UConn preseason pick to win American conference
By DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer
PHILADELPHIA (AP) It's no surprise that Geno Auriemma and his UConn Huskies are the preseason pick to win the American Athletic Conference.
The Huskies have been the unanimous choice at No. 1 since the conference first came into existence in 2014.
"When you return four starters it's not a real surprise that we're picked there," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I always say if you take us out of the mix this would be a really competitive league."
UConn is led by preseason player of the year Napheesa Collier.
"It means a lot to me, it's an honor that the coaches think so highly of me. It's a preseason thing, I haven't earned it yet," Collier said.
The Huskies also add transfer Azura Stevens to the mix, who sat out last season after coming to UConn from Duke.
South Florida was picked second, receiving Auriemma's first-place vote. Coaches can't vote for their own teams.
"I look to see who has the most players returning and that's who I try and choose first," Auriemma said.
Temple, Central Florida, SMU and Tulane round out the top half of the preseason poll. Memphis, Cincinnati, Tulsa, Wichita State, Houston and East Carolina round out the preseason picks. Wichita State joins the conference this year.
Collier is joined on the preseason first-team are UConn teammates Gabby Williams and Katie Lou Samuelson. Central Florida's Aliyah Gregory and South Florida's Kitija Laksa also are on the first team.
Here are a few other tidbits from the American Conference media day:
MISSING ALLIYA: Temple's senior guard Alliya Butts tore her anterior cruciate ligament in practice last week on a routine play and will be lost for the season.
Butts averaged 15.5 points last season, including 21.3 points in the postseason. She had a season-high 28 against Oregon in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Butts is seventh on Temple's all-time scoring list with 1,481 points.
"The thing is we're really, really young. When they see that they're a little devasted," Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said. "She's one of those kids you hate to see it happen to her. No tbecause of what she's capable doing on the floor, but her impact on people. She's so unselfish, joking around. I think our younger guys understand things happen and we have to come together and work that much harder."
WELCOME WICHITA: Coach Keith Adams came home when she decided to take over the program at Wichita State after spending 16 years at UTEP. She grew up 40 minutes from the Shockers campus.
"I've watched them from afar and now I get a chance to coach there," Adams said.
Her first season at Wichita State sees the team in the American for the first time.
"It's definitely an inaugural year for myself as well as Wichita State," she said. "There's a lot of excitement and newness. There's a lot of talent in this conference, top to bottom. There's good coaching and you have to be well-prepared. We were with several of the teams when I was at UTEP in Conference USA. I have tremendous respect for this league."
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Updated October 16, 2017