Everyone except for Marquette and Georgetown have already gotten one game in on the conference schedule, so by default, Marquette opens their Big East schedule in a tie for fifth place. Don't ask me for a solid reason as to why everyone else played a game on a Wednesday in early December, though.
This will double as the preview for Marquette's opener against Xavier, so let's deal with the details on that game.
When: Tuesday, December 30, 2014, at 7pm Central
Where: Al McGuire Center
Audio/Visual: Free live video, of course, and live stats.
Special Promotions: You can get a Family Four Pack - 4 tickets, hot dogs, and drinks - for $40 in the blue chairbacks or $30 in the general admission sections.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
With the full start of the league schedule, we'll take a quick capsule look at each team in the Big East to assess where everyone is at so far in the 2014-15 season. At the top is their record, along with their ranking in the most recent RPI update on NCAA.com. From there, we'll list their three most significant statistical contributors thus far, as well as their best win and worst loss according to that same RPI update. If you see a parenthetical note next to a player's name, that's their rank in the Big East for that particular stat.
Let's get to it, shall we?
Butler (4-8, 0-1 BE, #203)
Points Leader: Loryn Goodwin, 16.5 ppg (7th)
Rebounds Leader: Ijeoma Uchendu, 9.1 rpg (3rd)
Assists Leader: Loryn Goodwin, 3.6 apg (T-7th)
Best Win: vs #182 Ball State, 48-41
Worst Loss: at #240 Valparaiso, 91-57
After a terrible start, the Bulldogs have won four of their last six games heading into Big East action. Really, though, it's more like three wins in their last four, because the first win in that grouping was against Division 2 BYU-Hawaii in something called the "Tom Weston Invitational." You can't even be upset about that one loss in the bunch, because it was on the road against Minnesota, and it went to overtime.
Goodwin, Uchendu, and junior guard Blair Langlois are all averaging in double digits for Butler, but that's not the most fascinating thing about their roster. Belle Obert made her debut in a Butler women's basketball uniform in their game against BYU (the real one from Provo). I specify "basketball" because Obert has been an all-Big East outside hitter on the Bulldogs' volleyball team for the last two years. For whatever reason, she's joined the basketball team this year, and after coming off the bench in her first ever game, she's been starting and playing 30+ minutes a night ever since. The "why" might have to do with Butler only have 11 players on the roster including Obert, but she's capable: 9.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists.
Creighton (7-5, 0-1 BE, #50)
Points Leader: Marissa Janning, 16.6 ppg (6th)
Rebounds Leader: Alexis Akin-Otiko, 5.7 rpg (17th)
Assists Leader: Marissa Janning, 3.6 apg (T-7th)
Best Win: at #57 South Dakota State, 88-81
Worst Loss: at #49 Wichita State, 65-56
The Jays might actually be pretty good. Three of their losses are to teams that were ranked in the Top 25 at the time, and that doesn't include dropping their conference opener to Seton Hall, who just popped into the AP Top 25 this week for the first time since 1995. Now, you're not going to get very far in the world losing to every RPI top 50 team you play, but that has to be slightly heartening for the CU faithful.
Janning has done a pretty good job as the preseason Player of the Year in the Big East, leading her team in two statistical categories and ranking third in rebounding, too. MC McGrory rounds out a strong trio along with Janning and Akin-Otiko to provide the core of the team. While Janning is the only one averaging more than 28 minutes a game, there are eight Bluejays in all who are averaging at least 7 minutes per game while playing in all 12 contests for Creighton.
DePaul (9-4, 1-0 BE, #109)
Points Leader: Brittany Hrynko, 18.8 ppg (3rd)
Rebounds Leader: Megan Podkowa, 6.9 rpg (8th)
Assists Leader: Brittany Hrynko, 5.5 apg (T-1st)
Best Win: vs #57 South Dakota State, 84-62
Worst Loss: vs #34 Texas A&M, 76-68
No, that record isn't impressive at face value. But! The losses are impressive: Texas A&M, Notre Dame, and UConn, who were all ranked in the top 5 in the country in the AP Poll at the time and are all there right now. The fourth loss was to a Northwestern team that's 11-1 and just barely not ranked now. The only possible downside to take away from any of this is that three of the losses (TAMU, Northwestern, & Notre Dame) were all at home.
