At the absolute earliest, you’re reading this as the final regular season game of the Big East women’s basketball calendar tips off. Why are Xavier and Seton Hall playing a game in Cincinnati two days after the rest of the league ended their season? Who knows, although “a COVID reschedule” is our most likely explanation.
In any case, the league is ending the regular season today and the Big East tournament starts on Friday. That means we’ve got a limited window between now and when the league office announces awards at the end of the season, and I learned a long time ago to over-anticipate when they’ll pull the trigger on these announcements.
We’ll make a pick — really a prediction of how the coaches will vote, I try to figure out how they like to vote and go in that direction — for Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, Coach of the Year, and a five woman all-conference team.
Big East Player of the Year: Maddy Siegrist, Villanova Wildcats
I’m pretty sure I just made someone angry.
Look, here’s the deal. Siegrist set the conference record for scoring average and if she had actually played in all 19 of Nova’s Big East games, she would have broken the point total record because she fell four points short. She’s leading the Big East in scoring by five full points per game, and she’s second in the league in rebounding, too as one of just two players to average north of eight caroms a contest. Siegrist took home four Big East Player of the Week honors during the season, more than anyone else in the league, and for two of those, she was also recognized as the USBWA National Player of the Week. This seems like an easy pick, and if you want to shout about it, that’s what the comments section is for.
Big East Freshman of the Year: Aneesah Morrow, DePaul Blue Demons
Look, these things aren’t hard. The Big East handed out 14 Freshman of the Week awards this season. Aneesah Morrow got 13 of them. The end. The fact that she’s second in the league in scoring (one of only two averaging more than 20 per game) and tops in rebounding (the only player north of 10 per game and she’s at 14.0) is merely icing on the cake to make the point here. Oh, and she leads the Big East in steals. Oh, and she set Big East freshman records for scoring and rebounding, both total and average, and broke the Big East record for rebounding in a season, and set a single game record for rebounds and a freshman single game record for scoring. Oh, and she’s the only Big East player who’s a finalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. C’mon, what are we doing here?
Honestly, if she gets votes for Player of the Year, I’m not going to shout about it. I don’t know if the 4th place team’s best player should be POY, but the argument there clearly is “they’re not fourth without her.”
Big East Coach Of The Year: Geno Auriemma, Connecticut Huskies
There are very clear and obvious cases for both Denise Dillon at Villanova (picked 5th, finished second, beat UConn at UConn) and Jim Flanery at Creighton (picked 6th, finished third, was running in second place to the Huskies most of the year). If one of them gets this award, I’m not going to jump up and down about it. Well deserved.
But for me, the best coaching job in the entire conference was Geno’s management of his roster this season. UConn has played 27 games this season as of this writing. Two players — Aaliyah Edwards and Evina Westbrook — have played in all 27. Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa are the only Huskies to start in more than 20 games, and both only played in 24 games along the way. The Huskies have gotten just 16 games worth of action from Azzi Fudd, the #1 high school prospect in the country coming into the season. Paige Bueckers, a shoo-in for Preseason Player of the Year and a preseason candidate for national Player of the Year honors, suffered an injury just six games into the season and did not play again until this past weekend.
And UConn is 22-5, Big East champs yet once again at 16-1, and it wasn’t close. Even with the Huskies only playing 17 league games and suffering their first league loss since before their AAC sabbatical started, no one else in the league had fewer than four losses. They ran away with the league, and Auriemma did it by stapling a roster together game by game. Frickin’ crazy.
All-Big East Team
Aneesah Morrow, DePaul
Lauren Park-Lane, Seton Hall
Emma Ronsiek, Creighton
Maddy Siegrist, Villanova
Christyn Williams, UConn
Last year, the Big East announced a 10 woman First Team and then had the temerity to announce a Second Team after that. Completely insane behavior. Five players on the floor, five players on the All-Big East team here.
Siegrist obviously goes on the team. I said I wouldn’t be bothered by Morrow getting POY votes, so she has to go in here. There has to be at least one UConn player in here, so I’m going with leading scorer Christyn Williams, plus Williams has the bonus effect of being the most stabilizing force of that wildly changing UConn starting lineup.
Creighton has had a spectacular season, and that needs to be recognized with one of the five spots. Emma Ronsiek leads the Jays in scoring and rebounding, plus she’s top six in the league in shooting percentage in the league and top nine in blocks, too.
That leaves one spot. I went with Lauren Park-Lane from Seton Hall. She’s fourth in the Big East in scoring and tops in assists as the only player averaging over seven assists per game. Putting LPL on the five woman team gives that list three of the top four scorers in the conference, as we’re skipping over DePaul’s Sonya Morris in third because fourth place DePaul does not deserve two spots on this list.
I think there’s an argument for SHU’s Sidney Cooks for the fifth spot (#7 in scoring, #4 in rebounding, #4 in blocks). You could try to squint and see a case for Janai Crooms from Providence (#13 in scoring, #6 in rebounding, #9 in assists, #5 in blocks) but I think PC’s record stands in her way. If you wanted to make a list of just women from the top five teams, that would mean wedging a Marquette player in front of Park-Lane in the pecking order. Between Marquette’s pace holding down their counting stats and the Golden Eagles doing things as a collective (four players averaging 10 points a game, no one in the top 13 in the league) more than having an obvious all-league candidate, I can’t bring myself to totally homer the thing and shove someone in there, not with LPL leading the Big East in assists while doing all that scoring, too. Lauren Van Kleunen (#14 in scoring, #10 in rebounds) would be the best possible pick if you really wanted to do it, though.