Big East Basketball Roundup

It was again a banner year for the Big East basketball conference, as both the men's and women's teams recorded some remarkable achievements.

On the men's side of the house:

BIG EAST Had Seven Teams Ranked In Final Poll

In the final 2007-08 ESPN/USA Today poll, seven BIG EAST teams were ranked in the top 25. No other conference had more than three ranked teams. The BIG EAST squads that made the final poll were: No. 6 Louisville, No. 12 Georgetown, No. 17 West Virginia, No. 18 Pittsburgh, No. 19 Notre Dame, No. 21 Marquette and No. 24 Villanova. Connecticut, which was 16th in the final Associated Press poll, was first among other teams receiving votes in ESPN/USA Today.

BIG EAST Tied Its Own Record With Eight NCAA Bids

Two years ago, the BIG EAST became the first conference to receive eight invitations to the NCAA Championship. In 2008, the league matched that total. Not only did the BIG EAST earn eight NCAA berths, seven of the schools were seeded seventh or higher in their respective regionals. They were: Georgetown (No. 2 seed), Louisville (No. 3), Pittsburgh (No. 4), Connecticut (No. 4), Notre Dame (No. 5), Marquette (No. 6), West Virginia (No. 7) and Villanova (No. 12).

Can Next Year Be Even Better?

Despite its collective success in 2007-08, the BIG EAST was hardly a league dominated by seniors. Among the eight teams that earned NCAA bids this year, no squad started more than two seniors. In the final league statistics, only four of the top 25 scorers were seniors. Only three of the top 20 rebounders were seniors. None of the top nine players in assists were seniors.

Louisville Kept The League's Elite Eight Streak Alive

The Louisville Cardinals were the BIG EAST team that went the farthest in the 2008 NCAA tourney, advancing to the East Regional final. The BIG EAST is the only conference to place at least one team in every Elite Eight since 2002. Six different squads – Louisville (2008), Georgetown ('07, '06), Villanova ('06), West Virginia ('05), Connecticut ('04, '02), Syracuse ('03) – have accomplished the feat.

BIG EAST Leads In Recent Sweet 16 Appearances

With three teams (Louisville, West Virginia, Villanova) advancing to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Championship this year, the BIG EAST has had 18 teams reach the NCAA regional semifinal round over the last six seasons, the most of any conference. The Big 12 is second with 13.

Pitt Took 2008 BIG EAST Title With Four Wins In Four Days

Pittsburgh captured The BIG EAST Championship Presented by Aeropostale by winning four games in four days. Only Syracuse in 2006 had won the league's tourney crown by winning four games. This year, Pitt was the No. 7 and beat, in order, No. 10 Cincinnati (70-64), No. 2 Louisville (76-69 ot), No. 6 Marquette (68-61) and No. 1 Georgetown (74-65).

Hoyas Were Regular-Season Champs Again

The Georgetown Hoyas have won back-to-back regular-season BIG EAST titles for the first time in school history. This season, GU was 15-3. Last year, the BIG EAST played a 16-game conference schedule and the Hoyas finished 13-3.

Notre Dame's Harangody Named Player Of The Year

Notre Dame forward Luke Harangody was named BIG EAST Player of the Year. The choice was hardly surprising since the sophomore was first in the conference in scoring (23.3) and rebounding (11.3) in league competition. What was surprising was the fact that Harangody was not on the 10-member Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. In 2006-07, the Irish standout made the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team.

National Stat Leaders – Simply the Best

For the seventh straight season, Connecticut led the country in blocked shots, averaging 8.6 per game. Georgetown was the nation's best in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot only 36.6 percent from the field. Notre Dame was first in assists, averaging 18.4 per game.

The women had an even lengthier list of accomplishments:

Connecticut Made First Final Four Appearance Since 2004

The BIG EAST landed a squad in the Final Four for the second straight year and the seventh time since the 1999-00 season. Top-seeded Connecticut battled No. 2 Stanford on April 6, falling 82-73 in the national semifinal. Connecticut returned to the Final Four for the ninth time in the program's history.

