MU Picked Third; Blockton, Heideman Named All-BIG EAST
Oct. 11, 2016
NEW YORK - Marquette sophomore guards Allazia Blockton and Natisha Hiedeman were voted to the Preseason All-BIG EAST squad and the Golden Eagles were picked to finish third right behind Creighton and DePaul, which tied for first, in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches' Poll revealed at Media Day on Tuesday.
For the first time since 2002, the BIG EAST women's basketball head coaches evenly split their first-place votes between two teams as the Bluejays and Blue Demons tied atop the league's preseason coaches' poll with 75 points, including five first-place votes.
Narrow margins separated teams throughout the poll as the Golden Eagles (62 points) edged No. 4 Villanova, which collected 59 points. Georgetown followed in fifth with 51 points, while reigning BIG EAST Tournament champion St. John's came in sixth with 38. Seton Hall (seventh, 31 points), Butler (eighth, 25 points), Xavier (ninth, 20 points) and Providence (10th, 14 points) rounded out the poll.
Coming off a year in which they were the youngest team in Division I, Marquette returns all starters and letterwinners from 2015-16, including reigning BIG EAST Freshman of the Year Allazia Blockton. Blockton snapped the 21-year old BIG EAST freshman scoring record last season and is the league's top returning scorer in 2016-17. The Golden Eagles are set to host the BIG EAST Tournament for the first time this coming March and are one of the frontrunners to be playing in Tuesday night's title game. MU went 14-16 overall and 9-9 in BIG EAST play last season, stringing together a five-game league win streak for its longest since joining the BIG EAST in 2005-06.
Creighton went 17-18 last season, highlighted by a notable run to the BIG EAST Tournament title game as the No. 7 seed, upsetting second-seeded Villanova and third-seeded Seton Hall along the way. The Bluejays used the tourney run to become national postseason eligible, earning a WNIT berth to extend their postseason streak to nine years. Creighton achieved all of this without veteran guard and 2014 BIG EAST Player of the Year Marissa Janning, who went down with a season-ending injury in December. Janning received a medical redshirt and returns healthy for 2016-17, as Creighton returns 14 letterwinners and all five starters from a year ago, making the Bluejays one of the most experienced squads in the conference this season.
DePaul is coming off its second NCAA Sweet 16 run in the past three seasons. The Blue Demons have regularly entered the season with a target on their back, claiming at least a share of the regular-season title in each of the three years since conference realignment, while also winning the BIG EAST Tournament twice during that span. DePaul returns a trio of starters from last season, including BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year Jessica January. The Blue Demons finished 2015-16 with a 27-9 record, including 16-2 in BIG EAST play for the finest league record by any team since 2012-13. Since the 2013-14 campaign, DePaul has totaled a BIG EAST-best 83-24 (.776) overall record and has qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 14 consecutive seasons, one of just six Division I teams to boast such an active streak.
Last season Villanova won five of its last six regular-season games to launch itself into the NCAA Tournament conversation. The Wildcats took what was thought to be an insurmountable hit when All-BIG EAST honoree Caroline Coyer went down with a season-ending injury with three regular-season games remaining, but rookie guard Adrianna Hahn injected new life into Nova by averaging 17.5 points over the final four games. The Wildcats earned a bid into the WNIT, qualifying for the national postseason for the fifth straight year, advancing to the Second Round to finish the season 20-12 (12-6 BIG EAST). Villanova returns a trio of starters for 2016-17, including All-BIG EAST honoree Alex Louin.
The tides have turned for the better on the Hilltop as Georgetown boasted Division I's third-best turnaround in 2015-16, improving its win total from the previous season by 12. The Hoyas accepted a bid into the WNIT, qualifying for the national postseason for the first time since 2012. Georgetown finished 16-14 overall and 9-9 in league play in 2015-16. Dionna White and Dorothy Adomako proved to be a dynamic 1-2 punch for GU last year and are the Nos. 2 and 3 returning scorers in the BIG EAST for 2016-17.
St. John's claimed its third BIG EAST Tournament title this past March, earning an NCAA Tourney berth for the sixth time in the last seven years. The Red Storm were undefeated (11-0) when future WNBA Draft picks Danaejah Grant and Aliyyah Handford combined for at least 40 points, and St. John's will look for replacements for the duo this year. Jade Walker is the Red Storm's top returning scorer in 2016-17, averaging 9.3 points over 32 games last season. St. John's posted a 23-10 record, including 11-7 in BIG EAST play, in 2015-16.
Seton Hall posted its third consecutive 20-win season in 2015-16 and finished in a tie for second in the BIG EAST standings despite returning just one starter. The Pirates earned their second straight NCAA Tournament at-large berth, finishing the campaign with a 23-9 record. For the second year in a row, SHU returns just one starter in Lubirdia Gordon, but The Hall will once again benefit from a talented transfer, this time in Louisiana Tech product JaQuan Jackson.
Butler opened 2015-16 as winners of four of its first six, but health issues knocked out a couple key players as the Bulldogs fell to a 4-14 mark in BIG EAST play and 10-21 overall. Butler was young a season ago with just two upperclassmen receiving significant playing time. The Bulldogs boast two of the most notable rising sophomores in the league in Tori Schickel and Brittany Ward, with Ward being the BIG EAST's No. 2 returning rebounder in 2016-17.
Xavier, which went 17-13 overall and 8-10 in BIG EAST play, returns two starters from a season ago in leading scorer Raeshaun Gaffney and Maddison Blackwell. Xavier got off to a promising start in '15-16, winning its first three BIG EAST games but ended the campaign on a seven-game skid. Injuries took a toll on the Musketeers last year, but a healthy, experienced group of players aim a return to Xavier's proven successful ways.
An offseason change of command sees Providence under the direction of a new head coach in Jim Crowley, who turned St. Bonaventure into a nationally recognized and respected program. Crowley inherits a PC squad which went 5-24 overall and 1-17 in BIG EAST play last year, but returns four starters from last season, including veteran point guard Sarah Beal. The Friars were young last year, with a pair of key contributors playing their first year of basketball in America, having to adjust stylistically along the way.
The BIG EAST Preseason Coaches' Poll, major awards and all-conference selections are based on ballots cast by the league's 10 head coaches, who cannot vote for their own team or student-athletes.
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