PREVIEW CAPSULES: A Look At The Teams In The Big East Conference

College BasketballCollege SportsBig East ConferenceBasketballSportsUConn HuskiesPittsburgh Panthers

UConn

Last season: 33-5, 13-3

Coach: Geno Auriemma, 28th season

Top Players: G Bria Hartley, F Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, C Stefanie Dolson

Keep an eye on: C Breanna Stewart

The skinny: The Huskies have assembled one of the deepest rosters in their history and seem intent on avenging back-to-back national semifinal defeats to Notre Dame. The freshman class – Stewart, F Morgan Tuck and G Moriah Jefferson – has the potential to be game-changing almost immediately

Notre Dame

Last season: 35-4, 15-1

Coach: Muffet McGraw, 26th season

Top Players: G Skylar Diggins, C Natalie Achonwa, G Kayla McBride

Keep an eye on: G Jewell Loyd

The skinny: This could be Notre Dame's final season in the Big East before its departure to the ACC. The Irish have played – and lost – the past two national championship games, but are buoyed by Diggins, their first-team All-American. Watch freshmen guards Michaela Mabrey and Jewell Loyd.

Louisville

Last season: 23-10, 10-6

Coach: Jeff Walz, 6th season

Top Players: G Shoni Schimmel, G Monique Reid, F Asia Taylor

Keep an eye on: F Sara Hammond

The skinny: Injuries have plagued the Cardinals in the preseason, but Walz remains confident. Schimmel was a Big East first-team pick last season and Bria Smith made the rookie team. Hammond, a Kentucky native, is very highly regarded.

St. John's

Last season: 24-10, 13-3

Coach: Joe Tartamella, first season

Top Players: G Nadirah McKenith, G Shenneika Smith, G Eugeneia McPherson

Keep an eye on: Amber Thompson

The skinny: Gone to coach Michigan is Kim Barnes-Arico. But she left behind four starters and 79 percent of the scoring from last season's team, which beat UConn at Gampel Pavilion in February and made it to the Sweet 16 before losing to Duke. Tartamella has been St. John's associate head coach since 2008

Rutgers

Last season: 22-10, 10-6

Coach: Vivian Stringer, 17th season

Top Players: F Chelsey Lee, F Monique Oliver, G Erica Wheeler

Keep an eye on: Briyona Canty

The skinny: The Scarlet Knights qualified for their 10th straight NCAA Tournament last season, one of only nine teams in the nation to do so. But they are now missing All-Big East G Khadijah Rushdan and F April Sykes. Lee, once a big-time UConn recruit, returns after missing last season with a shoulder injury.

DePaul

Last season: 23-11, 9-7

Coach: Doug Bruno, 27th season

Top Players: G Anna Martin, C Katherine Harry, G Jasmine Penny

Keep an eye on: Brittany Hrynko

The skinny: Fresh off an Olympic run as Auriemma's assistant, Bruno returns to a team led by Martin, the Big East's leading scorer (19.1) last season as a junior. Harry led the Big East in rebounding, including 20 against Louisville Jan. 31

Syracuse

Last season: 22-15, 6-10

Coach: Quentin Hillsman, 7th season

Top Players: C Kayla Alexander, G Elashier Hall, G Carmen Tyson-Thomas

Keep an eye on: Rachel Coffey

The skinny: This is it in the Big East for Syracuse and Pittsburgh, also set to join the ACC next season. Hillsman is without question one the flashiest coaches in the country with his custom-made suits. As for his team, Alexander is a two-time All-Big East player with definite a WNBA skill set. She averaged 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds last season.

Georgetown

Last season: 23-9, 11-5

Coach: Keith Brown, 1st season

Top Players: C Vanessa Moore, G Sugar Rodgers, C Sydney Wilson

Keep an eye on: Andrea White

The skinny: After leading the Hoyas to multiple NCAA appearances, coach Terri Williams-Flournoy left for Auburn. She is replaced by Brown, certain to be a huge sideline presence. Rodgers begins the season just 195 points shy of 2,000 and needs just 78 to become the Hoyas' top women's scorer ever.

South Florida

Last season: 19-16

Coach: Jose Fernandez, 13th season

Top Players: G Inga Orekhova, F Tiffany Conner, G Andrea Smith

Keep an eye on: Kaneisha Saunders

The skinny: Auriemma is one who believes South Florida could be one of the conference's surprise teams. Andrea Smith missed last season with a knee injury after averaging 16.5 points in 2010-11. Orekhova is one of the best – and streakiest three-point shooters in the conference.

Villanova

Last season: 19-15, 6-10

Coach: Harry Perretta, 35th season

Top Players: F Laura Sweeney, G Rachel Roberts, F Lauren Burford

Keep an eye on: Jesse Carey

The skinny: The Wildcats return nearly 93 percent of their scoring from last season, which is to say they return just about all their three-point shooters. Villanova took 816 threes in 34 games, compared to 387 by its opponents. Roberts, who played at Mercy High and is from Marlborough, drained 56 threes last season.

Marquette

Last season: 14-17, 4-12

Coach: Terri Mitchell, 17th season

Top Players: G Cristina Bigica, F Sarina Simmons, F Katherine Plouffe

Keep an eye on: Gabi Minix

The skinny: Marquette's streak of nine consecutive postseason appearances ended last season with its first losing season since 2000-01. Simmons is its only senior, and Plouffe, a junior, led the team in scoring (13.5), rebounding (8.1) and minutes (33.7). Minix was second in the Big East in assists.

Cincinnati

Last season: 16-16, 6-10

Coach: Jamelle Elliott, 4th season

Top Players: G Dayeesha Hollins, F Jeanise Randolph, G Kayla Cook

Keep an eye on: Tiffany Turner

The skinny: Hollins redshirted the 2010-11 season and returned to lead the team in scoring (14.8) as a second-team Big East pick. Cook started all 32 games last season and will get support from veterans like Turner and Randolph, who led the conference in shooting percentage (59.7) in league games.

Pittsburgh

Last season: 8-22, 0-16

Coach: Agnus Berenato, 10th season

Top Players: G Abby Dowd, G Brianna Kiesel, G Ashlee Anderson

Keep an eye on: Marquel Davis

The skinny: Last season was historically woeful for the Panthers, who went winless in conference play. Even Seton Hall beat them. Kiesel led Pitt in scoring (13.6) and assists as a freshman. Some hope rests with freshman G Loliya Briggs, who sat out last season after being injured playing for the Nigerian national team.

Seton Hall

Last season: 8-23, 1-15

Coach: Anne Donovan, 3rd season

Top Players: F Terry Green, F Alexandra Maseko, G Brittany Morris

Keep an eye on: G Ka-Deidre Simmons

The skinny: Donovan, who preceded Auriemma as Olympic coach and won a WNBA title in Seattle, has won two Big East games in two seasons (2-30) and is 16-45 overall. Perhaps seven new players will help things this season. Freshman F Sidney Cook was invited to USA Basketball's U17 team trials in 2010. She did not make the team.

Providence

Last season: 13-17, 5-11

Coach: Susan Robinson Fruchtl, 1st season

Top Players: G Symone Roberts, F Brianna Edwards, F Chanise Baldwin

Keep an eye on: Tori Rule

The skinny: Robinson-Fruchtl, a former Penn State player and St. Francis (Pa.) coach, takes over a program without much ammunition left. Roberts, the former New Britain High star, is now a senior and the team's top scorer. The highlight of the summer may have been the renovation of Alumni Hall.

Note: In order of preseason coaches poll

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