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Big East preview: Once again, it’s all about the UConn Huskies

It would be stunning if the UConn Huskies did not, yet again, win the Big East. However, the likes of the Creighton Blue Jays, Marquette Golden Eagles and Villanova Wildcats have the potential to test the conference powerhouse from Storrs.

Connecticut v Maryland
With Nika Mühl, Paige Bueckers, Azzi Fudd and Ice Brady all on the court for UConn, the Huskies should cruise through the Big East.
Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

With the exception of a seven-season stint in the American Athletic Conference, the UConn Huskies have owned the Big East since the early 1990s. It’s a trend that will continue in 2023-24.

Last season, when a slew of injuries had the Huskies looking vulnerable, they still dropped just two conference games before winning the regular season and conference tournaments. As UConn enters this season healthier and deeper, expect no such vulnerabilities this season—just domination. That said, the second tier of Big East teams—Creighton, Marquette and Villanova—are not total pushovers; they’re Big Dance-quality teams capable of testing UConn.

Here’s how Big East coaches see the conference standings unfolding in 2023-24:

  1. Connecticut
  2. Creighton
  3. Marquette
  4. Villanova
  5. Seton Hall
  6. St. John’s
  7. DePaul
  8. Butler
  9. Providence
  10. Georgetown
  11. Xavier

And here are our thoughts on UConn and the rest of the Big East:


Ohio State v Connecticut
UConn’s Azzi Fudd was selected to the Preseason All-Big East Team.
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Winning the Big East for a fourth-straight season is fait accompli for the Huskies. UConn’s priority is ending a seven-season national championship drought. And if the basketball gods bless the Huskies with the good health the program has lacked the past two seasons, college basketball’s ultimate trophy may be returning to Storrs.

The last time Big East Preseason Player of the Year Paige Bueckers played a full season for the Huskies, she was one of the best players in the sport, capturing oodles of awards as she led UConn to the national championship game. As long as she remains healthy, repeating the feats are the expectation for the redshirt junior guard. And she’ll be surrounded by an even stronger supporting cast, including Preseason All-Big Team members Aaliyah Edwards, Nika Mühl and Azzi Fudd. Edwards, a senior forward, is one the nation’s best bigs, while fellow senior Mühl has established herself as such at the point guard position. When healthy, junior guard Fudd shoots and scores with a fluidity that mesmerizes.

In contrast to recent seasons, head coach Geno Auriemma also should be confident in his squad’s depth. Most intriguing is Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year KK Arnold. The guard headlines a top-ranked recruiting class that also included guards Qadence Samuels and Ashlynn Shade. Among returners, the debut of Ice Brady, a 6-foot-3 forward who missed all of her freshman season due to a knee injury, excites, while junior wing Caroline Ducharme once again will serve as a gap filler. On top of all that, there’s the hustle of grad wing Aubrey Griffin and the potential contributions of sophomore forward Ayanna Patterson and junior forward Amari DeBerry. In short, UConn rivals LSU as the nation’s most talented team, situating the Huskies to steal the crown that currently resides in Baton Rouge.

Tier 2: Creighton, Marquette, Villanova

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 17 Div I Women’s Championship - Mississippi State vs Creighton
Creighton’s Lauren Jensen was named to the Preseason All-Big East Team.
Photo by Marcus Snowden/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Even if Creighton, Marquette and Villanova are not on UConn’s level, the three have no reason to cower when they meet the Huskies.

Creighton has to be one of the nation’s most experienced teams. Senior guard Lauren Jensen, senior wing Morgan Maly and senior forward Emma Ronsiek all claimed a spot on the Preseason All-Big East Team. Along with senior guard Molly Morgensen, the four account for 84 percent of the Blue Jays’ scoring from last season. While Marquette cannot match the experience of Creighton, head coach Megan Duffy welcomes back senior guard Jordan King and senior forward Liza Karlen; King is a Preseason All-Big East Team selection while Karlen is an Honorable Mention. Karlen’s AAU teammate Frannie Hottinger joins the Golden Eagles via Lehigh, where she was the 2023 Patriot League Player of the Year.

Even if head coach Denise Dillon and the Wildcats would be hesitant to admit it, it will be hard for Villanova to match last season’s success, when the Maddy Siegrist-led squad finished 30-7 before advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. However, returning juniors in guard Lucy Olsen and forward Christina Dalce will ensure that there’s no severe downturn for the Wildcats. Both spent the summer playing with Team USA’s U21 3X3 team.

Tier 3: Seton Hall, St. John’s, DePaul

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 02 Women’s St John’s at Butler
Unique Drake of St. John’s is a Preseason All-Big East Team Honorable Mention.
Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Seton Hall, St. John’s and DePaul all must navigate continuity and change in the coming season.

Both Seton Hall and DePaul lost their best players players to the transfer portal, with the Pirates’ Lauren Park-Lane heading to Mississippi State and the Blue Demons’ Aneesah Morrow taking her talents to LSU. Yet, both programs feature a mix of returners and transfers capable of assuming larger roles. For Seton Hall and head coach Anthony Bozzella, that’s Azana Baines, the grad wing who also was a member of Team USA’s U21 3x3 team this summer. She’ll be supported by transfers A’Jah Davis, a grad big from Northern Illinois, and Micah Gray, a sophomore guard who was the SWAC Freshman of the Year at Texas Southern. At DePaul, head coach Doug Bruno will call on grad guard Anaya Peoples, a Preseason All-Big East Team nominee, to boost the Blue Demons, along with a number of transfers.

St. John’s likely will struggle to match last season’s high point—a victory over UConn. The task will be made even more difficult due to the loss of four starters from last year’s squad. Yet, 2023 Big East Sixth Woman of Year Unique Drake, a sophomore guard with a sweet 3-point stroke who earned a Preseason All-Big East Team Honorable Mention, returns to a larger role for head coach Joe Tartamella.

Tier 4: Butler, Providence

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 01 Women’s UConn at Providence
Providence’s Brynn Farrell is introduced before a game last season.
Photo by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This season is an opportunity for growth for Butler and Providence. At Butler, the Bulldogs will look to build on last season’s progress, when first-year head coach Austin Parkinson piloted Butler to a 10-win improvement. Two pivotal players—senior wing Anna Mortag and junior forward Sydney Jaynes—return to help the Bulldogs continue their rise.

Providence will be hoping for a similar jump this season under new head coach Erin Batth. With Lithuanian import Ugne Sirtautaite, a freshman forward, and Wake Forest transfer Marta Morales Romero, a junior wing, joining a team that returns four starters, Batth and the Friars are well positioned to be tough out for conference foes.

Tier 5: Georgetown, Xavier

Connecticut v Georgetown
Georgetown’s Kelsey Ransom was named to the Preseason All-Big East Team.
Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

At Georgetown, a season that was supposed to inspire excitement begins with sadness, as first-year head coach Tasha Butts recently lost her battle with breast cancer. Associate head coach Darnell Haney takes over the team. Among the players he’ll rely on as Georgetown looks to celebrate Butts’ spirit and build toward brighter, better days is senior guard Kelsey Ransom, a Preseason All-Big East Team selection after leading the Hoyas in scoring last season.

After going winless in conference play last season, the future also is the focus for Xavier and first-year head coach Billi Chambers. While seven new players will aim to help the Musketeers improve upon last year’s nadir, senior guard Mackayla Scott, last season’s leading scoring, will serve as a stabilizer.