UConn Women 2nd Behind Notre Dame

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Earlier this week, the Big East writers picked the UConn men to finish second in the conference behind Syracuse. A mild surprise given the Huskies' roster, but also understandable given that UConn lost Kemba Walker to the NBA and that the rest of the Big East aren't a bunch of creme puffs.

Perhaps less expected was the announcement that the UConn women begin the season as the Big East's No. 2 team behind Notre Dame. Of course, the Fighting Irish bested the Huskies in the Final Four last spring before losing to Texas A&M in the national title game, but UConn returns four starters, a deep bench, and have added the country's best recruiting class.

The Hartford Courant's John Altavilla notes that "It’s the first time since the 2005-2006 that the Huskies do not begin the year at the conference’s peak. And it’s just the second time since the 1992-93 season when they were just beginning to build their dynasty."

Preseason lists are of no concern to coach Geno Auriemma. You don't win seven national championships by worrying about things you can't control in October. Auriemma was asked earlier this week to predict how good this team could be and he said he had no interest in doing that now, but to ask him again in February or March.

In addition to the conference's top team, the Big East preseason Player of the Year is also from Notre Dame -- junior guard Skylar Diggins, who had one of her best games of the 2010-11 season in the Final Four matchup, has earned the honor. Huskies freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (please don't compare her to Maya) has been chosen as Freshman of the Year.

The All-Big East team includes Diggins, UConn’s Bria Hartley and Tiffany Hayes, Keisha Hampton of DePaul, Sugar Rodgers of Georgetown, Monique Reid and Shoni Schimmel of Louisville, Natalie Novosel and Dev Peters of Notre Dame, Shenneika Smith and Da’Sheena Stevens of St,. John’s and Kayla Alexander of Syracuse.

A glaring omission, and one that could serve as motivation for the Huskies this season: center Stefanie Dolson. More via Altavilla:

"Dolson was one of the top players on USA Basketball’s U19 team that won gold this summer for Coach Jen Rizzotti. Then again, it’s already been an eventful week for the Huskies. Not only are they still without junior Caroline Doty, who is still recovering from surgical maintenance on her left knee, but Monday that lost Hartley with a concussion in practice.

"Hartley was expected to be at Thursday’s Big East media day but is still suffering some ill-effects of her injury and was kept home."

We're guessing Auriemma finds a way to turn these setbacks into teaching moments and, ultimately, motivation for his team. Just don't ask him about it until February or March.

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