Villanova Tops 2020 Big East Preseason Poll; December Schedule Announced

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistOctober 28, 2020

Villanova head coach Jay Wright directs his players from the bench during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Seton Hall, Wednesday, March 4, 2020, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo/Associated Press

The Big East released its preseason coaches poll for men's basketball Wednesday ahead of the conference's planned start to the 2020-21 season in December.

Villanova tops the poll with nine of the 11 first-place votes, while Creighton is second with the other two first-place votes:

The Big East released a partial schedule Wednesday comprised of 23 conference games to be played in December. Big East play will open Dec. 11 with Villanova vs. Georgetown, DePaul vs. Seton Hall and St. John's vs. UConn, with the latter rejoining the Big East after seven years in the American Athletic Conference.

The conference noted in the announcement that it plans to announce the times and television information for the games, as well as the remainder of the schedule, at a later date.

Last season, Villanova and Creighton both finished with a 13-5 conference record and 24-7 overall record, and they shared the Big East regular-season championship with Seton Hall, who went 13-5 in conference and 21-9 overall.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the Big East tournament was canceled, as was the NCAA tournament. The 2019-20 college basketball season was cut short, and no Big East or national champion was crowned.

Villanova has won six of the past seven Big East regular-season titles, and the Wildcats won the conference tournament in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019 as well.

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Meanwhile, Creighton won its first regular-season Big East title last season after moving from the Missouri Valley Conference to the Big East for the 2013-14 season.

Villanova has been one of the premier men's basketball programs of the past several years, winning national titles in both 2016 and 2018. While the exact format and outlook of the 2020-21 season remains unclear because of the COVID-19 pandemic, head coach Jay Wright's team could be in the mix again this season.

While the Wildcats are not returning leading scorer Saddiq Bey, the quartet of Collin Gillespie, Justin Moore, Jermaine Samuels and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl all averaged double digits in scoring last season and are all set to return in 2020-21.

Leading scorer Ty-Shon Alexander will not be back for the Jays, but No. 2 scorer Marcus Zegarowski will return to lead Creighton after averaging 16.1 points and 5.0 assists per game last season.

Villanova and Creighton figure to be in for a battle from start to finish in 2020-21, while other talented teams such as Providence, UConn and Seton Hall could figure into the conference title race as well.