The reigning Big East tournament champions are this year’s preseason favorites to retain the title in 2015-2016. The Blue Demons fell in the NCAA tournament to eventual runner-up Notre Dame, but were the only Big East squad to win a game in the Big Dance. Three players — senior guard/forward Megan Podkowa, senior guard Chanise Jenkins and junior guard Jessica January — that averaged double-digit points per game will return this season. With its history and talent, DePaul will expect to be top dogs in the Big East.
2. St. John’s
The Big East is set to be a guard-heavy league in 2015-16, and the Red Storm’s backcourt provides a prime example. Senior guard Aliyyah Handford is the preseason Player of the Year in the Big East, and senior guard Danaejah Grant is a unanimous selection to the preseason all-conference team. Add a pair of highly regarded recruits, freshman forwards Jordan Agustus and Akina Wellere, to the mix and St. John’s will have depth to match its talent.
Villanova will also rely on its outside players to make a difference this season. Senior guard Caroline Coyer is a unanimous selection to the preseason all-conference team and will be supported by sophomore guard Alex Louin, who made the all-freshman team last year. With six seniors on the roster, Head Coach Harry Perretta looks to turn experience into postseason success.
Four starters return for the Bluejays from last year’s Women’s National Invitation Tournament team. Senior guard Marissa Janning and sophomore guard Sydney Lamberty stand out among that group as members of the preseason all-Big East team. This year, Creighton will also have the advantage of another year of experience for a promising core of players. It may be picked fourth, but Creighton could easily contend for the conference crown in 2015-2016.
5. Seton Hall
The Pirates won the conference regular season title and made the NCAA tournament with outstanding play from a pair of guards in their final seasons. Now that those key contributors and two other starters have moved on, Seton Hall does not look quite as dangerous. The lone returning member of last season’s starting five, senior forward Tabatha Richardson-Smith, has a track record of being a formidable scorer. With a pair of transfers joining Richardson-Smith, Seton Hall will have an uphill, but not impossible, journey back to the NCAA tournament.
A program on the upswing, Xavier returns nearly all of the team that finished with an 18-15 record last season. Senior forward Briana Glover led the team in scoring in the 2014-2015 season and is a member of the preseason all-conference team this season. Just two years ago, Xavier finished with an 8-23 record. Now, it must not be overlooked by any team hoping to finish at the top of the conference.
Coming off a last-place finish in the Big East last season, Georgetown returns each of its six players who averaged at least 20 minutes per game last season, a group led by sophomore guard Dorothy Adomako. Adomako led the Hoyas with averages of 13.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game last season and was named the Big East Freshman of the Year. Georgetown also has five seniors on the roster, including forward Dominique Vitalis and guard Katie McCormick.
The Bulldogs finished in a surprising fifth place in the conference last season after they were picked to finish last in the 2014 Big East preseason poll. They will hope to surprise the rest of the conference again in 2015 but will have to do so without their two top scorers and their top rebounder from last year. Despite its losses, Butler adds the conference preseason Freshman of the Year in forward Brittany Ward.
The 2015-16 season for Marquette can be previewed in one word: youth. The roster includes two juniors and one sophomore, only two of whom played on a team that went 9-22 last year. The rest of the team will make its collegiate debut. All five starters from the 2014-15 season have left the program, so there will be plenty of minutes for all those young players. The Golden Eagles will have their work cut out for them, but a fresh start could be just what the program needs.
The Friars finished 6-24 in 2014-15 and watched their top scorer and leading rebounder graduate. Needless to say, expectations are low this season. Junior guard Sarah Beal did make the preseason all-Big East team, however, and if she can remain healthy, then Providence has a weapon in the backcourt. Providence may not be a serious contender, but every conference needs a spoiler to make things interesting.
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