Newcomers in italics

1. Villanova (9 first-place votes): This poll of the league's coaches was conducted before the Wildcats lost senior Curtis Sumpter, one of five returning starters, to a potential season-ending knee injury. Without their versatile forward, the Wildcats could rely on a four-guard set: Allan Ray, Randy Foye, Mike Nardi and Kyle Lowry, who together accounted for 62 percent of Villanova's scoring last season.

2. Connecticut (7): Coach Jim Calhoun says this team is his quickest in 10 years and perhaps his deepest up front. Sophomore forward Rudy Gay and junior center Josh Boone are future pros, with Gay being touted as the possible No. 1 pick if he chooses to leave early.

3. Louisville: Only three Cardinals who played key roles on last season's Final Four team remain, and they are joined by seven newcomers. Coach Rick Pitino calls senior Taquan Dean "the best basketball player who's a great shooter, because he can turn around and defend your best player, he can break you down off the dribble. He's a terrific athlete."

4. Syracuse: Guard Gerry McNamara is the only player remaining from the 2003 NCAA championship team, and with the departure of Hakim Warrick, this is finally his team. Freshman Eric Devendorf, the preseason rookie of the year, should help McNamara, the school's career leading three-point shooter.

5. West Virginia: Center Kevin Pittsnogle withdrew from the NBA draft, and his return will help the Mountaineers build on last season's run. Three other starters, including forward Mike Gansey, are back, and Robert Summers, a 7-foot transfer from Penn State, should help offset the losses of Tyrone Sally and D'or Fischer.

6. Georgetown: Seven of the Hoyas' top eight players return, including all five starters, and they are more comfortable running Coach John Thompson III's motion-based offense. Georgetown has the best front court outside of Connecticut and enough depth to avoid a repeat of last year's late-season swoon.

7. Pittsburgh: The Panthers' strength, which lay in their front court last season, shifts to the back court this year. Pittsburgh's top three returning scorers are guards, led by senior Carl Krauser, who withdrew from the NBA draft.

8. Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish were the best three-point shooting team in the league last season, and that shouldn't change. Senior Chris Quinn and junior Colin Falls combined for 104 three-pointers in Big East play.

9. Cincinnati: Would the Bearcats -- who return four senior starters -- be picked to finish this low if Bob Huggins was still their coach? Probably not. But Huggins was forced out in August, and assistant Andy Kennedy took over on an interim basis. Cincinnati's streak of 14 straight NCAA appearances could be in jeopardy, and a tough conference schedule won't help.

10. St. John's: All five starters return, most significantly guard Daryll Hill. In Big East play, the junior took more than a third of the Red Storm's shots and averaged 22.3 points. Junior Lamont Hamilton is an inside complement, and freshman Anthony Mason Jr., the son of the former Knick, joins the team.

11. DePaul: The Blue Demons lost their top inside and outside threats, as well as their coach, from last year's 20-win team. Coach Jerry Wainwright earned a reputation for getting the most out of his teams at Richmond and UNCW.

12. Marquette: Senior forward Steve Novak is a preseason Wooden Award candidate, but Coach Tom Crean says that the star of the team is "the team itself." Freshman Dominic James takes over the reins of the offense from Travis Diener.

13. Providence: The Friars won only four league games last season -- and that was with forward Ryan Gomes, who departed as the school's career leading scorer.

14. Rutgers: Junior guard Quincy Douby is a proven scorer (15.1 ppg), but Rutgers's biggest problem last season was its defense (opponents shot 46.5 percent).

15. Seton Hall: Coach Louis Orr already is on the hot seat, and it won't get better with only one double-digit scorer (senior Kelly Whitney) returning.

16. South Florida: The Bulls, not a Conference USA power, brought in seven new players to help, but one of them (transfer guard David Sills) already has been dismissed.