The 2001-02 Connecticut squad completed the program's second undefeated season (39-0) and won its third national title. UConn has won or shared the last nine regular season and conference tournament titles. Coach Geno Auriemma welcomes back junior All-American Diana Taurasi, the Preseason Player of the Year, as the only returning starter.
Last season, coach Muffet McGraw's Irish went 13-3 in league play for a second-place finish. ND advanced to the NCAA Championship second round to complete its ninth straight 20-win season at 20-10. The Irish will be led by two Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team players - senior guard Alicia Ratay and sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast, the 2001-02 Rookie of the Year. Boston College (23-8) earned 143 points to finish third in the poll, its highest predicted finish in coach Cathy Inglese's 10 years at the helm. The Eagles advanced to last year's BIG EAST Championship final for the first time since 1987 and earned an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years. Seniors Brianne Stepherson, Kim Mackie and Becky Gottstein are expected to lead BC.
Villanova is the fourth pick with 128 points. The Wildcats finished tied for third in last year's regular season race and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championship with a 20-11 mark. Senior Trish Juhline is a member of the Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team. Virginia Tech, Rutgers and Miami round out the top half of the poll.
University of Connecticut junior guard Diana Taurasi is the choice for the 2002-03 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year by a vote of the league's head women's basketball coaches. UConn newcomer Ann Strother is the pick for Preseason Rookie of the Year. Coaches were not permitted to select their own players.
Taurasi, a Chino, Calif. native, was a 2001-02 Kodak All-American and Associated Press Second Team All-American while helping the Huskies to an undefeated 39-0 record and their third national championship. Taurasi earned NCAA Mideast Region and BIG EAST All-Tournament team honors last year. She led the league in overall 3-point field goal percentage (44.0) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.51). Taurasi ranked among the top 10 in four additional categories - scoring (8th), field goal percentage (4th), 3-pointers made per game (5th) and assists (6th). Taurasi, a 2001-02 All-BIG EAST First Team selection, averaged 14.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists last year as a sophomore. She has made 52 career starts in 72 games played. In 2001, Taurasi became the first rookie to earn the conference tournament's Most Outstanding Performer award.
Strother, a 6-2 guard, won 2002 Player of the Year accolades from Naismith, USA Today, WBCA, Parade Magazine and Gatorade. A native of Castle Rock, Colo., she is a two-time high school All-American and 2002 consensus first team All-American. Strother has twice been named the USA Today and Gatorade Colorado Player of the Year while helping Highlands Ranch High School to back-to-back state titles. She averaged 20.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists as a senior. Taurasi is joined on the `02-03 Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team by two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore. Notre Dame is the only team to place two players on the first team, with senior guard Alicia Ratay and sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast earning the distinction. Ratay is a 2001-02 All-BIG EAST First Team member, while Batteast was the coaches' pick as the league's rookie of the Year. Villanova senior guard Trish Juhline is the other returning All-BIG EAST First Team selection. Rounding out the preseason first team are Miami junior forward Chanivia Broussard and Virginia Tech junior forward Ieva Kublina, both members of last year's All-BIG EAST Second Team.
2002-03 BIG EAST Coaches' Preseason Poll
T1. Connecticut (7) 161 Notre Dame (7) 161 3. Boston College 143 4. Villanova 128 5. Virginia Tech 110 6. Rutgers 107 7. Miami 104 8. West Virginia 81 T9. Seton Hall 69 Syracuse 69 11. Georgetown 64 12. Providence 33 13. Pittsburgh 29 14. St. John's 15First-place votes in parentheses
2002-03 Preseason Player of the Year: Diana Taurasi, Jr., G/F, 6-0, Connecticut (Chino, Calif./Don Lugo HS) 2002-03 Preseason Rookie of the Year: Ann Strother, Fr., G, 6-2, Connecticut (Castle Rock, Colo./Highlands Ranch HS)
Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team
Jacqueline Batteast So. F 6-2 Notre Dame
Chanivia Broussard Jr. F 6-0 Miami
Trish Juhline Sr. G 5-10 Villanova
Ieva Kublina Jr. F/C 6-4 Virginia Tech
Alicia Ratay Sr. G 6-0 Notre Dame
*Diana Taurasi Jr. G 6-0 Connecticut
Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team
Rebekkah Brunson Jr. F 6-2 Georgetown
Kate Bulger Jr. G 5-11 West Virginia
Julie McBride Jr. G 5-4 Syracuse
Cappie Pondexter So. G 5-9 Rutgers
Brianne Stepherson Sr. G 5-8 Boston College