NEW YORK, N.Y. – The Creighton men’s basketball team has been picked to finish third in the BIG EAST Conference, with guards Maurice Watson Jr. and Marcus Foster earning individual acclaim. The results of a preseason poll of BIG EAST coaches were announced on Tuesday morning as part of the league’s annual Media Day festivities at Madison Square Garden.
Defending national champion Villanova was picked to win the BIG EAST crown. The Wildcats were a unanimous selection in the survey and are aiming for an unprecedented fourth consecutive title. The Wildcats return three starters from last year’s team that finished 35-5, including Preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year Josh Hart. He’s joined on the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team by Kris Jenkins, who hit a game-winning three-pointer as time expired in the national championship game.
Xavier was chosen for second place in the BIG EAST poll, with Preseason All-BIG EAST guards Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Sumner leading the way. The Musketeers went 28-6 overall last year and finished No. 9 in the final Associated Press poll.
Creighton was the coaches’ pick for third place in the poll, matching the 2013-14 poll for its best mark since joining the BIG EAST four years ago. The Bluejays put together a 20-15 season in 2015-16 and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the NIT. This season, Greg McDermott‘s team boasts a strong backcourt that includes Watson, who earned All-BIG EAST Second Team honors in 2015-16 after averaging 14.1 points and a league-leading 6.5 assists. He will be joined by Foster, a transfer who was a double-figure scorer in two seasons at Kansas State. Watson was a Preseason First Team All-BIG EAST pick, while Foster was an honorable-mention choice.
Seton Hall and Georgetown tied for fourth place in the poll with 53 points. The Pirates return four starters from a team that won the BIG EAST Tournament, while the Hoyas bring back four starters from a proud program that went 15-18 last winter. Georgetown’s Isaac Copeland and Seton Hall’s Khadeen Carrington and Angel Delgado both were picked to the Second Team All-BIG EAST Team.
Rounding out the bottom half of the league poll is Butler, Marquette, St. John’s, Providence and DePaul. Butler’s Kelan Martin landed a spot as a Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team honoree, while DePaul’s Billy Garrett Jr. was a Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team selection for the third straight year. Also on the Second Team was Marquette big man Luke Fischer.
St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds was tabbed Preseason BIG EAST Freshman of the Year.
Creighton opens exhibition play on Nov. 4 vs. Wayne State (Neb.) and will open the regular-season on Nov. 11 against UMKC.