Big East

Coaches' Poll

1. Syracuse (9 first-place votes): The Orange has two point guards in Gerry McNamara and freshman Josh Wright, a top 50 recruit with blazing speed. Equally important, Coach Jim Boeheim once again has Hakim Warrick, who averaged nearly 20 points last season and decided to return to college.

2. Connecticut (2): In Rudy Gay they trust. That said, point guard will be a question, as will the improvement of Charlie Villanueva.

3. Pittsburgh (1): The Panthers have three returning starters and an excellent point guard-big man combination in Carl Krauser and Chris Taft, who averaged 11 points as a freshman. Coach Jamie Dixon must find wing players who can play adequate defense.

4. Notre Dame: Rebounding was a major issue last season, but shouldn't be this season with a strong front court and the addition of transfer Dennis Latimore. Notre Dame has a balanced team and is as legitimate a Final Four contender as any Big East team.

5. Boston College: The Eagles have a formidable front court led by 6-foot-7 Craig Smith, who averaged 17 points and eight rebounds last season. Also watch 6-10 freshman Sean Williams, who has impressed coaches in practice.

6. Providence: Ryan Gomes is the focal point of the offense. But expect the 6-7 senior to be the focal point of opposing defenses, which will test his offseason development.

7. Villanova: The Wildcats are more experienced, and fearless guard Mike Nardi should be more adept at running the point in the Big East. Villanova finished strong last season but is hard to predict. It would not be surprising to see the Wildcats finish anywhere from fifth to ninth.

8. Seton Hall: The Pirates will challenge for the postseason with a sound defensive club that plays well at home. Over the last two years, Seton Hall went 26-5 at home.

9. West Virginia: The Mountaineers have five returning starters, including three double-digit scorers. West Virginia toured Europe this summer and should challenge for an NCAA tournament berth with a veteran team.

10. Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights reached the National Invitation Tournament final last season, and the program is more optimistic than it has been in more than a decade. Don't get too excited, though. This should be a down season because senior guard Ricky Shields is the only real scoring threat.

11. Georgetown: The Hoyas need to compile as many victories as possible against a soft nonconference schedule, because the Big East slate likely will not be kind.

12. St. John's: There's not much to get excited about here aside from Daryll Hill, who averaged 15 points as a freshman. Hill hyped himself as a New York playground legend throughout his high school career.