For the first time in three years, a team other than Georgetown was selected as the preseason favorite to win the Big East Conference basketball championship. That team, as selected by the coaches and announced here today, is Syracuse.
An even bigger surprise may be that Villanova, which beat Georgetown for the NCAA championship last April, was picked to finish sixth in the nine-team league.
Georgetown, now playing without center Patrick Ewing, was selected No. 2 in the conference, three points behind Syracuse in the voting by the nine head coaches.
Syracuse returns four starters, including point guard Pearl Washington and forward Rafael Addison.
"Somebody had to be selected No. 1, so it was us," Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said during the league's media day.
The coaches selected Pittsburgh as third, St. John's and Boston College tied for fourth, Villanova sixth, Seton Hall seventh, Connecticut eighth and Providence ninth. Three coaches picked Georgetown (35-3 last year) to finish first.
Georgetown Coach John Thompson simply smiled when asked about Villanova being picked sixth. "Don't bet on the team, bet on the jockey," he said, referring to Wildcats Coach Rollie Massimino. "Villanova has tradition. That's not an up-and-down program. They've sustained excellence."
Much the same could be said about Georgetown, which has been picked as high as No. 2 in the nation, despite the loss of Ewing and Billy Martin. The basis for picking the Hoyas that high is the return of guards Michael Jackson and Horace Broadnax and swing men Reggie Williams and David Wingate, among others.