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2021-22 Big East Women’s Basketball Team Preview: Butler

The Bulldogs were not good last season, and now they have to deal with multiple departures from that roster.

Duke University vs Butler University, 2010 Carquest Auto Parts Classic Getty Images

Team: Butler Bulldogs

2020-21 Record: 3-17, 3-15 Big East

2020-21 Big East Finish: 10th, one win ahead of last place Georgetown, but two losses behind them

Final 2020-21 Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #325 out of 343 teams

Postseason? Lol, no, unless you count their 63-61 loss to Providence in the Big East tournament.

Key Departures: There’s a lot of them.

Butler has lost four of their top five scorers that played in at least 12 games last season as well as one player who was in the top six in terms of scoring average who played in two games in December before opting out for COVID reasons. Okako Adika led the team in scoring at 13.8 per game and added 5.7 rebounds per game in her one season at Butler before departing for TCU. Upe Atosu averaged 11.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game in her second season with the Bulldogs before bouncing to Colorado State for her COVID bonus season. Jaia Alexander had a rough go of it at Butler, going through a redshirt transfer year after coming over from Clemson and a year lost to injury, but still chipped in 9.4 points and a team high 7.2 rebounds last year before heading to Coppin State for her extra year.

Naira Caceres (6.0 points, 4.5 rebounds) is the player that opted out of her redshirt senior season, and she appears to just be done with college hoops. That does it for notable contributors, I think, but there’s still more departures: Nyamer Diew (10 starts, 5.3 points, 2.9 rebounds) is at Iowa State now, Annilla Dawn (four starts) is at Oklahoma City University after jumping up to BU from junior college for one year, and Micah Scheetz (10 starts, 4.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists) also appears to be done with college hoops after playing a grad transfer year at Butler in 2020-21.

Key Returners: Genesis Parker is your returning leading scorer after going for 12.7 per game a year ago. She’s also the leading returning rebounder..... at 2.7 per game...... and the leading assist woman at 1.1 per game. Like I said, there were a lot of departures, so perhaps a lot is going to end up going through the 5’8” Virginia native this season.

Tenley Dowell (6’0”, 4.9 points, 2.2 rebounds) returns after being the only Bulldog to appear in all 20 games last season. Ellen Ross (5’11”, 2.0 points, 2.2 rebounds) didn’t contribute much on the scoresheet but she did play in 19 games and average over 16 minutes a night and that’s something for BU at this point. The same can be said for Emillia Sexton (17 games, 15.7 minutes, 3.5 points, 1.4 rebounds), and yes, we’re really reaching for key returning players here.

We’ll call Jamilyn Robinson (5’10” guard) and Oumou Toure (5’11” guard) returning players, but they’re both big question marks for this season. Robinson opted out of the entire 2020-21 campaign for COVID reasons after operating as a deep bench option only for the Bulldogs in her first two seasons in Indianapolis. Toure spent last season injured, but was second on the team in scoring (9.1/game) and rebounding (6.1/game) as a freshman in 2019-20.

Key Additions: Uh, no one?

Don’t get me wrong, they have new faces, eight of them in fact. Five are true freshmen, but only two of them are even mentioned by Blue Star Basketball as commits and neither one is a top 200 prospect.

Let’s turn our attention then, to Butler’s three incoming transfers. Celena Taborn (6’3” forward) played four years at Furman and averaged 8.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season while started in 23 of 25 appearances. Kendall Wingler (5’10” guard) spent her first season of college hoops at Eastern Kentucky last year and started in 22 of 24 games with 10.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. Finally, there’s Aussie Kate Tanner (6’2” forward), who was at Miles Community College in Montana of all places last season. She averaged 7.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game while appearing in all 26 games.

Coach: Kurt Godlevske, entering his eighth season at Butler and as a Division 1 head coach. He has a record of 90-117.

Outlook: Probably really bad?

Butler was not a good basketball team by any stretch of the imagination last season. Not having anyone start all 20 games and having only one person start more than 16 probably had a lot to do with that though, and I’m just going to presume that COVID had a lot to do with all of that. Maybe the Bulldogs can just take last season and just throw it in the trash and forget about it.

However, while maybe that’s the case, Godlevske is now dealing with a roster that is either completely unfamiliar with playing for him or merely wildly inexperienced at actually being on the court in a game for him. No matter how you slice it, Butler is staring down the barrel of pretty much everyone on this team needing to play a bigger role than they did last year. That starts most prominently with Genesis Parker, who at least was second on the team in scoring last year and has two years of lots of experience playing in Butler’s system. She’s going to be asked to do a lot on this team, especially in the early going, because there is just no one else that appears immediately ready to help her.

Maybe Oumou Toure is healthy and ready to jump back into things.... but maybe she’s not. Maybe Celena Taborn is ready to apply her all-SoCon level performances on the court here and she can be relied on to contribute.... or maybe the Big East is too much for her. Maybe Ross and Sexton can take their on-court minutes from last year and turn that into a good knowledge base from which to become big contributors..... or maybe what they were last year is what they are as college players. Maybe one (or more?) of the freshmen will turn out to be exactly what this team needs and make a big impact..... or maybe some of them will have to be thrown to the wolves out of the gate because Butler just needs bodies that can play and it doesn’t go well for them.

Or maybe losing almost all of the notable contributors on a bad team and starting over is a net positive for Butler. Seems unlikely, as the best basketball is usually played by teams with continuity playing with each other, but weirder things have happened, I suppose.