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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My stab at Big East picks

Tomorrow morning the Big East will announce its preseason coaches poll and all-conference team.

The coaches do not have an easy chore making this picks. I will begin with the predicted order of finish with last year's finish in parenthesis.

1. Notre Dame  (tied for second): Physical forward Becca Bruszewski is the only major loss from a team which reached the national championship game. Led by junior guard Skylar Diggins, the Fighting Irish are talented, experienced and extremely confident.
2. UConn (undefeated regular-season champs): Replacing Maya Moore is a near impossibility but with four returning starters and a talented freshman class should have the Huskies in contention for Big East and national supremacy.
3. Georgetown (tied for seventh): Hoyas will need to find a secondary scorer after graduation of Monica McNutt but Sugar Rodgers and a veteran supporting cast should make for special season.
4. Louisville (tied for fifth): The Cardinals will miss the underrated Keshia Hines but return the rest of the squad including Monique Reid and Shoni Schimmel, who both averaged more than 15 points per game last season,
5. St. John's (tied for seventh): Shenneika Smith and Da'Shena Stevens form a dynamic 1-2 scoring punch but the key to the Red Storm's season will be the development of a host of talented youngsters.
6. Rutgers (fourth): Would have bumped the Scarlet Knights up at least a spot or two had they not lost Chelsey Lee for the season. Still, Rutgers could be dangerous with veterans like April Sykes and Khadijah Rushdan to build around.
7. DePaul (tied for second): Keisha Hampton is a special player but the loss of Felicia Chester, Sam Quigley, Deirdre Naughton and China Threatt leave some holes for the Blue Demons to fill.
8. Syracuse (tied for seventh): Kayla Alexander is one of the league's rising stars and add fellow returning starters Iesia Hemingway and Elashier Hall and another winning record in conference play is not out of the question.
9. West Virginia (10th): Could it be a case of addition by subtraction? The Mountaineers were one of the most puzzling teams in the Big East last season as the senior-laden squad had mediocre results.With the loss of five of the top six scorers, it will be up to some youngsters to step up in support of Asya Bussie and Ayana Dunning.
10. South Florida (tied for 13th): The Smith twins Andrea and Andrell combined for nearly 25 points a year ago. With the return of four other players who started at least 10 games, the Bulls should be an improved squad.
11. Marquette (tied for fifth): It was a memorable season for the Golden Eagles but an encore won't be easy with the loss of the team's top four scorers. Look for Sarina Simmons and Katherine Plouffe to become bigger offensive forces.
12. Pittsburgh (12th): Speaking of heavy graduation losses, the Panthers also bid adieu to their top four scorers. Pittsburgh will field a team of freshmen and sophomores and the key could be the impact of six incoming freshmen.
13. Villanova (tied for 13th): The Wildcats shot less than 30 percent from 3-point range but with the return of their top five scorers including former Mercy High star Rachel Roberts, perhaps Villanova can make a move up the ladder.
14. Providence (11th): Former New Britain High star Symone Roberts is one of the fastest players in the Big East and is also the Friars' top returning scorer but she will need some help for Providence to avoid finishing near the bottom of the league standings.
15. Seton Hall (16th): The Pirates return the entire team in Anne Donovan's second season at Seton Hall. It will be interesting to see what Donovan can do with the sense of familiarity she now has after a difficult first season.
16. Cincinnati (15th): Former UConn player and assistant coach Jamelle Elliott has not had an easy go of it in her first head coaching job. She'll have to attempt to move up the standings without the Bearcats' only double figure scorer as Shareese Ulis graduated.

As if that wasn't challenging enough, now it is time to pick the all-conference team especially since 14 players who were either first or second team all-conference players last year. It will be interesting to see if the coaches opt to keep off a third UConn and/or Notre Dame player in order to get more of the stars from the other league teams on the list of 11 first-team selections. I opted to leave off South Florida's Andrea Smith, April Sykes of Rutgers and Shenneika Smith although I'd have no problem to see any of their names on the list in the morning.

Here is my list of 11:
Kayla Alexander, Syracuse, Jr., C
Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame, Jr., G
Stefanie Dolson, UConn, So., C
Keisha Hampton, DePaul, Sr., F
Bria Hartley, UConn, So., G
Tiffany Hayes, UConn, Sr., G/F
Natalie Novosel, Notre Dame, Sr., G
Devereaux Peters, Notre Dame, Sr., F/C
Monique Reid, Louisville, Sr. F
Sugar Rodgers, Georgetown, Jr., G
Shoni Schimmel, Louisville, So., G

My player of the year pick is Diggins with UConn's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis the choice as top freshman.

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