2021 Big East Tournament Preview
A roundup of all the teams battling in Mohegan Sun Arena
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After a long and winding season, the UConn Huskies secured the Big East regular-season championship with a rout over the Creighton Bluejays last Thursday. Geno Auriemma’s squad reached the mountaintop in their return to the conference, going undefeated in league play for their 20th Big East regular-season title and first since 2011, two years before they left the conference for the American.
Now, all 11 Big East teams travel to Mohegan Sun Arena, formerly the home of “Bubbleville”, where they are set to clash this weekend. The tournament tips off at 11 a.m. ET today with Xavier taking on St. John’s in what should be an enthralling matchup. So, who are some of the key contributors around the conference? What were the highs and lows of each team’s season? Furthermore, what should we look out for? While there might be a runaway favorite, the conference tournament crown definitely will not come easy.
No. 1 seed UConn (21-1, 18-0 in Big East)
NET Ranking: 2
Her Hoop Stats Ranking: 1
Best win: 63-59, at home vs then-No. 1 South Carolina. In a clash between two titans, Bueckers took over scoring 31 points, including every bucket in overtime. She saved the best for last, with a shot that’ll be known forever as “The Bounce” to knock off the top-ranked Gamecocks in a classic.
“Worst” loss: 90-87 vs then-No. 19 Arkansas. The Huskies only have one loss (so far) this season, but this still applies. Chelsea Dungee of the Razorbacks scored 22 of her 37 points in the second half, including 13 points in that pivotal third quarter, to defeat UConn.
Something to watch for: Potential slow starts. UConn has steamrolled almost every lineup in front of them, but the Huskies have to avoid potential complacency. UConn trailed Seton Hall at halftime in their second meeting, and had some issues with Butler’s zone in the first half last Saturday, so it’ll be interesting to watch how they start out of the gate.
No. 2 seed Marquette (17-5, 14-4 in Big East)
NET Ranking: 33
Her Hoop Stats Ranking: 42
Best win: 85-71 at DePaul. Lott scored 20 of her 25 points in the second half and Taylor chipped in a 20-point, 11-rebound double-double as the Golden Eagles snagged their first ranked win of the season and clinched the #2 seed in this weekend’s tournament.
Worst loss: 87-58, at home vs UConn. The Golden Eagles shot just 30.3% in the first half and appeared to be severely outmatched throughout, failing in their matchup against the new measuring stick of the Big East.
Something to watch for: Sharing offense and suffocating defense. Marquette ranks sixth in the nation in assists per game with over 20 dimes a night. On the other end, Lott anchors a smothering defense that allows under 60 points per game and 39% from the field in conference play. Once the Golden Eagles put a lid on the rim, good luck, because you’re going to need it.
No. 3 seed Seton Hall (14-6, 12-5 in Big East)
NET Ranking: 49
Her Hoop Stats Ranking: 60
Key contributors: Andra Espinoza Hunter (18.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg; led Big East in three-pointers made), Lauren Park-Lane (17.4 ppg; 5.6 apg, ranking 2nd in Big East), Desiree Elmore (17.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2 spg), Mya Jackson (11 ppg, 41.9 3P%)
Best win: 77-66, at home vs Marquette. Seton Hall wreaked havoc defensively, turning 22 Marquette turnovers into 29 points before icing the game at the line, handing the Golden Eagles their first loss in Big East play this season.
Worst loss: 82-76 at then-No.19 DePaul. The Pirates battled in what would have been a monumental resume builder, but allowed 30 points in the third quarter after allowing 31 in the first half and struggled at the charity stripe, shooting 7-16.
Something to watch for: The magic number, and an improving defense. Seton Hall is a sparkling 12-0 when holding opponents under 70 points. Furthermore, over their last five games, the Pirates are allowing just 58 points per game. Couple that with a dangerous offense, and Seton Hall could have a recipe for success.
No. 4 seed DePaul (14-7 overall, 11-5 in conference)
NET Ranking: 69
Her Hoop Stats Ranking: 93
Best win: 87-82 at Marquette. In one of the latest chapters of a storied rivalry spanning six decades, DePaul’s “Big 4” combined for 82 of the team’s 87 points to secure a much-needed win on the road.
Worst loss: 86-81, at home vs Butler. Yes, Sonya Morris missed this game with what Coach Doug Bruno described as a freak glute injury. Nonetheless, the Blue Demons failed to take care of business against a team they were previously 18-0 against, slipping in the conference standings as well.
Something to watch for: are the Blue Demons on upset alert? Sonya Morris’ status for the Big East tournament is still unclear at the moment, but even with Morris, DePaul wasn’t as good this season as they were in years past. With three losses in their last four games, momentum is nearly nonexistent. Let’s see how the Blue Demons respond.
No. 5 seed Villanova (14-5 overall, 9-5 in conference)
NET Ranking: 73
Her Hoop Stats Ranking: 84
Best win: 78-71 at Seton Hall. The Wildcats fell behind early 20-12, but responded with 28 points on 61.9% shooting in the second quarter to take the lead going into halftime. Villanova then shot 50% from the field in the second half to pick up a huge road win.
Worst loss: 67-55, at home vs Seton Hall. Siegrist finished with her usual 20-point, 10-rebound double-double, but the other Wildcats weren’t nearly as successful. Herlihy and Mortensen combined for just 16 points and the Villanova bench supplied only 12 points after scoring 21 in the first meeting.
