Just like with both soccer previews, it's hard to get a definitive feel for how these preseason awards are going to go due to the addition of the three new teams. What makes it a little easier is that two of the new teams are clearly in the top half of the league, if not higher. Unfortunately, a lot of that has to do with the fact that Marquette hasn't lost to a returning Big East team since 2010, which causes a bit of a clearly defined gap in the rankings.
In years past, the Big East has handed out only one individual honor in the preseason, and there's no reason to believe that won't continue. They've also named 12 players to the all conference teams, even though only six players are on the court at a time, so we'll stick with that standard as well.
Player Of The Year: Kelli Browning, MB, Jr., Creighton - This is one of those choices that is obvious. Browning was the Missouri Valley Defensive Player Of The Year in 2012 after leading the conference in blocks at 1.65 per set. To give you some context, Louisville's Gwen Rucker led the Big East at 1.33/set, and Villanova's Gabby Pethokoukis was second at 1.11/set. Browning also finished second in the MVC in hitting percentage at .370 and was named to the all-MVC First Team. The only possible competition I can really see for Browning is either Seton Hall's Alyssa Warren, who won Big East Libero Of The Year in 2012, or Marquette's Elizabeth Koberstein, but neither of those women have an impact in the box score beyond their assigned duties on the court.
All Big East Team
Sarah Brown, OH, Sr., Xavier
Kelli Browning, MB, Jr., Creighton
Melanie Jereb, OH, So., Creighton
Elizabeth Koberstein, S, Sr., Marquette
Shelbey Manthorpe, S., Jr., Seton Hall
Leah McNary, OH, Jr., Creighton
Karin Palgutova, OH, So., St. John's
Alex Smith, MB, Sr., Xavier
Aubree Smith, S, Jr., Xavier
Alyssa Warren, L, Sr., Seton Hall
Dani White, MB, Jr., Georgetown
Vesela Zapryanova, OH, Sr., DePaul
Putting three setters on the list is probably going to cause problems in trying to get these 12 right. Unfortunately, between senior dominance and the lackluster play from most of the returning Big East schools, there's not a lot of other choices, and I'd rather go wrong picking Aubree Smith, who was on the All-Atlantic 10 Second Team, over Georgetown's Alex Johnson, who finished third in kills in the Big East last year while her team went 7-21. Is Dani White on the list from that same Hoyas team? Sure, but she also made it on to the all conference second team in 2012.
Top 5 Teams:
4. St. John's
5. Seton Hall
I was tempted to only pick four teams here, since Providence playing in the America East means five is more than half the conference. Creighton is the easy pick to win the league. I'm stepping out on a bit of limb with Marquette given how much of the offense in 2012 came from seniors, but I don't see the Golden Eagles suddenly losing multiple matches to teams that they haven't lost to in either of the last two seasons, and that includes Xavier. The Musketeers have won 20 games each of the last four seasons and return a solid core, so that gets them into the top third. St. John's and Seton Hall get the last two spots because they're the only other returning Big East teams that finished over .500 in 2012. Butler might be right there with them for those spots, as the Bulldogs did put together a .500 record in the Atlantic 10, while the Red Storm and Pirates were both sub-.500 in league play.