October 25, 2022 

2022-23 BIG EAST preview

Aneesah Morrow, Maddy Siegrist highlight talented BIG EAST conference

During a chilly fall afternoon last Tuesday, coaches, players, team staff and media gathered in Madison Square Garden to welcome in another season of BIG EAST basketball. The day started with commissioner Val Ackerman addressing attendees and celebrating a competitive 2021-22 season during which four teams (UConn, Creighton, Villanova, DePaul) punched tickets to the Big Dance; Seton Hall reached the WNIT final; and players like Maddy Siegrist, Lauren Park-Lane and Aneesah Morrow proved themselves to be among the nation’s elite.

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Looking at the 2022-23 season, the preseason coaches’ poll revealed UConn as the (unsurprising) favorites, followed in the top tier of the BIG EAST by Creighton and Villanova, both coming off excellent seasons. DePaul, Seton Hall, Marquette and St. John’s represent the middle of the pack, while Providence, Butler, Georgetown and Xavier round out the bottom four.

BIG EAST preseason coaches’ poll (first-place votes in parentheses)
1.       UConn (10)
2.       Creighton
3.       Villanova (1)
4.       DePaul (tie)
          Seton Hall (tie)
6.       Marquette
7.       St. John’s
8.       Providence
9.       Butler (tie)
          Georgetown (tie)
11.     Xavier

The conference also released preseason awards, which saw last season’s Player of the Year, Maddy Siegrist, earning Preseason Player of the Year honors and Connecticut’s Ayanna Patterson receiving Preseason Freshman of the Year recognition. The Huskies led all teams with three players on the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team, while Creighton and Seton Hall followed with two selections each.

Preseason All-BIG EAST Team
Caroline Ducharme, UConn
Aaliyah Edwards, UConn
Azzi Fudd, UConn*
Lauren Jensen, Creighton
Emma Ronsiek, Creighton*
Aneesah Morrow, DePaul*
Jordan King, Marquette
Janai Crooms, Providence
Kadaja Bailey, St. John’s
Sidney Cooks, Seton Hall
Lauren Park-Lane, Seton Hall*

Honorable mention
Dorka Juhász, UConn
Morgan Maly, Creighton

*unanimous selection

The BIG EAST has no shortage of storylines this season, which will unravel both as the season tips off and as conference play begins. To tip us off for the 2022-23 campaign, I’ve compiled below just a few to consider.

Key storylines to watch

Can Ayanna Patterson make an immediate impact?

Look out for Ayanna Patterson, the composite^ No. 5 recruit in the country. The forward from Fort Wayne, Ind. brings a strong post presence to a Husky roster that lost starting center Olivia Nelson-Ododa to the WNBA. Patterson is an ultra-athletic, 6’2 big wing that can deliver a smooth jumper in transition, and is a tough and versatile defender.

“Ayanna has skills that no one else on our team has athletically,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma told The Daily Campus. “In terms of just purely what she can do physically, it is different than anybody else on our team.”

Patterson averaged 25.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks as a senior at Homestead High School. She was also named 2022 Indiana Miss Basketball and was a McDonald’s, Jordan Brand and SLAM All-American. Last year, Patterson won a gold medal with Team USA as a member of the U18 3×3 World Cup team.

The freshman will likely contribute important minutes for a Husky team that struggled at times last season against taller, more athletic post players. It’s a big role for a freshman, but Patterson believes she can rise to the occasion.

“I mean, it’s great, because I had high expectations for myself,” Patterson told The Next. “That’s why I chose to go to UConn; they set high expectations for the players, they hold you accountable. I couldn’t ask for a better program.”

If Patterson’s game translates to the increased physicality of college basketball, she will cause a headache for both BIG EAST and non-conference opponents.

How has 3×3 helped Siegrist grow her game?

