By Carl Adamec
The first goal for the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team every year is to win the Big East regular season title.
According to the league coaches, the Huskies are the favorite to do so.
UConn was voted No. 1 in the preseason coaches poll with 12 first-place votes and 194 total points it was announced Thursday morning at Big East media day at the New York Athletic Club. Defending regular season champion Notre Dame was second with three
first-place votes and 182 points.
“A lot of that comes from UConn tradition and past UConn teams being so successful as well as with the players we’ve brought in,” UConn All-American guard Bria Hartley said. “It’s nice to be thought of as No. 1 in the conference. We want to get that regular season title back and I know we’ll be a tough team for anyone to go up against.”
Irish senior All-American guard Skylar Diggins, the 2012 Big East Player of the Year, received the top preseason honor for the second straight year. UConn forward Breanna Stewart, the nation’s No. 1 high school recruit in the Class of 2012, was named the preseason Big East Freshman of the Year.
The Huskies were the No. 2 preseason pick a year ago behind Notre Dame. They finished tied for second with St. John’s, two games behind the Irish. They had won five straight regular season titles. UConn did rebound to win the Big East Tournament crown. UConn was 33-5 a season ago and returns four starters while welcoming the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class.
UConn’s Hartley, junior Stefanie Dolson, and sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis were named to the 11-player preseason first team. Stewart, a 6-foot-4 forward from North Syracuse, N.Y., averaged 26.4 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 4.2 blocked shots en route to leading Cicero-North Syracuse to the New York Class AA Federation state title and sweeping player of the year honors.
She was named to the all-tournament team at the 2011 FIBA U-19 worldchampionships as Team USA won the gold medal and was then the first high school player since Nancy Lieberman in 1975 to represent the United States in the Pan-American Games. Last summer Stewart was the Most Outstanding Player of the FIBA Americas U-18 championships.
“It sets up a lot of expectations and things that people want you to live up to,” said Hartley, who was the preseason and postseason Freshman of the Year two seasons ago. “I don’t think Breanna is one of those players that lets things get to her head so I know she’ll live up to any expectations.”
Hartley averaged 14.0 points and 3.7 assists in becoming the third UConn sophomore to score 1,000 career points (Svetlana Abrosimova and Maya Moore) and the fourth to be chosen to the WBCA All-America team (Abrosimova, Moore, and Diana Taurasi). The 5-9 guard from North Babylon, N.Y. was an all-Big East first-team pick a season ago and was chosen to the Big East all-tournament team for the second straight year.
Dolson averaged 10.4 points and 6.0 rebounds a season ago and was an-all Big East honorable mention pick. The 6-5 center from Port Jervis, N.Y., was named to the Big East all-tournament team for the second straight year and the NCAA Kingston (R.I.) all-regional team.
In being named the 2012 Big East Freshman of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year, Mosqueda-Lewis averaged 15.0 points and 5.4 rebounds. The 6-0 forward from Anaheim Hills, Calif., was also the Most Outstanding Player of the Big East Tournament after averaging 19.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in wins over Rutgers, St. John’s, and Notre Dame.
Big East preseason coaches poll First-place votes in parentheses followed by total points:
1. UConn (12) 194
2. Notre Dame (3) 182
3. Louisville 167
4. St. John’s 144
5. Rutgers 143
6. DePaul 138
7. Syracuse 105
8. Georgetown 104
9. South Florida 97
10. Villanova 78
11. Marquette 75
12. Cincinnati 61
13. Pittsburgh 31
(tie) Seton Hall 31
15. Providence 25
Big East preseason teams
Preseason Player of the Year: Skylar Diggins (Notre Dame)
Preseason Freshman of the Year: Breanna Stewart (UConn)
Stefanie Dolson (UConn)
Bria Hartley (UConn)
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (UConn)
Anna Martin (DePaul)
Sugar Rodgers (Georgetown)
Shoni Schimmel (Louisville)
Skylar Diggins (Notre Dame)
Monique Oliver (Rutgers)
Nadirah McKenith (St. John’s)
Shenneika Smith (St. John’s)
Kayla Alexander (Syracuse)
Monique Reid (Louisville)
Laura Sweeney (Villanova)