These are heady times for the Marquette women's basketball team.
The Golden Eagles are ranked No. 19 in the USA Today preseason poll -- the highest ever to start a season -- and Big East coaches unanimously picked them to win the conference title. Junior guard Allazia Blockton also received every vote as the league's preseason player of the year.
12 Days until Gameday! pic.twitter.com/2731qAV7fr— Marquette WBB (@MarquetteWBB) November 1, 2017
The accolades haven't changed how MU coach Carolyn Kieger prepares her team for the season, which begins Nov. 13 at New Mexico.
"I think, first and foremost, it's a testament to where we've come in the last three years," Kieger said during the team's media day Wednesday. "So obviously you want to celebrate your players' success and your staff's success. But at the same time, we all know preseason rankings don't really matter. It's all about the end of the year and how we finish.
"For us, we're not really talking about it. The media or the polls can do all they want. They can rank us where they want. But we know we've got a lot to learn and we've got a lot to fix. The season is young and so are we, so we're just trying to get better."
Kieger is 48-46 at MU after going 21-8 last season while winning the Big East tournament on the Golden Eagles' home floor at the Al McGuire Center. MU was upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Quinnipiac, 68-65.
Blockton was on the all-Big East first team and an honorable mention All-American after leading the conference at 17.1 points per game.
But she wants to be known for being more than a scorer.
"This off-season I really worked on my defense," Blockton said. "Just (trying) to be the best two-way player in the league. I can score the ball, obviously, but it's all about at the next level 'Who can you defend?' I really worked on that, just getting low in my stance, my off-ball defense, just being quicker on the ball movement."
That must be music to the ears of Kieger, who has spent a lot of time on defense with the Golden Eagles' high-flying offense returning their top five scorers from last season.
"We've kind of changed our mind-set a little bit on 'D'," Kieger said. "We're now going to be aggressive in the half-court just like the full-court. So we're getting up into passing lanes, we're going to play pressure defense, get after the ball-handler a little bit more."
A ball-hawking defense would go a long way in helping this team live up to expectations.
"Most people with the pressure, they might hide," Blockton said. "We just use it as motivation to go even harder. We ramped up the intensity in practice, so practice is hard and competitive. We know everyone is coming after us, so we play every practice like that."
This article is written by Ben Steele from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.