Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament 2018 Preview

The bracket is set for the 2018 Women’s Basketball Big East Championship.

Beginning March 3rd at DePaul’s Wintrust Arena, all 10 Big East women’s basketball teams will gather to stake their claim for a coveted spot in the NCAA championship bracket. In the immensely talented Big East, earning the distinction of last team standing will not be easily earned. Below is the outlook for each team participating in the upcoming tournament. 

Team: Marquette (21-8, 15-3 Big East, #1 Seed)

Why they can win it:

The defending Big East Champions are led by the strong backcourt play of Allazia Blockton (18.9 pts/g), Natisha Hiedeman (13.4 pts/g) and 2017 Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player, Amani Wilborn (4.1 ast/g). Marquette finished second in the Big East in points per game at 81.3 ppg and first in scoring margin differential at +11.6. The Golden Eagles also boast impressive offensive efficiency, as evidenced by their Big East leading 45.9% field goal percentage. This potent offense, combined with championship experience, should enable Marquette to make a deep run among this year’s field.

Reason(s) for concern:

Marquette finished with the second worst scoring defense in the Big East, allowing an average of 69.7 points per game. Additionally, for as good as Marquette’s offense is, the Golden Eagles only shoot 31.3% from three-point range. 

Team: DePaul (23-7 Overall, 15-3 Big East, #2 Seed)

Why they can win it:

A team accustomed to playing meaningful basketball in March, DePaul has not missed the NCAA tournament since 2002. With offensive mastermind Doug Bruno at the helm, DePaul  leads the Big East in points per game with 82.4. All five of DePaul’s starters average over 10 points per game, making them particularly difficult to defend. Additionally, DePaul is lethal from behind the arc, knocking down over 100 more three-pointers on the season than second place Villanova (358 to 257). 

Reason(s) for concern:

Sometimes masked by their offensive production is the fact that DePaul has allowed a Big East worst 71.7 points per game (the only team to allow an average of more than 70 points). Should DePaul’s offense falter, the Blue Demons could turn into spectators in their home arena.

Team: Villanova (22-7 Overall, 12-6 Big East, #3 Seed)

Why they can win it:

Villanova can beat teams on both ends of the floor. In their Jan. 26th meeting against Xavier, Villanova shot an eye-popping 61.7% from the field, the best shooting display in Big East play since 2014. The Wildcats utilize patience and selflessness on offense to fuel their success. Additionally, the Wildcats thrive at limiting turnovers, committing the second fewest in D-I at only 9.6 per game. Defensively, Villanova leads the Big East in a number of key defensive metrics: Scoring Defense (59.2 pts/g), Opponent Field Goal Percentage (38.1%) and Opponent 3-point Field Goal Percentage 27.4%). Another aspect that sets Villanova apart in the eyes of versatile senior captain Alex Louin is the “experience” of its upperclassmen: “In the Big East tournament it’s back to back to back so you have to almost rely on instincts at that point as opposed to memorizing scouting reports or going over all their plays,” she said. “As upperclassmen, we have pretty good instincts.”

 The team’s composition offers a blend of both emerging young talent and savvy upperclassmen leadership. The sophomore duo of Kelly Jekot and Mary Gedaka has been sensational in their increased roles this season, with both well deserving of Big East Most Improved Player honors. The offensive prowess Jekot flashed as a freshman was put on full display this year, with her virtuoso performance coming in Villanova’s upset over then 11th ranked Duke. Gedaka, a leading candidate for Big East Sixth-Woman of the year, has been an absolute force off the bench. Her ability to score inside has provided a new dimension to the offense. Gedaka also excels on the defensive end, where she leads Villanova in both blocks and steals. 

The rise of the sophomore class has been a welcome addition to the already stout upperclassmen core of Adrianna Hahn, Jannah Tucker, Megan Quinn and Louin. In Hahn, the Wildcats have one of the premier point guards of the Big East with her ability to score points in bunches as well as orchestrate the offense. Tucker and Quinn are both key contributors on the defensive end, providing an added boost offensively with their ability to score from both inside and outside the arc. As for the aforementioned Louin, she can impact all facets of a game like few others can.   

