The start of the women’s basketball season got just a little bit closer on Tuesday when the Big East held Media Day at Madison Square Garden. The big news of the day for Marquette fans is that YOUR Golden Eagles were picked to finish third in the league this season behind co-favorites DePaul and Creighton. In addition to that, sophomores Allazia Blockton and Natisha Hiedeman were named to the 10 player preseason all-conference team.
Blockton was named Big East Freshman of the Year last season after breaking the 20+ year old scoring record for Big East games by a freshman. She also became the first MU freshman to ever score 400 points in a season, as well as the first to ever score 500 points, and she had the best scoring and rebounding average of any player who is returning for 2016-17. Hiedeman was the second MU freshman to ever score 400 points in a season, finishing the year with 411. She also set freshman records for three pointers made and attempted and finished the year with the sixth most long range makes in program history.
On to the individual awards, then.....
Preseason Player of the Year: Jessica January, DePaul
Well, I saw this coming, even though Blockton was my pick. January is the best player on the co-favorites to win the title, finishing last season with the best assists average in the league. Check out this tidbit from the Big East’s press release:
January enters her senior campaign as the BIG EAST’s active career leader in assists (425) and steals (199), while listing second in points (1,230) and rebounds (457).
That’s pretty impressive.
Preseason Freshman of the Year: Kelly Jekot, Villanova
That was my pick, as she was the highest ranked Big East recruit according to Prospects Nation. Sometimes this doesn't have to be complicated.
Predicted Order of Finish
T-1. Creighton (5) - 75
T-1. DePaul (5) - 75
3. Marquette - 62
4. Villanova - 59
5. Georgetown - 51
6. St. John's - 38
7. Seton Hall - 31
8. Butler - 25
9. Xavier - 20
10. Providence - 14
At least in the eyes of the coaches, there’s a very clear separation between the top half and the bottom half of the Big East this coming season. Heck, the separation between #5 and #6 is the same as between Marquette and the tie for first place, so we might be looking at more than one tier in the league.
Let’s get to the all-conference team before we discuss the crucial difference between that list and my pick for the top five teams.
Preseason All-Big East Team
Dorothy Adomako, Georgetown, Jr., G*
Allazia Blockton, Marquette, So., G*
Audrey Faber, Creighton, So., F
Raeshaun Gaffney, Xavier, R-Sr., G
Adrianna Hahn, Villanova, So., G
Natisha Hiedeman, Marquette, So., G
Marissa Janning, Creighton, Sr., G*
Alex Louin, Villanova, Jr., G
MC McGrory, Creighton, Sr., G
Brooke Schulte, DePaul, Sr. G
Dionna White, Georgetown, So., G*
The asterisks mark the four unanimous choices for the all league team, and I had three of the four in my five picks for the preseason all-conference team. The one I missed on was Marissa Janning. So, here’s the deal: Janning broke her leg last November. There was a tiny chance that she could have returned, but when head coach Jim Flanery said “I haven’t seen a full practice or even half of practice where I’ve said she’s looked good for 45 minutes or a half hour,” in late January , that was it for the year. Now she’s back this season after a medical redshirt waiver. After my preseason picks went up, I caught static from Creighton fans for ignoring both 1) the Bluejays and 2) Janning. They claim that she’s ready to go. I say it’s been 8 months since she was shut down for the season because she couldn’t jump to rebound. That means she had a lot of rehab left before she could start to regain the strength she lost by not being able to move her leg. If she’s back to the form where she won Big East Player of the Year as a sophomore, then yes, the Jays will be good.
If she’s not..... well, they went 8-10 in league play last year.
The men’s side went with two five-player teams and three honorable mentions. The women’s side went with a 10 player team that doesn’t include the Player of the Year, but does include an 11th player because of a tie. Sure. Counting January, all five of my picks are in the 11, although it would be incredibly disappointing if I hadn’t managed that. I think the only one of the 11 that I’m really surprised by is Xavier’s Raeshaun Gaffney. She wasn’t top 10 in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, or three point percentage last year, nor was she on the all-Big East teams at the end of the regular season, and she had just one Honor Roll appearance last season. I mean, I guess someone has to fill out the 10 (or 11) spots, but I really don’t think that Gaffney deserves the spot, especially not with Xavier finishing second to last in the preseason poll.