Villanova ended last season as the top team in college basketball. This season, the defending champions will at least begin as the team to beat in the Big East.
The conference released its preseason poll Tuesday, and the Villanova Wildcats received nine of 10 first-place votes. The other school to receive a first-place vote, Xavier, was second.
Creighton, Georgetown and Seton Hall followed, finishing third, fourth and fifth in the preseason poll, respectively. Butler, Marquette and St. John’s were next at sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively. Providence and DePaul rounded out the conference preseason poll at ninth and 10th, respectively.
Villanova finished 16-2 in Big East play last season on its way to the program’s first National Championship since 1985, but the Wildcats did lose to Seton Hall, 69-67, in the Big East Tournament Championship Game. It was the Pirates’ first conference tournament championship since 1993.
The Wildcats lost the heart and soul of their team, point guard Ryan Arcidiacono, but Villanova does return a star-studded roster that will include last season’s leading scorer guard Josh Hart. He averaged 15.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
Despite being picked to finish fifth in the league, fans shouldn’t sleep on Seton Hall. The Pirates lost the team’s leading scorer, shooting guard Isaiah Whitehead, but the team’s other top two scorers, guard Khadeen Carrington and forward Desi Rodriguez, are both back. Seton Hall finished third in the Big East regular season standings behind Villanova and Xavier before winning the conference tournament.
Georgetown is expected to be the Big East’s most improved team. The Hoyas finished 15-18 overall, including 7-11 in conference play, which was eighth in the regular season standings. They were picked to finish fourth this season.