By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 23, 2008
NEW YORK, Oct. 22 -- On the heels of back-to-back regular season Big East championships and a third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, the Georgetown Hoyas were picked Wednesday to finish a humble seventh in the annual preseason coaches' poll.
No disrespect was intended, a succession of coaches insisted in interviews afterward. The prognostication reflects two things, they said: The Hoyas' loss of 7-foot-2 senior center Roy Hibbert and four-year starting guard Jonathan Wallace on the one hand; and the overall competitiveness of the conference, on the other.
"To me, they lost the most of anybody," Cincinnati Coach Mick Cronin said of Georgetown. "They added quality players, but it's not the same when you lose a guard who started every game for four years and a 7-2 center."
Georgetown's veterans on hand, senior guard Jessie Sapp and junior forward DaJuan Summers, took the prediction in stride, as did Coach John Thompson III.
"Whoever is ranked 1, 2, 3 -- if they end up 7, 8 and 9, I don't think that would surprise anyone at all," Thompson said. "Nor would it surprise anyone if the teams ranked 7, 8 and 9 end up 1, 2, 3. The beauty of it is, it's a meritocracy. And we're gonna go out and play for it."
Connecticut was voted the favorite to capture the Big East title, drawing nine first-place votes and a total of 214 points. The Huskies are expected to benefit greatly from the return of guard A.J. Price, a unanimous all-Big East selection last season, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament during the team's loss to San Diego in the NCAA tournament.
Louisville, which advanced furthest among conference schools in the NCAA tournament, reaching the East Region final, received three first-place votes and was ranked second (205 points). Pittsburgh also received three first-place votes and was third with 200 points.
In addition, coaches voted Notre Dame's Luke Harangody, last season's Big East player of the year, as preseason player of the year. The votes for preseason rookie of the year were split between Georgetown's Greg Monroe and Louisville's Samardo Samuels.
With 16 teams participating, the Big East's preseason media day consists of a dizzying series of interviews with each team's head coach and selected players. While the coaches range in age, style and experience, they spoke with one voice on the rigors of the Big East this season, each taking turns making the case for the league getting at least eight bids to the 2009 NCAA tournament.
Louisville's Rick Pitino took it a step further.
"I honestly believe that we ought to get 10 teams [in the tournament] this year," Pitino said. "It all depends on how much we beat each other up. It's a very difficult conference."