Jerel McNeal, Dominic James Earn Preseason All-BIG EAST Accolades
Oct. 22, 2008
New York, NY -
Connecticut has been tabbed as the favorite to win the 2008-09 BIG EAST regular-season title in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The Huskies received nine first-place votes and a total of 214 points in the poll. The coaches did not place their own teams on their respective ballots.
Four teams received first-place votes. Those four squads – UConn, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame -- were bunched at the top of the poll. Louisville and Pitt, which had three first-place votes each, finished with 205 and 200 points, respectively. Notre Dame received one first-place vote and was fourth with 195 points.
Connecticut compiled a 24-9 record last season, including a 13-5 mark in BIG EAST play. The Huskies, led by Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun, have won or shared a regular-season league crown in four of the last seven seasons. This year, the Huskies’ hopes revolve around the trio of center Hasheem Thabeet, guard A.J. Price and forward Jeff Adrien.
Louisville advanced the farthest of all BIG EAST teams in last year’s NCAA Championship, reaching the East Regional finals. This year, coach Rick Pitino welcomes back four starters, including senior forward Terrence Williams, from a team that finished 28-6 and was 15-3 in BIG EAST play.
Pittsburgh is the defending BIG EAST Championship titlist. Last year, as the tourney’s seventh seed, the Panthers took a memorable path to the crown at Madison Square Garden by winning four games in four days. Pitt made it to the second round of the NCAAs and finished 27-10 overall.
Notre Dame will welcome back the reigning BIG EAST Player of the Year, forward Luke Harangody, and expects to contend for the league crown. Last year, coach Mike Brey, the BIG EAST Coach of the Year for a second straight season, directed the Irish to a 25-8 overall mark and a 14-4 BIG EAST record.
The next four teams in the poll -- fifth place through eighth place -- also were bunched closely together. Villanova was fifth with 153 points, followed by Marquette (146), Georgetown (141) and Syracuse (139).
Villanova was 22-13 last year and advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Championship. Marquette finished 25-10 and played in the second round of the NCAAs. Georgetown also was an NCAA second-round participant after a 28-6 campaign that included a second consecutive BIG EAST regular-season championship. Syracuse made it to the quarterfinals of the NIT en route to a 21-14 record.
West Virginia, also an NCAA Sweet 16 team a season ago, was picked ninth with 121 points. Providence edged Cincinnati for 10th place, 99 points to 91 points.
The coaches believe Rutgers will finish 12th followed by Seton Hall, St. John’s, DePaul and USF.
1. Connecticut (9) - 214
Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody, the 2007-08 BIG EAST Player of the Year, has been named 2008-09 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year by a vote of the league’s head coaches. Georgetown’s Greg Monroe and Louisville’s Samardo Samuels, a pair of freshman forwards, were selected BIG EAST Co-Rookies of the Year. Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own players.
A 6-8 forward, Harangody was the BIG EAST’s scoring and rebounding champion in league games last season. He averaged 23.3 points and 11.3 rebounds, statistics that were even better than his overall averages of 20.4 points and 10.6 rebounds. A native of Schererville, Ind., Harangody is the first reigning BIG EAST Player of the Year to forego an immediate professional basketball career since Pittsburgh’s Brandin Knight shared Player of the Year honors with Connecticut’s Caron Butler in 2001-02 and came back to play in ’02-03.
Harangody’s teammate, Kyle McAlarney, was chosen for the 2008-09 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. A 6-0 senior guard, McAlarney averaged 15.1 points per game last season while helping the Irish to a 25-8 overall record and a 14-4 BIG EAST mark. He led all league players with 108 3-pointers and ranked second in 3-point percentage, making 44.1 percent.
Three other individual award winners from last year are Preseason All-BIG EAST selections. Sam Young, Pittsburgh’s 6-6 junior forward, was a unanimous pick. Young was last season’s BIG EAST Most Improved Player who also won the Dave Gavitt Trophy as the Most Outstanding Player at The BIG EAST Championship. He averaged 18.1 points and 6.3 rebounds for the season.
Connecticut junior Hasheem Thabeet, who was the 2007-08 BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year, set a league record with 94 blocked shots in conference play. For the season, the 7-3 center averaged 10.5 points, 7.9 boards and 4.5 blocks.
Jonny Flynn, Syracuse’s speedy point guard, shared BIG EAST Rookie of the Year honors last season with Pitt’s DeJuan Blair after averaging 15.7 points and 5.3 assists. His assist mark was third in the BIG EAST.
Cincinnati’s Deonta Vaughn is the league’s top returning scorer at guard. The 6-1 junior averaged 17.3 points last season, while garnering All-BIG EAST First Team honors.
Connecticut’s A.J. Price, the Husky senior point guard, also earned All-BIG EAST First Team recognition when he averaged 14.5 points and 5.8 assists. His assist average was second in the BIG EAST.
Forward DaJuan Summers has been a key contributor in Georgetown’s recent success. The 6-8 junior averaged 11.1 points and 5.4 rebounds last year for the Hoyas, who were the BIG EAST regular-season champions and finished with a 28-6 overall record.
Louisville’s Terrence Williams has been an all-around contributor. The 6-6 senior forward averaged 11.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists last year. The Cardinals advanced to the East Regional finals of the NCAA Championship.
Marquette senior guard Jerel McNeal added offensive prowess last year to his stellar defensive reputation. Last year, he averaged 14.9 points and 3.5 assists. Two seasons ago, McNeal was the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year.
Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds was the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year two years ago. Last season, the 6-2 guard averaged 15.9 points, 3.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds, while directing the Wildcats to the NCAA Midwest Regional semifinals.
Georgetown’s Monroe and Louisville’s Samuels were McDonald’s All-Americans and first team Parade All-Americans as high school seniors. Monroe is a 6-10 native of Gretna, La. He attended Helen Cox H.S. Samuels is a native of Trelawny, Jamaica, who attended St. Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey. Samuels was named 2008 USA Today Player of the Year.
2008-09 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year
2008-09 BIG EAST Preseason Co-Rookies of the Year
2008-09 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team
2008-09 Preseason BIG EAST Honorable Mention