Big East basketball expects rebirth with new 10-team league

D'Angelo Harrison poses for a portrait at the

D'Angelo Harrison poses for a portrait at the St. John's annual Media Day held at Carnesecca Arena. (Oct. 10, 2013) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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Down in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, Pitt's Jamie Dixon and Notre Dame's Mike Brey got busy endorsing their schools' move from the old Big East to the ACC on media day one year after moaning about the disconnect with tradition.

Meanwhile, the new Big East enjoyed an unveiling in New York that harked back to the good old days of a basketball-centric conference.

As commissioner Val Ackerman said, "This is a return to the roots of the old and a season of new beginnings. That is what makes it so exciting. We're doing everything Dave Gavitt set out to do when he brought the league into being in 1979. We are going to make this basketball conference a force."

In terms of sheer numbers, the ACC has supplanted the old Big East at the top of the NCAA food chain. But the seven basketball-first Big East members that announced plans to form their own league last December -- St. John's, Seton Hall, Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, Providence and DePaul -- and three prominent newcomers -- Creighton, Xavier and Butler -- have a rich history that commands immediate respect.

"College athletics is going through an evolution," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "We're fortunate to land where we are in this conference with nine other schools where basketball is the heart and soul of what we do."

The preseason coaches' poll reflected a healthy mix of old and new. The top two spots went to Marquette and Georgetown, which tied with eventual national champion Louisville for the regular-season title last season. Creighton, featuring senior forward Doug McDermott, who was unanimous choice as player of the year, was third.

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Resurgent Villanova, St. John's and Providence followed and then Xavier, Seton Hall, Butler and DePaul. The Red Storm, which received two first-place votes, had preseason rookie of the year Rysheed Jordan, first-team selection D'Angelo Harrison, second-teamer JaKarr Sampson and Chris Obekpa earning honorable mention.

"One of the most talented teams in the country is St. John's," Providence coach Ed Cooley said. "They're as talented as anybody in America."

Villanova coach Jay Wright said the new Big East preserves old rivalries but also offers the chance for exciting new ones. Wright expects a contingent of Wildcats fans to make a New Year's Eve trip to Butler's fabled Hinkle Fieldhouse, which was celebrated in the movie "Hoosiers."

"Who would appreciate a place like that more than basketball junkies from the Northeast?" Wright asked.

It's a two-way street. McDermott was a likely NBA lottery pick, but returned for the chance to play in the Big East for his father, Greg. Anticipating a couple visits to Madison Square Garden, McDermott said, "The exposure is at its all-time high for me. We've never had that opportunity to showcase our talents on the biggest stage."

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