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2019-20 Big East Women’s Basketball: Where Are We Now?

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League play starts on Sunday, so let’s see what there is to see in the conference so far this season.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-DePaul vs St. John’s
Kelly Campbell: Doin’ the rebounding.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

With what I believe is the only exception of a Villanova Big Five game after the first of the year, non-conference play came to an end on Sunday in the Big East for women’s basketball. Everyone has played at least 10 games and thus we’ve started to get a picture of what all 10 teams in the league are this season. As such, with a bit of open space on the schedule thanks to Christmas, we’re going to wander through the league and check in to see what everyone has been up to in 2019-20 so far.

For each team, you’ll see their name and record, followed by a bit of an information download for them: AP poll rank where applicable, HerHoopStats.com ranking and NCAA RPI ranking as of Monday, December 23, along with leaders in the three primary offensive categories of points, rebounds, and assists. Each player’s rank on the Big East leaders chart is included where applicable for each statistic. After that, it’s each team’s best win and worst loss according to Her Hoop Stats again as of Monday morning. I would use the RPI, but the team sheet archive is currently broken. I’m not going to stand around doing nothing while the NCAA figures out how to operate Sharepoint effectively, so HHS will be a more than effective substitute.

We’ll talk about whatever’s important and relevant for each team after that, and much like Fight Club, discussions will go on as long as they have to. You may want to go get a beverage now, because this won’t be short.

Alrighty then, let’s dive in, going in alphabetical order....

Butler Bulldogs (8-3)

Her Hoop Stats Rating: #97
RPI Ranking: #112
Points Leader: Kristen Spolyar, 19.0 ppg (#2)
Rebounds Leader: Kristen Spolyar, 6.4 rpg (#11)
Assists Leader: Shae Brey, 2.5 apg
Best Win: vs #72 IUPUI, 64-61
Worst Loss: at #112 Ball State, 74-70

Considering that Butler lost their top two scorers, their top rebounder, and top assist woman from last year in their four woman senior class, the Bulldogs are having a pretty good start to this year’s campaign. They are, largely speaking, winning the games that they should win and losing the games that they would be expected to lose. Taking a loss at Ball State isn’t really a problem because Ball State is somehow 3-0 against the Big East already this season, and losing to Georgia on a neutral and Indiana at home is whatever. Getting waffled by Georgia is a different story, but if you’re head coach Kurt Godlevske, you can’t really worry about that part of it.

Butler is a defensively oriented team, coming in #51 in the country per HHS in points allowed per 100 possessions and #73 in terms of the HHS overall defensive metric. It appears that they could be a better offensive team if they wanted to get there. The Bulldogs are currently shooting 35.4% from three-point range as a team, led by Genesis Parker canning 49% of her 47 attempts on the season. However, Butler ranks just #175 in the country in terms of three-point attempt rate, or what percentage of their total shots come from behind the arc. Five of Butler’s regular rotation players are shooting better than 34% from outside so far this year, which is a significant strength for the squad that’s largely being ignored. Tori Schickel isn’t on this roster any more, so I’m not entirely sure why Godlevske is running a system that plays to her strengths or at the very least, hasn’t given the greenest of lights to Parker.

Creighton Bluejays (8-3)

Her Hoop Stats Rating: #55
RPI Ranking: #14
Points Leader: Jaylyn Agnew, 17.9 ppg (#4)
Rebounds Leader: Jaylyn Agnew, 6.4 rpg (#9)
Assists Leader: Tatum Rembao, 3.2 apg (T-#7)
Best Win: vs #35 Northern Iowa, 57-54
Worst Loss: at #78 Drake, 63-53

Here’s a weird stat for you: Creighton is 3-1 in Summit League play so far this season. Obviously, the Jays are in the Big East, but for whatever reasons — local-ish travel is probably part of it — they’ve played four games against teams in the SL, two home, two road. This is an interesting way to go about things. Two of the teams are top 100 in the HHS model, which is smart scheduling. Two of them are sub-250, which is not great scheduling, although going “on the road” to #266 Nebraska-Omaha is kind of creative.

All told, Creighton has played eight games against HHS top 100 competition, which is really helping their rating in that system, and you can see the carryover into the RPI as well. The question is how that will hold up once Summit League play kicks in. Three SL teams are top 120 in the RPI, which is good.... but the rest of the league is sub-200 with four teams at 270 or below. How will Creighton’s computer numbers hold up as the Summit League trends towards each other thanks to the strength of schedule numbers?

