It’s media day at Madison Square Garden for Big East basketball. That’s men’s and women’s basketball, so that means it’s time to make some preseason picks for the women’s side of the aisle. You may have already read our rundown on the preseason awards for the men’s league, but if not, go check that out.
A word, before we get started: I am fully prepared to be 100% lousy wrong on all of these.
Why, you ask? Well, let’s put it this way:
- Seven of the top 10 scorers in the Big East last season were seniors. That extends out to 14 of the top 20 and 19 of the top 30.
- Four of the top 10 rebounders in the league last year were seniors and eight of the top 20 were as well.
- Six of the top 10 in the league in assists last year were seniors, and nine of the top 15.
- Marquette and DePaul combined to go 27-5 in the regular season against the other eight teams in the Big East last year. Those two teams lose a combined seven women that averaged in double digits in scoring, and return just one total between them.
That’s a lot of departing talent. Even if I miss on these picks, I’d feel pretty comfortable saying that we will likely see some wildly different names pop up at the end of the season. There’s going to be a lot of new faces playing new roles in the league, so we’ll see where that takes us between now and March.
Okay, let’s dive in, shall we?
Preseason Player of the Year: Shadeen Samuels, Seton Hall
I am not an overly complicated man. When you lead the Big East in scoring as a junior, like Samuels did, and you’re the only non-senior on the All-Big East First Team at the end of the season, like Samuels was, then you get to be preseason POY. In her free time, the six-foot tall Samuels was also fourth in the Big East in rebounding. This all just makes sense.
Preseason Freshman of the Year: Unique Drake, St. John’s
Kinda hard to beat ESPN’s #75 prospect in the class in terms of who to pick here. Drake is the Worldwide Leader’s top prospect entering the Big East this season, so there you go. A skim through Prospects Nation says that Georgetown’s Olivia Snyder is the best Big East prospect at #135 in their ranking system, so that’s a solid next best option.
In case you were wondering: Yes, this would have been Shemera Williams if she had stayed with Marquette after Carolyn Kieger’s departure.
This award will probably be much easier to figure out next year when UConn re-joins the league, and by “probably,” I mean “ESPN’s 2020 #1 prospect in the country is already committed to the Huskies.”
Preseason All-Big East Team
The best way to try and put a list like this together is to use the end-of-season awards list from last year. All five of these women earned all-conference honors a year ago, and they are the only five on the all-league awards from last season that are returning. BOOM, SOLVED.
If I had to add a sixth woman to the list, it would be DePaul’s Kelly Campbell. She was #6 in rebounding, #2 in assists, and #4 in steals last season. She didn’t crack the top 30 in scoring in the conference, but she didn’t have to, either. Creighton’s Jaylen Agnew has a solid case as well after finishing #22 in scoring, #11 in rebounding, and seventh in blocks last year.
Top Five Teams
1 - DePaul
2 - Seton Hall
3 - Villanova
4 - St. John’s
5 - Marquette
The hard part is here is figuring out what to take away from last year’s standings. Three teams finished over .500 in league play. Two finished at exactly .500, two were 8-10, and two were 7-11. Add into that the fact that Marquette is almost assuredly not going 15-3 with just five returning players and six freshmen. Then there’s the issue of all of the departed seniors out of the league, which opens things up even further.
Between Stonewall and Campbell and head coach Doug Bruno’s track record, I feel pretty comfortable installing DePaul as the favorite here. Past that? I have no idea. I’m putting Seton Hall in second, because if Samuels is going to be POY, then they’re going to have to be good. Villanova is at least reasonably good all the time under Harry Perretta, so they seem like a safe pick. St. John’s has enough going on around England, so I’ll give them a nod in fourth. Am I biased because they’ve given Marquette fits over the past couple of years? Yeah, probably, but not not as biased as I am by putting the Golden Eagles in fifth. I choose to believe that Megan Duffy is a good coach based on what she did in her two years at Miami-Ohio, and while it’s a big knock backwards from last year’s senior-studded roster, I think Duffy will do well enough to be in the top half of the league.
Besides, it’s much more fun to go into a season with optimism about your new coach than pessimism, right?
Got issues with my picks? Of course you do. Hit the comments section and let me know what I missed/forgot/ignored.