DePaul Women Picked to Finish Seventh

NEW YORK – The University of Connecticut, the 2006-07 regular season champion, has been projected to capture the 2007-08 BIG EAST women's basketball regular season title, by a vote of the league's 16 head coaches who are not permitted to select their own teams.

In the 26 years of BIG EAST women's basketball, Connecticut has been crowned regular-season champ 15 times, while winning 13 tournament titles.

Connecticut garnered 15 of 16 first-place votes to total 225 points in the poll. UConn grabbed last season's regular season title with an untainted record of 16-0 in conference play. The Huskies went undefeated for the sixth time in program history and became the eighth team in the league to accomplish the feat. UConn returns all its letterwinners from a year ago that held a 32-4 overall mark. For the 19th straight year, the Huskies earned an NCAA Championship berth. UConn advanced to the NCAA Championship Fresno Regional Final, marking the 13th time that Connecticut has played in a Regional Final.

UConn will be led by 2007-08 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team members Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles. A junior, Montgomery will lead the point for the Huskies, after averaging 13.3 points per game and dishing out 163 assists. Charles was the 2006-07 BIG EAST Freshman of the Year and the USBWA National Freshman of the Year. The center topped the UConn books with freshman records in blocks (81) and rebounds (296), while averaging 12.7 points per game. For the second straight year, a Connecticut recruit is named BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year. Maya Moore, who hails from Lawrenceville, Ga., is expected to make a signifigant impact in the Huskies' lineup this season.

Rutgers (27-9, 12-4) will be defending its 2007 BIG EAST Championship title for the first time in program history. The Scarlet Knights earned one first-place vote and a total of 211 points in the 2007-08 preseason poll. The Scarlet Knights made a storybook run to the 2007 NCAA Championship title game in Cleveland, Ohio. As the No. 4 seed in the national tournament, RU knocked off No. 13 seed East Carolina and No. 5 seed Michigan State, before upsetting No. 1 seed Duke and No. 3 seeds Arizona State and LSU. Rutgers fell to Tennessee 59-46 in the title game on April 3.

Preseason All-BIG EAST Team members Matee Ajavon, Essence Carson and Kia Vaughn will be counted on to guide the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers returns 98.8 percent of its scoring and all five starters from last season. Carson is the two-time defending BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year and the senior is one of four unanimous selections to this year's preseason team. Ajavon, also a senior, was named to the 2006-07 All-BIG EAST Second Team, and Vaughn was an All-BIG EAST First Team selection in her sophomore year.

Earning its highest ranking in program history in the preseason poll, West Virginia was picked third with 186 points heading into the 2007-08 season. WVU (21-11) is coming off an NCAA Second Round showing, marking its fourth appearance at the national tournament. The Mountaineers ended the 2006-07 season with an 11-5 mark in BIG EAST play and finished fourth in the league standings, earning its first-ever bye to the BIG EAST Championship. For the second consecutive season, West Virginia returns all five starters, including Olayinka Sanni, a unanimous selection to the 2007-08 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. Also leading the way for WVU will be All-BIG EAST honorees, seniors Chakhia Cole, LaQuita Owens and Meg Bulger, who sat out the last season and a half with two separate knee injuries.

Pittsburgh was picked fourth in the 2007-08 preseason poll and earned 169 points. Pitt had a landmark season in 2006-07, including the program's first-ever trip to the NCAA Championship. The Panthers completed the year with a 24-9 overall record, the most wins in school history, and a 10-6 mark in league play. The Panthers welcome back 93.0 percent of their scoring and 91.5 percent of their starts, having graduated just one player. Senior Marcedes Walker and redshirt-junior Shavonte Zellous return to the Panther lineup. Walker is a unanimous selection to the 2007-08 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team, after securing a double-double in league play with averages of 16.1 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. Zellous was named the 2006-07 BIG EAST Most Improved Player as she led the Panthers with 19.1 points per game, and was second on the team with 5.9 rebounds per contest and 21 blocked shots.

The 2008 BIG EAST Women's Basketball Championship Presented by Aéropostale will return to the Hartford Civic Center for the fifth straight year. After crowning a first-time BIG EAST Champion through four days of exciting play in 2007, the 2008 tournament will be held March 8-11. The BIG EAST's top 12 teams will battle for the conference title and will earn the league's automatic bid to the 64-team NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship.

2007-08 Preseason BIG EAST Coaches' Poll

1. Connecticut (15) - 225 points

2. Rutgers (1) - 211

3. West Virginia - 186

4. Pittsburgh - 169

5. Notre Dame - 165

6. Louisville - 154

7. DePaul - 152

8. Marquette - 124

9. USF - 105

10. Seton Hall - 93

11. St. John's - 83

12. Villanova - 77

13. Syracuse - 61

14. Cincinnati - 49

15. Providence - 36

16. Georgetown - 20

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