Basketball in cellar of conference
Despite a full off season, early Big East projections look the same as they were last October.
UConn is still expected to be the league’s best team, and their junior forward Maya Moore is the top ranked player in the preseason Big East poll.
Seton Hall is still near the bottom, picked to finish No. 14 by the conference coaches.
Last year it was an all-Big East national championship game in the NCAA Tournament, and the Connecticut Huskies ended Louisville’s cinderella run.
The Pirates ended last year on a 79-45 loss to the rival Scarlet Knights in the Big East Tournament and finished with a 17-14 record. Before that they put together back-to-back upsets against Georgetown.
Despite their rank however, Mangina is confident in her team.
“We never worry about the ranking in the beginning of the year, we worry about playing the games one game at a time and worry about what happens as we get through March,” Mangina said.
Guard Ebonie Williams is returning for her junior year at the Hall. Last season she led the team in scoring 13.2 points per game, and shot a team best 84.5 percent from the free throw line.
Sophomore Kandice Green is back as well, after being named to the Big East All Freshmen Team. She ranked No. 11 in the conference with six double-doubles, was ninteenth with 6.6 rebounds per game.
The biggest absence for the Pirates is going to be the loss of forward Noteisha Womack. She lead the Big East and was ninth in the country with her 10.5 rebounds per game.
To help adjust to the loss of Womack, the Pirates are adding three freshmen.
Freshman Terry Green is coming onto the team after being ranked the eighteenth best forward on an ESPN U Top 100 ranking of recruiting.
Freshmen Brittany Morris was a four-year starter at Broughton High School and finished her career there with over 1,300 points.
Zimbabwe native Alexander Maseko, the third freshman, captained her country’s Under-20 team in the 2007 All-Africa games.
“The young girls are an essential part of the team,” senior Nicole Emery said. “They bring a lot of excitement and energy to the games.”
This will be assistant coach Ty Grace’s first season aboard the Hall’s coaching staff. She is taking the place of Marlin Chinn who left the Hall to pursue a position at Maryland.
In last years final Top 25 poll, the Big East had five representatives, and two of them, Connecticut and Louisville, were in the top five.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish who are ranked second coming into this season, face UConn twice this season.
The Huskies have junior forward Maya Moore returning. Moore is coming off a season where she scored a school record 754 points, and was named National Player of the Year, Big East Player of the Year
“When you have somebody like Maya, it’s like having three or four players on your time because of all the things that she does on and off the floor,” Auriemma said. “She’s a rebounder, scorer, and she blocks shots.”
Since 1995 the Big East has had seven NCAA Champions, and 15 Final Four appearances.
Six of those Championships are courtesy of Connecticut.
“We are very fortunate to work in this conference. We have some of the best players and coaches in the country,” Auriemma said.
The season opens up on Friday Nov. 13 for the entire league. Big East conference play begins on Jan. 2, when Seton Hall will be hosting the Huskies at the Prudential Center.
This is going to be the first time the women’s basketball team is playing in Newark without being a part of a doubleheader with the men’s team.
The Pirates will get a shot to get back at their rival Scarlet Knight for last year’s loss on Feb. 10 when they travel to Piscataway.
Nicholas Parco can be reached at email@example.com