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Big East Women’s Basketball Preview 2021-22: UConn & Friends

Big East women’s basketball will welcome back some great players and teams from last season, including UConn, which is entering its second season back in the conference. The Huskies are a household name coming off an impeccable campaign – they went 18-0 in Big East play and reached yet another Final Four.

In 2021-22, UConn will return Big East Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year Paige Bueckers, and that alone gives the Huskies the best odds to walk away with the conference’s women’s basketball crown yet again. But the competition will be more fierce this time around.

Seton Hall and DePaul return some of their top players from 2020-21, all of whom have seen immense success. Sonya Morris and Lexi Held for the Blue Demons and Andra Espinoza-Hunter and 2021 Big East Most Improved Player Lauren Park-Lane for the Pirates will play big roles in making the Big East one of the most exciting conferences in women’s college basketball.

Big East Women’s Basketball Preview 2021-22: UConn & Friends

The Favorites: Connecticut, Seton Hall, DePaul

Connecticut

Head coach: Geno Auriemma (36th season)

2020-21 record: 28-2 (18-0 in Big East)

Conference finish: 1st

The Huskies went undefeated in their first season back in the Big East, and it didn’t look like much had changed as head coach and Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma continued to lead UConn to unbelievable success.

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You shouldn’t expect this season to be much different. UConn is returning its top-five scorers, including Big East Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year Paige Bueckers. She alone is phenomenal and make the Huskies one of the favorites for the Big East women’s basketball throne, but when you add in Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa as well, the talent becomes overwhelming.

UConn advanced to the Final Four in 2021, falling to Arizona, 69-59, one game away from the national championship contest. On paper, the Huskies should be national title favorites with the amount of talent and minutes they’re bringing back, not to mention the guy they have roaming the sideline.

Seton Hall

Head coach: Anthony Bozzella (9th season)

2020-21 record: 14-7 (12-5 in Big East)

Conference finish: 3rd

The Pirates had a solid season in 2020-21, but it wasn’t enough to make the postseason. Creighton knocked Seton Hall out in the first round of the Big East Tournament, the team’s second loss to the Bluejays. But things should be different in 2021-22.

Seton Hall will be one of the few teams in the league that might be able to give UConn a run for its money. The Pirates have all of their top scorers returning, including Andra Espinoza-Hunter, who averaged 18.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last year, plus a 39 percent mark from beyond the three-point line. Lauren Park-Lane, who scored better than 17 points per contest and dished more than five assists per outing last season, is also back, along with her fantastic ability to get to the free-throw line and convert those opportunities. Park-Lane won Big East Most Improved Player for the 2020-21 season after taking on a starting role and doing precisely what the award implies.

Additionally, other players like Mya Jackson and other juniors and sophomores will add even more to the team to help it reach the NCAA Tournament and perhaps achieve even more.

DePaul 

Head coach: Doug Bruno (36th season)

2020-21 record: 14-10 (11-5 in Big East)

Conference finish: 4th

DePaul will be one of the most improved teams in Big East women’s basketball in 2021-22.

The Blue Demons bring back their top-five scorers from a season ago when they went to the WNIT. With so much production staying on the team, it will be tough for most other programs to catch up.

Sonya Morris, Lexi Held, Deja Church, and Dee Bekelja headline the returners. Morris averaged 19.3 points and 5.3 boards per night in 2020-21 and shot 43 percent from the field, while Held scored nearly 17 points per game and nabbed 75 steals throughout the course of the campaign. DePaul will return a total of 1,675 points just from its top-five scorers.

That’s all really great and could certainly mean a return to the Big Dance for DePaul. But in reality, this is UConn’s league to lose, and DePaul and Seton Hall will be battling it out for second place.

The Contenders: Marquette, Villanova, Providence

Marquette 

Head coach: Megan Duffy (3rd season)

2020-21 record: 19-7 (14-4 in Big East)

Conference finish: 2nd

Marquette is coming off a great season, finishing second to UConn in the conference and making it to the NCAA Tournament, eventually falling to Virginia Tech in the first round.

