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2023-24 Big East Women’s Basketball Summer Check-In: Butler Bulldogs

The Bulldogs went from Awful to Normal Bad in Austin Parkinson’s first season. Can they get better after losing half of their minutes played from last year?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 21 Womens Butler at UConn
Sydney Jaynes is Butler’s leading returning scorer.
Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Team: Butler Bulldogs

2022-23 Record: 11-19, 6-14 Big East

2022-23 Big East Finish: Tied for 8th with Georgetown, won the conference tournament tiebreaker by way of a 2-0 season series sweep over the Hoyas

Final 2022-23 Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #183

Postseason? Only a loss to Georgetown on the first day of the Big East tournament.

Key Departures: Butler was not an offensive powerhouse last season, so the loss of Rachel McLimore will be felt. She led the team in scoring at 11.0 per game, the only player in double digits, and she also topped the chart in assists at 2.4 per game. McLimore was also one of BU’s most effective long range shooters, knocking down 39% of her attempts. The good news attached to her departure is that last season was her fifth and final season of eligibility, so that was a problem that the coaching staff anticipated all along.

After McLimore, I don’t know if any of the four rotation players that are now gone are truly irreplaceable losses. It’s just not super great to be losing as many minutes as Butler is losing with these women departing. Jessica Carrothers is the wildest departure, as she was originally committed to play for Austin Parkinson at IUPUI before he took the Butler job and was the Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior in Indiana..... and after averaging 7.5 points 2.4 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 25 appearances with 19 starts as a freshman, she’s now at Indiana University Northwest, which is an NAIA outfit. Yep.

Shay Frederick and Kelsy Taylor were both bonus season players last year, just like McLimore, so again: It was a known issue for the coaching staff going into the year. Frederick averaged 3.8 points in 19 minutes a game for Butler, while Taylor played in all 30 games for nearly 13 minutes a night, averaging 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds. Tenley Dowell is a grad transfer out of town after four years in Indianapolis. Not ideal perhaps, but there’s not much you can do about a player wanting to grad transfer. Dowell saw action in all 30 games last season for more than 18 minutes a night, but averaged just 4.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.

Key Returners: After McLimore, Butler does return three of their next four scorers. Sydney Jaynes came in second on the scoring list at 9.8 per game, and her 4.1 rebounds was the best average on the team. Anna Mortag was right behind Jaynes in scoring at 7.6 points and even closer on the rebounding list at 4.0 per game. Caroline Strande rounds out the trio that I’m highlighting here at 7.3 points per game and tying Mortag for #2 on the rebounding chart. Jaynes was a starter every single night for Butler, while Mortag and Strande started 21 and 11 times respectively.

Jordan Meulemans started 15 times in 26 appearances as a freshman, which is pretty good. Kendall Wingler saw her playing time fall after the coaching change, but she was still a rotation piece at 11.8 minutes per game in 24 games with two starts. Nothing I’m putting in his section is bowling you over in terms of “ah yes, the league needs to watch out for these women after one year in this coaching system.”

Key Additions: Butler has two inbound transfers this season. Rachel Kent (5’11”, Guard/Forward, Des Plaines, Illinois) is the clear leader of the two after averaging 12.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.3 assists for IUPUI last season. She transferred from Saint Louis in 2021 to play for Austin Parkinson, and now she’s moving across town to play for him again for her bonus season of eligibility. Lilly Stoddard (6’4”, Forward, Crown Point, Indiana) is the other transfer, and I’m mentioning her because any transfer is always worth mentioning.... but she played 16 minutes in six games as a freshman for Purdue last year. Now she’s at Butler, where older sister Abby is on the roster with 166 total career minutes played, including zero appearances last season. I want to say that anyone who is 6’4” should be able to make an impact in the Big East, but this may be a wait and see situation.

There are three freshmen on the roster as well, all from the state of Indiana. Blue Star Basketball doesn’t highlight any of them, but Butler’s own internal bios note that Karsyn Norman (5’6”, Guard, Bedford, Indiana) was the #6 prospect in Indiana per Prep Girls Hoops, while Riley Makalusky (6’2”, Guard/Forward, Fishers, Indiana) was one spot behind Norman for the Class of 2023.

Coach: Austin Parkinson, entering his second season at Butler and 13th as a Division 1 head coach. He has an overall record of 235-160.

Outlook: At a gut instinct level, I know it’s hard to look at an 11-19 season with a 6-14 conference record along with a sub-150 Her Hoop Stats ranking and say that this was a good season. However, context is always key, and the context here tells us that Austin Parkinson’s first season at Butler was a tremendous success.

Butler won a combined four total games in the two seasons before Parkinson took over, including just one in 2021-22.

Butler won a combined three Big East games in the two seasons before Parkinson took over, including an 0-18 in 2021-22.

As such, Year One for Parkinson was a tremendous success, no matter how you want to look at it. +10 in the overall win column, +6 in the Big East win column. I don’t care what their flaws or strengths may or may not have been, the Bulldogs won ball games, something that has been very hard for them to do since the 2020-21 season started. Thumbs up, no further discussion.

The question now becomes where do the Bulldogs go from there?

Butler is replacing 48% of their minutes from last season just in the five women I mentioned above as Key Departures. As mentioned up there, a lot of that was a planned situation as three of the five were on their bonus seasons of eligibility. It’s not what you’d like to see, but at least Parkinson and his staff knew what they were doing when they were running the team through those women.

Bringing Rachel Kent over from IUPUI is a pretty good plan to try to replace Rachel McLimore’s impact on the team, so that’s good news. But that’s about it for good news here. Bringing back Jaynes, Mortag, and Strande is a good spot to build your team, but it’s not like they were lighting the world on fire last season. If they were, Butler would have been better than 11-19. Can they take steps forward? Can they do more than they were doing last year now that they’ve got a handle on playing together as well as playing for Parkinson? Are the freshmen able to step in and give them positive minutes and help build the future of the program? Is Lilly Stoddard a force to be reckoned with just waiting to be unleashed after coming out of high school as a top 100 prospect?

I like that Butler was much improved in Parkinson’s first season in charge. The fact of the matter is that they still have a long way to go.