Babcock-McGraw: DePaul women heading into season with high expectations

It seems like college football season just started.

But already, basketball is around the corner. And the DePaul women's basketball team is primed for a run at meeting high expectations.

The Blue Demons, who will be holding a scrimmage and autograph session along with the men's basketball team starting at 1 p.m. today at Wintrust Arena, are getting rave early reviews and will be tested right out of the gate with their traditional tough nonconference schedule.

In just about a month (Nov. 17), DePaul will host defending national champion Notre Dame at Wintrust Arena.

And then a couple weeks after that, DePaul will hit the road to take on perennial power Connecticut, winner of four straight national championships from 2013 to 2016 and 11 overall since 1995.

But the Blue Demons should be well-equipped to compete. They are ranked as high as No. 13 in the preseason national rankings. And junior guard Kelly Campbell was named to Street & Smith's preseason all-America third team.

As usual, longtime head coach Doug Bruno is measured.

"I have always believed nobody remembers the previews while players, coaches and teams remember the reviews for the rest of their lives," Bruno said. "No matter what we have accomplished in the past, every year is a new season."

But even Bruno, who is beginning his 33rd season at the helm, can't discount the talent on his 2018-19 roster. Joining Campbell is preseason all-Big East first-team selection Mart'e Grays, a senior forward. Also back are returning starters Ashton Millender and Chante Stonewall as well as senior Tanita Allen, the Big East's Sixth Woman of the Year two years ago as a sophomore.

Five of the top six scorers for DePaul are back from last year and are joined by a well-regarded freshman class.

"This group has a chance to raise a high bar to another level," Bruno said.

The Blue Demons have won five straight regular season Big East titles and have been to 16 straight NCAA tournaments and give much credit to their tradition of playing tough games early.

Not only does DePaul face Notre Dame and Connecticut in the preseason, they will also take on Northwestern, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Syracuse, solid teams from power conferences.

"I believe our nonconference schedule, and this year's is more challenging than most, allows the team to refocus very quickly from the previous season's success," Bruno said. "Everyone believes you have to peak in March. Yet, if you don't peak a first time in December, there is no March.

"Our schedule helps the returning players understand that the memories of their reviews are going to be with them for the rest of their lives."

Bruno on basketball:

Want to coach like Doug Bruno?

Bruno is hosting his 27th Annual DePaul Women's Basketball Coaches Clinic on Sunday, Oct. 20 at McGrath-Phillips Arena on DePaul's Lincoln Park campus, 2323 N. Sheffield Ave.

The clinic runs from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and costs $30.

The deadline to register is Oct. 17.

To register, contact Lauren Prochaska at or at 773.325.7261.

Big Ten is big:

The Big Ten continues to dominate in volleyball.

For the fifth week in a row, seven Big Ten programs were ranked in the AVCA Top 25, including five teams among the top 10. Minnesota is the highest ranked Big Ten team at No. 3. Illinois is No. 7.

Meanwhile, 11 Big Ten teams are ranked in the Top 60 for RPI, strength of schedule.

Coaching and fans:

So why is Big Ten volleyball so good?

First of all, veteran coaches lead the way. Four active Big Ten coaches have recorded at least 600 career wins, led by Penn State's Russ Rose with 1,259 wins. Rose actually ranks first among all active Division I coaches in wins.

Also, the Big Ten commands quite a following.

Based on average attendance, the Big Ten currently boasts 10 of the nation's top 25 programs, including the top three spots. Nebraska leads the nation in attendance with 7,491 fans per contest. Wisconsin is just behind with 7,052.

Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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