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Pitt men snubbed at media day

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By John Grupp
Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008

NEW YORK -- Pitt's Big Three apparently isn't too impressive to the rest of the Big East Conference.

Senior forward Sam Young joined Notre Dame junior forward Luke Harangody as the only unanimous selections to the All-Big East preseason team, released at the conference's media day Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

But senior guard Levance Fields and sophomore center DeJuan Blair -- considered two of the best players at their respective positions in the Big East -- didn't garner any preseason honors, either on the 11-man first-team or the three-man honorable mention based on voting by Big East coaches.

"How can that happen?" Young said. "I don't understand. I guess that's how it works."

Pitt was picked to finish third in the Big East, behind Connecticut, which received nine first-place votes, and Louisville, which received three first-place votes. Pitt also received three first-place votes.

Notre Dame, with the lone remaining first-place vote, was fourth. All four teams are considered among the top 10 in the nation.

Villanova, Marquette, Georgetown, Syracuse, West Virginia and Providence rounded out the top 10.

"It's a scary conference," said Harangody, the first returning Big East Player of the Year since current Pitt assistant coach Brandin Knight in 2002-03.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon knows the minimal value of preseason polls and honors, and he understands the returning talent in the Big East this season. He's called it arguably toughest conference in NCAA history.

But when Dixon sees Fields, the team's heart and soul, and Blair, his gregarious, always-smiling man-child, omitted from All-Big East honors, even the normally reserved sixth-year coach was left bewildered.

"How is Levance not an all-conference player?" he said. "He would be all-conference in any other conference in the country, and DeJuan probably, too. It's hard to believe."

Fields, who along with Young and senior power forward Tyrell Biggs made the trip to New York, shrugged off the snub.

Fields (11.9 points per game, 5.3 assists per game), who believes the summer-time surgery on his left foot cost him some votes, didn't earn preseason honors last year, either, despite being a Cousy Award finalist and second-team All-Big East as a sophomore.

"I'm used to that," Fields said. "I thought DeJuan would make it. I'm kind of more upset about DeJuan not making it than myself.

"It doesn't bother me. I'm going to play hard regardless."

Young wasn't as understanding.

He noted Blair and Flynn shared Big East Rookie of the Year honors last season. Flynn got All-Big East honors this season, while Blair, who averaged 11.6 points and 9.1 rebounds, didn't even merit an honorable mention.

"I don't know," Young said, "I don't get that. I don't even know what to tell you. I mean, there's no way you can evaluate the situation. I mean, geez. Here's a guy (Blair) that had 10-plus double-double games, and he doesn't get it."

Pitt is expected to be ranked in the top 10 in virtually every preseason poll. But the accolades clearly won't be going to their heads -- not with the memory of the snubs at Big East preseason media day.

"I'm sure Levance is already motivated by it," said Young, with Fields sitting one seat away. "Once we get to Pittsburgh and DeJuan finds out about it, I'm sure he's going to be furious."

Big East Preseason Coaches' Poll

1. Connecticut (9) 214

2. Louisville (3) 205

3. Pitt (3) 200

4. Notre Dame (1) 195

5. Villanova 153

6. Marquette 146

7. Georgetown 141

8. Syracuse 139

9. West Virginia 121

10. Providence 99

11. Cincinnati 91

12. Rutgers 53

13. Seton Hall 50

14. St. John's 44

15. DePaul 43

16. South Florida 26

First-place votes in parentheses

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