Capsule looks at the women's basketball teams in the Big East Conference. Teams are listed in predicted order of finish:
Big East Women's Capsules
By John Altavillafirstname.lastname@example.org |Note: Listed in predicted order of finish
Last season: 31-8, 13-3
Coach: Muffet McGraw
Top Players: G Skylar Diggins, C Devereaux Peters, G Brittany Mallory
Keep an eye on: The freshman class is highly touted, led by Parade All-America guard Madison Cable of Mount Lebanon, Pa.
The Skinny: The Irish are running on the adrenaline of making it to the national championship game last season. They lost only one prominent player from the lineup, forward Becca Bruszewski, and have the Big East's preseason Player of the Year in Diggins.
Last season: 36-2, 16-0
Coach: Geno Auriemma
Keep an eye on: Freshman G Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the consensus national player of the year last season, will wear Maya Moore's No. 23.
The Skinny: Moore, UConn's only four-time All-American, helped the Minnesota Lynx win its first WNBA championship after scoring more than 3,000 points. That's a lot for any team to compensate for, especially one that comes into the season with four sophomores and three freshmen.
Last season: 24-11, 9-7
Coach: Terri Williams-Flournoy
Top Players: F Tia Magee, G Sugar Rodgers, G Rubylee Wright
Keep an eye on: Rodgers averaged 18.7 points as a sophomore while leading the team in playing time. She can be a huge scorer.
The Skinny: The Hoyas are coming off the greatest season in their history. They made it to the Sweet 16 for the first time before UConn ended their season. Williams-Flournoy was highly sought after once the season ended. She returns with a confident, veteran team.
Last season: 22-13, 10-6
Coach: Jeff Walz
Top Players: G Becky Burke, G Monique Reid, G Shoni Schimmel
Keep an eye on: Freshman All-American guard G Bria Smith of Christ the King High, which produced Sue Bird, Tina Charles and Lorin Dixon, was one of the last high school seniors to commit.
The Skinny: Life has been tougher for the Cardinals since Angel McCoughtry left following the 2009 Final Four. But Walz is rebuilding with many dynamic guards like sophomore Schimmel (172 assists) and Smith. Reid made the preseason Wade Watch list.
Last season: 29-7, 13-3
Coach: Doug Bruno
Top Players: F Keisha Hampton, G Anna Martin, F Katherine Harry
Keep an eye on: Hampton, now a senior, was a member of the USA Basketball's gold medal winning World University Games team. She's the first woman in Blue Demons history to play for her country.
The Skinny: We say this every year: There aren't many coaches in the nation better than Bruno, one of Auriemma's assistants on USA Basketball's senior national team. But there are nine players on his team that are sophomores or freshmen, and that's bound to be problematic.
Last season: 22-11, 9-7
Coach: Kim Barnes Arico
Top Players: G Shenneika Smith, F Da'Shena Stevens, G Nadirah McKenith
Keep an eye on: Barnes Arico is one the best coaches in the conference, and she has two of its most intriguing players in Smith and Stevens, the senior from Trinity Catholic. Thing is, Stevens will miss at least a month, likely more, because of a knee injury suffered in the summer.
The Skinny: The Red Storm bring back just about all the key components from their NCAA team last season that also made it to the second round before losing to No. 1 seed Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif. Without Stevens, who averaged 11.8 last year, Smith (12.2) and McKenith will lead.
Last season: 20-13, 11-5
Coach: C. Vivian Stringer
Top Players: G April Sykes, G/F Khadijah Rushdan, C Monique Oliver
Keep an eye on: Freshman G Betnijah Laney of Wilmington, Del., was one of most heavily recruited players in the nation after rivaling the exploits of one of the greatest girls player in her state's history, Elena Delle Donne.
The Skinny: The Scarlet Knights have already lost senior F Chelsey Lee to injuries, but still return four other starters from last year's team.
Last season: 25-10, 9-7
Coach: Quentin Hillsman
Top Players: C Kayla Alexander, F Iasia Hemingway, G Elashier Hall
Keep an eye on: Alexander, a 6-4 junior, was a Big East first-team preseason selection. She led the team last season in points (14.8), blocks (2.8), field goal percentage (.549) and was also the team's top free throw shooter (.766). Her 91 blocks set a school record.
The Skinny: The Orange are now without two of their most recognizable players, Erica Morrow and Tasha Harris. They helped the program to consecutive 25-win seasons. But 10 players are returning, including three starters, and they accounted for 80 percent of the team's scoring and 88 percent of its rebounding last season.
