NEW YORK - By now, we've all been subjected to a year's worth of harrumphing about how the Big East isn't what it used to be. It's true. No one disputes it at this point.

For as much as has changed, though, there's a familiar feeling around the Villanova basketball program these days. It's a combination of expectation and excitement. And it comes from being the preseason favorite to win the Big East.

The conference preseason coaches' poll was released Wednesday morning as media day festivities tipped off at Madison Square Garden. Jay Wright's squad was the unanimous No. 1 pick.

It's easy to see why. Combine the experience of Ryan Arcidiacono, Darrun Hilliard, Danil Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston with the hype around freshmen Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges, and you end up with some legitimate buzz. The voters in the USA Today Sports coaches' Top 25 certainly believe it, as they ranked the 'Cats No. 12 in the preseason ballot.

Wright is used to the hype machine, of course. And as he tries to get his team to put that hype aside and just focus on basketball, it helps to have a roster with plenty of veteran savvy.

"I'm hoping that's our greatest asset this year," Wright said.

He invoked the 2009-10 team, fresh off a dramatic run to the Final Four, as a comparison.

"That's the difference between this team and that team," Wright said. "On that team, we had a couple of guys that had been through it, but the other guys were young and crazy - coming off a Final Four, thinking, 'I come to Villanova and it just happens.' "

The current squad has had no such luxury.

"These guys lost to Columbia by 20," Wright quipped, and he wasn't off by much. In the fifth game of the 2012-13 season, the Wildcats were not only upset at the Pavilion by the Lions, but by an 18-point margin.

By the end of the season, Villanova was in much better shape. They had 20 wins, and made it into the NCAA tournament as a 9-seed.

"They've been through a lot," Wright said. "I'm hoping - but you never know, because they're kids."

It's a reasonable bet that the Wildcats won't have to go through quite that much stretch in the coming campaign. But as Wright said, you never know.

Here are some more highlights from Wright's conversation with reporters.

On how the Big East was judged last season:

I think we just had to get past not being a part of the old Big East. Change is difficult for all of us. I think [the NCAA tournament selection committee] showed the appropriate respect. I think some of our teams would tell you that we just weren't where we thought we would be, and that happens sometimes.

There were years when we had 16 teams in the Big East and we got six or seven teams in. Forty percent is probably what we deserved that year. I think at the end, we were talking about five or six teams as being possibilities. The committee made the right decisions. Some of us didn't have the years we thought we would have, but I think it bodes well for this year, because a lot of those teams are going to be good again.

On how Big East teams losing early in last season's NCAA tournament affected judgments made by fans and media:

We ran into the national champions in the second game. We all thought that in the Providence-Carolina game, Providence could have won that game. They take a shot at the end, it's blocked. And Creighton runs into - Creighton playing Baylor was like us playing Creighton. It was just a horrible matchup.

So it happened. And you can't make excuses, because it happened. We've got to deal with it. Whatever you guys say about us is true.* Someone asked the question earlier - not trying to take rips at us - do you think you're getting the proper attention? Based on what we did last year, I think everything is fair. Now we've just got to go do it. I think we will.

Over time, everything is going to be changing in college athletics. You're going to see rule changes, and I still think you're going to see some conference changes. But one thng that I think is going to remain the same is that the Big East is a basketball conference, and teams are committed to basketball. I think teams are going to keep getting better and better. I really believe that. 

* - I rarely insert editorial comments in the middle of transcripts like these, but I couldn't help chuckling at that. If you say so, Jay, we'll take your word for it.

On where he stands these days with regards to taking potential one-and-done players into his program:

I think it can work. I think for us - and I can't speak for everyone else, and I have to be careful how I say this, because we have a guy coming in that might be one-and-done, two and-done - for us, it's all about what his reason for picking Villanova is. We've got to get guys that want to come because they want to be a part of Villanova.

If you can't get guys that want to come, and they don't care what they are a part of, they just want to get to the [NBA] - in our defense, the kids were just changing at that time [when the rule started] and we weren't ahead of it. Now I think we're ahead of it.

If we have a guy who comes in because he wants to be a part of Villanova and after his second year, he's going to be a first-round pick, I'm going to boot him out. I'll tell him he's got to go. But I want him to enjoy every year that he's there. I don't want him to be disappointed in his second year or his third year. I want him to enjoy every year. That's the key for us right now. That could change - everything is changing in college athletics, and we've got to monitor it each year.

On his and the Big East's view of NCAA rules changes being implemented by the "Power 5" conferences:

It is very clear - we had a coaches' meeting last night, and the presidents already met, and the Ads met yesterday. Whatever the football schools are doing, we're all in, 100 percent. All in. But I think we have to know, realistically, that's far less expensive for our schools, because we're not doing it with all the other sports. We're going to pick and choose with the other sports.

