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2015-16 Big East Women's Basketball: Where Are We Now?

League play starts on Tuesday, so let's take a swing around the league to see what everyone's been up to so far.

Danaejah Grant leads the Big East in scoring at this point of the season.
Danaejah Grant leads the Big East in scoring at this point of the season.
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

This article will double as our preview for Marquette's Big East opener against DePaul on Tuesday night, so let's get the fine details on that one out of the way first:

Big East Game #1: at DePaul (8-5)

When: Tuesday, December 29, 2015, at 7pm Central
Where: McGrath-Phillips Arena in Chicago, IL
Audio/Visual: Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go has the streaming broadcast, plus there's live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

We're going to go team by team to see what all of the Big East's women's basketball teams have been up to so far this season with all 10 teams starting off league play on Tuesday.  For each team, you'll see their record and their current RPI ranking at the top.  Next up is their team leader in the three most important traditional stats, and if they're in the top 15 in the league, that's in parenthesis right next to each stat.

Since we were taking a look at the best RPI win and worst RPI loss for each team anyway, we've added in each team's record against the RPI top 50 and top 100.   I'm going to warn you now: Get ready for most of these to be not that exciting in that regard.  The Big East is not a very strong women's basketball conference.

Butler (5-6, #147)

Points Leader: Blaire Langlois, 14.2 ppg (11th)
Rebounds Leader: Tori Schickel, 10.0 rpg (1st)
Assists Leader: Blaire Langlois, 3.0 apg (T-13th)
Top 50 Record: 0-3
Top 100 Record: 0-4
Best Win: vs #142 TCU, 65-53
Worst Loss: at #261 Indiana State, 70-63

Well, you can't say that the Bulldogs haven't been challenging themselves.  Four games against the top 100, with three of those games coming against the top 50.  However, they've come up empty in each of those games.  In their defense, three of the four losses were on the road.

Powered by the second best defensive field goal percentage in the league, Butler leads the Big East in total defensive rebounds and defensive rebounds per game.  That's the kind of thing that gets you three of the five best rebounds in the conference.  Obviously, freshman Tori Schickel leads the Big East, but Belle Obert and Brittany Ward are tied for fourth at 7.3 rebounds per game.  You'd think that this kind of prowess on the defensive glass would lead them to a better record than 5-6, but that's the kind of thing that ends up happening when you're the worst shooting team in the Big East.

Butler has a devastatingly shallow roster.  They've got five players that have played in all 11 games, and Obert has played in 10, while Schickel has missed two games.  Only two other players have seen any action at all this season, and they've only got 10 women on the roster at all.

Creighton (6-6, #126)

Points Leader: Audrey Faber, 16.1 ppg (4th)
Rebounds Leader: Audrey Faber, 4.3 rpg 
Assists Leader: Jade Owens, 3.2 apg (T-8th)
Top 50 Record: 0-0
Top 100 Record: 0-4
Best Win: vs #123 Northern Iowa, 69-61
Worst Loss: at #218 Kansas, 67-54

Let's start with the simple explanation for that worst loss: Marissa Janning didn't play.  The senior guard fractured her left fibula with seconds left in regulation of CU's win over Eastern Washington.  Janning missed the rest of that game and then hasn't played in the six games since then.  The road trip to Lawrence was the first game that Janning missed, so you can kind of understand how the Jays might have struggled to adapt to not having the three time first team all-conference selection and 2014 Big East Player Of The Year around for the first time since she stepped on campus.

It was already starting before Janning went down with her injury, but Audrey Faber is quickly becoming a lethal option for the Bluejays.  In the six games that Janning has missed, Faber has scored 20 or more points three times, and she's shooting SIXTY-FIVE percent from three point range in those games.  My word.  Faber's shooting 53% on threes on the season to lead the entire Big East, and with M.C. McGrory burying 50% of her shots, that explains how Creighton's the best three point shooting team in the league.  Surprisingly, they don't actually lead the Big East in three point attempts even though they're shooting just under 40% as a team.

