Conference Preview Breakdowns
Over the weekend, the wonderful staff over at The Next brought us in depth analysis on the Big East, Patriot League, and Big West upcoming seasons.
UConn is back in the Big East, which just feels right. Unfortunately for the rest of the conference’s teams, it drastically lowers their chances at a title. The Huskies are number one in the Big East preseason poll, a feat which head coach Geno Auriemma does not find impressive nor necessary.
This especially applies to preseason individual awards. Paige Bueckers earning the favorite for Freshman of the Year drew this criticism, “I don’t even know why we have a preseason Freshman of the Year. It’s pointless”. Nice and to the point, Geno. Regardless of who wins the future awards, UConn is back as the team to beat.
DePaul and Marquette are the biggest competitors. The Blue Demons have won six of the last seven regular season titles and were 15-3 in conference play last year en route to the tournament championship. Star player Sonya Morris was a unanimous selection to the preseason all-Big East team, and DePaul will go as far as Morris takes them.
The Golden Eagles were a surprise breakout team last season, and after retaining most of their key players, Marquette should be an NCAA tournament team this March.
On the other side of the map, three California schools lead the way in the Big West. Despite losing three senior contributors, UC Davis is still projected as the top team after years of a winning culture paying dividends. The Aggies will be led by lockdown defender Cierra Hall and sharpshooter Mackenzie Trpcic.
Next up is UC Santa Barbara, who also lost a pair of seniors. The Gauchos are led by the heart of their program in point guard Danae Miller. Miller will look to heavily utilize Ila Lane in the post, the young forward who was the Big West Freshman of the Year last season.
The last team who could be a dark horse for the automatic tournament bid is UC Irvine. The Anteaters are looking to avenge poor postseason play from last year that saw them bounced from the Big West tourney without a win. Irvine continues the Big West trend of losing talent to graduation, but will have highly-anticipated redshirt freshman Kayla Williams at the point in charge of the offense.
The Patriot League’s new schedule will open the door for programs to make a splash. In the Central, it looks like there will be a Bison stampede through the division. Bucknell was 16-2 in the conference last year, good enough for a regular season title.
The loss of 2020 Player of the Year Ellie Mack will be felt hard at the beginning of the season, but with four returning starters who averaged 8 or more points, Bucknell has plenty of experience to stay at the top of the Patriot League.
Close behind, however, is Boston University. BU should comfortably be the North division winner, and could push for the top spot in the whole conference as they also return four starters. What is even more interesting is many of their core players are only sophomores, so their development will make or break the Terrier’s season.
In the South it looks like American will be the breadwinner. The Eagles return backcourt duo Indeya Sanders and Jade Edwards, as well as a very deep four player freshman class. If American can get shooting production out of one or more of these newcomers to take the place of graduated specialist Kaitlyn Marenyi, then the Eagles could be a sneaky pick for the top of the rankings.