No. 19 Marquette is the favorite to defend its Big East regular season crown and make a run at the conference championship by returning all five starters from last season. Senior guard Allazia Blockton, reigning Big East Player of the Year, led the conference with 19.1 points per game and helped lead Marquette to a 15-3 record in conference play last year. This season, Blockton is joined by senior guards Natisha Hiedeman and Amani Wilborn who both averaged more than 12 points per game last season. 2017-18 Big East Co-Coach of the Year Carolyn Kieger is poised to lead this team to another successful season and another Big East title.
No. 15 DePaul is coming off of one of its best seasons in school history, having beaten Marquette in the Big East championship game and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Last season, the Blue Demons led the Big East in scoring, thanks to forward Mart’e Grays and guard Ashton Millender, both now seniors, who averaged 14.4 and 13.6 points per game, respectively. They are joined by junior guard Kelly Campbell and junior forward Chante Stonewall, who each averaged over 10 points per game last season. Despite the team’s strengths, it will face its share of adversity, especially in its non-conference schedule, including current National Champion No. 1 Notre Dame looming in game two.
With the graduation of their leading scorer, guard Alex Louin, the Wildcats will be looking for players to lead their team back to the NCAA Tournament. Junior forward Mary Gedaka, last season’s Big East Sixth Woman of the Year, and senior guard Adrianna Hahn, who both averaged around 11 points per game last year, are expected to fill that gap. Hahn, who made 69 3-pointers last season to finish fifth in the Big East, will be an integral part of the Villanova offense and a key leader on the team. Last year, Villanova had the best defense in the conference, which led to an 11-0 start and an overall successful season. They will try to replicate that success this upcoming year, as they make a push at the regular season title.
The Bluejays failed to finish in the top three in the Big East last season, but managed to earn a bid into the NCAA Tournament and are looking to build off this momentum for the upcoming season. The Jays will continue to feed the ball to senior forward Audrey Faber and junior forward Jaylyn Agnew, who each averaged over 14 points per game last season. Head coach Jim Flanery will need junior guard Olivia Elger, who averaged 10 points in her 24 games last season, to step up after the departure of guard Sydney Lamberty. Winning the conference may be unlikely for Creighton this season, but another tournament berth is well within reach.
After reaching the Big East semifinals for the first time in 19 years, Georgetown returns with senior guard Dionna White, the Hoyas’ leading scorer and Big East Defensive Player of the Year. The only other returning starter for the Hoyas is graduate student guard Mikayla Venson, who finished third on the team in scoring last year. The Hoyas will also have graduate student guard Dorothy Adomako back in the lineup after missing all of last season with an injury. Transfer senior guard Brianna Jones (Louisville) and transfer junior forward Anita Kelava (Maine), both eligible to play for the first time at Georgetown this season, along with the top recruiting class in the Big East, add depth to head coach James Howard’s offense.
- St. John’s
St. John’s failed to make the NCAA Tournament last season but showed resilience in the WNIT, where it beat Marist, Penn, and Duquesne before falling to West Virginia in the quarterfinals. The graduation of the Red Storm’s top scorer, forward Maya Singleton, creates an opening for some of last season’s supporting cast to contribute. If St. John’s wants to get back to postseason play, senior guard Akina Wellere, who finished second on the team in scoring with 10.5 points per game last season, will need to step up and become the leader of this team. She will be joined by sophomore guard Qadashah Hoppie, who shot 37.6 percent from behind the a and averaged just over 10 points per game in her Big East Freshman of the Year campaign.
Butler returns four starters, including its three leading scorers: redshirt senior guard Whitney Jennings, senior forward/center Tori Schickel, and junior guard Kristen Spolyar. They will be the focal points of head coach Kurt Godlevske’s offense. Schickel was named to the All-Big East First Team last season, and Jennings received an honorable mention for her performance. The Bulldogs also added two eligible transfers to their roster in redshirt junior center Ashanti Thomas (Penn State) and redshirt junior guard Katherine Strong (VCU).
- Seton Hall
Seton Hall is losing its top three scorers but gaining two transfer students who are immediately eligible to play: graduate student guards Victoria Cardaci (Clemson) and Diandra DaRosa (Virginia Tech). Another bright spot for the Pirates is senior guard Inja Butina, who finished in the top 10 in the Big East in both assists and steals last season. Junior forward Shadeen Samuels averaged just 7.5 points per game last year but led her team in both offensive and defensive rebounds. If Cardaci and DaRosa can gel with Butina and Samuels, the Pirates could work their way up the standings.
The Friars return four starters including senior guard Jovana Nogic, who led the team last season with 17.1 points per game and the conference with a 94.5 percent free throw percentage. Two other guards are returning: senior Maddie Jolin, who was second in the Big East with a 41.8 3-point percentage last season, and sophomore Chanell Williams, who was a Big East All-Freshman Team honoree. These three will be tasked with carrying much of the offensive load for head coach Jim Crowley, as he tries to lead his team to a successful season.
Junior guard Na’Teshia Owens is the only returning starter for the Musketeers in what will likely be a rebuilding year. Aaliyah Dunham, one of the only other returning players who saw significant minutes last year and who earned Big East All-Freshman honors, will also need to step up as a leader this year. The Musketeers added four freshmen to their roster to set them up for the future, but it is difficult to see Xavier making a successful push for the championship in 2018-19.