BIG EAST COACHES PICK PITTSBURGH TO WIN REGULAR SEASON TITLE :: Pitt is coming off a 25-8 season in 2005-06 and returns eight of its top 10 players BIG EAST COACHES PICK PITTSBURGH TO WIN REGULAR SEASON TITLE

Oct. 25, 2006

NEW YORK - For only the third time in conference history, Pittsburgh has been chosen to win the BIG EAST regular season crown in a poll of the league's head coaches. The Panthers received 10 first-place votes, which helped them edge Georgetown in total points, 219 to 212, for the top spot in the poll. The Hoyas were picked second. They had four first-place votes.

Pitt is coming off a 25-8 season in 2005-06 and returns eight of its top 10 players. The Panthers, who are coached by Jamie Dixon, have appeared in the last five NCAA Tournaments. Pitt was the coaches' choice to win the league in 1987-88 and 2002-03. In '02-03, the Panthers were tabbed to win the BIG EAST West Division. In both seasons, the Panthers followed through by capturing the respective regular season titles.

Georgetown is the second-place pick for the first time since 2002-03 when they were also slotted below the Panthers in the West Division. This season, the Hoyas will build around forward Jeff Green and center Roy Hibbert. Both players were named to the 2006-07 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. Last year, GU finished 23-10 and advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Championship.

Syracuse was picked for third place with 182 points, just one point ahead of Marquette. The Orange, who have won the last two BIG EAST Championships Presented by Aeropostale, finished 23-12 last season. This year, SU returns four starters but must replace guard Gerry McNamara, who graduated.

Marquette was the most successful of the five new league teams last year. The Golden Eagles compiled an overall record of 20-11 and were 10-6 in the BIG EAST. Coach Tom Crean's squad will feature sophomore guard Dominic James, the 2005-06 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year.

Connecticut was picked for fifth with 173 points. The Huskies, who were the league's regular season co-champions last year, finished 30-4 and advanced to the Elite Eight. UConn received strong backing in the poll despite losing four players in the first round of the 2006 NBA Draft.

Louisville edged Villanova for sixth place. The Cardinals battled through some key injuries last year to finish 21-13. This season, they return four starters, including junior forward Juan Palacios, a Preseason All-BIG EAST pick.

Villanova shared the regular season title with Connecticut last year with a 14-2 BIG EAST record. This season, coach Jay Wright welcomes back two starters and 2004-05 all-conference forward Curtis Sumpter, a senior, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL.

The coaches predicted that DePaul will finish eighth. The Blue Demons are the only league team to return four double-figure scorers. St. John's was picked ninth, just ahead of Providence.

Notre Dame was selected 11th, followed by West Virginia, Cincinnati, Rutgers, Seton Hall and USF.

2006-07 Preseason Coaches' Poll

SchoolPts.
1. Pittsburgh (10)219
2. Georgetown (4)212
3. Syracuse (1)182
4. Marquette (1)181
5. Connecticut173
6. Louisville149
7. Villanova146
8. DePaul134
9. St. John's105
10. Providence102
11. Notre Dame80
12. West Virginia72
13. Cincinnati52
14. Rutgers49
15. Seton Hall42
16. USF22

First-place votes in parentheses