NEW YORK — Marissa Janning and Creighton are in an unfamiliar position: favorites to win the Big East Conference.
The Bluejays return all five starters from last season, as well as Janning, who broke her left leg in November. Even without their star guard, they made it to the conference title game as a seven seed.
“It shows the respect for what we did last year,” Janning said of her team being the top choice. “We persevered last year and have a bunch of fighters. It’s really exciting and could be a special year for us.”
Janning was happy to be back on the court herself after breaking the fibula in her leg on Nov. 28.
“I’m so excited. I’ve been waiting, and I’ve been ready and wish we could play a game right now,” the fifth-year senior said.
Creighton and DePaul were the coaches’ picks to win the conference. It’s the first time in 14 years there’s been a tie atop the league’s preseason poll, which was released Tuesday. Each school received five first-place votes.
The Blue Demons already have taken a hit, losing Mart’e Grays for the season with an Achilles injury suffered last month. They do have guard Jessica January, who was picked as the conference’s player of the year, and return two other starters from last season’s team, which made a run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s an awesome achievement and gives us a lot of confidence for the season,” January said of the top ranking.
Marquette is third in the poll. The Golden Eagles are followed by Villanova, Georgetown, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Butler, Xavier and Providence.
Joining January on the preseason first team are teammate Brooke Schulte; Audrey Faber, MC McGrory and Janning of Creighton; Natisha Hiedeman and Allazia Blockton of Marquette; Dionna White of Georgetown; Raeshaun Gaffney of Xavier; Adrianna Hahn and Alex Louin of Villanova; and Dorothy Adomako of Georgetown.
Villanova’s Kelly Jekot is the preseason freshman of the year.
Providence coach Jim Crowley is the only newcomer to the league. The longtime St. Bonaventure coach was excited for the new challenge and being in the Big East.
“It was the big reason I took the job,” Crowley said. “I grew up in upstate New York. There was nothing like Big East basketball. It was something that made me want to be a college basketball coach. To walk in here and be at The Garden is humbling.”