The Jays are only .500 on the season, but there's a chance that they wouldn't be that much different with Janning in the lineup over the last six games.  Ok, yes, there was that loss to Kansas, but that was on the road.  They also went on the road against Nebraska and Utah, both of which are top 120 teams.  It's not terribly surprising that those ended up as losses, nor is the home date against South Dakota State, currently ranked at #51 in the RPI.  CU bounced back from that four game losing streak by taking care of business against Nebraska-Omaha, and they picked up their best win of the season over UNI in their most recent outing.

DePaul (8-5, #35)

AP Poll Ranking: #17
Points Leader: Megan Podkowa, 15.5 ppg (6th)
Rebounds Leader: Megan Podkowa, 8.5 rpg (2nd)
Assists Leader: Jessica January, 6.6 apg (1st)
Top 50 Record: 2-3
Top 100 Record: 4-4
Best Win: at #26 Texas A&M, 80-66
Worst Loss: vs #153 Loyola-Chicago, 88-75

Three of DePaul's losses fall into the category of "Well, whaddya gonna do?"  At Baylor, currently undefeated and ranked #4 in the country?  Well, that happens.  At home against undefeated and #1 in the country UConn?  Well, that happens.  On the road against current #3 Notre Dame, who is 9-1 with their lone loss coming against Connecticut?  Well, that happens.

Even their fourth loss isn't that big of a deal.  On the road against South Dakota State, #51 in the RPI?  That's not the worst thing ever.  But that fifth loss?  Against Loyola?  At home?  Whatcha doing there, Blue Demons?  I mean, sure, there's the fact that the Ramblers shot 61% in that game, but you'd think that perennial league favorites like DePaul would figure out a way to avoid things like this happening.

DePaul's balancing out those losses with road wins over ranked teams like Texas A&M and Northwestern, so they're still riding (mostly) high.  They're probably going to be relatively pissed off about that Loyola loss when Marquette comes to town on Tuesday, though.

Georgetown (7-3, #68)

Points Leader: Dionna White, 14.3 ppg (10th)
Rebounds Leader: Dorothy Adomako, 6.0 rpg (T-12th)
Assists Leader: Dionna White, 3.8 apg (6th)
Top 50 Record: 0-1
Top 100 Record: 1-1
Best Win: vs #74 Virginia Tech, 73-56
Worst Loss: at #144 Memphis, 57-53

Shoutout to the Hoyas, who have already won more games this season (7) than they did all of last year (4).  GU closed 2014-15 with 15 straight L's, but haven't lost two in a row yet this season.

The fascinating thing about this is that even though they were leaning heavily on three freshmen a year ago, it's still a freshman that's leading them in scoring this season.  Dionna White is tearing it up for the Hoyas after winning a state title and breaking Milford Mill's all time scoring record in her final prep season.  The most impressive part about what she's doing right now?  She stands just 5'5" tall.

While we have to respect the steps forward that the Hoyas have taken since last season, we do have to point out that they've lost to three of the four best teams that they've played so far this season.  Five of their seven wins have come against sub-200 teams in the RPI.  As you can tell from this list, they're not going to see that kind of competition in league play, so we'll have to see how they adjust to the increase in competition level.

Marquette (5-6, #86)

Points Leader: Allazia Blockton, 17.5 ppg (3rd)
Rebounds Leader: Allazia Blockton, 7.3 rpg (T-4th)
Assists Leader: Amani Wilborn, 3.2 apg (8th)
Top 50 Record: 0-2
Top 100 Record: 1-4
Best Win: vs #100 Auburn, 70-69 (OT)
Worst Loss: at #145 Northern Kentucky, 83-78

I'm trying to decide if the Golden Eagles are actually better than they were last season.  Obviously, the record is better than last year's 4-7 heading into conference play.  But last year's squad had spread those four wins out through their first 11 games, while this year's team has won five of their last seven to get to their current record, and both losses were narrow defeats at the hands of ranked teams.

