Picks don't get much easier than this one. Four starters return to a team that came one step from the national title game. And one of those happens to be Maya Moore, the Big East's Player of the Year and a first-team All-America after averaging 17.8 points and 7.6 rebounds a game.
It's hard to imagine a Stanford team without Candice Wiggins, but she left the Cardinal in capable hands. Stanford brings back the rest of its starting lineup and boasts the best frontcourt duo in the country in Jayne Appel and Kayla Pederson, who combined 27.6 points and 17.2 rebounds in leading the Cardinal to the national title game.
The Tar Heels are always a fun bunch to watch and this season should be no different. They're an up-tempo team with plenty of scoring options. Three of their top five producers are back, including Rashanda McCants, who averaged a team-high 15.8 points and 3.3 assists and also hit 29 three-pointers as a junior last season.
Courtney Paris has an obsession -- making it to a Final Four. Her final chance may be her best yet if OU's young but experienced backcourt can come through. Only Paris (33.2) averaged more minutes than guard Danielle Robinson (31.6), last season's Big 12 Rookie of the Year. The attention Paris demands in the paint should open things up on the perimeter for several shooters, including Jenny Vining and Nyeshia Stevenson.
The Scarlet Knights have some big shoes to fill with the graduation of Essence Carson and Matee Ajavon. But they've got enough back to make the transition easier. Leading scorer Ephiphanny Prince (13.8 ppg) and top rebounder Kia Vaughn (9.3 rpg) will lead a group that includes one of the most talented freshmen classes in the nation. Big East coaches are certainly expecting big things from them after chosing 6-foot April Sykes as their preseason Freshman of the Year.
With a season in Joanne P. McCallie's system, the Blue Devils should hit the ground running, especially, with the wealth of experience they have. Seniors Chante Black and Abby Waner have played significant minutes throughout their careers and have a Final Four under their belts. They give the Blue Devils a tough inside-outside matchup, too. At 6-5, Black is a commanding presence in the paint and led Duke with 14.1 points and 7.1 rebounds. Waner ranks fourth among in school history with 118 three-pointers.
There's no question that the loss of Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper will hurt the Terrapins. However, the cupboard is not bare. Kristi Tolliver and Marissa Coleman, a three-time all-conference selection, were on Maryland's '06 championship team, too. The biggest return to the bench, though, may be that of coach Brenda Frese. After missing part of last season because of the birth of her twins, Frese is ready to direct the Terrapins again.
These are preseason rankings remember. Even Tennessee can't lose as much as it did and start out on top. Sophomore Angie Bjorklund is the only one back with much starting experience. She'll have some help in the leadership area from Alex Fuller, the team's only senior, but the rest of the lineup is young. The Lady Vols will have to rely on several freshmen this season. Of course, they are among the best freshmen in the nation, so don't be surprised to see Tennessee move up.
You have to appreciate what senior Angel McCoughtry has accomplished. Louisville's first preseason All-America is one of the most prolific scorers in the nation. In a conference that has loads of talent, it was McCoughtry who led the Big East in scoring (23.8 ppg), rebounding (9.5 rpg) and steals (4.1 spg) during league play
Injuries make California a question mark for now. Center Devanei Hampton, a three-time All-Pac 10 selection, is recovering from offseason knee surgery as is backup Rama N'diaye. This is nothing new for the Golden Bears as Hampton missed part of last season with a knee injury. Look for Ashley Walker and Alexis Gray-Lawson, who missed most of her sophomore year with a knee injury, to carry the load. The duo averaged 26.8 points last season.
The Aggies will rely heavily on veterans Danielle Gant and Takia Starks, who combined for 31 points and 3.6 steals a game. Several newcomers will have to contribute big as well, but this is a program that has progressed every season since Gary Blair took over in 2003. After winning the Big 12 tournament and reaching the Elite Eight for the first time last season, the Aggies are looking for more.
In Kim Mulkey, Baylor has one of the best coaches in the game. Now, the Bears have two legends on the sidelines. The familiar combination of Mulkey and Leon Barmore proved incredibly successful at Louisiana Tech. It could be pretty impressive at Baylor, too. Mulkey has a .775 winning average since taking over the Bears in 2000. A Hall of Famer, Barmore, has one of the best winning percentages of all-time at .869. Jhasmin Player (torn ACL last season) returns to a lineup that lost just one starter.
The Commodores return all five starters and could challenge Tennessee for the SEC title. While offense has long been a key trait for the Commodores, it was their defense, which seventh-year coach Melanie Balcomb has called the best during her, tenure that impressed the most last season. Opponents averaged just 56.6 points.
With coach Gail Goestenkors entering her second season, the Longhorns are in a similar situation as the Duke team she left behind. That, and four returning starters, is probably why Texas was picked by Big 12 coaches to finish second in the league. It doesn't hurt that three-point threat Erika Arriaran is back after battling injuries for the past two seasons.
The Tigers have seen big improvements under coach Nell Fortner. With four returning starters, including top scorer DeWanna Bonner, the improvement should continue this season. The return of 6-7 center KeKe Carrier will be a big boost as well.
Player of the year candidate Andrea Riley has been instrumental in Oklahoma State's resurgence. If the junior can continue to improve on her first two seasons, OSU foes better watch out. Riley helped the Cowgirls match the school record of 27 wins while setting a Big 12 scoring record with 807 points.
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