By Spencer Tracy, Staff Writer
The Xavier women’s Basketball team had an abysmal season last year, winning only two games in Big East play.
With key returning players Nia Clark and Kae Satterfield and a Xavier crowd in Cintas this season, the team hopes to improve this season and make a push for the Big East title.
The Musketeers also brought in seven newcomers, which added an element of the unknown after being picked to finish 11th in the Big East preseason poll Breaking down each conference opponent, these are the teams Xavier will face in conference play.
UConn finished last season 28-2, 18-0 in the Big East and won the Big East Championship. They’re the favorite to repeat behind sophomore superstar guard Paige Bueckers. She is coming off an incredible season, dropping 20 points per game and winning Freshman of the Year and Big East Player of the Year.
Marquette will look to repeat the great season they had, falling second behind UConn and losing in a heartbreaker in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Virginia Tech. Beginning to rebuild their program behind 2020 Big East Coach of the Year Megan Duffy, Marquette will need another successful season to keep the program moving in the right direction. Xavier travels to Marquette to open up Big East play on Dec. 3.
The Villanova Wildcats had an impressive season behind first-year Head Coach Denise Dillon, going 17-7 and 9-5 in the Big East. The team was truly led by junior sensation Maddy Siegrist, who averaged 22.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Besides Siegrist and two other starters, the only other Wildcats returning averaged under nine points which will hurt their depth.
The Seton Hall Pirates are one of few teams that can give UConn a run for their money. All of Seton Hall’s top scorers are returning, including Andra Espinoza-Hunter, who averaged over 18 points and grabbed over six rebounds per game, all while shooting over 39% from beyond the three-point line.
Similar to Seton Hall, DePaul has their top five scorers returning to the court. Sonya Morris stands out the most, as she averaged 19.3 points and shot 43% behind the arc last season. Dual-threat Lexi Held has the ability to drop 17 points while also adding a total of 75 steals last season, making her eighth in the country.
Creighton had a below-average season last year, finishing 10-12. The strength of this team is their returning upperclassman. Despite some of their juniors last season underperforming, Creighton still has the roster talent and experience to compete against Big East teams. Emma Ronsiek is the player to watch coming off an impressive sophomore season, finishing second on the team in scoring last season.
The St. John’s Red Storm is a team Xavier must beat in order to improve last season’s record. St. John’s, similar to Xavier last season, were outscored, rebounded and defended all season long resulting in four conference and eight total wins. With their top three players returning, the Red Storm have some hope to turn their season around this year; however, they are not projected to make a massive leap.
Providence underperformed with just four conference wins last season, and they were plagued with turnovers and poor defense. However, the Friars added Tennessee State graduate transfer Andreana Wister, who averaged 14.5 points per game last season, 10 more points than her junior season. The Friars and Head Coach Jim Crowley will look for a similar performance from Wister this season.
Butler only won three games last season, and the league’s coaches don’t think much higher of the Bulldogs this year, as they were picked to finish last in the Big East in the preseason poll.
Butler will be aided by the return of junior guard Oumou Toure, who missed all of last season after averaging 9.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and a Big East-high 2.3 steals per game as a freshman.
The pandemic didn’t help Georgetown last season, as their first seven games were canceled due to COVID-19. The Hoyas finished with just two wins last year and will look to improve their shooting in hopes of a better season this year.
Outside of UConn, the Big East looks to be pretty open this season. Xavier will hope to finish in the middle of the conference and make some noise in the Big East Tournament.
If the Musketeers do so, then they could build positive momentum on the court and on the recruiting trail.