Men's Basketball Picked Seventh in BIG EAST Poll

Sophomore Deonte Burton is MU's leading returning scorer.

Oct. 22, 2014

BIG EAST Media Day Central

NEW YORK - The Marquette University men's basketball team was picked tied for seventh in the 2014-15 BIG EAST Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll, the league announced Wednesday morning in New York City.

With four starters returning from last year’s team that won the BIG EAST regular season and finished 29-5 overall, Villanova has been selected to win the 2014-15 conference crown in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches’ Poll.  The Wildcats received all nine possible first-place votes and 81 points.  Coaches did not place their own teams in their ballots.  

Last year, the Wildcats finished 16-2 in BIG EAST play to win their first outright crown since 1981-82.  The VU overall win total of 29 was the second highest in school history.  The 16 BIG EAST wins was a school record.  This season, coach Jay Wright can rely on forward JayVaughn Pinkston and guard Darrun Hilliard, a pair of seniors, who both averaged 14 points per game last year.  Junior guard Ryan Arcidiacono is back after averaging 9.9 points and 3.5 assists.  Junior forward Daniel Ochefu averaged 5.7 points and 6.1 rebounds.  Ochefu and Hilliard shared last year’s BIG EAST Most Improved Player award.

Georgetown edged St. John’s for second place in the poll by just two points, 67-65.  The Hoyas finished 18-15 overall and 8-10 in BIG EAST play last season.  Coach John Thompson III has some quality returnees, including junior D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, the 2014-15 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year.  A 6-3 guard, Smith-Rivera finished third in the BIG EAST in scoring last year with a 17.6 average.  Senior guard Jabril Trawick, a standout defender, is back after averaging 9.1 points.  Six-ten Joshua Smith returns at center after averaging 11.5 points and 3.4 rebounds.  He missed the second half of last season due to academic reasons.

St. John’s will feature one of the league’s deepest backcourts, including All-BIG EAST First Team guard D’Angelo Harrison.  A 6-4 senior, Harrison ranked fourth in the BIG EAST in scoring last year with a 17.5 average.  Point guard Rysheed Jordan made the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team after averaging 9.7 points and 3.0 assists.  Senior guards Phil Greene IV and Jamal Branch are also battle tested.  Junior center Chris Obekpa already is the Red Storm’s all-time shot blocker.  Last year, coach Steve Lavin’s club was 20-13 overall and 10-8 in BIG EAST play.

Xavier is picked fourth.  In their first season in the BIG EAST, the Musketeers made the NCAA Tournament, finishing 21-13 overall and tieing for third place in the league with a 10-8 record.  It was Xavier’s eighth 20-win season in the last nine years.  This year, coach Chris Mack can build around senior starters Matt Stainbrook and Dee Davis.  Stainbrook, a 6-10 center, averaged 10.6 points and a team-leading 7.4 rebounds while making All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention.  Davis, a 6-0 guard, averaged 7.7 points and recorded a 4.7 assist mark, which ranked second in the BIG EAST.

Providence was slotted for fifth place with 49 points.  The Friars won the BIG EAST Tournament title last year under coach Ed Cooley.  They finished 23-12 overall and 10-8 in league play.  For 2014-15, Providence welcomes back three key contributors from last season – forwards LaDontae Henton and Tyler Harris along with center Carson Desrosiers.  Cooley also has guard Kris Dunn who missed last season with a shoulder injury.  Henton averaged 14.0 points and led the team in rebounding at 7.9.  Harris averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 boards.  Desrosiers averaged 3.6 points and 2.4 blocked shots.

Seton Hall is expected to move up in the standings with the coaches picking the Pirates sixth.  The Hall,  17-17 overall and 6-12 in the BIG EAST last year, has standout guard Sterling Gibbs who averaged 13.2 points and 4.2 assists.  Freshman guard Jaren Sina averaged 6.0 points per game.  The backcourt is expected to be even stronger with freshman Isaiah Whitehead, the 2014-15 BIG EAST Preseason Rookie of the Year, who is considered the centerpiece of a stellar recruiting class for coach Kevin Willard.  Last season, the Pirates finished on an uptick reaching the BIG EAST Tournament semifinals as the No. 8 seed.

Butler is tied with Marquette for seventh in the poll.  The Bulldogs are expected to improve with the return of starting guards Kellen Dunham and Alex Barlow along with guard Roosevelt Jones who missed all of last season with a wrist injury.  Dunham was an All-BIG EAST Second Team pick with a 16.4 scoring average.  Barlow averaged 6.6 points.  Two seasons ago, Jones averaged 10.1 points and 5.6 boards.  Forward Kameron Woods averaged 7.5 points and posted a league-leading 9.0 rebound mark.

Marquette and new head coach Steve Wojciechowski have two senior starters returning, guard Derrick Wilson and forward Juan Anderson.  Wilson, who has played 100 collegiate games, averaged 5.0 points, 4.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds.  Anderson started 19 games and averaged 3.2 points and 3.3 rebounds.  Sophomore forward Deonte Burton made the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team after averaging 6.9 points.  Guard Matt Carlino, a transfer from BYU who is eligible immediately, averaged 13.7 points last year.

Creighton is picked ninth.  Last year, the Bluejays made a big splash in the BIG EAST by finishing second in the league with a 14-4 record and being the runner-up to Providence in the BIG EAST Tournament on the strength of consensus National Player of the Year Doug McDermott.  Coach Greg McDermott has to replace four starters this season.  Point guard Austin Chatman is the lone regular returning.  He was third in the BIG EAST in assists with a 4.4 mark while averaging 8.1 points.  

