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UCONN Tops Big East Poll

Connecticut, the defending NCAA and Big East champion, was the runaway No. 1 choice by the league's coaches in the preseason poll released Wednesday.

The Huskies, who return three starters from the team that beat Duke for the national championship last season, received 10 of a possible 13 first-place votes. Coaches do not place their own teams on their ballots.

Syracuse received the remaining No. 1 votes and 131 points, nine fewer than Connecticut. St. John's was third with 119 points and Miami, which got the other first-place vote, was fourth with 114.

Georgetown was fifth with 97 points and was followed by Villanova (82), Seton Hall (73), Rutgers (68), Notre Dame (60), Providence (45), West Virginia (34), Pittsburgh (30) and Boston College (19).

Guard Khalid El-Amin was chosen as the preseason player of the year, the second straight season a Connecticut junior received the honor. It is the fourth time a Connecticut player was tabbed for it with Richard Hamilton last season, Donyell Marshall in 1993-94 and Corny Thompson in 1981-82.

Joining El-Amin on the preseason first team were seniors Johnny Hemsley of Miami and Etan Thomas of Syracuse and sophomores Troy Murphy of Notre Dame and Erick Barkley of St. John's.

Hemsley was selected the conference's most improved player last season, while Thomas was the defensive player of the year and Murphy the rookie of the year.

It is the first time more than one sophomore was voted to the first team since 1982-83 when Patrick Ewing of Georgetown, Chris Mullin of St. John's and Ed Pinckney of Villanova were selected.

The second team was all seniors, forwards Kevin Freeman of Connecticut, Isaac Hawkins of Pittsburgh and Marcus Goree of West Virginia and guards Bootsy Thornton of St. John's and Jason Hart of Syracuse.

Connecticut's Ajou Deng, a 6-foot-11 sophomore who sat out last season to concentrate on academics, was chosen the preseason rookie of the year.

El-Amin and Deng are the first teammates to be chosen for the individual preseason awards since 1990-91 when Syracuse's Billy Owens and freshman Adrian Autry were selected.

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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