Connecticut made its 20th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, the third-longest active-streak nationally.

Marquette Wins WNIT Title

Marquette played its first-ever game in April and claimed the program's first WNIT Title with an 81-66 win at Michigan State on April 5. Junior guard Krystal Ellis was named the WNIT's Most Valuable Player, and along with freshman guard Angel Robinson, was named to the All-Tournament Team. Ellis averaged 23.2 points over five games.

En route to the title, MU won at home against Creighton and Illinois and then took to the road with victories at Kentucky, Colorado and Michigan State. Marquette ended Michigan State's 10-game WNIT home win streak.

Eight Teams Earn NCAA Championship Bids

The NCAA eight teams on the women's side, along with the eight bids into the men's bracket, set a new NCAA standard. The combined 16 teams in the NCAA Championship in 2008 was the most ever from a single conference.

The women's teams included: Connecticut (No. 1 seed), Rutgers (No. 2), Louisville (No. 4), West Virginia (No. 5), Notre Dame (No. 5), Pittsburgh (No. 6), Syracuse (No. 7) and DePaul (No. 10).

Nine Teams Record 20-Win Seasons - A New Conference Mark

A league record nine BIG EAST teams posted 20 or more wins this year, the highest total in conference history. Led by Connecticut with 36 victories, Marquette was the last entrant into the club with its 20th win of the season in the WNIT Semifinals.

It also is the highest number of 20-win teams in any conference this year.

The previous BIG EAST high had seen eight programs tally 20 or more wins in 2003-04 and in 2006-07.

Four Teams in the WNIT Makes for 12 Teams in Postseason Play

Marquette earned the BIG EAST's automatic bid into the 48-team field of the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). St. John's, USF and Villanova all earned at-large bids. The four bids tied for the most in conference history since 2006 when Marquette played for the title game.

The 12 teams combined, playing in the NCAA and WNIT postseason tournaments, marked the highest number in conference history. In 2005-06, the BIG EAST had seven bids to the NCAA Championship and four to the WNIT for 11 teams participating.

Five Teams Advance to Sweet 16 – Marking a Conference Record

Five BIG EAST teams advanced to the NCAA Championship Round of 16, setting a league record. Connecticut, Rutgers, Louisville, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh played for the right to advance to the Elite Eight, with the Cardinals and Panthers making their first-ever appearances in the Sweet 16.

Villanova Sets NCAA Single-Season Record

Villanova set an NCAA single-season record for 3-pointers in a season in its 53-52 win over American in the WNIT First Round on March 19. The Wildcats made five triples in the game to raise their season total to 306, eclipsing the old record of 305 (Missouri State, 2005). They ended the season with 326 triples.

BIG EAST Leaders Among Other Conferences

The BIG EAST holds a 180-91 mark all-time in NCAA Championship play with its current membership, a .664 winning percentage, including this year's 14-8 performance. The league stands just above the SEC, which holds a 320-165 mark for a .660 winning percentage.

Since the turn of the century, the BIG EAST, along with the Big 12, has made the most appearances in the national tournament, featuring 56 teams, including this year's selections. The SEC stands third at 55.

UConn Wins Regular-Season and Tournament Championships

It was Connecticut's 14th BIG EAST title, including three of the last four. The Huskies have won the regular season and tournament championships 12 times in the same season, as they claimed their 16th regular-season title with a 15-1 mark.

Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer Entered the 800-Win Club

Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer joined college basketball's most exclusive club. The Hall of Famer earned win No. 800 putting her in the company of Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt and former Texas great Jody Conradt with then-No. 4/4 Rutgers' 60-46 victory over DePaul on Feb. 27.

Stringer becomes just the third women's coach and the first African American – male or female – to reach 800 wins.

