NEW YORK (AP) — Paige Bueckers and second-ranked UConn keep picking up the preseason accolades.
The sensational sophomore was the unanimous choice by the Big East coaches for the player of the year Tuesday. Her team, to no surprise was the unilateral pick to win the conference. Geno Auriemma’s squad, which re-entered the conference last season, has won 20 regular-season titles and 19 conference tournament championships.
“For the kids going through it right now it’s not old, for them it’s kind of exciting. Now they see what’s expected of them,” Auriemma said. “For some kids it’s that one more nudge they may need and for some kids it scares them. It sets a standard, sets a bar and I think it brings a lot of attention to a program. No matter how many times it happens it still means something.”
The Huskies ran through the Big East last year behind Bueckers, who was the first freshman to win The Associated Press Player of the Year honors. UConn hasn’t lost a conference game going back to their previous time in the Big East when the team fell to Notre Dame in the tournament championship in 2013.
Auriemma returns nearly his entire team from last season that lost in the Final Four and adds the conference’s top freshman in Azzi Fudd.
DePaul was picked second by the coaches with Seton Hall and Marquette the next two choices. The Golden Eagles were the runner-up to the Huskies in both the regular season and postseason tournament.
Villanova and Creighton were the next two with St. John’s the seventh choice. Providence, Georgetown, Xavier and Butler round out the poll.
HAPPY TO BE PLAYING
Xavier and Butler are both thrilled to have things somewhat back to normal. The Musketeers were only able to play 10 conference games because of COVID-19 disruptions and the Bulldogs only were able to play one non-conference contest because of the coronavirus.
“That was one of the hardest seasons I’ve ever been part of,” said Xavier coach Melanie Moore. “Our first conference game an hour before tip I got a call from our trainer that someone tested positive and we couldn’t play. To grab kids off the court and tell them we’re on a pause. We had a lot less conference games than anyone else. Now fast forward our kids are hungry. This summer they came back with a different mindset.”
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