The UConn womenâ€™s basketball team won 19 regular season titles and 18 tournament championships in the last 25 years of its first tenure in the Big East.
Even after a seven-year absence, the Huskiesâ€™ reputation remains.
UConn was the unanimous selection as the No. 1 team in the preseason Big East coaches poll released by the conference this morning. Junior guard Christyn Williams was named the preseason player of the year while guard Paige Bueckers was the unanimous choice as preseason freshman of the year.
Two Huskies were named to the first team - junior center Olivia Nelson-Ododa and redshirt junior guard Evina Westbrook.
Seton Hall senior guard/forward Desiree Elmore from East Hartford and Capital Prep was a unanimous first-team pick.
UConn was followed in the poll by reigning conference regular season and tournament champion DePaul, which received Huskiesâ€™ coach Geno Auriemmaâ€™s first-place vote as coaches cannot vote for their only team and player. Marquette was third with St. Johnâ€™s and Creighton rounding out the top five.
Williams averaged 15.6 points and 4.9 rebounds in 32 games as a sophomore and was named to the American Athletic Conferenceâ€™s first team. She was an all-tournament selection for the second consecutive year, but that one of the few similarities from the 2019 season when she was the AAC Freshman of the Year. While her scoring and rebounding numbers were up due to more opportunities, her shooting percentage from the floor dropped from 49.9 to 45.7, and her 3-point accuracy from 36.7 to 33.3.
Nelson-Ododa is coming off a season that saw her come from not being named to the AAC all-freshman team in 2019 to an all-league second team selection and a finalist for the Lisa Leslie Award as the nationâ€™s best center as a sophomore. She averaged 10.9 points on 55.2 percent shooting from the floor, 8.5 rebounds, and a league-leading 3.1 blocked shots over 32 games. She became the fifth UConn player to record 100 blocked shots in a season.
Westbrook sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules and is coming back from knee surgery. As a sophomore at Tennessee two years ago, she led the Lady Vols in scoring (14.9) and assists (5.3) while grabbing 3.6 rebounds per game. She had 10 20-point games.
Elmore played in all 31 of Seton Hallâ€™s games a season ago with 28 starts. She averaged 13.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. She had a career-high 26 points to go with a game-high 13 rebounds in a loss to DePaul in the Big East Tournament semifinals. In a loss to UConn at Walsh Gymnasium last December, she had 16 points, four rebounds, and three assists.
The only returning all-Big East first-team performer is Villanovaâ€™s sophomore forward Maddie Siegrist, the 2020 Freshman of the Year.
Bueckers was the consensus No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2020 and national high school player of the year as a senior at Hopkins High in Minnesota The Royals won the final 62 games Bueckers played in, including the 2019 Class 4A state crown, and were a win away from a successful title defense before the championship game was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She was also USA Basketballâ€™s 2019 Female Athlete of the Year, joining former UConn star Breanna Stewart as the only players with high school eligibility to be so honored.
The Huskies are scheduled to play a 20-game Big East slate - home and home against all 10 conference foes. They will open the season on Nov. 28 against Quinnipiac in the Hall of Fame Challenge at Mohegan Sun Arena.