Four of DePaul's five regular starters are averaging over 13 points a game, and the fifth, Chanise Jenkins, is just barely under 10 points per contest. Even with that kind of dominance from their main crew, they've got a second unit that head coach Doug Bruno depends on. None of the starters average more than 29 minutes per game, and that second unit is all averaging more than 10 minutes per game.
Georgetown (2-10, #274)
Points Leader: Dorothy Adomako, 10.9 ppg (21st)
Rebounds Leader: Dorothy Adomako, 7.4 rpg (4th)
Assists Leader: Justyce Swango, 2.9 apg (13th)
Best Win: vs #320 Loyola (MD), 71-44
Worst Loss: #247 Holy Cross on a neutral floor, 73-69
The Good News: For the second consecutive year, Georgetown has what appears to be the shoo-in for Freshman of the Year. The Bad News: Likely because they're on their third coach in 15 months, Natalie Butler, last year's winner, transferred to UConn. Thus, you get a Hoyas team that's lost nine straight. Ah, but they had such a nice 2-1 start...
As you can guess, Dorothy Adomako is that aforementioned FOTY candidate. A potential upside for Georgetown is that junior forward Dominique Vitalis is just barely behind Adomako in both scoring and rebounding, which creates a powerful inside duo for them. Swango's also a freshman who's only started four games this season, so while this season might be a very long one for GU, they do have a promising future with the Adomako/Swango duo.
Marquette (4-7, #183)
Points Leader: Kenisha Bell, 14.7 ppg (10th)
Rebounds Leader: Arlesia Morse, 6.6 rpg (9th)
Assists Leader: Tia Elbert, 3.6 apg (T-7th)
Best Win: vs #53 Vanderbilt, 80-67
Worst Loss: vs #202 Northern Kentucky, 77-68
We'll keep this short, as this is the squad we cover game in and game out. Short version: They're on their first winning streak of the season (2 in a row), which includes that massive win over Vandy. Four of the losses are to top 65 RPI teams. On top of that, they've looked MUCH better in both of those last two games than they did earlier in the season.
Providence (4-8, 1-0 BE, #194)
Points Leader: Tori Rule, 15.0 ppg (9th)
Rebounds Leader: Alexis Harris, 7.4 rpg (T-4th)
Assists Leader: Sarah Beal, 5.0 apg (3rd)
Best Win: vs #90 Duquesne, 67-56
Worst Loss: at #187 Virginia Tech, 72-69
Having a lot of teams scraping around isn't exactly turning this into the most fun thing to write. Here's an upside for the Friars: They opened their Big East schedule a few weeks back with a win over Villanova, so they're already 1-0, which is better than six teams right now. Then again, they've gone 2-3 since then.
Rule has played in all 12 games for PC, but she's only started in nine of them. Three players - Harris, Beal, and Evi Iiskola - are all playing more than 32 minutes a night, so there's really not a lot of depth on this team, even though they have 11 players who have appeared this season. They have St. John's this afternoon and then go out for three straight road games, so it could be a very short lived positive start to the conference slate.
St. John's (10-1, 1-0 BE, #31)
Points Leader: Aliyyah Handford, 19.3 ppg (1st)
Rebounds Leader: Amber Thompson, 11.9 rpg (1st)
Assists Leader: Aaliyah Lewis, 4.1 apg (6th)
Best Win: at #32 South Florida, 55-52
Only Loss: vs #28 Indiana State, 73-67 (2OT)
We were *THIS CLOSE* to having three teams in the Big East ranked in the top 25. It was going to be DePaul, Seton Hall, and an 11-0 Red Storm squad, which was ranked #25 two weeks ago. But noooooo, St. John's went out and lost at home in two overtimes to Indiana State. A good Indiana State team, mind you, but it was still their first loss of the season in their most recent outing. Providence is going to catch a beating this afternoon, aren't they? I suppose it matters whether SJU has been stewing for the last nine days, since they've been off since the 21st, or if they have a little bit of rust on them from the layoff.