In terms of strengths and weaknesses, head coach Jim Flanery has the Bluejays leaning into one of their strengths. They’re just a little below the 33.3% mark in three-point shooting percentage, which is your effective field goal percentage breakeven point. That has them at #111 in the country, so that’s good. They’re also #18 in the country in terms of letting it fly, getting over 40% of their shots from behind the arc. Creighton’s three most important players — Jaylyn Agnew, Tatum Rembao, and Olivia Elger — are all shooting above 34% from outside, including a whopping 41.2% for Elger. When your top line players and veterans are the ones knocking down the shots, you’re doing pretty good for yourself.

The thing to watch out for with Creighton is that they don’t let you take three-pointers. They’re almost as good — #22 in the country vs their offense’s #18 ranking — at getting their opponents to take shots inside instead of outside. Now, that looks good, and given their proclivity to fire away from deep, trading twos for threes is generally a winning combination. However, Creighton is #230 in the country at two-point shooting defense. Part of teams not shooting many threes against them miiiiiiight just be a game plan oriented around the fact that you can score inside against them nearly at will.

DePaul Blue Demons (10-2)

AP Poll Ranking: #16
Her Hoop Stats Rating: #28
RPI Ranking: #8
Points Leader: Chante Stonewall, 18.1 ppg (#3)
Rebounds Leader: Kelly Campbell, 7.8 rpg (#5)
Assists Leader: Kelly Campbell, 6.0 apg (#1)
Best Win: at #17 Northwestern, 70-68
Worst Loss: at #7 Oregon State, 98-77

Doug Bruno has a crafty schedule for his Blue Demons to this point of the schedule, or at least a lucky one. His team has one loss on the road and one loss at home to teams that are currently projecting as #1 seeds in the NCAA tournament according to ESPN. That will go a long way towards carrying you to quality computer numbers when Selection Sunday rolls around, even with those showing up as losses in the record book.

I’m curious how long Kelly Campbell can keep up the rebounding numbers. With a team as talented as DePaul, she can probably keep dishing out assists at this rate if not even a little better as the season goes on. She’s only ranking #229 in the country in assist rate per Her Hoop Stats, so clearly there’s room for growth, even as she leads the league in per game numbers. However, she’s a 5’10” guard, so rebounding isn’t necessarily going to be her strength all season long. Then again, she already has four games with at least 10 rebounds, including doing it against Oregon State and UConn, the aforementioned projected top seeds. The reason why I’m curious to see if she can do it is because being top five in assists and rebounds in the league while running the show for the best team in the conference is a really good way to get Player of the Year votes, even if she’s not even scoring 10 points a game.

It appears that DePaul is a team that’s going to try to score you into the ground this season. They’re ranked #5 in the country in possessions per 40 minutes, and are #11 in Her Hoop Stats’ offensive metric. That’s a dangerous combination of pace and efficiency, and at that level of ability, slowing them down isn’t really going to help you all that much. However, they’re “only” #104 in HHS’ defensive metric. They aren’t really getting stops, ranking sub-320 in the defensive end for field goal percentage, two-point percentage, three-point percentage, and effective field goal percentage. They are literally the fifth worst eFG% in the country, and on the rare occasion when their opponent doesn’t put the ball in the net, DePaul’s letting them get a second chance, as they rank #274 per HHS in defensive rebounding rate. Hence the need to score a ton and add possessions to the game. The more shots they get up, the more they can put on the board, and that balances out for their weakness on the other end.

Georgetown Hoyas (3-8)

Her Hoop Stats Rating: #194
RPI Ranking: #238
Points Leader: Taylor Barnes, 11.4 ppg (#17)
Rebounds Leader: Anita Kelava, 6.5 rpg (#8)
Assists Leader: Taylor Barnes, 2.3 apg
Best Win: at #220 Pittsburgh, 66-56
Worst Loss: at #186 George Washington, 52-49

So, yeah, Georgetown’s bad, and I’m already scared to death that James Howard has a weird ability to counter Megan Duffy just like he did against Carolyn Kieger.

Remember when we talked about Creighton’s weird Summit League schedule? Georgetown did the same thing this season, except with the Atlantic 10, and they scheduled not good teams in the A-10. The Hoyas are 0-4 in those games, including a 14 point road loss in their opener to Davidson (now 6-5 on the year) and a road loss to Fordham (now 6-5) back on December 8th.