DePaul was placed 10th in the poll.  The Blue Demons had two BIG EAST All-Rookie Team members last year, guard Billy Garrett, Jr. and center Tommy Hamilton IV.  Garrett, Jr. also was BIG EAST Rookie of the Year.  He led all conference freshmen with a 12.4 scoring average and 90 assists.  Hamilton IV, a 6-11 center, averaged 7.7 points and 4.8 rebounds.  Some newcomers, including 6-6 transfer forward Myke Henry, are expected to help right away.

2014-15 Preseason Coaches’ Poll 
1. Villanova (9) 81
2. Georgetown (1) 67
3. St. John’s 65
4. Xavier 52
5. Providence 49
6. Seton Hall 43
7. Butler 28
        Marquette 28
9. Creighton 25
10. DePaul 12 
(first-place votes in parentheses)

Georgetown guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera has been chosen the 2014-15 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year by a vote of the league’s head coaches.  Seton Hall freshman guard Isaiah Whitehead has been named BIG EAST Preseason Rookie of the Year.

Smith-Rivera, a 6-3 junior, is the sixth Georgetown player in BIG EAST history to earn Preseason Player of the Year honors.  He finished third in the league in scoring last year with a 17.6 average.  He led the BIG EAST in free throw shooting, making 87.3 percent, and shot 39.3 percent from 3-point range.  One of the league’s ironmen, Smith-Rivera was fourth in minutes played in league action, averaging 37.0 minutes per game.  A native of Indianapolis, Ind., he finished strong late in the season, averaging 21.0 points per game over the last six contests.

Smith-Rivera was an All-BIG EAST Second Team selection in 2013-14 and a BIG EAST All-Rookie Team pick as a freshman.  

Whitehead is a 6-4 guard who was a 2014 McDonald’s All-American at Lincoln H.S. in Brooklyn, N.Y.  He also was named Mr. Basketball in New York by the state’s Basketball Coaches Association.

The 2014-15 Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team includes three seniors and two juniors.  In addition to Smith-Rivera, the members include seniors D’Angelo Harrison of St. John’s, JayVaughn Pinkston of Villanova and Matt Stainbrook of Xavier.  The other junior is Kellen Dunham of Butler.  

Harrison also earned All-BIG EAST First Team honors last year.  He has led the Red Storm in scoring in each of the past two seasons.  Last year, the 6-4 guard averaged 17.5 points per game and won the Haggerty Award as the top collegiate player in the New York Metropolitan area.  A native of Missouri City, Texas, he leads all BIG EAST players with 866 career points in league play.     

Pinkston was a prime contributor in the Villanova success that included a 29-5 overall record and a BIG EAST regular-season title.  A 6-7, 235-pound forward, he supported the balanced Wildcat attack with a 14.1 scoring average and was one of three players to average 6.1 rebounds per game.  Pinkston hails from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Like Pinkston, Stainbrook is a powerful low-post presence.  The Xavier forward averaged 10.6 points and a team-leading 7.4 rebounds.  He ranked second in the BIG EAST in field goal shooting, making 55.6 percent.  The 6-10, 263-pound native of Bay Village, Ohio, earned All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention recognition last year.  

Dunham emerged as one of the top shooters in the BIG EAST last season.  His 16.4 scoring mark helped earn him All-BIG EAST Second Team honors.  He is the league’s third top returning scorer.  His 78 3-point baskets ranked fifth in the conference.  A 6-6 native of Pendleton, Ind., Dunham shot 80.3 percent from the foul line.
The Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team is a younger group than the First Team with two seniors, a junior and two sophomores.

DePaul sophomore guard Billy Garrett, Jr. was the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year last season.  He ranked first among league freshmen with a 12.4 scoring average and 93 assists. 

The other sophomore is St. John’s guard Rysheed Jordan who averaged 9.7 points and 3.0 assists.

The lone junior is Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono, a two-year starter who averaged 9.9 points and 3.5 assists.  He was an All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention pick.

Hilliard, Arcidiacono’s backcourt teammate, was a contributor to the Villanova balanced success with a 14.3 scoring average.  He shot 41.4 percent from beyond the arc.  Hilliard shared the BIG EAST Most Improved Player award with teammate Daniel Ochefu. 

The Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention group includes three juniors: Butler guard Roosevelt Jones, who missed all of last season with a wrist injury, St. John’s center Chris Obekpa who is already the school’s all-time blocked shots leader and Seton Hall guard Sterling Gibbs who was the team’s second leading scorer with a 13.2 average.
2014-15 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown

2014-15 BIG EAST Preseason Rookie of the Year
Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall

2014-15 BIG EAST Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team
Kellen Dunham, Butler, G, Jr., 6-6, 185, Pendleton, Ind.
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown, G, Jr., 6-3, 214, Indianapolis, Ind.
D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s, G, Sr., 6-4, 204, Missouri City, Texas
JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova, F, Sr., 6-7, 235, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Matt Stainbrook, Xavier, C, Sr., 6-10, 270, Bay Village, Ohio

2014-15 BIG EAST Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team
Billy Garrett, Jr., DePaul, G, So., 6-6, 205, Chicago, Ill.
LaDontae Henton, Providence, F, Sr., 6-6, 215, Lansing, Mich.
Rysheed Jordan, St. John’s, G, So., 6-4, 185, Philadelphia, Pa.
Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova, G, Jr., 6-3, 195, Langhorne, Pa.
Darrun Hilliard, Villanova, G, Sr., 6-6, Bethlehem, Pa.

2014-15 Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention
Roosevelt Jones, Butler, G, Jr., 6-4, 227, O’Fallon, Ill.
Chris Obekpa, St. John’s, C, Jr., 6-9, 240, Makurdi, Nigeria
Sterling Gibbs, Seton Hall, G, Jr., 6-2, 185, Scotch Plains, N.J.




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