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October 25, 2006

Pitt picked to win Big East in hoops

NEW YORK CITY- Coming off a 25-8 season and returning eight of its top 10 players, Pittsburgh was picked to win the Big East conference Wednesday in a preseason poll of Big East coaches. While the Panthers could be the class of the league, four teams garnered first place votes including Georgetown, Syracuse and Marquette.

Picked second in the preseason Big East poll, Georgetown finished just 23-10 last season but the Hoyas are riding the momentum of a strong run in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. On the strength of 7-1 center Roy Hibbert and 6-9 power forward Jeff Green, Coach John Thompson III's crew nearly upset eventual Champion Florida in the Sweet 16 before falling, 57-53.

Despite losing all-everything guard Gerry McNamara, Syracuse was picked third in the preseason Big East coaches' poll followed by Marquette at No. 4. The Orange return senior power forward Demetris Nichols, sophomore guard Eric Devendorf and senior forward Terrence Roberts to a line-up that also boasts the league's preseason Rookie of the Year selection Paul Harris.

After the four teams receiving first place votes, league superpower Connecticut was picked to finish fifth and Louisville was picked sixth. Connecticut lost five players to the 2006 NBA Draft including four first round picks, but reloaded with the league's best recruiting class.

Louisville struggled to an NIT bod last season, but returns all but one player from last season and had the league's second best recruiting year including Rivals.com five-star recruits Derrick Caracter and Earl Clark.

Fresh off a run to the Elite 8, but without three key players from last season, Villanova was picked by the coaches to finish seventh, league upstart DePaul was picked eighth on the strength of returning center Wilson Chandler and wildly athletic guard Sammy Mejia and Providence was picked No. 10.

(first place votes in parenthesis)

1. Pitt (10) 219
2. Georgetown (4) 212
3. Syracuse (1) 181
4. Marquette (1) 181
5. Connecticut 173
6. Louisville 149
7. Villanova 146
8. DePaul 134
9. St. John's 105
10. Providence 102
11. Notre Dame 80
12. West Virginia 72
13. Cincinnati 52
14. Rutgers 49
15. Seton Hall 42
16. USF 22

Stay logged on to CardinalSports.com for more from Louisville SportsReport senior writer Russ Brown in New York City.

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