Oct. 24, 2002
NEWARK, N.J. – Notre Dame and Connecticut finished in a tie for first place in the 2002-03 BIG EAST Women’s Basketball preseason poll. The poll is determined by a vote of the league’s head coaches who were not permitted to place their own teams on their ballots.
The Irish and Huskies split the 14 first-place votes and finished with 161 points in the poll. This marks the 10th consecutive season that UConn has been chosen to win the regular season title, including divisional titles from 1995-96 through ’97-98. The Irish have been selected no lower than third in the seven previous years, but have never been chosen to win the title.
The 2001-02 Connecticut squad completed the program’s second undefeated season (39-0) and won its third national title. UConn has won or shared the last nine regular season and conference tournament titles. Coach Geno Auriemma welcomes back junior All-American Diana Taurasi, the Preseason Player of the Year, as the only returning starter.
Last season, coach Muffet McGraw’s Irish went 13-3 in league play for a second-place finish. Notre Dame advanced to the NCAA Championship second round to complete its ninth straight 20-win season at 20-10. The Irish will be led by two Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team players – senior guard Alicia Ratay and sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast, the 2001-02 Rookie of the Year. Both players also were named candidates for the 2002-03 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year award earlier this week.
Boston College (23-8) earned 143 points to finish third in the poll, its highest predicted finish in coach Cathy Inglese’s 10 years at the helm. The Eagles advanced to last year’s BIG EAST Championship final for the first time since 1987 and earned an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years. Seniors Brianne Stepherson, Kim Mackie and Becky Gottstein are expected to lead BC.
Villanova is the fourth pick with 128 points. The Wildcats finished tied for third in last year’s regular season race and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championship with a 20-11 mark. Senior Trish Juhline is a member of the Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team. Virginia Tech, Rutgers and Miami round out the top half of the poll.
Notre Dame’s 2002-03 season gets underway Monday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. (EST) with an exhibition game against the Houston Jaguars at the Joyce Center. The Irish will tip off the regular season Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 7 p.m. (EST) against Cleveland State, also at the Joyce Center.
2002-03 BIG EAST Coaches’ Preseason Poll
1. (tie) NOTRE DAME (7) 161
1. (tie) Connecticut (7) 161
3. Boston College 143
4. Villanova 128
5. Virginia Tech 110
6. Rutgers 107
7. Miami 104
8. West Virginia 81
9. (tie) Seton Hall 69
9. (tie) Syracuse 69
11. Georgetown 64
12. Providence 33
13. Pittsburgh 29
14. St. John’s 15
NOTE: First-place votes in parentheses