Last season’s BIG EAST Player of the Year, Maddy Siegrist, was already at the top of every team’s scouting report, but still ranked first in the conference and second in the country in scoring. She started all 27 games she played in, and averaged 25.3 points and 9.2 rebounds in 36.1 minutes. She was instrumental in Villanova’s historic upset of UConn and the Wildcats’ run to the BIG EAST final and NCAA tournament upset of No. 6-seed BYU.

Entering this season, Siegrist is again expected to be the top player in the BIG EAST. She also enters the season with an important experience under her belt, having represented Team USA at the FIBA 3×3 Nations League Americas conference this past summer. According to Siegrist, the quickness of the 3×3 game gave her important perspective on the game of basketball overall.

“[3×3 basketball] is definitely so much quicker and you just have to do, not really think,” said Siegrist. “So obviously, the motion helped me a lot — you just cut and just read off your teammates … [It] gave me a new perspective … In a 5×5, you’re like, ‘Wow, we got to go quick.’ Meanwhile, 12 seconds is the full shot clock in 3×3. So definitely now when it’s like eight seconds on the clock, I’m like, ‘Oh, we got plenty of time. We’re fine.’ Just that kind of perspective.”

If Siegrist is able to integrate new skills into her already elite game, she will absolutely live up the preseason Player of the Year honor. After last season’s NCAA tournament run, the Wildcats have received votes towards the AP poll. Siegrist and Villanova have the potential to be a major threat to opponents not only in the BIG EAST, but also across the nation.

Maddy Siegrist shoots a jump shot while competing with Team USA as part of the 2022 FIBA 3×3 U23 Nations League Final. (Photo Credit: Villanova Athletics)

Will Aneesah Morrow sustain her dominance?

Aneesah Morrow is a dominant basketball player.

As a freshman last season, Morrow led DePaul in scoring (21.9 points per game), rebounds per game (13.8), steals (2.7) and blocks (1.8). She ranked second in the country in total rebounds (457) and double-doubles (27); her streak of 23 consecutive double-doubles last season was outmatched only by South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston (27). The 6’1 forward brought it last season, and put the BIG EAST and the nation on notice.

This season, the question is whether she can sustain that dominance and avoid a sophomore slump:

“I’ve been getting that question a lot, I’m gonna lean into the pressure,” Morrow told The Next. “I just want to be consistent, I want to do better than what I did last year … I want to be more of a verbal leader [and] more than a physical leader — actually, both.”

The Blue Demons’ season ended with a disappointing loss in the BIG EAST Tournament and a 31-point defeat by Dayton in the First Four. Expect the DePaul to come out focused and hungry this season. If Aneesah Morrow can sustain her first season dominance, the Blue Demons will be a top tier team in the conference.

Can a new head coach reverse Butler’s fortune?

The 2021-22 season was not kind to Butler. After an 0-18 BIG EAST record (1-27 overall), the Bulldogs parted ways with head coach Kurt Godlevske and hired Austin Parkinson. Parkinson assumes the role after a 12-season tenure as head coach of IUPUI.

Fresh off leading the Jaguars to their first-ever NCAA tournament bid in 2022, Parkinson leaves the school having posted a record of 224-141. Prior to his time at the helm of that program, he served as an assistant coach on IUPUI’s men’s basketball staff for two seasons.

Parkinson inherited a three-win IUPUI women’s team in 2010 and turned the program around to a 20-win season in just his third year, a struggling program transformed into a conference champion and NCAA tournament team. Parkinson wants to start the rebuild in Indianapolis with a focus on defensive intensity and hard work.

“I think you got to stick to what you do,” Parkinson told The Next. “We play man-to-man defense. So that’s what we’re gonna do.

“We had a talk the other day with our team about ‘What does playing hard look like?’ And that’s got to be good, that’s got to be the bare minimum. From there you can build habits, but the bottom line is you got to play hard. You got to be tough. We’re trying to do that.”

If Parkinson is able to turn around this Butler program like he did at IUPUI, that’s good news for the Bulldogs and the BIG EAST overall.

Is Seton Hall an NCAA tournament team?

