Basketball season officially began Monday with the American Athletic Conference basketball media day in Philadelphia. As expected, the UConn women’s basketball team was unanimously picked by the American coaches as the unanimous 2016-17 conference favorite, while the men’s team was picked second, one point behind Cincinnati. The women’s team received 100 votes and 10 first place votes while the men received 94 points and five first place votes.
Led once again by Geno Auriemma, the four-time defending national champions were selected to repeat as the American champs as they finished 13 points above second place Temple and 14 above third place USF, who received the other first place vote.
Anchoring the women’s team this season is junior guard Kia Nurse, who was named the American Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the Year and was named to the 2017 Nancy Lieberman Award preseason watch list, as announced by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday. Nurse, who was an All-Conference third team selection last season, was the only UConn player to start every game last season averaging 9.3 points per game and totaling 104 assists.
Joining Nurse on Preseason All-Conference First Team is sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson, who was the 2015-16 ESPN women’s National Freshman of the Year. Samuelson led the Huskies with 78 three-point field goals made as she averaged 11.0 point per game.
Rounding out the selections for the women’s team is sophomore Napheesa Collier and junior Gabby Williams who were named to the Preseason All-Conference Second Team. As a sophomore Williams played in all 38 games, averaged 8.8 points per game and was third in rebounds, averaging 5.6 per game. Collier joined Samuelson last year on the 2015-16 American Athletic Conference All-Freshman Team, as Williams appeared in all 38 games last season, averaging 6.8 points per game.
The rest of the Preseason All-Conference First Team for the women is sophomore Kitija Laska (USF), senior Feyonda Fitzgerald (Temple), junior Kolby Morgan (Tulane) and unanimous first teamer junior Alliya Butts (Temple).
On the men’s side, Cincinnati was picked to finish first in the American as they received six first place votes and received 95 points. The Huskies were picked to finish second for the second-straight season, as they received five first place votes and 94 points. SMU was third with 76 points and Houston fourth with 75 points. Last season, UConn won the American Athletic Conference tournament for the first time in its history.
For the third-straight year, a UConn freshman was tabbed to be the American Preseason Rookie of the Year, as this year it is Alterique Gilbert. Following in the footsteps of Daniel Hamilton (2014) and Jalen Adams (2015), Gilbert is McDonald’s All-American and consensus Top 30 recruit coming out of high school.
Jalen Adams rounded out the honors for UConn after he was named to the All-Conference Second Team. The American chose Troy Caupain from Cincinnati and Dedric Lawson from Memphis to finish as co-players of the year.
Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.