But they're doing it for all sports. So when people say, "How can they spend that money?" it's not that much money for us, you know? Because it's only men's and women's basketball. Then I think the decisions for other sports will be made by [each] school.


The funny thing is, we're all in 100 percent, but they've got to decide what they're going to do. We don't care what they're going to do, we're all in. But they've got to decide what they're going to do, and they're having nice little discussions within their conferences about what they're going to do. We're saying, "Hey, in basketball, whatever you do, we're doing it."


We want to be connected to them in everything they do... That's why we've created the relationship with the Big Ten... and if there's an opportunity to do more in basketball, we might do more, because we're not spending the money in the other sports.

On what happens if the "Power 5" conferences split off from the rest of Division I and decide to leave the Big East out of their new creation:

Then they're going to have to deal with playing only 65 schools, and we're going to have 285 schools. And you know what? We're going to play great college basketball. They're going to play 65 schools in football, and we'll see what they do with their basketball. We've got 285 schools that are all about basketball, and we'll see.

On whether the historical and societal impact of the rivalry with Georgetown resonates with his current players, compared to how it resonates with him:

It's funny. There's a generation that it's monumental for them. But to these guys? They know old guys that come back. Our guys from the '85 team, they come back all the time and root for these guys like they're celebrities. Our guys are humble guys. They only know - like, they see Harold Jensen all the time, and they have no idea how big those shots were that he hit.

These guys play Georgetown all the time - Georgetown's a great program, but it doesn't have the social impact that team [in the 1980's] had. It was a different era. They don't know what it was like, Georgetown and Villanova, You know, HBO did that special. They don't know what the world was like back then.

[Wright turns to Ryan Arcidiacono, sitting next to him]

Wright: When were you born, Archy?

Arcidiacono: 1994.

[Wright slaps the table in mock disgust]

Wright: You know? Yeah. Eddie [Pinckney] is there all the time. They know these guys as great guys who played at Villanova and were great players. They have no idea of just what was going on in society at that time, what was going on in college basketball at that time. They can't.

On whether the 2009 Final Four run resonates more with the current players, and in particular Scottie Reynolds' dramatic game-winning basket in the Elite 8 against Pittsburgh:

I'll tell you what: Barely.

[Wright turns to Arcidiacono again]

Wright: What do you know about Scottie Reynolds?

Arcidiacono: Well, for me, it was different from everyone else.

Wright: Yeah, because you grew up in Philly.

Arcidiacono: I was running around my hotel room when he hit that shot. I remember. I was on Long Island at an AAU tournament at the Island Garden [in West Hempstead, N.Y.]

Wright: Recruiting is, kids know three years back. If you think about it, they make a decision if they are a high level recruit when they are 16 or 17. They don't really know what's going on in the world, in life, until they are about 13. They don't start thinking about it. So they only know three years back, and we always think about that when we're recruiting: whatever happened in the last three years... That's all they know.

On whether the rivalry with Georgetown means more to him than it does to his players:

Oh yeah. The Georgetown game, to me, because like Arch, I'm watching that game, that was huge to me. Any time we get to play them - but I have to remind myself that it's not about me. I have to think about what they are thinking.

We played Georgetown this year at the Wells Fargo Center and the game was inconsequential - we had already clinched [the Big East regular season title]. There were 19,000 people there because it was Georgetown-Villanova. Any time Georgetown and Villanova play. When we play down there, it's a huge crowd.

It does [matter] to fans, but I don't think it does to players. But rivalries do [matter]. To these guys, Creighton is a rivalry, because they got their butts kicked there. To these guys, Providence is a rivalry now - they won the [conference tournament] championship.

1. Villanova, 81 points (9 first-place votes)
2. Georgetown, 67 points (1 first-place vote)
3. St. John's, 65 points
4. Xavier, 52 points
5. Providence, 49 points
6. Seton Hall, 43 points
t-7. Butler, 28 points
t-7. Marquette, 28 points
9. Creighton, 25 points
10. DePaul, 12 points

Player of the Year: D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown
Rookie of the Year: Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall

First Team

F Sr. JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova
C Sr. Matt Stainbrook, Xavier
G Jr. Kellen Dunham, Butler
G Sr. D'Angelo Harrison, St. John's
G Jr. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown

Second Team

F Sr. LaDontae Henderson, Providence
G So. Billy Garrett Jr., DePaul
G Sr. Darrun Hilliard, Villanova
G So. Rysheed Jordan, St. John's
G Jr. Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova

Honorable Mention

C Jr. Chris Obekpa, St. John's
G Jr. Roosevelt Jones, Butler
G Jr. Sterling Gibbs, Seton Hall