By David Siegel
The Big East conference kicked off the first of several years of transition with their preseason polls and awards announcements. Gone is West Virginia this season, to be followed by Pitt, Syracuse and eventually Notre Dame.
Big East coaches chose Connecticut as the preseason favorite to win the 2012-13 regular season conference title. The fifteen coaches could not select their own team, and the Huskies, winners of last year’s Big East tournament, received twelve of the fifteen first place votes. Notre Dame, last year’s regular season champion, received the other three first place votes.
Jeff Walz’s Louisville team vaulted into the number three spot after a strong postseason showing, followed by St. John’s. Rutgers barely edged DePaul to round out the top five. There was a substantial drop off in point total after the top six.
In perhaps their final season in the Big East, Notre Dame also garnered the preseason Player of the Year choice by the coaches. For the second straight year the honor belongs to guard Skylar Diggins of the Irish. Diggins, who averaged over 17 points per game in conference play last season, also was a unanimous choice to the preseason All Big-East team.
The eleven player All Big-East team features three Huskies, led by unanimous selection guard Bria Hartley. Hartley, winner along with Diggins in the inaugural 3×3 World Championships, and joined by junior center Stefanie Dolson and sophomore wing Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.
There were five unanimous choices on the All Big-East team: Diggins and Hartley, along with seniors Anna Martin (DePaul) and Sugar Rodgers (Georgetown) and junior Shoni Schimmel (Louisville). St. John’s had two players selected for the team: guards Nadirah McKenith and Shenneika Smith.
Connecticut’s Breanna Stewart won the preseason Freshman of the Year. As a high school senior Stewart was the national player of the Year by Gatorade, USA Today, Parade Magazine, McDonald’s (Morgan Wooten Player of the Year Award), the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and the Naismith Trophy. She was a member of the 2012 USA Basketball U18 National Team, and was the youngest member of the 2011 USA Pan American Games Team, becoming just the second high school player to compete for Team USA in the Pan Am Games.
2012-13 Preseason Coaches Poll (Points)
1. Connecticut (194, 12 1st place votes)
2. Notre Dame (182, 3 1st place votes)
3. Louisville (167)
4. St. John’s (144)
5. Rutgers (143)
6. DePaul (138)
7. Syracuse (105)
8. Georgetown (104)
9. South Florida (97)
10. Villanova (78)
11. Marquette (75)
12. Cincinnati (61)
13. Pittsburgh, Seton Hall (tie,31)
15. Providence (25)
Preseason Player of the Year
Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame, Sr., G
Preseason Freshman of the Year
*Breanna Stewart, Connecticut, Fr., F
Preseason All-Big East Team
Stefanie Dolson, Connecticut, Jr., C
*Bria Hartley, Connecticut, Jr., G
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Connecticut, So., F
*Anna Martin, DePaul, Sr., G
*Sugar Rodgers, Georgetown, Sr., G
*Shoni Schimmel, Louisville, Jr., G
*Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame, Sr., G
Monique Oliver, Rutgers, Sr., F/C
Nadirah McKenith, St. John’s, Sr., G
Shenneika Smith, St. John’s, Sr., G
Kayla Alexander, Syracuse, Sr., C
Preseason All-Big East Honorable Mention
Monique Reid, Louisville, Sr., F
Laura Sweeney, Villanova, Sr., F
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