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Big East preseason power rankings

Jay Wright and Villanova should still be the class of the Big East despite losing four key contributors early to the NBA draft. Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It will be a little bit different in the Big East this season. Villanova is still the favorite, but there's a steep drop-off after the Wildcats. There may not be another Big East team in the top 20 to start the season, and there are certainly few teams likely to push the Wildcats at the top of the standings. In fact, the more interesting race might be for player of the year between high-scoring guards Shamorie Ponds and Markus Howard (or a breakout candidate like Eric Paschall).

What won't change, though, is the number of NCAA tournament hopefuls. The league received seven bids two seasons ago, and six last season -- and there appears to be at least six teams with a legitimate chance to hear their names called on Selection Sunday.

1. Villanova: The Wildcats lost four players early to the NBA off last season's national championship team, yet the gap between them and the rest of the league hasn't been this wide in years. Jay Wright always seems to find breakout stars on his roster, and the main candidate on this year's team is Paschall, who drew rave reviews all summer. Phil Booth is also back, and Wright brings in a high-level recruiting class that includes five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly and Albany transfer Joe Cremo. After Xavier shockingly edged out Villanova for the regular-season title last season, the Wildcats will be back atop the league.

2. Marquette: This season must be all about defense for the Golden Eagles. Marquette had one of the best offenses in the country last season, ranking 12th in offensive efficiency and third in 3-point shooting percentage. But they were in the bottom half nationally in defensive efficiency and allowed teams to shoot nearly 54 percent on 2-pointers. Steve Wojciechowski is hoping to improve his team's toughness at that end of the floor with the additions of transfers Joseph Chartouny and Ed Morrow. Marquette still has plenty of scoring, though, with Howard and Sam Hauser establishing themselves as two of the best players in the league.

3. St. John's: With Auburn transfer Mustapha Heron receiving a waiver to play immediately, the Red Storm have a strong case to be top-three in the league and a top 25 team nationally. One of the best players in the SEC last season, Heron combines with preseason All-American candidate Shamorie Ponds to form an elite backcourt. Chris Mullin also brings back versatile guard Justin Simon and shooting forward Marvin Clark, and welcomes transfers Mikey Dixon, L.J. Figueroa and Sedee Keita. Can St. John's finally live up to its talent? While Heron is a huge boost, this is still a team that finished 16-17 last season

4. Xavier: New coach, new starting five; it's a different look for the Musketeers this season. Chris Mack is gone and he's being replaced by longtime lieutenant Travis Steele, who will have to replace four starters. Steele saw the need to reload coming in, though, and secured three graduate transfers that will step in right away. Quentin Goodin is also back at the point guard spot, but most of the preseason hype surrounds sophomore Naji Marshall, a former ESPN 100 prospect who can do a little bit of everything and brings impressive playmaking ability to the wing.

5. Butler: It was fair to question LaVall Jordan and the Bulldogs heading into last season. Jordan had only one season of head-coaching experience, and he finished 11-24 at Milwaukee. Replacing Chris Holtmann at Butler seemed like a steep climb. But Jordan figured things out quickly and helped lead the Bulldogs to yet another NCAA tournament appearance. Kelan Martin is gone, but Kamar Baldwin is back -- along with several other rotation pieces. One of the keys could be Duke transfer Jordan Tucker, but Jordan needs to find more scoring options.

6. Providence: At this point, it's fairly obvious that Ed Cooley is one of the most underrated coaches in the country. He has led the Friars to five straight NCAA tournament appearances -- and it's difficult to predict them to miss one as long as he's still in charge. Only two starters return from last season, but Cooley is hoping to get Emmitt Holt back healthy, and he also brings in two top-60 recruits in the backcourt. Throw in double-figure scorer Alpha Diallo and former top-40 freshman Makai Ashton-Langford, and there's plenty of intriguing pieces for Cooley.

7. Creighton: The last time Greg McDermott had to replace this much production, the Bluejays finished 14-19 overall and 4-14 in the Big East -- but there's more talent on this season's roster than in 2014-15. Sophomores Ty-Shon Alexander, Mitch Ballock and Jacob Epperson all showed flashes last season, and junior Davion Mintz started 32 games in the backcourt. McDermott is also hoping Martin Krampelj is healthy after tearing his ACL last season. It won't make up for the departures of Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas, but it could keep the Bluejays competitive.

8. Georgetown: There were a lot of questions surrounding the hire of Patrick Ewing to replace John Thompson III, but despite a 15-15 record in his debut season, Ewing surprised a lot of people. The Hoyas were more competitive than expected, and could have won a few more Big East games. Jessie Govan and Jamorko Pickett will form one of the more talented frontcourt duos in the league, while former UConn commit James Akinjo enters the program to take over the point guard spot. Ewing has Georgetown on the upswing quicker than expected.

9. Seton Hall: Yes, this seems insanely low for the Pirates. Kevin Willard has led them to three straight NCAA tournament appearances, including a win over NC State last postseason. But it's essentially a total rebuild for Willard this season, as the senior core of Khadeen Carrington, Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez and Ismael Sanogo are all gone. Myles Powell will shoulder most of the scoring load, while transfers Quincy McKnight and Taurean Thompson will be counted on to make an immediate impact. Willard will need time with this group.

10. DePaul: Another season, another preview projecting the Blue Demons to finish at the bottom of the league. They haven't finished .500 or better in the league since 2007, and that's highly unlikely to change this season. Max Strus decided to return to school instead of graduate transferring or entering the NBA draft, and he and Eli Cain should form a solid duo on the offensive end. Dave Leitao also brings in transfers Femi Olujobi and Jalen Coleman-Lands, who will provide more scoring punch. This group is more experienced than in the past, but how much time does Leitao have to turn things around?