We'll definitely get a feel for how things are going in Carolyn Kieger's second season when league play starts.  MU lost Kieger's first 10 games in Big East play a year ago before splitting the final eight and picking up a win in the first round of the Big East tournament to add some forward progress to the season.  That forward progress was completely wiped out over the summer with the loss of five graduating players and the transfer of three freshmen.  With a roster comprised almost completely of freshmen, Kieger will need them to respond to the rigors of the Big East to finish better than last year's 4-14 record.

One thing we can probably count on at this point is that Allazia Blockton is going to respond.  She's won three Freshmen of the Week awards already, and seems to be the clear favorite to grab that trophy in March.  Hell, Blockton's a shoo-in for All-Big East First Team honors at this point, since she's the only player in the league to be top five in both points and rebounds.

Providence (4-6, #162)

Points Leader: Sarah Beal, 12.9 ppg (15th)
Rebounds Leader: Aliyah Miller, 5.6 rpg 
Assists Leader: Sarah Beal, 3.0 apg (T-13th)
Top 50 Record: 0-2
Top 100 Record: 0-4
Best Win: at #182 Rhode Island, 64-55
Worst Loss: vs #191 Richmond, 57-50

Things are going to be a struggle again this year for Providence.  Coming off of a 6-24 season where they went 3-15 in league play, the Friars have done nothing to distinguish themselves so far this season.  They won all the games against the very bottom of their non-conference schedule, but have barely been competitive against the top end teams that they've played.

It would seem that they've got pieces in place, with three double digit scorers, and Yoyo Nogic has no fear behind the three point line.  The freshman from Portugal is burying triples at a better than 51% clip, the second best mark in the Big East.  The Friars are heavily reliant on Beal, Miller, and Nogic, with all three playing more than 30 minutes a night.  That trio also combines for over 60% of PC's shot attempts, so while they use their bench with reasonable frequency (nine players have played in all 10 games), foul trouble to one or two of that trio is going to significantly impact what PC is trying to accomplish on the court.

As a team, Providence isn't going to bury you with three-pointers (third fewest attempts in the league), but they are going to make what they take (2nd in 3P%).  They're also not going to let you shoot them out of a game, as PC allows opponents to shoot just 28% from long range, the second best defensive mark in the Big East.

St. John's (9-2, #31)

Points Leader: Danaejah Grant, 19.4 ppg (1st)
Rebounds Leader: Danaejah Grant, 6.1 rpg (11th)
Assists Leader: Aaliyah Lewis, 4.4 apg (5th)
Top 50 Record: 2-2
Top 100 Record: 2-2
Best Win: vs #12 South Florida, 74-70
Worst Loss: at #37 UCLA, 73-58

While the Red Storm have flitted in and out of the top 25 this season, it's largely been on the back of two wins: at Rutgers (#19 in the RPI) and at home over South Florida (RPI #12).  That's their two top 50 wins right there, and they dumped their other two games against the top 50, both road trips against UCLA in the season opener and then on December 19th against Duquesne.  What's fascinating about both of those is that St. John's lost by sizable margins in both.  The Bruins downed them by 15 at the final horn, and the Dukes took a 19 point win.

As for the rest of the schedule, there's not a whole lot there.  They have a home win over Yale (#135), but everything else is sub-200.  While the schedule might be not all that much to look at, St. John's is doing a number on the stat leader lists.  As a team, they're leading the Big East in field goal percentage, knocking down 47% of their shots.  That's the kind of thing that happens when Jade Walker and Aliyyah Handford (#ShesStilInSchool) are burying more than 50% of their shots.  Walker is shooting 57% (!) on the season.

With the league lead in scoring and an 11th best rebounding average, Danaejah Grant might be heading towards a Big East Player of the Year award.  Her biggest problem as far as winning that at the end of the year might be the presence of Handford on the team.  Both women have won a Big East Weekly Player of the Week award so far this season, although Grant has a 2-1 advantage in Weekly Honor Roll appearances.

Seton Hall (10-1, #16)

Points Leader: Tabatha Richardson-Smith, 15.8 ppg (5th)
Rebounds Leader: Tiffany Jones, 7.5 rpg (3rd)
Assists Leader: Shakena Richardson, 5.8 apg (2nd)
Top 50 Record: 2-1
Top 100 Record: 4-1
Best Win: vs #19 Rutgers, 77-49
Only Loss: at #11 Georgia, 70-52

And now, the pride and joy of the Big East.

