CHRIS GRIVAS/THE HOYA
CHRIS GRIVAS/THE HOYA

The Big East has a new look this season, with perennial heavyweights Connecticut, Louisville and Syracuse departed for different leagues. Two constants to cheer the up Hoya faithful? Georgetown will still be tabbed near the top of the conference — the league’s coaches rank them second to start the season — and the championship will still be decided on the hallowed hardwood of Madison Square Garden.

1. Marquette

The Golden Eagles were voted the league’s best team for a reason: Returning senior forwards Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson lead a squad that went to the Elite Eight last season. Although Head Coach Buzz Williams will likely jazz up his offense with help from a trio of perimeter-playing rookies, the real battle when the Golden Eagles face the Hoyas will be down low; seeing Gardner and junior center Josh Smith go at it should be a real treat.

2. Georgetown

3. Creighton

Although Marquette was picked as the league’s preseason No. 1, the Bluejays are certainly the best addition to the Big East and perhaps the best squad, period. Head Coach Greg McDermott has another year to coach his son, senior forward Doug, a lethal shooter who was named a first team All-American last year. Add in senior guard Grant Gibbs, an excellent ball distributor who was given an extra year of eligibility, and Creighton is in the running for league champ.

4. Villanova

The Wildcats were a menace at home last season, knocking off Louisville, Syracuse, Georgetown and Marquette. Although center Mouphtaou Yarou graduated, the team should be tougher this year than last. Sophomore point guard Ryan Arcidiacono is a sharpshooter from beyond the arc. Junior forward JayVaughn Pinkston, who was particularly effective against the Hoyas last season, joins him on the roster and the preseason all-Big East second team.

5. St. John’s

The Red Storm have had a perennially cloudy future, and the team limped to a 17-16 record last season. However, the return of the prodigal son — in this case, graduate student forward God’sgift Achiuwa — and prodigious scorer D’Angelo Harrison, a junior guard, should help Head Coach Steve Lavin have a stronger roster this season. Lavin has also finally lived up to his recruiting record by netting freshman guard Rysheed Jordan, who could contend for Big East rookie of the year, an honor that sophomore forward Jakarr Sampson claimed last season.

6. Providence

Last season was an improvement for the Friars, but the team still ended up in the middle of the Big East pack, even though touted prospect and current Dallas Mavericks rookie Ricky Ledo didn’t play a single minute. While some would expect Head Coach Ed Cooley to find relief in a smaller, weaker league, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Without graduated guard Vincent Council and Ledo, it seems unlikely that a pair of seniors — forward Kadeem Batts and guard Bryce Cotton — can lift Providence to the top of the conference.

7. Xavier

One of three new arrivals to the Big East, the Musketeers face middling expectations in their debut season. The team finished 17-14 last season, although the arrival of 6-foot-10 junior center Matt Stainbrook, a transfer from Western Michigan, could help matters. Sophomore guard Semaj Christon is one of the best players in the league, but he’s swimming in the deep end without many other scoring threats.

8. Seton Hall

Seton Hall was miserable when facing halfway-decent teams last season, and little improvement is expected going into 2013-14. One wild card is Texas transfer and sophomore guard Sterling Gibbs, the brother of former Pitt standout Ashton Gibbs. If he can contribute alongside senior swingman Fuquan Edwin, a member of last year’s all-Big East second team, the Pirates could up their position in the rankings.

9. Butler

Although Butler has been known for its Cinderella stories in recent years, no one expects one this year. Not only is the team deprived of much of the talent from last year’s roster, it was also deserted by tactical mastermind Head Coach Brad Stevens, who left to take the helm of the Boston Celtics. Expect that to be a common storyline this year, because there isn’t a whole lot to talk about for the Bulldogs.

10. DePaul

The new, softer Big East won’t be any easier for the Blue Demons. Miserable for all of recent memory, DePaul still boasts a strong duo in senior guard Brandon Young and senior forward Cleveland Melvin. That’s about all Head Coach Oliver Purnell has to work with, though, and it will take more than Purdue transfer and senior forward Sandi Marcius to fix that.

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