Head coach Megan Duffy won the 2020 Big East Coast of the Year honors, helping turn around the Golden Eagles program. She will continue to grow the team this season with another good team.

The Golden Eagles will be working with some younger players with only two grad students and one redshirt junior serving as their upperclassmen. They will be welcoming back their second-leading scorer from 2020-21, Lauren Van Kleunen, one of the two graduate students on the squad – she averaged 13.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest last season and shot 51 percent from the field.

Though Marquette lost a handful of starters, there’s talent there to plug the holes. Redshirt sophomore Jordan King will be a key player as she started in all 26 games last season and played the second-most minutes with 830. Though she’s still technically an underclassman, her experience will be important for Marquette offensively and defensively.

This Marquette team should be the real deal, but it will need to find ways to sure up the voids left my those who have left from last year’s squad.

Villanova 

Head coach: Denise Dillon (2nd season)

2020-21 record: 17-7 (9-5 in Big East)

Conference finish: 5th

The Wildcats had a relatively successful season in 2020-21 with first-year head coach Denise Dillon. They were led by Maddy Siegrist, who averaged an astounding 22.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game and will be returning this season as a junior. She is one of the definite favorites for Big East Player of the Year. Villanova also welcomes back grad student Brianna Herlihy, who posted 13.8 points and 7.1 boards per outing in 2020-21, plus 30 swats.

Nova’s biggest struggles will be getting some of its younger players who started and played a lot last season to produce more on both sides of the court. Besides Siegrist and Herlihy, no other returning player averaged more than nine points per game last year. The Wildcats will be a solid team with a lot of potential, but if the younger players don’t produce enough, the team will have a short ceiling.

Providence 

Head coach: Jim Crowley (6th season)

2020-21 record: 7-14 (4-10 in Big East)

Conference finish: 7th

Providence underperformed last season, only winning four games in conference behind head coach Jim Crowley. But this year, the Friars will return some of their top scorers and introduce graduate transfer Andreana Wrister from Tennessee State. Wrister is coming off of a great campaign for TSU, averaging 14.5 points and 2.9 rebounds per game, improving her scoring output by more than 10 points from her junior to senior years. She will add much-needed offense to a Friars team that struggled to score at times last season.

Also returning will be the top two scorers in Mary Baskerville and Alyssa Geary, who averaged 12.7 points and 11.4 points per night, respectively. They both led the team in rebounds, with 6.5 and 4.8 boards per outing, respectively, as well.

Providence’s biggest issue from last season was defense and turnovers. It turned the ball over 331 times while forcing just 295 from its opponents. With three seniors, one junior, and a grad transfer all coming in this season, the Friars will need their leaders to take commend of both sides of the court

Stuck in Purgatory: Creighton, St. John’s

Creighton 

Head coach: Jim Crowley (6th season)

2020-21 record: 10-12 (6-7 in Big East)

Conference finish: 6th

Creighton is coming off of an okay season, finishing just one game under-.500, but will bring back four seniors to ideally improve of that. But the biggest issue is that only two of the four seniors performed well offensively a year ago.

Tatum Rembao and Rachel Saunders averaged 10 points and 8.2 points per game, respectively. The Bluejays will return sophomore Emma Ronsiek, who was second of the team in scoring with 11.6 points per night. That’s all well and good. But Creighton will need Carly Bachelor and Chloe Dworak, who posted 4.4 points and 2.7 points per contest in 2020-21, to step up and perform if it wants to get out from the bottom of Big East women’s basketball.

St. John’s  

Head coach: Joe Tartamella (6th season)

2020-21 record: 8-15 (4-12 in Big East)

Conference finish: 8th

The Red Storm had a rough experience in 2020-21, winning just eight games and four in the Big East. They were outscored, outrebounded, and outmatched constantly.

Leilani Correa, Kadaja Bailey, and Unique Drake are back to hopefully make 2021-22 better. Correa averaged 17.6 points per game, the second-best on the team last year, plus 5.4 rebounds each outing. Bailey and Drake both scored nearly 10 points per contest and were crucial in the distribution aspect of the game. With this trio, the Johnnies have some solid talent returning. They should have reasonable hope to win a few more games in 2021-22 than they did in 2020-21.

