The Ed Cooley Show will also air on 103.7, beginning Saturday October 21st. 

2017-18 Preseason Coaches’ Poll

1. Villanova (8)


2. Seton Hall (1)


3. Xavier (1)


4. Providence


5. Creighton


6. St. John’s


7. Marquette


8. Butler


9. Georgetown


10. DePaul


First-place votes in parentheses.

BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year
Jalen Brunson, Villanova, G, Jr., 6-3, 190, Lincolnshire, Ill.

BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year
Omari Spellman, Villanova, F, Fr., 6-9, 245, North Royalton, Ohio

BIG EAST Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team
Kelan Martin, Butler, F, Sr., 6-7, 220, Louisville, Ky.
Marcus Foster, Creighton, G, Sr., 6-3, 210, Wichita Falls, Texas
Khadeen Carrington, Seton Hall, G, Sr., 6-4, 195, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Angel Delgado, Seton Hall, C, Sr., 6-10, 245, Bajos De Haina, D.R.
Trevon Bluiett, Xavier, G, Sr., 6-6, 198, Indianapolis, Ind.

BIG EAST Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team*
Markus Howard, Marquette, G, So., 5-11, 175, Chandler, Ariz.
Rodney Bullock, Providence, F, Sr., 6-8, 225, Hampton, Va.
Kyron Cartwright, Providence, G, Sr., 5-11, 185, Compton, Ca.
Marcus LoVett, St. John’s, G, So., 6-0, 180, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s, G, So., 6-1, 165, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Mikal Bridges, Villanova, F/G, Jr., 6-7, 210, Malvern, Pa.

Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention
Khyri Thomas, Creighton, G, Jr., 6-3, 205, Omaha, Neb.
Desi Rodriguez, Seton Hall, G/F, Sr., 6-6, 215, Bronx, N.Y.
J.P. Macura, Xavier, G, Sr., 6-5, 203, Lakeville, Minn.

Ed Cooley Radio Show

(aired on WEEI-FM 103.7)

10/21     Slavin Atrium, Providence campus            2pm (taping)

10/26     Audi Warwick                                             7pm

11/2       Hannoush Jewelers                                      7pm

11/7       DaVinci, Providence                                   7pm

11/27     Union Station Brewery, Providence           7pm (taping, broadcast on Nov. 28)

12/12     Caserta Pizzeria, Providence                      7pm

1/8         TBD                                                            7pm

1/25       TBD                                                            7pm

2/7         Audi Warwick                                            7pm

TBD        PJ Clarke’s, New York City                     TBD