November 3, 2023 

2023-24 BIG EAST preview

Key storylines from all 11 BIG EAST programs

Another season of BIG EAST women’s basketball is nearly underway, and there are plenty of storylines to follow. How will UConn guard Paige Bueckers perform in her return to the court from injury? Can Villanova remain elite now that Maddy Siegrist has moved on to the WNBA? How will newly-hired coaches fare in a competitive conference?

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Based on the Preseason Coaches’ Poll rankings, I’ve broken each BIG EAST team into three tiers: Top tier teams are expected to be the conference elites; Middle of the pack teams are competing to ascend to the conference’s top tier and Looking up teams are fighting to rebuild themselves into contenders.

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Top tier: UConn, Creighton, Marquette, Villanova


2022–23 season: 31-6 (18-2 BIG EAST, regular season and tournament champions), NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

The return of guard Paige Bueckers to the basketball court is a massive boost for the Huskies and significant for women’s basketball at large. Bueckers is a generational talent who was national player of the year during her 2020-21 freshman campaign. The AP Preseason All-American returns to the court after missing her entire junior season with an ACL tear following a lateral meniscus tear and a tibial plateau fracture that sidelined her for most of her sophomore season. Expectations are high for Bueckers’ return to the court, and she was voted BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year.

Beyond Bueckers, the Huskies have three additional players on the preseason All-BIG EAST team: senior guard Nika Mühl, senior forward Aaliyah Edwards and junior guard Azzi Fudd. Mühl stepped up in Bueckers’ absence last season, repeating as BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year, and clinching the UConn program’s single-season assists record (284 assists). Edwards is last season’s conference Most Improved Player, averaging 16.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. She was a consistent force for UConn last season, and is expected to pick up where she left off. Fudd has struggled with injuries throughout her two-year college career, but has proven to be an elite shooter when she’s on the court. Her pull-up game is unmatched, and she spent time this summer refining her craft with mentor and business partner, NBA superstar Steph Curry. UConn fans have waited eagerly for a healthy Bueckers/Fudd backcourt, and that duo is special if both are able to perform to their potentials.

Talented wings Caroline Ducharme and Aubrey Griffin round out an elite core for the Huskies. Ducharme has struggled to stay on the court while navigating concussion-related symptoms. She’s an elite shooter and can also drive her way to the basket. Griffin is a bit of an X-factor for the Huskies, using her speed and court awareness to elevate the team’s play when she’s on the court. This season will also be the debut of forward Ice Brady, a highly-touted recruit who missed her freshman season due to a season-ending injury. Brady will provide important minutes off the bench as a back-up post player to Edwards. The Huskies also add an elite class of freshman, highlighted by guard KK Arnold, who was named BIG EAST preseason Freshman of the Year, to the rotation this season.

Simply put, this UConn squad is stacked and has national championship potential, starting the season ranked No. 2 on the AP Top 25 poll. Their 2022-23 season ended in a Sweet Sixteen loss to Ohio State and, in Storrs, CT, that’s considered a disappointing finish. Prior to last year’s tournament, UConn reached 14 consecutive Final Fours. Last season’s final result—along with the fact that the 11-time national champs haven’t won a title since the Breanna Stewart era in 2016—gives this talented UConn team an extra edge.

“We moved on from that [2023 Sweet Sixteen] game in the sense that it’s a new team and a new season, but that feeling that we had in the locker room after, even during the game, sticks with us,” Fudd said. “For me, I think about that and it’s that added fuel and fire when I say, ‘Am I tired? No, I can keep going.’ Remembering what it felt like in that locker room and that feeling I never want to feel again.”


2022-23 season: 22-9, (15-5 BIG EAST, 3rd), NCAA Tournament first round

The Creighton Bluejays have the most consistent core of anyone in the conference, and maybe even the country. This summer, seniors Lauren Jensen, Morgan Maly, Molly Mogensen and Emma Ronsiek competed in and won the USA Basketball 3X Nationals 3×3 basketball competition in Colorado Springs. The competition convened 15 teams comprised of elite NCAA players representing their schools. The foursome of Jensen, Maly, Mogensen and Ronsiek were also instrumental in the Bluejays’ run to the Elite Eight round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed. Under their leadership, Creighton matched its highest-ever ranking in the USA Today Coaches Poll last season, finishing at No. 23 in the year-end poll.

