The Marquette Golden Eagles, who won the Big East Tournament last year, are poised to dominate the conference again this year. Their entire core returns, including junior guard Allazia Blockton, who averaged 17.1 points per game her sophomore campaign and was unanimously voted the Big East Preseason Player of the Year. Look for them to make a run for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament come March.
Despite an injury-plagued 2016-17 season, the Blue Demons still made a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the 15th consecutive year, but ultimately fell to Mississippi State in the second round. They hope to do the same this season, despite losing three key starters in Brooke Schulte, Jessica January and Jacqui Grant, who have all graduated. The talented backcourt of junior guard Ashton Millender and senior guard Amarah Coleman will likely play a large role for the team going forward. This team easily has enough talent to compete for the Big East Championship.
Creighton had a very strong 2016-17 season, going 16-2 in conference play and 24-8 overall. They ended up making the tournament as a No. 7 seed and defeated Toledo in the first round, before exiting in the second against Oregon State. They lost three starters, Marissa Janning, Brianna Rollerson and Lauren Works, but retained the talented junior offensive forward Audrey Faber, who averaged 12.8 points per game last year. It may take some time for this new team to gel, but look for another strong season for the Bluejays.
After a solid finish to last season in which they advanced to the semifinals of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, the Wildcats will rely on experience this season. Four out of five starters return, as does over 90 percent of the team’s scoring from last season. Expect talented junior guards Adrianna Hahn, a preseason All-Big East First Team pick, and Jannah Tucker to be the offensive focal points for the team this year.
The Hoyas are coming off two successful seasons that resulted in WNIT berths and winning records, as the finished the 2016-17 season 17-13. They hope to take a step farther this year under new head coach James Howard, who served as associate head coach under Natasha Adair. Junior guard Dionna White, a Second Team All-Big East selection, and senior guard Dorothy Adomako, an Honorable Mention All-Big East selection, will lead the way. The Hoyas also inherit transfer senior guard Mikayla Venson, who averaged 15.1 points per game her sophomore season at the University of Virginia, and will likely provide an immediate scoring punch.
6. St. John’s
The Red Storm had an impressive 2016-17 season, going 22-12, marking the fourth year in a row they have won over 20 games. Though it is surely possible, it will be tough for them to have the same success with the loss of starters Jade Walker and Aaliyah Lewis. They will likely have a balanced attack on offense with last year’s leading scorer, junior guard/forward Akina Wellere, leading the way.
7. Seton hall
After three strong seasons that ended with national postseason berths, the Pirates had a down year in 2016-17, suffering a losing season at 12-19. However, they have the potential to return to their winning ways. Sophomore guard Kaela Hilaire looks to build off a strong freshman campaign in which she was a unanimous selection to the Big East All-Freshman Team. She is joined by last year’s third leading scorer in the conference, redshirt senior guard Ja Quan Jackson, and transfers Donnaizha Fountain, a graduate student guard, and Taylor Brown, a redshirt sophomore forward.
The Friars finished 12-18 last year, which was their best season record in five years. Now that Head Coach Jim Crowley has one season under his belt, look for this team to continue to grow in a positive direction. They return three starters, including sharpshooter junior guard Jovana Nogic, who led the team in scoring last year. Junior transfer forward Ny-Asia Franklin and junior guard Clara Che also figure to be key players in this rebuilding season.
The Bulldogs had a very rough 2016-17 season filled with injuries, finishing just 2-16 in conference play and 6-25 overall. This year, however, they return with their top six scorers, including senior guard Sydney Buck, junior forward Tori Schickel and junior guard Michelle Weaver. Their experience will likely pay dividends for this team, and it looks as if they will do better than last year.
Xavier figures to be in for a long season this year. After finishing 4-14 last year, they only return one starter in junior guard Kindell Fincher, and few of their current players had significant minutes last season. The team has brought in six talented newcomers, but it will likely use this year to build. Expect them to grow over the season.
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