St. John's picked to finish fifth in Big East

NEW YORK -- St. John's has been picked to finish fifth in the Big East in the conference's preseason coaches' poll, while Seton Hall was picked to finish eighth.

The poll was released Wednesday at the conference's media day, held at Chelsea Piers.

Marquette was picked to win the league, but only received five of the 10 first-place votes. The other five went to Georgetown (2), Creighton (1) and St. John's (2), an indication that the conference championship race is wide open.

It's also an indication that at least a couple coaches think the Red Storm can finish on top.

Here are the full results of the poll: 1) Marquette (74 points), 2) Georgetown (70), 3) Creighton (61), 4) Villanova (58), 5. St. John's (56), 6) Providence (41), 7) Xavier (38), 8) Seton Hall (20), 9) Butler (19), 10) DePaul (13).

St. John's junior guard D'Angelo Harrison, who talked last week about his team possibly winning the Big East title, was one of five players named to the preseason All-Big East first team. (Creighton's Doug McDermott took home the preseason Player of the Year honor.)

Harrison admitted Wednesday that the Red Storm have a lot to prove, but also said they'll use the fifth-place prediction as motivation. "When I get back to the locker room, I’m gonna write '5th' on the board," Harrison said. "Everybody’s gonna have to touch it, like a ritual or something."

Sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson, last season's Big East Rookie of the Year, made the All-Big East second team. Fellow soph Chris Obekpa was an honorable mention selection, and freshman Rysheed Jordan was named the preseason Rookie of the Year.

All told, St. John's had four players receive honors. No other team had more than two. But coach Steve Lavin was not surprised by the fifth-place pick.

"If we’re fifth to seventh, I understand why, because the league is so strong, and we’re coming off an NIT and you have other teams that have been to the NCAA (tournament) on a regular basis," Lavin said. "It makes sense to be fifth, sixth or seventh."

"I think we could surprise people," he added, "and our goal is to make the NCAA tournament. But we don’t put a lot of stock in the fifth, sixth or seventh or a first-place vote, because in the end we gotta play the games, we gotta continue to improve, and we have to be at our best come March if we’re going to do anything of significance."

Seton Hall is coming off an injury-ravaged season that saw the Pirates plummet to a tie for second-to-last in the conference at 3-15. Many people are looking ahead to next year, when the Hall will add a pair of Top 100 recruits in Isaiah Whitehead and Angel Delgado, but coach Kevin Willard think this year's squad can surprise people, too.

"I’m more excited about this team than I have been any team in a long time," Willard said.

The Pirates are healthy, senior swingman Fuquan Edwin (named second-team All-Big East) is back for one more year, and Willard has added a few pieces -- particularly a pair of guards, freshman Jaren Sina and transfer Sterling Gibbs.

"We’re a much better team already with those two guys on the floor," Willard said. "We’re much more advanced from a defensive standpoint, (and) from an offensive standpoint. ... They’ve made everyone else better around them."

Edwin sounded anxious to get the season under way. "We’ve got something to prove this year," Edwin said. "We're trying to put Seton Hall basketball back on the map."

The Red Storm open up against Wisconsin on Friday, Nov. 8, in Sioux Falls, S.D.. The Pirates debut a day later, hosting Niagra at the Prudential Center.