It’s almost time for Big East women’s basketball Media Day at Madison Square Garden!
The big show is coming up next week Tuesday, just a little bit less than a week away. With that in mind, it’s time to get some official predictions on the preseason awards on digital paper. As always, I’m trying to predict how the coaches in the league are going to vote, so we’re taking into account how they’ve voted into the past to guide our hands on these things. With that said, there’s a certain amount of common sense to be attached to the situation at hand, and that starts with......
Preseason Player of the Year: Paige Bueckers, Connecticut
Yes, she missed all of last season due to injury. Yes, she missed a big chunk of the year before that due to injury. No, I do not care. It’s been over a year since the injury that forced her out of all of last season, I’m presuming she’s 100% and ready to go, and if that’s the case, she’s the best player in the league.
Preseason Freshman of the Year: KK Arnold, Connecticut
Rule #1 of these things is “do not overthink it.” KK Arnold is the #6 recruit in the country according to ESPN. Is she going to be Freshman of the Year in March? That’s not what we’re talking about here, is it?
All-Big East Team
The same idea about Bueckers and Player of the Year applies to Azzi Fudd here. Did she miss a lot of time last season? Yes. Is she one of the five best players in the league if she’s healthy? Yes.
Jordan King gets onto the team here as a unanimous choice from last year’s postseason all-conference team. I am leaving Aaliyah Edwards off this list even though she was a unanimous choice from the all-Big East team last March because, well, I’m not putting three Huskies on the list and it seems like a no-brained to put Bueckers and Fudd on there first. The league is almost guaranteed to announce a 10 woman team, so expect to see Edwards on that list.
I was tempted to put two Bluejays on the list as both Lauren Jensen and Morgan Maly were First Teamers last season. Ultimately I leaned towards spreading the awards around a little bit further, so I picked Jensen as the Creighton representative. Lucy Olsen is Villanova’s leading returning scorer after averaging 12/4/4 and a steal last season, and if the Wildcats are going to be an NCAA tournament team this year without Maddie Siegrist, she’s going to have to be an all-Big East First Teamer, not just Second Team (Read as: 11th through 15th best, remember that 10 woman thing?) like she was a year ago.
Top Five Teams
1 — Connecticut
2 — Creighton
3 — Marquette
4 — Villanova
5 — Seton Hall
Here’s how this works. UConn is a tier by themselves. Yes, they lost two league games last season for the first time since Odin knows when. That was also without Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd. The Huskies figure to be a wrecking machine the likes of which we have not seen for a long time.
Creighton is one tier down, a pretty decent jump down from “national championship contender” to merely “should obviously be an NCAA tournament team,” and also in a tier by themselves. They’re on the verge of the biggest and most successful run in program history, and they bring back most of their core.
And then we hit another big time drop down to another tier. Marquette should have enough to compete for an NCAA tournament berth merely by returning three starters in Jordan King, Liza Karlen, and Rose Nkumu. But they have way too many questions involved after a roster rebuild — and we’ll get to it in their season preview stuff eventually — to be considered on Creighton’s level. The same concept roughly works for Villanova, but they are merely recovering from the loss of the sun and the moon in the form of Maddie Siegrist. We have no idea what Villanova basketball under Denise Dillon’s guidance looks like without Siegrist, but there’s too many talented players just floating around on the Main Line to think that they’re going to just suddenly sink into the earth.
And then I have no idea what to do with the fifth spot.
St. John’s was a tournament team last season, but returns just two rotation players. Seton Hall wasn’t even that good but is undergoing pretty much the same thing. DePaul was even worse and there’s real questions as to what exactly is going on in Lincoln Park given the exodus of players this offseason. Is Butler going to continue to improve in Year 2 of Austin Parkinson’s tenure as head coach? I can’t possibly think that great things are going to suddenly happen for Providence, Georgetown, or Xavier in their first years with new head coaches.
Ultimately, I trust Tony Bozzella much more than I trust Joe Tartamella, so I’ll put the Pirates there, but I’m really just throwing a dart here. If you were particularly inclined one way or another, you could make a case for pretty much any of the remaining seven squads for that #5 spot this year, or any spot from #5 through #11 for that matter.