Women’s basketball success potentially higher than poll ranking

The Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll for women’s basketball can be misleading to the depth that returns to the hardwood for the Seton Hall Pirates this season. The team acquired three transfers from talented programs that includes a former five-star recruit who has been recently made eligible to play this season.

The top two teams from last year, who split the conference’s regular season trophy, are returning a similar number of players. Perennial Big East power DePaul is returning four starters and seven letter winners while Marquette is returning all five of its starters.

The difference between the top sides and Seton Hall is mainly the returning scoring for both teams. Seton Hall is slotted to finish eighth, according the poll. The poll reflects the uncertainty for the Pirates team that lost its top three scorers.

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In 2014-15, Seton Hall was projected to finished fifth in the conference. That year, the Pirates returned three of their starters and had a key graduate transfer in Daisha Simmons who would end up being the Big East Defensive Player of the Year.

The Pirates finished that regular season at 28-6 overall, 15-3 in conference, and were ranked for the first time in program history. That year, the team also secured its first NCAA Tournament berth in 20 years.
Although it is far-fetched to guarantee the resurgence of women’s basketball to the top of the conference, it is not out of the realm of possibility to see this team being in the mix and firmly contending throughout the season.

Returning senior Inja Butina showed her versatility as a two-way player, finishing top-10 in the conference in assists, steals and turnover ratio. The Croatian guard also averaged close to double figures at 8.5 points per game in Big East conference games. This season, Butina figures to play a bigger role for the Pirates while adding to her stat totals on a new-look team.

The big question mark that lies within the squad is who will fill the top three scoring voids left behind.
The Pirates have three new transfers on the roster this season – Victoria Cardaci, Diandra DaRosa and Desiree Elmore. DaRosa, a graduate transfer from Virginia Tech, will serve a pivotal role in showing veteran leadership for the backcourt. Cardaci, the three-specialist that transferred from Clemson, is set to make an instant contribution on offense after having 25 starts in 30 games during her last two seasons.

The Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll did not consider the role of Desiree Elmore for Seton Hall. There was uncertainty surrounding her eligibility for this season after transferring from Syracuse. However, last Friday, it was announced that the NCAA granted Elmore immediate eligibility to play this season – a huge bonus for women’s basketball.

Once a five-star recruit, and ranking amongst the top-50 recruits nationally, Elmore tore her ACL in her sophomore season, in which she was slotted to see the floor more and contribute on both sides of the floor for Syracuse. The 2016 McDonald’s All-American was a walking double-double machine in high school, averaging 26.7 points and 15.7 rebounds along with just under four blocks a game. If she can easily acclimate into her role on the team and post similar numbers, the team can prove to be a tough outing on any Big East team’s schedule.

The eighth-place preseason positioning will not only serve as motivation for women’s basketball but also as a prediction that can be proven wrong with the team’s improvement. Alongside many key returning players, the transfers on the roster can create a promising year to look forward to for Seton Hall women’s basketball.

Evando Thompson can be reached evando.thompson@student.shu.edu or on Twitter @Thompsev.

Author: Evando Thompson

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