Oct. 18. 2017

MARKUS HOWARD NAMED PRESEASON ALL-BIG EAST SECOND TEAM

NEW YORK - Sophomore guard Markus Howard has been named to the Preseason All-BIG EAST Conference Second Team, while the Golden Eagles were picked seventh in the annual survey of the league's head coaches.

Marquette returns three starters on a squad that qualified for the NCAA tournament one year ago after going 19-13, including 10-8 in league action. Howard, who was a BIG EAST All-Freshman Team selection during his rookie season, led the Golden Eagles last year with 13.2 points per game and led the nation with 54.7 percent from 3-point range. 

For the fourth straight year, Villanova has been chosen to capture the BIG EAST men's basketball regular-season crown in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches' Poll.  The Wildcats received eight first-place votes from the league's head coaches and a total of 80 points in the poll.  Seton Hall and Xavier also received a first-place vote.  Coaches do not place their own teams on their ballots. 
 
The coaches' poll has been on the mark going with the Wildcats. Villanova has taken the last four regular-season BIG EAST crowns outright, a league record.  Last season, Villanova finished in first place with a 15-3 mark, three games ahead of second-place Butler, which was 12-6.  During its run of four regular-season titles, Villanova has compiled a 63-9 record. For 2017-18, coach Jay Wright's squad will be aiming for an unprecedented fifth consecutive title.  Last year, the team finished with a 32-4 overall record, which included its second BIG EAST Tournament title over the last three years.

The Wildcats return two full-time starters from last year's team.  Junior guard Jalen Brunson is back at point guard.  He was a unanimous All-BIG EAST First Team pick last season after averaging 14.7 points and 4.1 assists.  His assist average ranked second in the BIG EAST and his +2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio was third in the league.  Junior forward Mikal Bridges, the other returning starter, averaged 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds.  Guard Donte DiVincenzo is another top returnee.  He made the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team after averaging 8.8 points and 3.8 rebounds.

Seton Hall placed second in the poll.  It's the Pirates' highest position in the Preseason Coaches' Poll since 2000-01. This year, Seton Hall welcomes back four starters from a 21-12 club that earned a second straight NCAA Tournament bid.  A trio of seniors is the cornerstone for optimism in 2017-18.  Center Angel Delgado led the nation with a 13.1 rebounding average and scored at a 15.2 clip.  Guard Khadeen Carrington was the team's top scorer, averaging 17.1 points.  Desi Rodriguez compiled averages of 15.7 points and 5.2 rebounds on the wing.
Xavier was tabbed for third place.  The Musketeers reached the NCAA West Regional final last year and finished 24-14 overall after going 9-9 in BIG EAST play.  Xavier's strength is in its three-guard lineup of Trevon Bluiett, J.P. Macura and Quentin Goodin.  Bluiett, a first team All-BIG EAST selection in each of the past two seasons, averaged 18.5 points and 5.7 rebounds last year.  Macura was second in scoring with a 14.4 average.  Goodin started 18 games as a freshman, averaging 5.1 points and 3.4 assists. 

Providence is slotted for fourth place.  The Friars made their fourth straight NCAA appearance last March and finished with a 20-13 overall record and a 10-8 BIG EAST mark.  The senior duo of forward Rodney Bullock and guard Kyron Cartwright is PC's foundation.  Bullock averaged a team-leading 15.7 points and 6.4 rebounds.  Cartwright averaged 11.4 points and a league-leading 6.7 assists.  He was named BIG EAST Most Improved Player.  Guard Jalen Lindsey averaged 10.7 points and 4.3 boards.

Creighton is predicted to finish fifth.  The Bluejays also earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament, finishing with a 25-10 record and a 10-8 BIG EAST mark.  Guard Marcus Foster returns for his senior season after averaging 18.2 points en route to All-BIG EAST First Team honors.  Junior Khyri Thomas, one of the league's most versatile performers, averaged 12.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists.  He shared BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honors.  Syracuse transfer Kaleb Joseph is expected to bolster the backcourt.

St. John's edged Marquette and Butler for sixth place.  The Red Storm showed significant improvement last year by going from one victory two seasons ago to a 7-11 BIG EAST record last year.  The freshman backcourt of Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett made great first impressions.  Ponds averaged 17.4 points and LoVett scored at a 15.9 clip.  Both made the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team.  Forward Bashir Ahmed returns after averaging 13.4 points and a team-high 5.5 rebounds.

Marquette got back to the NCAA Tournament last year for the first time since 2013.  Guard Markus Howard was a key catalyst on a team that finished 19-13 overall and 10-8 in league play.  A BIG EAST All-Freshman Team selection, Howard averaged 13.2 points and led the nation in 3-point shooting, making 54.7 percent.  Senior guard Andrew Rowsey, another returning sharpshooter, averaged 11.6 points and shot 44.7 percent from beyond the arc.  He won the BIG EAST Sixth Man of the Year award.

Butler is picked for eighth place.  The Bulldogs, who will be guided by new coach LaVall Jordan, were an NCAA Sweet 16 team last March and finished 25-9 overall.  Forward Kelan Martin led the team in scoring last year with a 16.0 average and in rebounding at 5.8.  Guard Kamar Baldwin averaged 10.1 points in his rookie season and earned BIG EAST All-Freshman Team honors.  Senior forward Tyler Wideman averaged 7.2 points and 5.0 boards.

Georgetown was chosen ninth.  The Hoyas' new coach Patrick Ewing returns to his alma mater after leading the Hoyas to three NCAA title games, including the 1984 national championship.  His first Hoya team will be led by center Jessie Govan, who averaged 10.3 points and 5.0 rebounds last season.  Forward Marcus Derrickson averaged 8.3 points and 4.1 rebounds.  Last year, Georgetown had a 14-18 overall record and a 5-13 BIG EAST mark.

DePaul was 10th in the poll.  The Blue Demons, with four starters back, figure to be led by guard Eli Cain, who averaged a team-leading 15.6 points.  Forward Tre'Darius McCallum averaged 9.7 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds.  Guard Brandon Cyrus averaged 6.3 points and forward Joe Hanel averaged 4.6 points and 4.8 boards.  Forward Peter Ryckbosch is back after missing last season with a knee injury.