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2014 Big East Media Day recap

Big East Media Day was in full swing at The Garden to kick off the start of the college basketball season. BECB’s Sean Saint Jacques and Andrew Padyk were there to document it all. Here are the best quotes, news bits and reactions.

Bruce Bennett

The Big East’s best and brightest were all out at "The World’s Most Famous Arena," to talk about their team, players and season. Commissioner Val Ackerman began the event by discussing the direction of the conference before all of the attention turned to the representatives from each school.

In reverse order of the newly released Big East Coaches’ Poll, here is what each team had to say.

10) DePaul Blue Demons

For DePaul, the face of the program is sophomore point guard Billy Garrett Jr. who looking to improve after his solid freshman season.

"Billy is bigger, stronger and better conditioned all ready." DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell said. "It is about developing a consistent work ethic and relying on one another."

Speaking of Garrett’s teammates, the rest of the Blue Demons are looking to improve on a last place finish in the conference a season ago.

"We can’t go one step forward and two steps back like last year," said Purnell. "Our team also needs to defend better overall."

As far as Garrett is concerned, he has taken a leadership role on this team and will be vital to the success of the Blue Demons once again. Garrett believes that this team has already made steps in the right direction.

"Our team chemistry has really improved this season and defensively we are looking good," said Garrett. "We have a lot of news guys who will contribute."

There is much room for improvement, but DePaul seems confident that they will do just that and more this season.

9) Creighton Bluejays

On the Bluejays side of things, a major storyline is the graduation of Doug McDermott, but Creighton has moved on are focused on having success again this season.

"It’s a collective effort, you don’t just replace 28 points per game with one person," said senior Will Artino. "We feel like we can be more balanced and we have many more options than last year."

The Bluejays have many tough tests in nonconference play including a tough home game against Oklahoma, but senior Austin Chatman believes that their home field advantage will be play a big role.

"It’s amazing, we have 18,000 fans that pack that house and love to watch basketball," Chatman said. "It is a tough place to play, it can get loud in there and the floor will shake at times."

One thing that they also stressed was the fact that this team still has five seniors who are battled tested and ready to lead the Bluejays to a great season once again.

8) Marquette Golden Eagles

First year Head Coach Steve Wojciechowski has a tough task ahead of him for this season as Marquette lost Davante Gardner as well as other pieces from last year.

"We lost over 70 percent of our scoring and over 60 percent our rebounding from last year," said Wojciechowski. "The goal is to build habits of winning."

There will be a clear transition in playing styles between last year and this season, but Wojo is just focused on the positive.

"We won’t have the size or the physicality as the team did last year, but we hope to utilize our strengths."

Marquette’s strengths include relying on lots of good guard play from guys like sophomores Deonte Burton and Jajuan Johnson to be competitive in the conference and improve on this poll ranking.

7) Butler Bulldogs

With Coach Brad Miller continuing to deal with health issues, interim head coach Chris Holtman has stepped in nicely.

"It is a credit our players and staff that I have work alongside of," said Holtman, "It has been a smooth transition."

"The transition has been seamless," said senior guard Alex Barlow, who also talked about a big key for Butler and that is having junior Roosevelt Jones back.

"Having him back is big," said Barlow, "He is a really good player who makes our offense better because he brings so much to the team."

Holtman who has been an assistant at Butler since July of last season, but still knows what Jones brings to the Bulldogs.

"He brings a competitiveness, a toughness and a primary ball handler," said Holtman.

If Jones can be as good as he was just a few years ago, Butler believes that they could surprise some teams this season.

6) Seton Hall Pirates

We cannot talk about Seton Hall without mentioning freshman star Isaiah Whitehead and everyone wanted a piece of him. He talked about being the face of Seton Hall basketball.

"It’s been great, but I came to realize that it is about playing to win," said Whitehead, "there are no individual things it is about the team."

Whitehead and his team have had high expectations placed upon them, but senior forward Brandon Mobley is looking to bring a calming influence to this team, especially the talented recruiting class.

"All they can do it learn," said Mobley, "It is about showing these guys what college is about from getting to class and practice on time and practicing hard."

The real goal according to Mobley and the Pirates is to make the tournament, but they are not too looking far down the road at all. They are focusing on these practices in the upcoming days to prepare for the season.

Coach Kevin Willard seems to be putting as little pressure as possible on this team.

5) Providence Friars

The defending Big East Champions are back and looking repeat again this season. However, the schedule along with the talent has increased. Head Coach Ed Cooley and his team are up for the task.

