With UConn losing three All-Americans last year, all eyes will be on the team to see how they perform without Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck. Their departure not only leaves question marks for the Huskies, but makes the American Athletic Conference more open and competitive than it has ever been.
This years’ UConn team unanimously won the American Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll with 10 votes. However, with the absence of “the big three,” other teams in the conference are positioned to do well. Temple, USF, Tulane and SMU were the next ranked teams, respectively, and should at minimum challenge the Huskies this season.
Temple is looking to improve on their 23-12 (13-5 in conference play) record from last year under former UConn assistant coach Tonya Cardoza. They beat the University of the District of Columbia 107-22 in a home exhibition game to begin this season with an impressive showing from junior guard Alliya Butts, who led all scorers with 18 points. Last season, Butts averaged 15.1 points-per-game and 2.3 steals per game and was the only unanimous selection to this year’s Preseason All-Conference First Team. Senior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald joined Butts on the preseason first team after averaging 13.6 points and 5.3 assists per game last season.
After losing skilled guard Courtney Williams to graduation last season the Bulls will look to new star Kitija Laska to be the face of their program. The sophomore forward was a unanimous selection for American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year last season after averaging 12.6 points per game game. This season, Laska was named to the Preseason All-Conference First Team. The Bulls were 14-4 in conference play last season and 24-10 overall.
Tulane’s season seems to be shaping up quite well, with two of their players being named to a Preseason All-Conference Team. Junior guard Kolby Morgan made the Preseason All-Conference First Team after she averaged 17.2 points per game last season, which was ranked fourth in the American. Senior guard Leslie Vorpahl made the Preseason All-Conference Second Team after averaging nine points per game and 5.4 assists per game, which ranked second in the American. The Green Wave was 23-12 last season and 11-7 in conference play.
Looking to improve on their losing record from last season of 13-18 (7-11 in conference play) SMU has a good start with Preseason All-Conference Second Team player Alicia Froling. Last season Froling averaged 12.3 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game which was second in the conference. She was also one of three players in the conference to average a double-double.
The American Athletic Conference may look differently this year with UConn supposedly not as much as a threat as it was last season. As more teams continue to develop, the conference may see more parity than it has in its young three-year history.
Mariana Dominguez is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.