Villanova unanimous choice to win Big East title; Hoyas' Smith-Rivera preseason player of year

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NEW YORK — Villanova coach Jay Wright is happy to just be talking about basketball this year and not conference realignment.

"Last season, with it being the first year of the new conference we were talking about a lot of different things," Wright said. "Now we can just focus on what's best for basketball."

Wright's team was the unanimous choice by the coaches to win the Big East championship.

"Preseason polls are based mostly on what a team did last year and we had a good season. We also have a lot coming back," Wright said.

The Wildcats have four starters returning from the team that won the conference's regular-season title and finished 29-5. Villanova set a school record with its 16 conference wins and earned its first outright crown since 1981-82.

Georgetown was picked second, the Big East announced Wednesday, with preseason player of the year D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera leading the way. The Hoyas received the other first-place vote since coaches can't pick their own team and edged St. John's by two points in the poll.

The Red Storm will feature one of the league's deepest backcourts, including guard D'Angelo Harrison, who was fourth in the conference in scoring last year in averaging 17.5 points.

Xavier, Providence, Seton Hall, Butler, Marquette, Creighton and DePaul round out the poll. Creighton coach Greg McDermott has to replace four starters, including son Doug, who was the conference's player of the year last season.

Marquette has a new coach with former Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski taking over for Buzz Williams, who left for Virginia Tech.

"We lost 60 percent of our scoring and 70 percent of our rebounding. We're going to need a lot of guys to step up," Wojciechowski said. "I'm very happy to be the head coach of Marquette and build a foundation of success there, the future's really bright for our program. We're not where we want to be, but we're heading there."

Butler also had a late coaching change as Chris Holtmann took over on an interim basis while Brandon Miller's on leave for medical reasons.

Smith-Rivera and Harrison were joined on the preseason first team by Kellen Dunham of Butler, JayVaughn Pinkston of Villanova and Matt Stainbrook of Xavier. The second team was Billy Garrett of DePaul, LaDontae Henton of Providence, Rysheed Jordan of St. John's and Villanova's Ryan Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard.

Isiah Whitehead of Seton Hall is the preseason rookie of the year.

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