UConn picked to win conference title

NEW YORK -- Connecticut forward Maya Moore, the Big East's top player the last two seasons, was the coaches' choice as the league's preseason player of the year on Thursday.

UConn was picked to win its fourth straight conference championship.

"It's great to be considered as one of the best in the league," Moore said. "I'm just lucky to have really good teammates around me and that makes me that much better."

Moore, The Associated Press national player of the year last season, averaged 19.3 points and 8.9 rebounds in guiding Connecticut to a 39-0 record and a sixth national championship. She was joined as a unanimous selection on the all-conference team by teammate Tina Charles.

Led by its two stars, the Huskies were a unanimous choice among the league's coaches to win again.

"We don't know any different," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I think the kids that come to Connecticut understand that. They come because the expectation level is we're going to win every game and go to the Final Four and win a national championship. So when they get there, there's no looking up at the standings and going, 'Oh, my God. We're supposed to win it.' I think they'd be shocked if they weren't picked to win it."

Notre Dame, with its entire team back, was chosen to finish second in the preseason poll. Irish freshman Skylar Diggins was picked as the preseason rookie of the year.

"It just means there are very high expectations for us," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "This is a very tough league to win in, especially on the road."

DePaul and Louisville were tied for third in the poll. Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse and Georgetown rounded out the top half of the 16-team league. West Virginia was ninth, followed by Marquette, South Florida, St. John's, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence and Cincinnati.

The Bearcats are led by first-year head coach Jamelle Elliott, who spent the last 12 years as an assistant at Connecticut under Auriemma.

"It's something I've wanted to do for a while," Elliott said of becoming a head coach. "I was used to making suggestions before but now I get to make the decisions. I've had a really good role model and mentor who has helped me prepare over the last 16 years of my life."

For the second straight year, all 16 teams will make the postseason tournament.

Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer, who was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame this summer, missed the media day due to the death of her sister-in-law. DePaul coach Doug Bruno also missed the day as his father passed away earlier in the week.

Marquette's Angel Robinson joined Moore and Charles as the only other unanimous selection to the 12-person all-conference team.

The others on the team were Ashley Barlow and Lindsay Schrader of Notre Dame, Keisha Hampton and Deirdre Naughton of DePaul, Tiffany Hayes of Connecticut, Nicole Michael of Syracuse, Liz Repella of West Virginia, Kahla Roudebush of Cincinnati, and Da'Shena Stevens of St. John's.