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Villanova 6th in USA Today Preview

According to the Villanova Wildcats were picked to finish 6th in the Big East by USA Today. Syracuse was chosen in the basketball preview section as the pre-season conference favorite, followed by fellow ACC-defector, Pittsburgh, and ACC-wannabe, UConn in third. The full poll follows:

1. Syracuse
2. Pittsburgh
3. UConn.
4. Louisville
5. Marquette
6. Villanova
7. Cincinnati
8. Notre Dame
9. Georgetown
10. West Virginia
11. St. John’s
12. Rutgers
13. Seton Hall
14. South Florida
15. Providence
16. DePaul

The All-Big East teams published inexplicably left out a number of notable players. Disregarding any candidacy by Villanova's Maalik Wayns or Mouph Yarou, the list left off UConn's Jeremy Lamb, who emerged last season and played a major role in getting the Huskies to the 2011 NCAA National Title. Similarly, Cincinnati's Yancy Gates is among the best bigs in the conference yet he received no recognition. Their first and second teams were:

Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh (League POY)
Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette
Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame
Kris Joseph, Syracuse
Kevin Jones, West Virginia

Scoop Jardine, Syracuse
Jason Clark, Georgetown
Cleveland Melvin, DePaul
Herb Pope, Seton Hall
Augustus Gilchrist, South Florida

Additionally, Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports also chimed in with his preseason Big East selections. He picked the Wildcats to finish 8th in the conference (at the bottom of the top-half). He only chose a First-Team All-Big East, but also did not include any player(s) from Villanova. His selections were:

1. Connecticut
2. Syracuse
3. Pittsburgh
4. Louisville
5. Marquette
6. Cincinnati
7. West Virginia
8. Villanova
9. Notre Dame
10. Georgetown
11. Rutgers
12. St. John’s
13. Seton Hall
14. DePaul
15. Providence
16. South Florida

Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh
Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette
Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut (League POY)
Kris Joseph, Syracuse
Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame

Eisenberg also posed and answered five questions about the Big East going into this season. Among them was, "Can Villanova stop its pattern of poor finishes?" Most VUhoops readers have been wondering the same thing. On the topic he wrote:

In addition to strong guard play and a dapper head coach, Villanova basketball has become synonymous with something else recently: late-season nosedives.

The Wildcats climbed as high as seventh in the AP Top 25 last January before losing 10 of 15 games to close the regular season and crashing out of the NCAA tournament with an opening-round loss to George Mason. That collapse was preceded by a disappointing finish to the 2009-10 season, when the Wildcats started 20-1 but went 3-6 in their final nine games, nearly falling to Robert Morris in the first round of the NCAA tournament before getting upset by Saint Mary's two days later.

Whereas Villanova was formidable enough to at least make the NCAA tournament despite a poor finish the last two years, this season the Wildcats may not have that luxury. The graduation of mainstays Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes and Antonio Pena means point guard Maalik Wayns will have to become Villanova's primary weapon, big man Mouphtaou Yarou will have to tap into his immense potential and wings Dominic Cheek and James Bell will have to take a leap forward.

Read the full preview at Yahoo!/Rivals' The Dagger blog.