Reason(s) for concern:

One trait that could stymie the ‘Cats run to a championship is intermittent periods of inconsistency. This is why Louin believes it is imperative for her team to “come out with intensity no matter who we play” and “control the things we can control”.  

Team: Creighton (17-11 Overall, 11-7 Big East, #4 Seed)

Why they can win it:

Combining for 40.8 points per game, the formidable trio of senior guard Sydney Lamberty and frontcourt mates Jaylyn Agnew and Audrey Faber spearhead Creighton’s third ranked scoring offense (69.8 pts/game). The Blue Jays thrive on efficiency from both behind the arc (37.4%) and at the free throw line (76.6%).

Reason(s) for concern:

The Blue Jays have struggled against the top teams in the Big East more than one would expect from a #4 seed. In their six games against the top three seeds, Creighton only managed two wins. They will need to prove they can consistently battle the top tier teams in order to come away Big East Champs. 

Team: St. John’s (16-13 Overall, 9-9 Big East, #5 Seed)

Why they can win it:

St. John’s biggest asset entering tournament play is its depth, with only a 1.4 points/game difference between their leading scorer Maya Singleton and their sixth leading scorer Akina Wellere. With little rest in between games, St. John’s depth could propel it over more fatigued opponents.

Reason(s) for concern:

Outside of Maya Singleton, no other frontcourt player for the Red Storm averages over five rebounds a game. St. John’s will need Imani Littleton and Kayla Charles to play at their best to sure up their presence in the interior.

Team: Georgetown (14-14 Overall, 9-9 Big East, #6 Seed)

Why they can win it:

Winners of six of the past nine games, Georgetown enters the tournament playing its best basketball of the season. Dionna White and Cynthia Petke have terrorized teams this year, combining for 31.9 points and 16.8 rebounds per game. As arguably the Big East’s hottest team heading into tournament play, the Hoyas are not to be overlooked.

Reason(s) for concern:

Shooting—while the Hoyas are currently playing at a high level, they still reside at the bottom of the Big East in field goal percentage (39.2%), three-point percentage (29.6%), and free throw percentage (69.5%, ahead of only Xavier). 

Team: Seton Hall (15-14 Overall, 7-11 Big East, #7 Seed)

Why they can win it:

Head coach Anthony Bozzella’s team embraces physicality and aggressiveness. One area this mentality shows up in the box score is his team’s eye-popping 10.6 steals/game average. The Pirates’ style of play can throw even the most mentally tough opponents off their game. 

Reason(s) for concern:

The Pirates have dropped five straight games in the midst of star forward Donnaizha Fountain’s mysterious departure from the team in mid-January. Seton Hall is running out of time to find a way to replace the production of their top player.

Team: Butler (14-16 Overall, 6-12 Big East, #8 Seed)

Why they can win it:

The 1-2 punch of guard Whitney Jennings and forward/center Tori Schickel may be the best backcourt-frontcourt duo in the Big East. The pair accounts for an average 33.5 points, 13.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2.7 steals a game. When these two were playing their best basketball in the first half of the season, Butler posted a 10-5 record and looked primed to contend for the Big East regular season crown.

Reason(s) for concern:

The early season momentum Butler had was nowhere to be found over the last third of the season, as they dropped 8 of their last 9 games. In order to contend this upcoming weekend, the Bulldogs will need increased contributions from the supporting cast around Jennings and Schickel.

Team: Providence (10-20 Overall, 3-15 Big East, #9 Seed)

Why they can win it:

In a season marred with injuries, junior guards Jovana Nogic and Maddie Jolin provided reason for optimism by playing all 30 games and leading the team in scoring with a combined 27.6 points/game. 

Reason(s) for concern:

Providence will be shorthanded and consequently overmatched in this year’s field.   

Team: Xavier (10-19 Overall, 3-15 Big East, #10 Seed)

Why they can win it:

Much of Xavier’s struggles this year can be credited to a lack of experience, as the Musketeers only have 4 upperclassmen on their team. However, underclassmen such as Deja Ross, Aaliyah Dunham, and Na’Teshia Owens have shown glimpses of a bright future for the Xavier program. 

Reason(s) for concern:

For almost half of Xavier’s roster, this will be their first collegiate post season game. This level of inexperience will prove difficult to overcome.