Part of all of this was expected, as Georgetown lost their only three players averaging more than five points per game from last year due to the end of their eligibility. Howard is trying to paper over this with two graduate transfers in Brianna Jones and Taylor Barnes, but those two are his top two scorers right now, and the only ones averaging more than six seven points per game. I mean, y’know, yay for letting them prosper and whatever, but all this is going to do is create a situation next year where the Hoyas still don’t have any reliable scoring options heading into the campaign. Even worse, this is happening while Georgetown is actively bad, too. If they were actively bad with sophomores Nikola Kovacikova and Tayanna Jones leading the scoring, or at least being neck-and-neck with Barnes and Brianna Jones, you could say there’s long range planning here. That’s not the case.

The good news, as far as good news goes when haven’t won any of your three home games yet this season, is that Georgetown isn’t beating themselves. I mean, yeah, they’re a bad shooting team — #320 in the country in effective field goal percentage — but that’s missing, not making mistakes. The Hoyas rank #24 in the country in turnover rate, with less than 16% of their possessions ending in a turnover. They’re not giving games away, and when you’re maximizing your ability to get shots up, you’re always going to be at least a little bit dangerous.

Marquette Golden Eagles (9-2)

Her Hoop Stats Rating: #52
RPI Ranking: #49
Points Leader: Selena Lott, 14.9 ppg (#9)
Rebounds Leader: Altia Anderson, 6.7 rpg (#7)
Assists Leader: Selena Lott, 5.6 apg (#2)
Best Win: at #69 Saint Mary’s, 77-63
Worst Loss: vs #17 Northwestern, 64-56 (OT)

I’ve already said a lot of things on these digital pages about how Megan Duffy’s first two months as Marquette head coach have been pretty much an unqualified success. If you want to nitpick about style or about the need to win ugly, that’s fine, but you can’t really argue with a 9-2 record with both losses against top 20 opponents and both were competitive late.

We’ve already talked a lot about Marquette here and we’ll talk a lot more as the season goes on, so I’ll add something new to the discussion. As of Monday morning, ESPN’s Charlie Creme has the Golden Eagles as one of his last four teams in the NCAA tournament. They’re one of three Big East teams in the field along with DePaul and Creighton.

Providence Friars (9-3)

Her Hoop Stats Rating: #71
RPI Ranking: #64
Points Leader: Mary Baskerville, 13.3 ppg (T-#13)
Rebounds Leader: Mary Baskerville, 8.4 rpg (#2)
Assists Leader: Earlette Scott, 3.2 apg (T-#11)
Best Win: vs #45 Boston College, 76-60
Worst Loss: vs #112 Ball State on a neutral floor, 52-51

When Jim Crowley took over the Friars’ program in 2016, they had just wrapped up their sixth straight losing season, and 22nd losing season in their last 23 years. No, seriously. Crowley suffered through three more losing seasons in his first three at PC, but last year, the Friars went 19-16. It was their first winning season since 2009-10. They haven’t had back-to-back winning seasons since Bob Foley went 26-6 and 21-9 in 1990-91 and 1991-92, and yet, Crowley seems to have his team well on the path to doing exactly that here this season. It’s really remarkable as to what he’s accomplishing here.

They have had a couple of stumbles since the calendar flipped to December. After ripping off five straight wins to start the season, their first game of December was technically their season opener. The road game against Yale had to be suspended due to a scoreboard malfunction at halftime, and when it resumed on December 3rd, Yale rallied in the final 20 minutes for the win and PC’s first loss of the year. After three more wins, the Friars were tripped up on back-to-back days by New Mexico and Ball State in an event hosted by the Lobos. Providence closed out that Lobo Invitational with a low scoring win over Loyola Marymount to get to 8-3 heading into their league opener on Sunday.

Providence is going to be a tough out all over the league calendar this season. They currently rank #34 in the country in points allowed per game, #26 in points allowed per 100 possessions per Her Hoop Stats, and the HHS defensive metric as them as the #43 team in the country on that end of the floor. A lot of this can be attributed to Mary Baskerville. The 6’3” sophomore from Connecticut has the 6th best defensive rebounding rate in the country as well as the 6th best block rate in the country. The blocks are a big reason why Providence is allowing teams to shoot just 36.4% on two-point shots, the 16th best defensive mark in the country, and the rebounds are why the Friars are the 30th best defensive rebounding team in the country. They end possessions with a ferocity, and that’s something that every team has to take notice of this year.