BIG EAST Shined Against Nonconference Opponents in Regular-Season Play

With the BIG EAST's nonconference schedule complete, the league held a record of 168-41 against out-of-conference foes for a .804 win percentage. The mark stands as the best regular-season win percentage in the history of the conference.

Teams Ranked in Final Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Polls

In the Associated Press poll (Final - March 17), Connecticut remained in the No. 1 position. Rutgers followed at No. 7, Notre Dame was No. 15, West Virginia was ranked No. 17 and Louisville was No. 19. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and DePaul all received votes.

In the final ESPN/USA Today poll (April 11), Connecticut finished No. 3 and Rutgers was No. 6. Louisville was No. 12, Notre Dame was No. 13, Pittsburgh was No, 16 and West Virginia finished No. 20. DePaul and Marquette received votes.

Quigley Named Academic All-American

DePaul senior guard Allie Quigley became the second player in program history to claim Academic All-America honors as she was named third team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America. Quigley is the third BIG EAST women's basketball star to earn the award in the past three years, joining Megan Duffy (Notre Dame) and Ann Strother (Connecticut), who were both named to the 2005-06 team.

Auriemma, Walz Earns Postseason Coaching Honors

Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma, in his 23rd season, was named Coach of the Year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA), the Associated Press, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) and is the Naismith Coach of the Year by the Atlanta Tip Off Club.

Louisville head coach Jeff Walz was named recipient of the Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year Award. This distinguished award honors a WBCA Division I head coach who has lead his or her team to a successful season during their first year at the helm.

Connecticut Freshman Moore Grabs Several Honors

While being named BIG EAST Player and Freshman of the Year, Connecticut's Maya Moore also received several other honors. Moore picked up USBWA Freshman of the Year honors, while also being named an all-American by the writers association. She was also became just the second freshman to be named to the Associated Press All-America Team. The freshman sensation was also named a Wooden Award All-American, to the WBCA State Farm Coaches' All-American Team and she was selected to the and All-American Teams.

Louisville's McCoughtry and UConn's Montgomery Earn Postseason Recognition

Louisville junior forward Angel McCoughtry was selected to the USBWA All-America Team. She was a first team honoree on the WBCA State Farm Coaches' All-America Team, a second team pick to the Associated Press All-America Team and was named and All-American.

UConn junior Renee Montgomery was named to the Associated Press Third Team All-America squad, and was a WBCA State Farm Coaches' All-America First Team honoree.

Seven BIG EAST Women's Basketball Players Selected In WNBA Draft

Seven BIG EAST women's basketball players were selected in the 2008 WNBA Draft on April 9, held in Palm Harbor, Fla., in conjunction with the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Final Four. Three BIG EAST players were selected in the first round, including Rutgers guards Matee Ajavon and Essence Carson. Ajavon was selected No. 5 overall by the Houston Comets, while Carson went at No. 7 to the New York Liberty. Connecticut guard Ketia Swanier also was picked in the first round and went No. 12 to the Connecticut Sun. In the second round, West Virginia center Olayinka Sanni went No. 18 overall to the Detroit Shock, while DePaul guard Allie Quigley was picked No. 22 by the Seattle Storm. UConn forward Charde Houston was picked in the third round, No. 30 overall, by the Minnesota Lynx, and Notre Dame guard Charel Allen went No. 43 to the Sacramento Monarchs.

Seven Incoming Freshmen Named McDonald's All-Americans

Seven future BIG EAST players have been selected as McDonald's High School All-Americans, including five that are heading to Rutgers next season. Rutgers signees Jasmine Dixon (Long Beach, Calif.), Chelsey Lee (Miami, Fla.), Brooklyn Pope (Fort Worth, Texas), Nikki Speed (Pasadena, Calif.) and April Sykes (Crawford, Miss.), while Connecticut will welcome all-Americans Elena Delle Donne (Greenville, Del.) and Tiffany Hayes (Winter Haven, Fla.).

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