UConn Women the Top pick in the Big East - Williams & Bueckers honored

Connecticut Tops BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Preseason Coaches’ Poll

Huskies are unanimous favorites in first season of BIG EAST play since 2012-13.

NEW YORK –The BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Preseason Coaches’ Poll was announced on Thursday with 11-time national champion Connecticut the unanimous favorite to win the league. The Huskies, who will begin their first season of BIG EAST play since 2012-13, have won the conference regular season 19 times, along with 18 BIG EAST Tournament titles. UConn collected 100 points and 10 first-place votes to top the preseason poll.

Six-time and reigning BIG EAST regular-season champion DePaul finished second in the Preseason Coaches’ Poll with 90 points and the remaining first-place vote. Blue Demon rival Marquette, which has advanced to four consecutive BIG EAST Tournament title games, was slotted third with 83 points. St. John’s followed in fourth place with 69 points, while Creighton rounded out the top five with 60 points. The Bluejays narrowly edged out sixth-place Seton Hall with 59 points, followed by Villanova in seventh with 44. Butler (eighth, 37 points), Xavier (ninth, 31 points), Providence (10th, 22 points) and Georgetown (11th, 10 points) followed.

In a shortened 2019-20 season,UConnwent 29-3 overall and 16-0 in their final season of American Athletic Conference play, winning the AAC Tournament for the seventh straight year. The Huskies return five letterwinners from that squad, three of which were starters, including BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year Christyn Williams, who averaged 14.6 points per game a season ago. UConn also has a pair of notable newcomers in 2020 Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year and nationally top-ranked incoming freshman Paige Bueckers, along with Tennessee transfer and 2017USA TodayNational Player of the Year Evina Westbrook. The Huskies spent 18 of 20 weeks in the top five of the Associated Press Poll last season, including three weeks at the No. 1 slot before finishing the season ranked fifth. Connecticut last competed in the BIG EAST in 2012-13, going 14-2 and finishing runner-up in the BIG EAST Tournament.

DePaulwon its third consecutive BIG EAST Tournament crown this past March, clinching what would have been its 18thconsecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament. The trophy was its fifth in the last seven years. The Blue Demons went 15-3 in BIG EAST play to claim their sixth regular-season crown in the last seven years, posting a 28-5 overall record and climbing as high as No. 11 in the AP Top 25 before finishing the year ranked 15th. DePaul returns 12 letterwinners including three starters from that squad, highlighted by reigning BIG EAST Tournament Most Outstanding Player Lexi Held (15.4 ppg) and All-BIG EAST Second Team performer Sonya Morris (15.6 ppg). The Blue Demons will also benefit from notable newcomer Darrione Rogers, a two-time All-State guard who averaged 25.9 points and 10 rebounds as a senior at Lake Park West in nearby Roselle, Ill.

After being picked to finish ninth in the 2019-20 preseason poll,Marquettestunned by going 13-5 in BIG EAST play and advancing to its fourth consecutive conference tournament final. The Golden Eagles looked well on their way to a national postseason berth after going 24-8 on the year and earning votes in both national polls. Marquette returns eight letterwinners including three starters from that squad, highlighted by leading scorer and All-BIG EAST Second Team honoree Selena Lott (15.5 ppg) and BIG EAST All-Tournament Team selection Lauren Van Kleunen (11.8 ppg). Megan Duffy, who was voted BIG EAST Coach of the Year in 2020, has brought in more talent to Milwaukee this year, including Liza Karlen, a 6-2 forward out of Stillwater, Minn., who scored over 2,000 points in high school.

St. John’sis coming off its first trip to the BIG EAST Tournament Semifinals since 2017, finishing the year 19-12 overall and in the five-way logjam in third place with an 11-7 conference record. The Red Storm return two starters and 10 total letterwinners from the squad, including their top two scorers in Qadashah Hoppie (15.4) and Leilani Correa (12.7). Hoppie was an All-BIG EAST Second Team selection while Correa claimed the BIG EAST Sixth-Woman Award, while also earning spots on the All-Freshman Team and All-Tournament Team. St. John’s will have the added benefit this year of a pair of junior college transfers from Northwest Florida in Fapou Semebene who averaged just shy of a double-double, and Rayven Peeples, an honorable mention NJCAA All-American.

Creightonjoined St. John’s in that five-way tie for third with an 11-7 BIG EAST record in 2019-20, going 19-11 overall and bowing out to the Red Storm in the conference tournament quarterfinals. The Bluejays return three starters and a total of nine letterwinners from a season ago, but will look to replace BIG EAST Player of the Year Jaylyn Agnew, who claimed the conference scoring crown after averaging 23.1 points in league play. All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention selection Temi Carda is Creighton’s top returner after ranking second on the team in scoring (12.9) last year. The Bluejays will also look to newcomer Mallory Brake, a 6-0 forward out of Hastings, Minn., who averaged 26.7 points and 14.7 rebounds in high school, scoring over 2,600 career points.

