Big East Has Most Women’s Basketball Talent
by Andy Arnold
The Big East had seven teams in AP’s preseason top 25 women’s basketball poll, including four in the top 10–including, Notre Dame tabbed as the No. 2 squad with six first-place votes, Connecticut No. 4, Louisville No. 9 and Georgetown tenth.
Big East coaches selected Notre Dame to top preseason women’s basketball poll. The Fighting Irish picked up 219 points and nine first-place votes in the balloting (coaches could not vote for their own teams), edging out Connec-ticut, which collected the remaining seven first-place votes and finished with 216 points.
All-America and Big East Preseason Player-of-the-Year Skylar Diggins leads the Irish attack. She averaged 15 ppg, 4.8 assists per game and nearly 2 steals per contest, as ND finished second in the nation at 32-9. Last year’s leading scorer, Natalie Novosel 15.1 ppg, along with fifth-year senior forward
Devereaux Peters, who averaged 11.9 ppg and 7.5 rpg. The trio are Preseason All-conference honorees and preseason candidates for this year’s Wade Trophy and Wooden Award.
UConn (36-2, 16-0) likewise returns three Preseason Wooden candidates in Tiffany Hayes, Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley. Hayes is the Huskies leading returning scorer with 13.7 ppg. Hartley and Dolson added 12.4 and 10.2 respectfully. UConn’s leading retuning rebounder is Kelly Faris, with
6.7 rpg. Dolson also contributed 6.1.
Louisville (23-13, 10-6) returns its leading scorer, Monique Reid 15.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, among five veterans who put more than 800 per player on the court last season. The Cardinals second leading scorer, Shoni Schimmel, 15.1 ppg, and assists leader with 4.9 per game.
This is the first time in program history that Georgetown has been in the AP’s preseason top ten. Sugar Rodgers will key the Georgetown attack. She is the leading Big East returning scorer averaging 18.7. Rodgers was also proficient on the defensive end leading the Hoyas in steals with 90 and rebounds with 4.9 rpg. She is also on the Wade and Wooden lists.
Conference coaches selected Rutgers over Georgetown 176-175. The Scarlet Knights return four starters from last season’s 20-13, 9-8 squad. Khadijah Rushdan led the conference in assists last year (5.2) and scored 11.2 ppg. Rutgers also returns April Sykes who averaged 14.1 ppg in 2010-2011.
The Scarlet Knights were picked No. 16 in AP’s preseason poll. DePaul was No. 19 and St. John’s took the No. 25 spot.
2011-12 Preseason BIG EAST Coaches’ Poll Pts.
Notre Dame (9) 219
Connecticut (7) 216
St. John’s 145
West Virginia 108
Seton Hall 22
First-place votes in parentheses
2011-12 Preseason Awards
Preseason Player of the Year
Preseason Freshman of the Year
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Connecticut
Preseason All-BIG EAST Team^
Bria Hartley, Connecticut
Tiffany Hayes, Connecticut
*Keisha Hampton, DePaul
* Sugar Rodgers, Georgetown
Monique Reid, Louisville
Shoni Schimmel, Louisville
Natalie Novosel, Notre Dame
Devereaux Peters, Notre Dame
Shenneika Smith, St. John’s
Da’Shena Stevens, St. John’s
Kayla Alexander, Syracuse
Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention
Stefanie Dolson, Connecticut
Khadijah Rushdan, Rutgers
April Sykes, Rutgers
Andrea Smith, USF
* – unanimous selections ^Additional member added due to voting tie
- Baylor runaway No. 1 in women’s preseason poll (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)