DePaul picked as preseason favorite in Big East

NEW YORK (AP) DePaul is in a familiar spot in the preseason, atop the Big East standings.

For the third straight year, coach Doug Bruno's team was picked by the Big East coaches as the favorite to win the conference.

''It's always an honor to be picked at the top by the Big East coaches and hear their thoughts and see the respect they have for us,'' Bruno said.

DePaul received eight of the 10 votes Wednesday from the league's coaches. The Blue Demons shared last year's regular-season title with Seton Hall before edging the Pirates in the Big East Tournament championship game for their second consecutive postseason crown. DePaul returns a trio of starters from last season's team that went 27-8 and made the NCAA Tournament for the 13th straight year.

''The key to our season will be the growth of the sophomores and how they develop,'' Bruno said.

St. John's was picked second and Villanova third. Both received one first-place vote. The Red Storm are led by senior guard Aliyyah Handford, who was chosen as the conference's preseason player of the year.

''It means a lot to me,'' said Handford, who averaged 19.3 points and 6.5 rebounds last season. ''My teammates got me here and I give all the credit to them.''

Creighton was picked fourth followed by Seton Hall. Coach Tony Bozzella's squad lost four starters from last season's team that made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in two decades and earned its first ranking.

Xavier, Georgetown, Butler, Marquette and Providence round out the preseason picks. Butler's Brittany Ward is the preseason freshman of the year.

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