The Basement: Xavier, Butler, Georgetown

Xavier  

Head coach: Melanie Moore (3rd season)

2020-21 record: 5-10 (2-8 in Big East)

Conference finish: 9th

Xavier had an abysmal season in 2020-21, winning just two games in Big East play and only competing in 15-total contests because of COVID-19. There aren’t too many positives to take away from last season, but Xavier will see the return of two prominent scorers in Nia Clark and Kae Satterfield, which is something. Clark scored 11.5 points per game and shot 37 percent from deep, while Satterfield scored a bit more than nine points per night and hauled in almost six rebounds per outing.

That can only do so much, though. The Musketeers were outshot in almost every category in 2020-21, including field goals, three-pointers, and free throws. They will need to show tons of improvement in every aspect to add more wins to their W column this season.

Butler  

Head coach: Kurt Goldlevske (8th season)

2020-21 record: 3-17 (3-15 in Big East)

Conference finish: 10th

Butler failed to win more than three games last season and only had three players score in double figures. One of those scorers, Genesis Parker, will be back, but while she can put the ball in the bucket, she doesn’t add much in the way of distribution or rebounding. All of the team’s top rebounders are gone, and the Bulldogs are left with many players who played a decent amount of minutes but rarely produced.

The one real positive Butler can take with it into this upcoming season is the amount of freshmen it’s adding. The Bulldogs have five new freshmen, as well as two redshirt freshmen, so while they might not have a whole lot to look forward to in 2021-22, they have a large group of youngsters to develop and mold for the future.

Georgetown  

Head coach: James Howard (5th season)

2020-21 record: 2-15 (2-14 in Big East)

Conference finish: 11th

Georgetown finished dead last in Big East women’s basketball a season ago, in part due to struggles with COVID-19. The Hoyas only played one non-conference game and had 12 contests postponed or cancelled, including their first seven.

This season, their top three scorers are back, plus a few grad transfers have been added. Sophomore Kelsey Ransom averaged 10.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last year, and senior Jillian Archer and grad student Milan Bolden-Morris are capable of chipping in some secondary scoring and effort on the glass.

Archer can also shoot, converting on 36 percent of her attempts from three-point land in 2020-21, but she’s pretty much the only one. No one else on the team hit more than 30 percent of their triples, and the free-throw line was a general struggle for Georgetown, too. In all, the offense will need to improve a lot this season for the Hoyas to escape the bottom spot in the league, let along the Big East’s basement.

2021-22 Big East Women’s Basketball Players to Watch

Paige Buekers – Guard – Sophomore – Connecticut

Paige Bueckers is coming off of a fantastic inaugural college campaign. She scored 20 points per game and is set to do that and then some in 2021-22. With the amount of experience she gained from the regular season and postseason in 2020-21, Bueckers should be even better than a season ago and be a favorite for Player of the Year again.

Andra Espinoza-Hunter – Guard/Forward – Grad Student – Seton Hall

The Seton Hall graduate student will most likely be the best player to challenge Bueckers for Player of the Year honors. The Pirates will add some young players around her this season, which could help her improve on her already-impressive 19.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game from last year.

The ceiling is high for Andra Espinoza-Hunter in 2021-22, and she will be instrumental in determining how well Seton Hall’s campaign goes.

Maddy Siegrist – Forward – Junior – Villanova

Maddy Siegrist scored 22.8 points per game in 2020-21 and should produce something similar this time around. Now a junior, Siegrist might be able to improve on her 35 percent mark from the field, which would make her even more terrifying for opponents to handle.

With a second-year head coach and enough starters coming back, Siegrist will led the team offensively and defensively. With her play, Villanova will be a legitimate competitor in the Big East and very much in contention for an NCAA Tournament berth.

2021-22 Men’s & Women’s College Basketball Conference Previews

Learn more about the upcoming 2021-22 men’s and women’s college basketball seasons with Nothing But Nylon’s extensive conference previews, with a new conference covered every week before the campaign tips off in November.

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