1. UConn’s had a rocky road over the last few years, with a slew of injuries forcing them to navigate life without a consistently healthy roster. Despite these challenges, they managed to string together a 31-6 record last year before losing to Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen, breaking a 14-year-long streak of Final Four appearances. All things considered, that was a good showing—but UConn’s been a dynasty for decades, and now they’re hungry for redemption. They’ve got the roster for it, with former National Player of the Year Paige Bueckers returning from injury to join Azzi Fudd, Aaliyah Edwards, Nika Mühl, and a talented crop of first years. If the Huskies can stay healthy (and honestly, even if they can’t), the BIG EAST is theirs for the taking.
2. With six seniors and head coach Jim Flanery entering his 22nd season, Creighton is set up to sit toward the top of the conference. Over the past couple of seasons, the Bluejays have consistently made it to March Madness, and with this much experience packed onto the roster, that shouldn’t change. However, they don’t have any players taller than 6’1”, which will make it challenging for them in the paint. But head Flanery runs a unique system, relying on 3-pointers and many a backdoor cut, which should help mitigate their size disadvantage on the offensive end.
3. Villanova’s at the start of a new era. Gone are the days of Maddy Siegrist, who could score at will, no matter the circumstances. She’s in the WNBA now, leaving behind a considerable void. So who will step up? Well, everyone, but particularly Lucy Olsen, who played Robin to Siegrist’s Batman last season. She has big shoes to fill to keep Villanova among the conference’s best, but she and her coach both seem confident that she’s capable of doing just that. Plus, she’s got other upperclassmen to chip in. This is a new-look Villanova team, but most definitely still a good one.
4. The Golden Eagles of Marquette were picked third in this year’s BIG EAST coaching poll, and for good reason. They’re another experienced squad who play team-oriented basketball, and knocked off both the aforementioned UConn Huskies and the formidable Texas Longhorns last season. They’re a confident group with excellent defensive chops and a head coach on the rise in Megan Duffy. Their first big test comes at home against preseason No. 23 Illinois on Nov. 11. If they can hold their own in that game, consider them pushed up another tier.
5. Seton Hall is right smack in the middle of the pack, at least per the preseason coaches’ poll. They’ve acquired a number of older players in the transfer portal, hopefully compensating for the players they lost after last season. With a solid coach in Anthony Bozzella and an intriguing mix of players, the Pirates could shake things up in the conference—but only time will tell whether or not they make that happen.
6. St. John’s, much like Marquette, upset UConn last season. But a number of the players who led that charge have since graduated, leaving behind a somewhat unproven roster. The good news? The Red Storm still has Unique Drake, the reigning BIG EAST Sixth Woman of the Year and a Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention recipient. This could be an up-and-down year, but Drake & Co. should work to keep St. John’s in the mix for a tournament spot.
7. The Blue Demons of DePaul are in a similar position to Villanova. Their superstar player, Aneesah Morrow, left Chicago for LSU and the bright lights of Baton Rouge. So where does that leave DePaul? Honestly, that’s a good question. Morrow was DePaul women’s hoops. The silver lining for the Blue Demons, then, will have to be Anaya Peoples, a consistent player who displayed flashes of excellence both last season and at Notre Dame prior. They still have quite a hill to climb, but with Peoples paving the way, DePaul has a chance to put together a solid season.
8. Butler is, to be blunt, still attempting to climb out of the sub-basement of the BIG EAST. They went 1-27 overall two years ago, resulting in a coaching switch to Austin Parkinson; his leadership brought the Bulldogs to 11-19 last season. They’ve got a challenging schedule ahead, but their roster seems relatively complete on paper, giving fans at least a sliver of hope.
9. There’s really no way to predict how Georgetown will do this season. After former coach James Howard was let go, Tasha Butts was brought in to lead this year. Her time on the Hilltop was brief; she was hired in April but passed away from breast cancer at the end of October. She left a lasting legacy with this squad, though, which is focused, passionate, and determined to put her lessons into practice. Led by seasoned veterans Kelsey Ransom and Graceann Bennett and complemented by Seton Hall transfer Mya Bembry, Georgetown is beginning a rebuilding season full of potential.
10. Providence is facing a challenge this year. After winning just four conference games all of last season, they’re slated to play a difficult non-conference schedule. Additionally, their roster is on the younger side, having only two seniors compared to six underclassmen. It would be a shock to see them climb the conference ranking much at all.
11. Picked to finish last in the BIG EAST, Xavier has their work cut out for them. They’ve got a few seniors and graduate students who will have to step up and shoulder the load if they want to find success. With a new head coach in Billi Chambers, the Musketeers are definitely a team to watch in the future—but this particular season is looking like it’ll be a slog.