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.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights Women's Basketball
The Big Picture:
Rutgers advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 10th-straight season and made its 14th appearance under head coach C. Vivian Stringer in 17 seasons. RU was one of only nine teams to qualify for the NCAA Tournament in each of the last 10 seasons. Rutgers returned to the national polls last season, starting the season No. 16 in the Associated Press poll and No. 17 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll. The Scarlet Knights ranked as high as seventh in the AP poll and eighth in the USA Today Coaches poll.
Rutgers returns three starters, including redshirt-senior Chelsey Lee who missed the 2011-12 season due to a shoulder injury. The Scarlet Knights also return senior Monique Oliver, who played in 32 games last year, averaging 11.8 ppg and 7.3 rpg. She was third in the BIG EAST with 1.8 bpg. Classmate Erica Wheeler averaged 8.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg and 1.6 spg in 32 games last season for the Scarlet Knights.
The Scarlet Knights lose two productive starters who ended their careers with All-BIG EAST honors. Khadijha Rushdan was named to the All-BIG EAST First Team and April Sykes to the Second Team. Rushdan averaged 13.1 ppg and 5.9 rpg. Sykes chipped in 12.9 ppg and 5.6 rebounds per game. RU also loses Nikki Speed, who played in all 32 games and started 20, and Jaymee Tucker, who saw action in 14 games.
Rutgers posted a 10-win home schedule, marking the 10th-straight year that RU has had 10 or more wins at the RAC. Stringer posted her 32nd 20-win season, second-most all-time. She has topped the 20-win mark in 13 of the last 15 seasons. Rutgers had four Scarlet Knights receive conference honors, the most since the 2007-08 season, which also had four players earn conference honors.