Editor's Note: The BIG EAST will be previewing both the men's and women's team from each BIG EAST member each weekday from October 22 to November 9 in advance of the 2012-13 season. Use hashtag #BECountdown to join the conversation on Twitter.
Pittsburgh Panthers Women's Basketball
The Big Picture:
After losing a host of close games in 2011-12, including an overtime defeat by then-No. 20/19 Louisville, the Panthers showed promise at the close of the season. Pitt welcomes back four starters and eight letterwinners to lead the climb back to the top of the BIG EAST ladder. One player to watch will be Loliya Briggs, the highest ranked recruit in last season’s highly-touted freshmen class. Injured last summer playing with the Nigerian National Team and sitting out the entire 2011-12 season, Briggs is an explosive guard who will add depth to the Panthers’ still-young roster.
BIG EAST All-Freshman team selection Brianna Kiesel returns to the court after leading the Panthers in scoring last year with 13.6 points per game. She started all 30 games and also paced the team in assists (89), and free throws made (106). Joining her in the backcourt is returnee Ashlee Anderson, who chipped in 10.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in 2011-12.
Pitt loses leading rebounder Leeza Burdgess, who grabbed 7.2 boards per game last season. Burdgess played in 29 games, averaging 6.3 ppg in 26 minutes per game. She had a .442 field goal percentage and added 23 blocks.
After a winless conference season, the Panthers came within seconds of knocking off No. 9 seed USF in the BIG EAST Championship first round in a 60-69 defeat. Freshman Brianna Kiesel led the Panthers with 24 points, scoring 15 of those in the second half as Pitt overcame a 21-point deficit. Kiesel’s output in her final game as a freshman marked her seventh game with 20 or more points. Kiesel also vaulted herself into the Pitt record book, coming in at No. 5 all-time for points in a single by a first-year player.