Big East Women's Basketball Preseason Honors

NEW YORK, N.Y. – The DePaul women's basketball team was picked to finish eighth by the league coaches while junior Deirdre Naughton was a preseason honorable mention All-BIG EAST selection as the preseason awards were announced in conjunction with today's BIG EAST Conference Women's Basketball Media Day at the ESPNZone in Times Square.

Connecticut, the 2007-08 BIG EAST regular season and tournament champions, has been selected to win the 2008-09 BIG EAST women's basketball regular-season title by a tally of the league's 16 head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams. In the 27 years of BIG EAST women's basketball, Connecticut has been crowned the regular-season champion 16 times, has won 14 tournament titles and has captured both titles in the same year 12 times.

Connecticut earned 14 first-place votes for a total of 224 points in the poll. The Huskies went 15-1 in league play a year ago, finished the season with a 36-2 overall record, earned a berth to the NCAA Championship for the 20th straight year and advanced to their ninth Final Four. UConn returns four of its five starters from last year's Final Four team, and lost just four letterwinners from that squad.

The Huskies will be led by 2007-08 BIG EAST Player and Freshman of the Year Maya Moore. Named the 2008-09 BIG EAST Preseason Player of Year, Moore became the first player – men's or women's – in conference history to earn both honors in the same year.

Moore had an exceptional rookie season as she was named BIG EAST Freshman of the Week a league-record 10 times and was named BIG EAST Player of the Week on March 3 becoming the first freshman – male or female – to win both awards in the same week.

UConn will also be led by 2008-09 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team members Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles. A senior, Montgomery will return to her natural position of point guard this season. Charles, a junior center, averaged 14.2 points per game and a team-high 9.2 rebounds per game. Both were named to the Associated Press All-America Third Team squad, while Montgomery was a WBCA All-America First Team selection and Charles was an honorable mention pick.

Rutgers grabbed one first-place vote and a total of 201 points. The Scarlet Knights finished last year 27-7 overall and 14-2 in BIG EAST play. Rutgers reached its third Elite Eight in the last four years, falling to conference rival Connecticut at the Greensboro Regional. Rutgers had three players suffer knee injuries, including two players who were lost for the season. Both are expected to be back in the lineup and Rutgers returns seven letterwinners and three starters.

The Scarlet Knights return their leading scorer and top rebounder from a year ago. In addition, RU boasts one of the top recruiting classes in the nation, including BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year April Sykes. Junior Epiphanny Prince returns as the team's most potent scoring threat as she averaged 13.8 points and drained a team-best 43 triples. Prince was named an Associated Press All-America Third Team member. Senior Kia Vaughn, an All-BIG EAST Second Team member a year ago, led the team in rebounding (8.3 rpg) for the third straight year.

Earning its highest ranking in the preseason poll and its first-ever first-place vote, Louisville checks in directly behind Rutgers with 200 points and in third place. The Cardinals are coming off one of their most successful seasons in program history. Louisville finished the year ranked No. 12 in the national coaches' poll, its highest ranking in program history, while advancing to its first-ever Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championship. The Cardinals finished 26-10 and ended the conference season with a 10-6 mark. Louisville advanced to the BIG EAST Championship final as the No. 7 seed.

The Cardinals return four starters including a pair of Preseason All-BIG EAST Team selections in senior forwards Angel McCoughtry and Candyce Bingham. McCoughtry was named a WBCA All-American and an Associated Press All-America Second Team selection. For the second straight year in league play, she led the conference in scoring (23.3 ppg) and rebounding (9.5 rpg) and is a two-time All-BIG EAST First Team member. Bingham was named an All-BIG EAST Second Team pick and ranked second on the team in scoring and rebounding with 13.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

Notre Dame was picked fourth, collecting 182 points. The Irish are coming off their seventh NCAA Sweet 16 appearance, completing the year with a 25-9 overall mark. Notre Dame finished with a BIG EAST record of 11-5 and was the fourth seed in the conference championship. Notre Dame returns three starters and seven letterwinners to this year's squad. Leading the Irish will be senior Lindsay Schrader, a 2008-09 Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention selection. Schrader averaged 10.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds in her first year back after a season-ending knee injury in 2006-07.

The next four teams in the poll – fifth place through eighth place – were bunched closely together. Pittsburgh was fifth was 162 points, followed by Syracuse (156), Marquette (147) and DePaul (132).

Pittsburgh finished the regular season in fifth place and ended the season with a 24-11 mark, advancing to its' first-ever NCAA Sweet 16. Syracuse returned to the national spotlight, finishing the season with a 22-9 mark and its first NCAA berth since the 2002 season. Marquette captured the league's first WNIT Championship title putting together a five-game win streak to end the season with a 21-14 record. DePaul earned its sixth straight NCAA Championship appearance and completed the year with a 20-12 mark.

West Virginia, picked ninth in this year's preseason poll with 109 points, lost 11 letterwinners from a team that went 25-8 and advanced to the NCAA Championship Second Round a year ago.

The coaches have selected Villanova 10th, garnering 85 points. Georgetown edged out USF for 11th place with 77 and 76 points, respectively.

St. John's has been selected 13th, followed by Seton Hall, Cincinnati and Providence.

The 2009 BIG EAST Women's Basketball Championship will return to the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. for the sixth straight year. For the first time all 16 BIG EAST schools will participate. The 2009 championship will be held March 6-10 with five full days of action and 15 games. The BIG EAST's teams will battle for the conference tournament title and one will earn the league's automatic bid to the 64-team NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship.

Connecticut sophomore all-American Maya Moore has been named the 2008-09 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year. One of the most decorated freshmen in conference history last season, Moore earned the honor by a tally of the league's 16 head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own players. April Sykes, who has joined one of the top recruiting classes in the nation at Rutgers, has been picked as the BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year. This year's Preseason All-BIG EAST Team sees the return of seven of the 11 players named to the 2007-08 All-BIG EAST First Team.

DePaul junior Deirdre Naughton was an honorable mention pick. A guard, Naughton averaged 15.1 points and made a team-leading 67 3-pointers.

2008-09 Preseason BIG EAST Coaches' Poll
1. Connecticut (14) 224
2. Rutgers (1) 201
3. Louisville (1) 200
4. Notre Dame 182
5. Pittsburgh 162
6. Syracuse 156
7. Marquette 147
8. DePaul 132
9. West Virginia 109
10. Villanova 85
11. Georgetown 77
12. USF 76
13. St. John's 66
14. Seton Hall 40
15. Cincinnati 33
16. Providence 30
(-) – indicates first place votes

2008-09 Preseason BIG EAST Honors
2008-09 Preseason Player of the Year
Maya Moore, Connecticut, So., F

2008-09 Preseason Freshman of the Year
April Sykes, Rutgers, Fr., G/F (Starkville, Miss.)

2008-09 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team
Candyce Bingham, Louisville, Sr., F
*Tina Charles, Connecticut, Jr., C
*Krystal Ellis, Marquette, Sr., G
Shantia Grace, USF, Sr., G
Chandrea Jones, Syracuse, Sr., G
*Angel McCoughtry, Louisville, Sr., F
Renee Montgomery, Connecticut, Sr., G
*Maya Moore, Connecticut, So., F
*Epiphanny Prince, Rutgers, Jr., G
Kia Vaughn, Rutgers, Sr., C
*Shavonte Zellous, Pittsburgh, RS-Sr., G

2008-09 Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention
Laura Kurz, Villanova, Sr., F
Deirdre Naughton, DePaul, Jr., G
Lindsay Schrader, Notre Dame, Sr., G
* - unanimous selection

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