St. John’s Red Storm (7-4)

Her Hoop Stats Rating: #51
RPI Ranking: #55
Points Leader: Qadashah Hoppie, 16.2 ppg (#7)
Rebounds Leader: Kadaja Bailey, 6.0 rpg (#13)
Assists Leader: Tiana England, 5.0 apg (#3)
Best Win: vs #58 Wake Forest, 82-74
Worst Loss: at #188 UNLV, 79-75 (OT)

That UNLV loss is going to eat at St. John’s all season, isn’t it? Remember this is the team that got Doug Bruno’s vote as preseason favorite in the Big East, as he couldn’t vote for his own DePaul team. The Johnnies led by nine at one point in the second quarter, trailed by as many as seven at one point in the third, and eventually held a two point advantage with 29 seconds to go when Kadaja Bailey scored. It looked like SJU was about ready to hold on to win, but the Rebels grabbed not one but two offensive rebounds in the final 11 seconds to score and tie the game. Obviously OT did not go their way, and thus the Red Storm get a candidate for the worst loss in the Big East this season. As you can obviously see from the rest of this article, it’s not going to win, but it’s up there, and that’s a bit of a drag on what’s otherwise been a pretty solid non-conference campaign for Joe Tartamella’s squad.

Now, if you want to give them an excuse, you could point out that Alisha Kebbe missed that game for the Johnnies, as well as the three previous contests as well. The senior from Philadelphia averaged 10.7 points and 5.1 rebounds for St. John’s last season, but her minutes are way down from last year, as is her production at 6.3 points and 5.7 rebounds. Quite honestly, that’s probably good news as a whole for St. John’s. The Red Storm were essentially going with a seven woman lineup last year, but Tartamella has nine women getting at least 11 minutes per game on average this season. Kebbe is the only regular that has missed time this year, so it’s a pretty solid representation of the coaching staff’s intention for their rotations.

St. John’s seems to be afflicted by the same problem as Butler. The Red Storm rank #20 in the country in three-point shooting percentage, connecting on over 37% of their attempts as a team. Six of the SJU regulars shoot better than 35% from long range, including an absolutely ridiculous 52.2% from redshirt senior transfer Alissa Alston. In fact, it’s Alston that draws St. John’s affliction into sharp relief. Her season high for long range attempts is three, and she averages just 2.1 tries. That’s St. John’s whole deal, as just 28% of their shots emanate from behind the arc, a rate that ranks just 173rd in the country. The team has one of the most potent strengths in the country, and for whatever reason, the coaching staff is handcuffing the offense. To make it worse, they’re kind of a crummy interior defense team (#266 two-point defense), so you’d think that hucking up a few more threes per game would help balance that out.

Seton Hall Pirates (7-4)

Her Hoop Stats Rating: #39
RPI Ranking: #71
Points Leader: Desiree Elmore, 16.0 ppg (#8)
Rebounds Leader: Desiree Elmore, 7.9 rpg (#4)
Assists Leader: Lauren Park-Lane, 4.0 apg (#5)
Best Win: vs #46 Vanderbilt on a neutral floor, 69-65
Worst Loss: at #133 Lehigh, 75-68

I don’t know about you, but I was shocked to see that Shadeen Samuels, the preseason Big East Player of the Year, was not leading this team in scoring. In fact, she’s not even second. Remember, Samuels led the league in scoring a year ago, making her the obvious pick for preseason POY. However, Samuels played just three minutes in SHU’s fourth game of the year and then missed the next four. That will tend to put a dent in things, but not quite “go from 20 points per game to just 12.3 per game” even after scoring only two against Princeton before departing.

In her stead, preseason all-conference honoree Desiree Elmore is leading the way. Quite honestly, this isn’t surprising. Elmore was a top 60 prospect out of high school, but missed all of the 2017-18 season due to injury before transferring from Syracuse to Seton Hall. The 5’10” guard from Connecticut is living up to the hype at this point as one of the best all-around players in the league so far this season.

The Lehigh road loss came without Samuels in the lineup, as did two of Seton Hall’s other losses. It’s worth mentioning that both of those were to teams ranked in the top 20 according to Her Hoop Stats’ metrics. The fourth was at home against Connecticut, and that one was a four point game at the half and only six with 10 minutes to go. It’ll be a cold day in hell before I say “giving Connecticut fits for 30 minutes” was a bad thing.