Not listed above is junior guard Danejah Grant. She's actually tied with Handford for the Big East's lead in scoring, and the two of them combine to snag 11 rebounds a game. It's really a frighteningly efficient team. The only thing I can legitimately criticize them for is causing my brain to go into spasms over which Aaliyah/Aliyyah is which.
Seton Hall (12-1, 1-0 BE, #21)
Points Leader: Tabatha Richardson-Smith, 17.8 ppg (4th)
Rebounds Leader: Bra`Shey Ali, 9.4 rpg (2nd)
Assists Leader: Ka-Deidre Simmons, 5.5 apg (T-1st)
Best Win: vs #46 Georgia, 70-51
Only Loss: at #39 West Virginia, 89-87
Up through Sunday's win over Georgia, SHU's best win on the season was their Big East opener at Creighton. That's... not ideal. But after stinging the Bulldogs for a 19 point win, you can't be that mean to the Pirates for ending up with four 200+ RPI teams on their slate. The loss to West Virginia was in their second game of the season, so Seton Hall comes rolling into the bulk of conference play riding an 11 game winning streak.
The luck of the break is that Daisha Simmons didn't make it into the leaders blurb at the top of this section. She's third on the team in points (16.3), second in assists (4.2), and fourth in rebounds (4.6). She's also second in minutes to Ka-Deidre Simmons, as both women are playing over 35 minutes a night. In fact, it's a starters-heavy team, as four of their five are averaging more than 30 minutes in every game. Head coach Tony Bozella is doing a great job with this squad, but those heavy minutes are not boding well for potential foul trouble as the team heads into conference play.
Villanova (4-7, 0-1 BE, #205)
Points Leader: Caroline Coyer, 11.5 ppg (19th)
Rebounds Leader: Taylor Holeman, 5.8 rpg (T-13th)
Assists Leader: Caroline Coyer, 3.6 apg (T-7th)
Best Win: vs #168 La Salle, 70-36
Worst Loss: at #194 Providence, 51-49
Where Seton Hall's non-conference schedule wasn't particularly sharp, it's a really bad sign when your worst loss is in your lone conference game. The good news for those of us who aren't Villanova fans is that this will likely mean that head coach Harry Perretta will be frustrated by his team a lot, which means he'll be animated and whacky a lot. He's the kind of guy that you can hear on the other side of the arena when he's excited.
Only Coyer and senior forward Lauren Burford have started all 11 games for the Wildcats, which might explain a lot of the struggles in the record department. Of particular note, Caroline Coyer's twin sister Katherine has only played in six games this season after playing all 32 and starting in 15 a year ago. In addition to that, Emily Leer, who was a mainstay last year, has only made an appearance in three games.
Xavier (8-4, 0-1 BE, #136)
Points Leader: Briana Glover, 12.2 ppg (17th)
Rebounds Leader: Leah Schaefer, 5.6 rpg (T-18th)
Assists Leader: Leah Schaefer, 2.3 apg
Best Win: vs #175 Presbyterian, 45-43
Worst Loss: vs #127 Virginia, 71-62
Quietly, the Musketeers have the fourth best winning percentage in the Big East right now. They were picked to finish ninth this season, well ahead of clear bottom feeder favorite Butler, but they've assembled a nice little season so far. They've won three of their last four, with the loss coming in their last outing to a Kennesaw State team that would qualify as "surprising" at 10-3 this season.
No single player on this XU roster is going to overwhelm anyone, but head coach and possible Chris Mack body double Brian Neal goes 10 deep with his roster every night. Glover tops the minutes at just over 26 per game, but eight players get at least 15 minutes of floor time on a regular basis. That could end up causing fits for teams like Marquette and Seton Hall that do not have and/or use their benches very much.