Pitt Women Fifth

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The University of Connecticut, the defending NCAA champ and three-time defending Big East winner, was picked unanimously to capture the 2009-10 Conference women's basketball regular-season title.

And the Pittsburgh women's team was chosen fifth overall for Lady Panthers coach Agnus Berenato.

The undisputed selection of Connecticut was made by the Big East's 16 head coaches, who were not permitted to select their own teams. UConn has claimed 15 Conference championships, 17 regular-season titles and has won both titles in the same season 13 times during the past 28 years in Big East women's basketball competition. Notre Dame earned the other first-place vote.

Connecticut garnered 225 points in this year's poll. Last season, the Huskies went 39-0 en route to the NCAA title and had a 16-0 record in Big East play. UConn was undefeated through the regular season for the seventh time and had a perfect record in overall play for the third time in program history. The Huskies became the first Division I basketball program - men's or women's - to record a perfect record and win each game by 10 points or more.

UConn enters the 2009-10 season having won either the BIG EAST regular-season or championship title in each of the last 16 seasons. The Huskies are led by junior Maya Moore and senior Tina Charles, a pair of All-Americans. Moore, the 2009-10 Big East Preseason Player of the Year and a unanimous selection to the Preseason All-Conference Team, was the consensus National Player of the Year last season.

Charles, also a unanimous selection to the preseason team, was the 2009 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player and most recently played for the U.S. National Team in Russia. UConn sophomore Tiffany Hayes was also named to the preseason team, while senior Kalana Greene was selected as a Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention.

Notre Dame returns its entire squad from 2008-09 that produced a 22-9 overall record and made its 14th NCAA appearance. The Fighting Irish earned 210 points with one first-place vote in the preseason poll. Notre Dame finished tied for fourth (10-6) in the Big East standings a year ago and advanced to the Conference quarterfinals. Senior Ashley Barlow and fifth-year senior Lindsay Schrader are 2009-10 Preseason All-Conference members and are joined by the highly-touted Skylar Diggins, the Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year.

Louisville (34-5, 14-2) and DePaul (23-10, 10-6) tied for third in the Preseason Poll with 171 points each. The Cardinals, an NCAA finalist with UConn last spring, are coming off their best season in program history. Louisville made its first title-game appearance, set a school record for wins with 34 and finished the year ranked a program-high No. 2 in the Associated Press poll. As the No. 2 seed in the Conference Tournament, Louisville played for the title for the second straight year. Junior guard Deseree' Byrd, a preseason honorable mention pick, is a key returner for the Cardinals.

DePaul is one of only 14 teams in the nation to compete in the NCAA Tourney in each of the last seven seasons. The Blue Demons advanced to the Big East quarterfinals last year as the No. 6 seed, although they ended the regular season tied for fourth with a 10-6 mark. DePaul finished the season receiving votes in the final Associated Press poll and have received early preseason consideration. The Blue Demons will be led by 2009-10 Preseason All-Conference members senior Deirdre Naughton and sophomore Keisha Hampton.

The next two teams in the poll -- fifth and sixth place -- are separated by only 11 points. Pitt was selected fifth with 167 points, followed by Rutgers at 156 points. Syracuse, Georgetown, West Virginia and Marquette were bunched closely together. Syracuse was picked seventh with 126 points, while Georgetown (124), West Virginia (121) and Marquette (111) followed.

South Florida was picked 11th, while St. John's came in at 12th with 86 and 84 points, respectively. Villanova was selected 13th, followed by Seton Hall, Providence and Cincinnati.

The 2010 Big East Women's Basketball Tournament returns to the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. for the seventh straight year. After a successful championship in 2009 that saw attendance increases and again was the national leader, the five-day, 15-game event returns March 5-9, 2010.

All 16 teams battle for the conference title and will earn the league's automatic bid to the 64-team NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tourney.

Pitt did not have anyone on the preseason All-Conference teams.

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