NEWARK, N.J. (Oct. 28, 2004) The three-time defending national champion University of Connecticut womens basketball team has been chosen to win the 2004-05 BIG EAST womens basketball regular season title according to a preseason poll of the leagues head coaches.
UConn junior Barbara Turner (Cleveland, Ohio) was one of two unanimous Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team selections. The forward was chosen to the 2003-04 All-BIG EAST Second Team and named to the East Region All-Tournament Team. She led the BIG EAST with a .536 (177-330) field goal percentage.
Fellow junior Ann Strother (Castle Rock, Colo.) joins Turner on the Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team. An All-BIG EAST Third Team member at the end of last season, the junior tallied double-figure points 21 times in 2003-04 and averaged 11.0 points per game, third-best on the squad.
Turner and Strother are both listed as Preseason Wooden Award and Wade Trophy candidates, which is awarded annually to the national player of the year.
Connecticut senior center Jessica Moore (Palmer, Alaska) was tabbed a second-team Preseason All-BIG EAST choice following a season which saw her post a team-best 7.1 rebounds per game and a 9.5 ppg scoring average.
UConn freshman Charde Houston (San Diego, Calif.) was slated by the leagues coaches as the Preseason BIG EAST Freshman of the Year. Houston is entering her first collegiate campaign following a prep career which saw her become the all-time leading high school scorer in California state history. Houston is the third straight Husky to win Preseason BIG EAST Freshman of the Year honors.
The Huskies garnered 10-of-12 possible first-place votes to finish first with 120 points in the poll. This marks the 12th consecutive season that UConn has been chosen to win the regular season title, including divisional titles from 1995-96 through 1997-98. The Huskies have won at least a share of the last 11 regular season titles and have been BIG EAST Tournament Champions nine of the last 11 years.
Connecticut advanced to an NCAA record fifth straight Final Four en route to winning its third consecutive national title. After falling for the second successive season in the BIG EAST Championship, Connecticut went on to win its next six games for the programs fifth national crown overall.
Notre Dame earned the remaining two first-place votes and 105 points for a second-place finish in the poll. Last year, the Irish posted a 21-11 record and returned to the NCAA Tournament, making an appearance in the NCAA Regional Semifinals. Notre Dame held a 12-4 record in BIG EAST play and fell to Rutgers in the BIG EAST Quarterfinals. The Irish offense will be led by All-American selection and National Player of the Year candidate senior Jacqueline Batteast, who was tabbed with Preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year honors.
Boston College grabbed 97 points to finish third in the preseason poll. Coming off its first BIG EAST Tournament Championship in school history, the Eagles reached the NCAA Regional Semifinals for the second straight season. Boston College is returning all but two letterwinners from last seasons squad and will rely on Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team selection senior Jessalyn Deveny and second team pick sophomore Kathrin Ress.
Rutgers finished fourth in the poll, one point behind BC with 96 points. The Scarlet Knights advanced to the BIG EAST Championship final and the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2003-04 while posting a 21-12 overall mark. Villanova and West Virginia round out the top half of the poll. All of the top six picks in this years poll were NCAA Championship participants last season.
Connecticut opens up exhibition play on Friday, Nov. 5 when it hosts EA Sports beginning at 7:30 p.m. (ET) at Gampel Pavilion.
2004-05 Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Connecticut (10) 120
2. Notre Dame (2) 105
3. Boston College 97
4. Rutgers 96
5. Villanova 86
6. West Virginia 68
7. Seton Hall 58
8. St. Johns 43
9. Syracuse 42
10. Georgetown 39
11. Pittsburgh 27
12. Providence 11
(first place votes in parentheses)
2004-05 Preseason Player of the Year
Jacqueline Batteast Sr. F Notre Dame
2004-05 Preseason Freshman of the Year
Charde Houston, Connecticut G/F
Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team^
*Jacqueline Batteast Sr. F Notre Dame
Jessalyn Deveny Sr. G Boston College
Yolanda Paige Sr. G West Virginia
Cappie Pondexter Sr. G Rutgers
Ann Strother Jr. G Connecticut
Liad Suez Jr. F Villanova
*Barbara Turner Jr. F/G Connecticut
* - unanimous selection
^ - Due to a tie in voting, there will be seven first team selections
Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team
Meg Bulger So. G West Virginia
Angela Clark So. F St. Johns
Megan Duffy Jr. G Notre Dame
Jessica Moore Sr. C/F Connecticut
Kathrin Ress So. F Boston College