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2023-24 Big East Women’s Basketball Summer Check-In: Creighton Bluejays

Jim Flanery’s team has done big things the past two seasons, can they make a historic leap for the program this coming winter?

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament Quarterfinals-Creighton vs Seton Hall
Lauren Jensen and the Bluejays have a chance to make program history this season.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Creighton Bluejays

2022-23 Record: 22-9, 15-5 Big East

2022-23 Big East Finish: Third, two games behind Villanova and two games ahead of a tie for fourth place.

Final 2022-23 Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #23

Postseason? The Bluejays lost to Villanova in the conference tournament semifinals, earned a #6 seed in the NCAA tournament, but were then upset by #11 seed Mississippi State, 81-66, in the first round.

Key Departures: Two, but only one regular starter. Rachael Saunders played in 25 games this past season, starting 24 times. She averaged 7.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per game, leading the team in that last category while playing just a bit over 25 minutes a night. Saunders also led the team in three point shooting percentage by a wide margin, knocking down over 47% of her attempts when no one else on the roster was north of 39%. Weirdly, it was only on 1.5 attempts per game, but it’s clear that her prowess helped push Creighton to ranking #24 in the country in three-point shooting percentage.

The other departure that we have to note is Carly Bachelor, who had her role on the team change last season. After starting in all 33 appearances in 2021-22, Bachelor played in all 31 games but started just eight times. Interestingly, her minutes per game went ever so slightly up, going from 20.3 to 21.8 last season. As you’d expect, her stats portray her as someone playing a role off the bench for the squad: 5.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 36% from long range.

Key Returners: Other than Saunders and Bachelor, if there’s a Creighton player that you remember from last season, they’re coming back. Lauren Jensen, Emma Ronsiek, and Morgan Maly all scored at least 14 points per game for the Bluejays in 2022-23, and they’ll all be back again after starting in every CU game. Jensen was the top scorer on the team at 16.1 per game and she tied for the lead in assists at 3.5 a night as well, while Maly was the top rebounder at 6.2 per game. Ronsiek came into the season as the most notable player on the roster, but either because she was drawing attention or just because sometimes things go like that, she found herself more part of an ensemble: #3 in scoring, #2 in rebounding, #3 in assists.

Molly Mogensen was the player who tied with Jensen for the team lead in assists, falling even at 3.5 per game along with 7.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and a steal. She was the last part of the core six in Creighton’s rotation, but that’s just the players that were carrying the bulk of the minutes. The Bluejays went much deeper than that pretty much every night, with four more players appearing in at least 27 games and averaging at least eight minutes a night. All four of that group — Mallory Brake, Jayme Horan, Kiani Lockett, and Kennedy Townsend — return for Creighton, and you’d have to imagine that two of them will end up finding a way into the Saunders and Bachelor spots in the rotation this winter.

Key Additions: There’s only one new face on the roster, so by default, McKayla Miller is notable. The 6’1” guard from Cimmarron, Kansas, was the top prospect in her home state for the Class of 2023, and Prospects Nation gives her a Top 150 stamp of approval.

Coach: Jim Flanery, entering his 22nd season at Creighton and overall as a Division 1 head coach. He has a record of 401-262.

Outlook: In 2022, Jim Flanery did something that no other human being has ever done. He coached Creighton to not only the program’s first ever Sweet 16, but the program’s first ever Elite Eight as well.

By taking the Bluejays back to the NCAA tournament in 2023, Flanery did something that no other human being has ever done. He guided Creighton to a second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. Flanery is the only coach in CU history to accomplish that, as he was the first one to do it when the Jays went to the tourney in both 2012 and 2013. He did it again in 2017 and 2018. Heck, their first round exit against Mississippi State was the first time since 2012, his first ever appearance in the national championship tournament, that Flanery did not win a game in said tournament.

In 2023, Flanery has the chance to do something that no human being has ever done yet again. Creighton has never qualified for the NCAA tournament in three consecutive seasons. That’s not dancing around technicalities either, as the Bluejays missed in both 2019 and 2021, so no tournament in 2020 doesn’t muck up the timeline here. Flanery has 2012 and 2013, followed by 2017 and 2018, and now 2022 and 2023, waiting for a third entry to be appended onto the streak.

There is no reason why this should not happen.

Yes, Carly Bachelor and Rachael Saunders were key components of not only Creighton’s 15-5 Big East run this past season, but their same 15-5 run in 2022 as well. Figuring out how to replace them is clearly the #1 issue facing Flanery and his staff right now.

But it’s not that big of an issue. Not quite “good problems to have,” of course, but it’s in that direction more than there are red flags facing the program in the immediate future. The four-pack of Jensen, Maly, Mogensen, and Ronsiek are going to be able to do a lot of heavy lifting — just like they did last year anyway — to carry the team to where it wants to go. Replacing Bachelor and Saunders in the rotation is more of a question of who is the best fit to play with those four at any given moment than it is anything else. Heck, Creighton’s issues of figuring that rotation replacement out aren’t even that big of a deal, because they have two redshirt freshmen sitting on the bench that I didn’t even mention as key returning players since, y’know, not playing at all means you weren’t a key part of last year’s performance.

Creighton doesn’t need to worry about who’s going to step up and score, they don’t need to worry about who’s going to rebound, they don’t need to worry about who’s going to hit big shots in big spots. They don’t even have to worry that much about defending the ball, because Her Hoop Stats had them at #58 last season and a quick check of Hoop Explorer shows that neither Bachelor nor Saunders were propping up the defense. They can play Creighton Bluejays Let It Fly Basketball and expect to have a historic season if they do what they do best.