GOLDEN EAGLE Big East Women’s Preview

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The Big East conference struggled in women’s basketball in 2013-14, sending just one team (DePaul) to the NCAA Tournament. However, five teams (Butler, Creighton, Marquette, Seton Hall, Villanova) all received WNIT bids, and a few of those teams improved since last season. DePaul looks to own the conference once again, but a handful of teams with returning experience and talent will look to dethrone the champs. Here is a preview of the Big East conference listed in order of ranking in the Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll.

DePaul:

Fresh off a Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the Blue Demons return four starters on a team that averaged 83.5 points per game last season, including All-American Honorable Mention guard Brittany Hyrnko. The Blue Demons enter the season ranked 18th in the AP Poll, but challenges await in No. 1 Connecticut, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 5 Texas A&M in non-conference play.

St. John’s:

The Red Storm return three starters from last year’s squad as it hopes to overtake DePaul for the conference title. Unanimous Preseason All-Big East selection Aliyyah Handford returns to the backcourt after averaging 16.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last year, and the addition of graduate student forward Kyra Dunn gives the team depth in the post.

Villanova:

Last year’s Big East Sixth Man of the Year, Caroline Coyer, returns for her junior season to take over the reigns at point guard for a Wildcats team that returns four starters and nine letter winners overall. After going 23-9 last season and finishing third in the Big East, this team should see even more success this season.

Creighton:

The Bluejays return last season’s Big East Player of the Year, Marissa Janning, who was given the same honor by the coaches in the Preseason awards. The junior guard, who averaged 17.6 points per game last season, leads a young squad as they try to rise to the top of the conference.

Seton Hall:

The Pirates enter the season with a deep roster, led by guard Ka-Deidre Simmons and forward Tabatha Richardson-Smith, who combined to average 33.8 points per game last year. Another team bringing back four of five starters, look for this group to improve drastically this season.

Providence:

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Friars are ranked 6th following a 7-23 campaign in 2013-14. However, the Friars carry five seniors on a skilled roster, including forward Alexis Harris (14 points per game, 8.9 rebounds per game last year). This could be their best season in the conference.

Marquette:

The Golden Eagles have a new coach for the first time in 18 years, and coach Carolyn Kieger takes over a depleted roster in her first year back in Milwaukee. However, what the team lacks in depth, they make up for in talent. Headed by guard Arlesia Morse and forward Apiew Ojulu, this team could surprise in Big East play.

Georgetown:

This young Hoyas team will be led by sophomore forward Faith Woodard, who averaged 10 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season. They will look to be above .500 for the first time since 2011-12, but don’t expect them to reach the top of the conference.

Xavier:

The Musketeers return three of five starters from last year in juniors Maddison Blackwell, Briana Glover and Jenna Crittendon. The trio combined to average nearly 24 points per game last season, but inexperience may plague this team in the long run.

Butler:

Butler has just nine players on their active roster and only five returning from last year’s team. Four players transferred prior to a coaching change in April, but it was too little, too late. The Bulldogs may face a difficult 2014-15 season.

Notable Games:

Georgetown at Creighton (Dec. 30): The last time these two teams met, Big East Preseason Player of the Year Marissa Janning scored a league-high 38 points against the Hoyas. Can she get into the 40s this time around?

DePaul at St. John’s (Jan. 16): A rematch of last year’s Big East Championship game, these two teams will be fighting for first place all season.

Seton Hall at Marquette (Feb. 15): In an overtime thriller last February, the Pirates beat the Golden Eagles 90-86. Marquette will look for redemption on its home floor this time around.

Players To Watch:

Megan Rogowski (DePaul): A great complement guard to Brittany Hyrnko, she averaged 15.7 points per game and 45.2 percent from 3-point territory last season.

Amber Thompson (St. John’s): Averaged 7.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, she will work the pick and roll with the Red Storm’s experienced backcourt.

Bra’Shey Ali (Seton Hall): Finished second in the conference with 11.1 rebounds per game, and chipped in 9.4 points per game as well. She will hold down the frontcourt on defense.

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