Anyway, the point is that Seton Hall’s 7-4 record is kind of misleading in terms of what they are at full power. They’re a very good team on both ends of the floor and particularly good on the defensive end. Head coach Tony Bozzella has them playing at a very quick pace this season, and part of that is because they rank #19 in the country in steal rate and #19 in defensive turnover rate. If you’re not careful with the ball, the Pirates are going to be going the other way in a hurry.

Villanova Wildcats (5-5)

Her Hoop Stats Rating: #151
RPI Ranking: #110
Points Leader: Madison Siegrist, 22.0 ppg (#1)
Rebounds Leader: Madison Siegrist, 8.0 rpg (#3)
Assists Leader: Mary Gedaka, Bridget Herlihy, & Cameron Onken, 3.2 apg (T-#7)
Best Win: at #48 Georgia, 63-58
Worst Loss: at #213 American, 76-54

So it would seem that Harry Perretta will not be going out on a high note. Before the season started, Villanova announced that Perretta, the longest tenured head coach in the Big East, would retire following this season. His team rewarded him following this announcement by losing their first three games, including the first two at home and that loss to American that qualifies as their worst loss of the season.

The highlight so far this season has clearly been 6’1” freshman forward Madison Siegrist. She’s currently leading the Big East in scoring and in her free time, she’s also the third best rebounder. That’s wild. She’s #190 in the country in effective field goal percentage, #287 in turnover rate, and just inside the top 500 in offensive rebounding rate. This raises the question of why she redshirted for the 2018-19 season, as the Wildcats went 19-13 with a 9-9 record in Big East play and went to the WNIT. I feel like she could have made a difference there.

Villanova is, weirdly, the inverse of Butler and St. John’s. They are a bad three-point shooting team (28.2%, #249 in the country) that ranks #15 in the nation in terms of how much they rely on the three as part of the offense. They’re taking nearly 26 threes per game while averaging about 67 possessions per 40 minutes. That’s bonkers when you consider that they’re not very good at this. Honestly, it seems that their real problem is that the wrong people are shooting the three-balls. Bridget Herlihy is shooting 19% on 42 attempts, Raven James is at 20% on 35 attempts, and Cameron Onken is at 17% on 29 attempts. That is very bad, especially when you consider that Siegrist is dropping in 38% of her team high 58 attempts.

Xavier Musketeers (1-10)

Her Hoop Stats Rating: #191
RPI Ranking: #247
Points Leader: A’riana Gray, 13.3 ppg (#13)
Rebounds Leader: A’riana Gray, 10.4 rpg (#1)
Assists Leader: Aaliyah Dunham, 4.1 apg (#4)
Only Win: vs #93 Utah, 70-63
Worst Loss: vs #269 Eastern Kentucky, 56-55

It has been all down hill for first year head coach Melanie Moore. That win over top 100 Utah came in the very first game of the season. That’s a pretty good win for a debut, but as it’s their only win, the Musketeers have suffered 10 straight losses since then. Losing at Temple in their next game wasn’t the worst thing ever, but at Rider and at Ball State? in the next two? The writing was on the wall that Xavier had a problem, and it just kept getting worse from there.

It hasn’t been a personnel issue for Xavier, at least not in terms of availability. Nine women have played in all 11 games for them. A’riana Gray is not one of them, but she missed just two of Xavier’s losses, at Ball State and at home to Wright State. She’s been in the lineup for the last six contests. Na’Teshia Owens was a reliable commodity for Xavier last season, ranking #91 in the country in assist rate, but she played in only the first six games this year, and even then, she didn’t play all that much. That probably explains to a certain degree why she’s not on the Xavier roster any more. I’m guessing on that one, because I can’t find anything at all to explain her absence, and the Google Search result for her own Xavier bio page comes back to a 404 error.

Still, though, Xavier has had a mostly reliable rotation this year, and it’s just not turning into wins at all. That loss to Eastern Kentucky is perhaps the best example of Xavier’s problems this season, as the Colonels wiped out a 15 point Musketeers lead at the start of the fourth quarter. FUN FACT: Marquette freshman Claire Kaifes has an older sister named Catie that plays for that EKU team.

Somehow, I feel that Xavier is not going to finish ahead of Marquette in the Big East standings as anticipated in the preseason coaches’ poll.