Something to watch for: Siegrist’s Jupiter-like gravity. Maddy is already a lethal scorer, pacing the conference in points per game this season. She uses this to her advantage, as her presence on the court bends defenses to her will. Look for the star Wildcat to utilize backdoor cuts to get free and draw double teams for her teammates to prosper.
No. 6 seed Creighton (7-10 overall, 6-7 in conference)
NET Ranking: 110
Her Hoop Stats Ranking: 169
Best win: 83-72 at then-No. 19 DePaul. Ronsiek and Carda combined for 45 points and Creighton stifled the Blue Demons’ offense as, for the third straight season, the Bluejays knocked off DePaul on the road.
Worst loss: 66-53, at home vs Marquette. Creighton played outstanding defense on Marquette’s Selena Lott, hounding her to a 3-10 shooting night with 7 turnovers. Unfortunately for the Bluejays, they were crushed in the third quarter, leading to defeat.
Something to watch for: Their volatile three-point offense. Creighton shoots a ton of threes, ranking in the top-25 in attempts per game the last three seasons. They’re also allergic at attacking the rim, ranking in the bottom-20 in free throw rate. Look to see if defenses can run the Bluejays off the three-point line.
No. 7 seed Providence (6-13 overall, 4-10 in conference)
NET Ranking: 166
Her Hoop Stats Ranking: 217
Worst loss: 63-58 in overtime vs Villanova. Providence led 54-49 with 35 seconds on the clock before several self-inflicted mistakes and defensive lapses sent this one into OT. The Friars were then outscored in overtime 8-3 in what was a baffling loss.
Something to watch for: Getting off to a good start. Providence is 6-1 this season when leading at halftime, with the one loss coming to Seton Hall. On the other hand, the Friars are 0-11 when trailing at the break. With their lackluster offense, it’s crucial that they get off the ground running.
No. 8 seed St. John’s (7-14 overall, 4-12 in conference)
NET Ranking: 139
Her Hoop Stats Ranking: 171
Key contributors: Leilani Correa (18 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.9 spg), Qadashah Hoppie (18 ppg, 40.3 3P%, out for season), Kadaja Bailey (10.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.2 bpg), Unique Drake (18.3 ppg her last three games, 41.5 3P%)
Worst loss: 81-78 at Villanova. Hoping to snap a three-game skid, the Johnnies trailed by 17 points in the fourth period. What followed was an almost miraculous comeback, as the Red Storm went on a 22-5 run before falling in OT.
Something to watch for: their stellar, yet disciplined defense at the rim. Led by Bailey, Raven Farley, and Rayven Peeples, St. John’s ranks eighth nationally in blocks per game. Somehow, they’re also third nationally in fouls per game, with UConn as the only other team ranking top-10 in both stats. Look for their paint protectors to impose their will.
No. 9 seed Xavier (5-9 overall, 2-8 in conference)
NET Ranking: 211
Her Hoop Stats Ranking: 278
Worst loss: 53-50, at home vs Creighton. Xavier won the rebound battle 45-34 and held Creighton to just three makes from behind the arc, but coughed up the ball 17 times leading to 19 points for the Bluejays.
Something to watch for: How they’ll control the pace of the game. The Musketeers are a pretty fast team, ranking 31st in possessions per 40 minutes. However, Xavier isn’t exactly potent offensively, averaging a shade over 63 points per game. Will they play an up-tempo style that hasn’t yielded the best results, or will they try to play conservatively and limit mistakes?
No. 10 seed Butler (3-16 overall, 3-15 in conference)
NET Ranking: 277
Her Hoop Stats Ranking: 323
Best win: 86-81, in a stunning upset at #25 DePaul. Five Bulldogs scored in double figures and the team shot 45% from three-point range for their first win over the Blue Demons in program history.
Butler Women’s Basketball @ButlerUWBBThe Bulldogs pull off the upset over #25 DePaul! https://t.co/SMJYJ7dge2
Worst loss: 47-35, at home vs St. John’s. Yep, 35 points in 40 minutes. Don’t look at the stats unless you want to flush your eyes afterwards.
Something to watch for: A constant long-range barrage. Butler ranks 25th in the nation in three-point rate and they get almost 39% of their points from behind the arc, which ranks 15th. With such a propensity for launching outside shots, this could be a double-edged sword for the Bulldogs, especially if they fall behind early. With their rock-bottom defense allowing the second most points per 100 possessions in the country, Butler has no choice but to live and die by the three-ball.
No. 11 seed Georgetown (2-14 overall and in conference)
NET Ranking: 207
Her Hoop Stats Ranking: 284
Worst loss: 42-41 at home vs Creighton. Bolden-Morris scored 17 points with 3 threes as Georgetown held the Bluejays to 25.5% and outrebounded them 37-30. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough as they fell on free throws in the final seconds.
Something to watch out for: How stout they are on the interior. The presence of Jillian Archer, along with other players like Graceann Bennett and Princeton transfer Taylor Baur has been a bright spot for Georgetown. The frontcourt trio has boosted the Hoyas to 33rd in the nation in block rate and just outside the top 100 in total rebounding rate. Look for them to control the glass and patrol the paint, mucking up the opposing gameplan.