"We want to perform at a high level," said Cooley, "It's not about the pressure."

With many of the teams in the conference improving, Cooley praised the talent that the Big East has to offer.

"We will compete for National Championships in this conference," said Cooley, "Our goal is put as many teams in the tournament as possible."

Providence hopes to be one those teams that will return and they are led by senior LaDontae Henton who plans on having an even better season than he did a year ago, but he is more focused on the team and taking a leadership role.

"It is important to mentor the young guys and show them what it takes to win," said Henton.

He also mentioned how this year’s non-conference schedule is the toughest the team has faced since he became a Friar. With Kentucky and other tough ACC opponents on the schedule, it is tough to disagree with him.

4) Xavier Musketeers

Coming off their first season in Big East play under Chris Mack, Xavier looks to improve and build off of last season’s success.

"We need to win those closer games and put ourselves in a better position," said senior big man Matt Stainbrook. "The 10 seed is not where we want to be."

Stainbrook along with the young class coming in looks to take Xavier beyond that first round loss in the NCAA Tournament a year ago.

"The program has gone through a lot over the past few years, but we are in a good place for this season in terms of depth and talent," Mack stated.

Xavier will look to their six-member freshman recruiting class for this season to mix with the six returnees in order to give the Musketeers extra depth and more success.

3) St. John’s Red Storm

One of the biggest storylines heading into this season for St. John’s was the loss of JaKarr Sampson. That said, senior swingman Sir’Dominic Pointer does not seemed concerned about the void that he has left.

"It is filled," Pointer said, matter of factly. "And we are a much deeper team this season."

That self-assured attitude expressed by Pointer was also felt from senior Phil Greene IV who also felt the same way about St. John’s depth especially in the back court.

"Our best asset is our depth especially in the backcourt," said Greene, "it is where we will draw on a lot of our confidence for this season."

As for the games Greene said, "We are going to play each game as if it’s our last." A statement like that effectively expresses the mood of this veteran squad that has been through a lot.

St. John’s seemed to really exude confidence today at one of their home courts. Case in point, Steve Lavin and his players showed up in track suits as if they were about to play a home game while the other nine programs were dressed to the nines in suits.

The confidence they showed today will be likely used to transition to great play on the court.

2) Georgetown Hoyas

The big news so far for the Hoyas has been D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera being named Preseason Player of the Year for the conference. But for now, he is not feeling the pressure.

"It would be nice, but no there isn’t any extra pressure," said Smith-Rivera who is more focused on getting wins for Georgetown.

One of the games on Smith-Rivera’s radar is a December 27 match up against Indiana, with the added fact that he is a native of Indianapolis.

"I’m definitely looking forward to the Indiana game. The others are major as well, but I have to protect my home," said Smith-Rivera.

Georgetown brought in a highly touted recruiting class that looks to shine this season and John Thompson III gave his early remarks on the freshman class.

"They’ve been doing terrific. They are going to have freshmen moments, but we have a group of guys who are basketball players." said Thompson. "They are skilled and they learn fast."

After a disappointing seventh place finish last season, the Hoyas will look to their veteran leaders and young talent to get the program back on track.

1) Villanova Wildcats

Jay Wright and Villanova bring back the most experienced team in the conference to try and take the regular Big East season title again. This time around, however, they look for postseason success in the wake of last year’s tournament results.

"Collectively, I like my team," Wright told us. "We have things to work on such as defensive rebounding, perimeter shooting, and better perimeter defense, but we have a good squad in place."

The team also seems confident despite the loss of James Bell. This year Villanova will be leaning on their veterans more than ever and Coach Wright believes that is the key to success.

"An experienced college junior and senior is a better college player then an upstart recruit," stated Wright on the subject of his veteran team.

Senior guard Darren Hilliard expressed the same opinion, in his own way, when asked about going up against talented freshmen recruits Seton Hall’s Isaiah Whitehead and Georgetown Isaac Copeland.

He turned to fellow senior Daniel Ochefu and said, "Who?"

Hilliard added, "We’re the big dogs, and they’ll have to learn."

That quote tells you all you need to know about Villanova for this season. With veteran leadership and experience, they will repeat as Big East Champions.

***

To say the least, Big East Media Day had a little bit of everything. Smack talk, strategy, and an overwhelming amount of emphasis on defense. One thing is for certain, Media Day marks the beginning of the college basketball season and the players, coaches, and programs cannot wait to get back on court. We both expressed the same attitude that the rest of the media here today.

Welcome back Big East, we missed you.