Seton Hallmirrored St. John’s with a 19-12 overall mark and 11-7 BIG EAST finish, advancing to the BIG EAST Tournament Semifinals for the first time since 2016 before being edged by eventual champion DePaul. The Pirates graduate their top two scorers from that squad but welcome back Desiree Elmore, who tallied a team-high six double-doubles in 2019-20 and averaged 13.0 points, 7.2 rebounds overall. The Hall also welcomes a pair of talented transfers in NJCAA All-American Curtessia Dean out of Trinity Valley, and Penn State product Mya Bembry, a 6-1 guard/forward from nearby West Orange, N.J.

After 42 years,Villanovais under the direction of a new head coach following the retirement of Harry Perretta. Wildcat alumna Denise Dillon takes the reins after a successful tenure at crosstown foe Drexel. VU overcame a slow start to finish 18-13 overall and 11-7 in BIG EAST play a season ago, highlighted by the emergence of Maddy Siegrist who enjoyed one of the most notable freshman campaigns in league history. Siegrist averaged 18.8 points per game, breaking a number of program rookie scoring standards throughout the year. Siegrist leads a group of five returning letterwinners and is one of two returning starters, along with Raven James (5.5 ppg). The Wildcats will benefit from Miami (Fla.) transfer Sarah Mortensen, along with Brianna Herlihy, who missed last season at Villanova due to injury.

In 2019-20,Butleronce again exceeded expectations, finishing in the five-way tie for third place at 11-7 after being picked seventh in the preseason poll. The Bulldogs, who went 19-11 overall, will look to excel once again this year, welcoming back two of their top three scorers in Oumou Toure (9.1 ppg) and Genesis Parker (9.0). In total, Butler returns seven letterwinners, while adding pivotal pieces in NJCAA All-American Okako Adika and Tenley Dowell, who played just one game for Butler in ’19-20 before suffering a season-ending injury.

Xavierwill look to improve upon a 3-27 overall, 2-16 BIG EAST season a year ago and will have arguably the most veteran lineup in the conference. The Musketeers return all five starters and nine letterwinners, highlighted by All-BIG EAST honoree A’riana Gray. Gray has consistently been a double-double force in the BIG EAST, averaging 11.6 points and 8.4 rebounds over 52 career conference games. She is the active career leader in rebounding among all BIG EAST players with 750 boards, and second among BIG EAST players in total points with 982. Xavier bolsters its lineup with a pair of transfers as well, in Nia Clark (Miami-Ohio) and Kae Satterfield (Ohio State).

After winning eight of its first nine non-league games,Providencestumbled in BIG EAST play to fall to 13-19 on the year and a 3-15 eighth-place conference finish. The Friars won a BIG EAST Tournament game for the second straight year for the first time since 1994-95, advancing to the quarterfinals before falling to eventual champion DePaul. PC returns top scorer and rebounder Mary Baskerville, who averaged 11.8 points, 7.6 rebounds over 28 games last season. Providence will look to get a boost from newcomers Grace Efosa-Aguebor, who averaged 24.5 points at Whittier Tech in Haverhill, Mass., last season, and Julia Fabozzi, who averaged a double-double during her senior season at Xaverian in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Georgetownposted a 5-25 overall record and tied with Xavier at 2-16 for ninth place in the standings. The Hoyas return seven letterwinners, while Anita Kelava is the lone returning starter. Kelava is among the BIG EAST blocks leader, totaling triple digit denials in just two seasons on the Hilltop. Georgetown boosts its lineup with Princeton grad transfer Taylor Baur, who averaged 6.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and served as co-captain during her senior season with the Tigers.

BIG EAST Preseason Coaches’ Poll

Team (first-place votes)



Connecticut (10)



DePaul (1)






St. John’s






Seton Hall

















UConn’s Williams Named BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year

Fellow Husky Paige Bueckers unanimous choice for BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year.

NEW YORK –Connecticut junior guard Christyn Williams was named the 2020-2021 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year, as announced by the Conference on Thursday. Williams is the top returner for the preseason favorite Huskies, averaging 14.6 points over 32 games last year. Teammate Paige Bueckers was unanimously selected BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year, with Bueckers being the nation’s top-ranked recruit in the 2020 class.

In addition to the major awards, the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team was announced, highlighting 11 players across eight teams. UConn, DePaul and St. John’s each had two honorees, while Creighton, Marquette, Seton Hall, Villanova and Xavier each had one player selected. Preseason major awards and all-league honors are selected by the BIG EAST’s head coaches, who are not permitted to vote for their own players.

Williams started 31 of 32 games last year for the Huskies, averaging 14.6 points off .457 shooting while adding 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists. She reached the 20-point mark nine times in 2019-20, second-most among Huskies, and led UConn in scoring six times last season. The 5-11 junior guard was a first team All-AAC selection in 2019-20, and was voted to the 2020 AAC All-Tournament Team.