Coming off a semifinals run in the BIG EAST tournament and a WNIT finals appearance, Seton Hall wants to prove it is a team that cannot be overlooked in the postseason.

“I think we took two days off after that [WNIT] championship game. And me and [point guard Lauren Park-Lane], we’re right back in the gym,” Sidney Cooks told The Next. “And pretty much I’m like, ‘This is my senior year… I want to stay here, I want to work out.’ And having a point guard that is just as dedicated to the game makes it so much fun, like working hard is fun now. So we’ll set our times, we’ll go into extra work even before after practice.”

Both Cooks and Lauren Park-Lane and want to make the most of their remaining college eligibility. Each was named to the preseason All-BIG EAST Team, and both want to make it to the NCAA tournament. After being named to the Nancy Lieberman Award Watch List for a second-consecutive season, Park-Lane is proud that her game is getting the respect it deserves.

“It means a lot,” Park-Lane told The Next. “Especially coming up, I didn’t really have the hype and everything, but seeing that all my hard work is starting to pay off and people are starting to realize that I’m one of the best point guards in the country, it means a lot to me. So, getting people on my level, getting people on my dad’s level, because he told me that when I was like a toddler.”

Don’t underestimate the shooting abilities and fiery presence of Park-Lane. The Pirates are a team with a lot of chemistry that could surprise people this year and earn a spot among the top tier teams in the BIG EAST.

How will Creighton build on last season’s momentum?

Creighton is still flying high after last season’s run to the Elite Eight: For the first time in school history, Creighton opens the season ranked in the AP poll, occupying the No. 21 spot. That is tied for the highest in the program’s history. Understandably, there is a sense of confidence from the Bluejays’ squad entering this season.

“I think the energy has shifted a little bit because we do return so many of the people that got to experience that last year,” wing Morgan Maly told The Next. “And we know what we can do now. And now you want to implement that and integrate it into a clean slate, and just spread the attitude that we can, like we deserve to be there.”

The Creighton Bluejays sprint out to meet in celebration at halfcourt.
No. 10 seed Creighton knocked off third-seeded Iowa State to advance to the 2021 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight, the second Bluejay win over a top-three-seeded team from Iowa in as many games. (Photo credit: Creighton Athletics)

Creighton plays an efficient style of basketball characterized by a quick and nimble motion offense and a high 3-point shooting percentage. Last season, the Bluejays ranked in the top 10 nationally in 3-point percentage, effective field goal percentage, points per play, 3-point rate and percentage of points from beyond the arc, per Her Hoop Stats. Head coach Jim Flanery has implemented an effective offensive system in Omaha, Neb., and his players know that it takes trust and communication to keep it running.

“I feel like it’s based on a lot of trust, and a lot of just getting warmed up to people you’re playing with. Because as a freshman, I definitely know that it was scary to come in and just be loud and talk and call for the ball,” forward Emma Ronsiek told The Next. “And so I think it’s a lot of the freshmen and newcomers just getting comfortable with us, and just trusting that you trust what they’re saying — they trust what we’re saying. So I just think it goes back and forth.”

Although the Bluejays now have a taste of postseason success, they know that they can’t get too comfortable. Now, the 2021-22 season is behind them, and 2022-23 will present new and unexpected challenges.

“There is gonna be a different target on our back that we hadn’t seen before,” Ronsiek said. “So it’s just best to clean slate new season and just realize what we can do and just take that with us.”

Follow along all season

The 2022-23 BIG EAST season is nearly underway. There are many more storylines to follow than the ones listed in this season preview, and you won’t want to miss a minute.

You can find the conference’s schedule here. Be sure to stay tuned to The Next‘s BIG EAST coverage all season long!

^ Composite rankings are an aggregation of ESPN, ASGR, Prep Girls, Blue Star and Prospects Nation

Written by Tee Baker

Tee has been a contributor to The Next since March Madness 2021 and is currently a contributing editor, BIG EAST beat reporter and curator of historical deep dives.

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