Well, maybe not.  DePaul is still ranked higher than the Pirates, but Seton Hall's got the shinier record.  Of course, DePaul also has eight top 100 games against just five for Seton Hall, but then again, SHU didn't lose to a team like Loyola-Chicago.

After losing the two unrelated Simmons women off of last year's team, Tony Bozzella's squad is just chugging right back along like nothing happened.  Shakena Richardson is a grad student transfer from Florida State, and she's assimliated just fine into the SHU team, leading them in assists, scoring 12 points a game, and going 19-20 from the charity stripe.  Aleesha Powell is a senior for Seton Hall, playing her final year of eligibility after sitting out last year on a transfer redshirt from Iona.  She's second on the team in scoring and Powell provides a quality secondary shooter on the team next to Richardson-Smith.

Maybe it's an amalgamation of a team, sure.  But they're cutting down every squad in front of them, and they appear to be right on track for a second straight NCAA tournament under Bozzella and just the fourth bid in program history.

Villanova (6-4, #104)

Points Leader: Caroline Coyer, 14.4 ppg (9th)
Rebounds Leader: Caroline Coyer, 6.5 rpg (10th)
Assists Leader: Caroline Coyer, 5.0 apg (3rd)
Top 50 Record: 0-1
Top 100 Record: 1-3
Best Win: vs #82 St. Joseph's, 55-49
Worst Loss: at #125 Temple, 61-55

So, should we just go ahead and put Caroline Coyer on the all-Big East First Team now, or should we actually wait for March?

Not only is she leading Nova in those three categories, she's also playing 36 minutes a night for the Wildcats.  This is particularly significant because Coyer and Samantha Wilkes are the only two VU players to start all 10 of their games.  They do have nine players who have seen action in all 10 contests, but it would appear that they've struggled to put a consistent lineup out on the court every night, given that head coach Harry Perretta has just three players averaging over 23 minutes a game.

While the lineup might be all over the place, the Wildcats do have a bit of "death by 1000 paper cuts" in them.  Six different players are averaging at least seven points a game, and four players average at least four rebounds a game.

Credit must be paid to the Wildcats for their schedule.  They've played just two home games this season.  They've hit the road for three other games, and their remaining contests have been neutral site games.  They've haven't played a game on campus since November 24th, and that isn't changing any time soon, either: Their first two Big East games are coming on the road, and their league home opener isn't until January 3rd against Providence.

Xavier (9-2, #210)

Points Leaders: Briana Glover & Aliyah Zantt, 11.5 ppg
Rebounds Leader: Leah Schaefer, 5.2 rpg
Assists Leader: Marquia Turner, 3.1 apg (12th)
Top 50 Record: 0-0
Top 100 Record: 0-1
Best Win: vs #180 Cincinnati, 65-56
Worst Loss: vs #111 Middle Tennessee State, 62-53

We wrap up our conference whip around with maybe the least impressive 9-2 team that you'll ever see.  Yay, nine wins!  But with the exception of the win over Cincinnati, all of the nine are against teams ranked 224 or lower on the RPI.

On top of the lack of interesting wins (or even interesting games, as you can see from the lone top 100 contest up there), they've got no one in the top 15 in scoring or rebounding in the league, although Glover and Zantt make for an interesting 1-2 combo, and Raeshaun Gaffney is right behind them at 11.2 ppg.

Xavier struggles from the same issue as Villanova: They have no lineup consistency.  Glover and Zantt are the only two to start all 11 games, and only six players have played in all 11.  Four more have seen action in 10, though, and only Zantt plays more than 26 minutes a game.

While no one makes a major impact on the stat leaders, Xavier does rebound well as a team.  They're middle of the league in Defensive Rebounding Percentage, but no one in the Big East pulls down a higher percentage of their misses than the Musketeers.  This is probably a good thing, because XU only shoots 40% as a team.