A 5-11 guard, Bueckers boasts an astounding list of accolades, including the nation’s No. 1 recruit by espnW, 2019-20 Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year, 2020 All-American (McDonald’s, SLAM, Jordan Brand), 2019 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year, 2019 FBIA U19 World Cup MVP and a three-time Gatorade Minnesota Player of the Year. Bueckers averaged 21.0 points, 9.2 assists, 5.2 steals and 5.1 rebounds per game for Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Minn., as a senior, guiding her team to a 30-0 record and the Class AAAA state championship game, which was canceled due to coronavirus.

In addition to a pair of major award winners, UConn saw Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Evina Westbrook honored as Preseason All-BIG EAST Team members. A junior forward, Nelson-Ododa was a second-team All-AAC selection in 2019-20, averaging 10.9 points, a team-high 8.5 rebounds and .552 shooting over 32 games. She totaled seven double-doubles on the year to rank second among Huskies. Westbrook is entering her first season with UConn after sitting out last year due to the NCAA transfer policy. The 6-0 redshirt-junior guard spent two seasons at Tennessee, averaging team highs of 14.9 points and 5.3 assists during her sophomore campaign in 2018-19.

DePaul junior guard Sonya Morris is one of five unanimous Preseason All-BIG EAST selections. Morris is coming off a breakout sophomore season, averaging 15.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists over 33 games. The 5-10 St. Louis native increased her scoring average by over 10 points per game from her freshman year. Morris is one of two Blue Demons on the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team, along with reigning BIG EAST Tournament Most Outstanding Player Lexi Held. A junior, Held averaged 21.3 points in the postseason to lead DePaul to its third consecutive BIG EAST Tourney title. For the year, the 5-10 guard averaged 15.4 points thanks to 2.4 made three-pointers per game, the second-highest average among BIG EAST players.

St. John’s also saw two players tabbed to the All-BIG EAST squad, including unanimous pick Qadashah Hoppie. Hoppie enters the 2020-21 season as the league’s active career leader in scoring with 1,179 points over 96 career games. The senior guard ranked eighth in BIG EAST play last year with a 15.9 scoring average, knocking down 2.7 triples per game to rank second in league games. Reigning BIG EAST Sixth-Woman of the Year, Leilani Correa was also recognized this preseason. The sophomore guard ranked second on the Red Storm in scoring last season with a 12.7 clip, highlighted by three 30-point performances, second-most among BIG EAST players. Correa started just three of 30 games last year and ranked second on the team in scoring.

Marquette senior guard Selena Lott, Seton Hall senior guard/forward Desiree Elmore and Villanova sophomore forward Maddy Siegrist were also Preseason All-BIG EAST Team unanimous selections. Lott spearheaded the Golden Eagles to a second-place finish in 2019-20 after being slotted ninth in the preseason poll. Over 17 league games, the All-BIG EAST Second Team member averaged 15.0 points and 5.9 assists, the second-highest clip in the conference. Elmore is the Pirates’ top returning scorer after averaging 13.0 points over 31 games last year. She posted six double-doubles and reached the 20-point mark five times. Siegrist was unanimously selected BIG EAST Freshman of the Year in 2019-20, averaging 18.8 points over 31 games to go along with league highs of 11 double-doubles and 15 20-point games. She broke a plethora of Villanova rookie records, including points in a game with 41 at La Salle on Dec. 21.

Creighton senior guard Temi Carda and Xavier senior forward A’riana Gray round out the Preseason All-BIG EAST honorees. Carda is one of two Bluejays who started all 30 games last year and is Creighton’s top returning scorer, posting 12.9 points and .416 shooting in 2019-20. She reached the 20-point mark four times. Gray is the BIG EAST’s active career leader in rebounding (750) and double-doubles (26) while ranking second in career points (982). The senior averaged 15.8 points and a BIG EAST-high 9.3 rebounds in 2019-20, upping her scoring average in conference play to a 17.2 clip.

BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year

Christyn Williams, Connecticut, Jr., G

BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year

Paige Bueckers, Connecticut, Fr., G*

Preseason All-BIG EAST Team^

Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Connecticut, Jr., F

Evina Westbrook, Connecticut, R-Jr., G

Temi Carda, Creighton, Sr., G

Lexi Held, DePaul, Jr., G

Sonya Morris, DePaul, Jr., G*

Selena Lott, Marquette, Sr., G*

Leilani Correa, St. John’s, So., G

Qadashah Hoppie, St. John’s, Sr., G*

Desiree Elmore, Seton Hall, Sr., G/F*

Maddy Siegrist, Villanova, So., F*

A’riana Gray, Xavier, Sr., F

^extra player added due to a tie in voting

*unanimous selection

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