Last season: 24-10, 8-8
Coach: Mike Carey
Top Players: C Asya Bussie, C Natalie Burton, C Ayana Dunning
Keep an eye on: Bussie, a 6-4 junior, has started every game in her career and is the team's most experienced player. She is also its only returning starter and top returning scorer (8.2).
The Skinny: Carey is a hard-nosed coach who preaches defense and demands effort. But the guards who made the team go last year, Liz Repella and Sarah Miles, have graduated, and a team that has trouble scoring may have an even harder time this year.
Last season: 24-9, 10-6
Coach: Terri Mitchell
Top Players: F Sarina Simmons, F Katherine Plouffe, G Cristina Bigica
Keep an eye on: Plouffe, a sophomore who averaged 6.5 points last season, played this summer for Canada in the FIBA U19 championships in Puerto Rico and averaged 8.0 points and 6.1 rebounds to help the team to a fifth-place finish.
The Skinny: The Golden Eagles return only two of their top six scorers, Simmons and Plouffe, from a team that advanced to the second-round of the NCAA Tournament. Perhaps one the most interesting new players in the conference is Bigica. The 5-10 freshman is Romanian and averaged 11.2 points for her nation's FIBA U20 team this summer.
Last season: 12-19, 3-13
Coach: Jose Fernandez
Top Players: G Andrea Smith, G Andrell Smith, G Kaneisha Saunders
Keep an eye on: It's hard to ignore Andrea Smith and Andrell Smith. Not only are they twins, but together they combined to average 24.8 points last season. Andrea led the team at16.5.
The Skinny: The Bulls are coming off a miserable season, one likely highlighted only by its win over Georgetown on the final day of the regular season. Its only other conference wins were against Seton Hall and Cincinnati. But a $3 million endowment will soon build a new basketball center on campus.
Last season: 14-17, 5-11
Coach: Agnus Berenato
Top Players: G Ashlee Anderson, C Leeza Burdgess, G Asia Logan
Keep an eye on: The six-player freshmen class has been ranked in the Top 20 by ESPN's HoopGurlz, the highest ranking any Pitt class has ever received.
The Skinny: The Panthers have no seniors and no juniors this season. They need to replace almost 75 percent of their scoring. And they must do this after watching their string of five straight postseason appearances end. Good thing Berenato always sees the bright side.
Last season: 13-16, 6-10
Coach: Phil Seymore
Top Players: G Tiffany Hurd, G Symone Roberts, F Teya Wright
Keep an eye on: Roberts, the former New Britain High All-Stater, is now a junior. She was second on the team in scoring last year, averaging 9.3 points. With Mi-Khida Hankins (10.4) gone, she will be asked to do even more.
The Skinny: The Friars have just 25 conference victories in the past six years. Then again, they were 0-32 in the two years before Seymore arrived. The best you could say about its recruiting season may be that Xylina McDaniel, South Carolina's Gatorade Player of the Year, had them in her final four with UConn, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Last season: 9-20, 2-14
Coach: Jamelle Elliott
Top Players: G Kayla Cook, F Jeanise Randolph, G/F Chanel Chisholm
Keep an eye on: Elliott, the former UConn player and assistant coach, begins her third season as coach and last year the program won only two conference games. Notoriously tough on herself, this could be a formative season in her tenure.
The Skinny: After winning just nine games last season, the Bearcats lost leading scorer Shareese Ulis (13.7) and Shelly Bellman, who averaged more than 27 minutes. Now Chisholm is the only senior on the roster. Perhaps Michigan transfer Dayeesha Hollins will help.
Last season: 12-19, 3-13
Coach: Harry Perretta
Top Players: F Laura Sweeney, F Lindsay Kimmel, G Devon Kane
Keep an eye on: As always, the most active area on the floor in a Villanova game will be behind the three-point line. Last season, 807 of its 1,565 shots were threes. Problem was, the Wildcats made just 29.1 percent. By contrast, opponents took only 381 three-pointers.
The Skinny: Only the names change at Villanova. Over the past five seasons, the Wildcats have won 23 conference games and 10 were in 2008-09. They have played in just one NCAA game in the last seven years.
Last season: 8-22, 1-15
Coach: Anne Donovan
Top Players: G Jasmine Crew, G Ka-Deidre Simmons, G Brittany Morris
Keep an eye on: In her second season as coach, Donovan, the former coach of the USA Olympic Team and three WNBA teams, laid down more of her foundation this summer. Part of that was upgrading her nonconference schedule to include Michigan, Wake Forest and her alma mater, Old Dominion.
The Skinny: There is little question the rebuilding of Seton Hall is one of the most difficult jobs in women's college basketball. The Pirates have won just two conference games in two years and haven't finished higher than sixth in the Big East since a fifth-place finish in 1996-97.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun