New year. New conference. Same old story.
UConn was selected as the unanimous favorite in the Big East women’s basketball poll released Thursday morning at the league’s virtual media day.
The Huskies, back in the conference for the first time since 2012-13, earned 10 first-place votes and a total of 100 points (coaches are not allowed to vote for their own team). DePaul, the three-time defending league champion, received the other first-place vote.
Meanwhile, UConn guard Christyn Williams was named Big East Preseason Player of the Year and Huskies guard Paige Bueckers was unanimously voted Freshman of the Year.
DePaul earned 90 points. Marquette was third with 83 points followed by St. John’s (69) and Creighton (60). Rounding out the rest of the poll were Seton Hall, Villanova, Butler, Xavier, Providence and Georgetown.
UConn, the sport’s preeminent power, has won 19 Big East regular season titles and 18 tournament titles. The Huskies spent the last seven seasons in the American Athletic Conference, where they went unbeaten in league play (139-0).
Williams, a junior guard, averaged 14.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists across 31 starts for the Huskies in 2019-20. She was a first-team All-AAC selection.
Bueckers, one of six freshmen on this year’s UConn team, comes in with plenty of hype. Ranked as the nation’s No. 1 recruit out of Hopkins High School in Minnesota, Bueckers was the first basketball player since 2014 to win the Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year.
In addition to the two major award-winners, UConn also placed junior forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa and junior guard Evina Westbrook on the preseason all-conference team.
Nelson-Ododa averaged 10.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.1 blocks last season and was second-team All-AAC. Westbrook is eligible after sitting out last year following her transfer from Tennessee, where she posted team-highs of 14.9 points and 5.3 assists per game in 2018-19.
Seton Hall’s Desiree Elmore, a Capital Prep-Hartford alum, DePaul’s Sonya Morris, Marquette’s Selena Lott, Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist and Qadashah Hoppie of St. John’s were unanimous choices for the all-conference team. Creighton’s Temi Carda, DePaul’s Lexi Held, St. John’s Leilani Correa and Xavier’s A’riana Gray were also selected. (Williams and Bueckers were not eligible for the all-conference team because they received major awards).
The Big East schedule will begin Dec. 4 and every school will play four conference games before the holidays. Play will resume Dec. 30. The league plans to release its full schedule shortly.
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Photo: Karl B DeBlaker / AP