Creighton women's basketball players <a rel=
From left to right, Creighton Bluejays women’s basketball players Lauren Jensen, Morgan Maly, Molly Mogensen and Emma Ronsiek pose for a team photograph while holding the USA Basketball 3×3 tournament championship trophy. (Photo Credit: Creighton Women’s Basketball Twitter)

“Isn’t there a limit on how many years you can spend in college?” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma joked during BIG EAST media day. “I think it’s four of [Creighton’s] five starters—they’ve been in Omaha longer than the College World Series. Every time I look up those guys are in the starting lineup.”

This season three of the four (Jenson, Maly, Ronsiek) were voted to the All-BIG EAST team, with Jenson and Maly selected unanimously. With six seniors on the squad this Creighton team’s major advantage is its experience and roster continuity. Head coach Jim Flanery recruits to his system that emphasizes quick passing, team offense and three-point shooting. His players seem to buy into his system and stay with his program often for their entire college careers.

The Bluejays were voted to finish second in the conference, and were selected at No. 22 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll. The ceiling is high for this Creighton team, both in the BIG EAST and nationally. If they perform to their potential, expect the Bluejays to advance to their third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.

“I think everyone who watches Creighton basketball knows we have a talented team,” Ronsiek said. “The expectations will be high, but I think we can handle that.”

Head coach Jim Flanery enters his 22nd year at Creighton as the winningest coach in program history. He is known for putting together a non-conference schedule that will challenge his team, and he appreciates that his team is receiving the national attention that it deserves.

“Ultimately, [the preseason poll] means nothing,” Flanery said. “But in the moment, it means something because it means that our players have done a lot of work to get to the point where people recognize that we have good players, we have experience and we have a system that’s been pretty successful.”


2022-23 season: 21-11 (13-7 BIG EAST, T-4th), NCAA Tournament first round

Head coach Megan Duffy is entering her fifth season at the helm of the Golden Eagles program, and she has firmly established a winning culture in Milwaukee. The Notre Dame alum boasts the best winning percentage of any coach in Marquette women’s basketball history, going 87-37 (.702) overall and 53-23 (.697) in BIG EAST play. She has led Marquette to postseason tournaments in all but one of her four seasons, clinching two WNIT appearances (2019, 2022) and two NCAA Tournament appearances (2021, 2023).

Marquette is led by the senior leadership of fifth-year senior Jordan King (Preseason All-BIG EAST), the team’s leading scorer last season, and 6’2 senior forward Liza Karlen (Preseason All-BIG EAST honorable mention). These two were aided last season by the team’s second-leading scorer and top rebounder, Chloe Marotta, who graduated from the program after last season. While King and Karlen are expected to lead this team forward, this team is characterized by six newcomers, cobbled together by Duffy and her coaching staff through high school recruitment and the transfer portal.

“I think one of the players that [is] interesting is a fifth year senior coming, Frannie Hottinger — she’s from Lehigh, so a Mid-major player. She averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds…She’s adjusting [to this] level. She has experience. She has a toughness about her. And she could put the ball in the basket…And so I think it’s only going to enhance the overall just depth of our team. Which is great. And then you take that and add a couple freshmen to the mix that are talented; it’ll be fun to watch them evolve.”

In addition to the 2023 Patriot League Player of the Year Hottinger, Marquette’s roster is further bolstered by three additional transfers: Bridget Utberg, Lee Volker and Abbey Cracknell. Utberg comes to Milwaukee after a MAC All-Freshmen Team season at Central Michigan. The 5’5 guard ranked second on the team in points per game (12.5), 3-pointers (57) and 3-point percentage (.348). Volker, a 5’11 guard, comes to Marquette after spending the past two seasons at Duke, and adds important depth at the guard position. Finally, a starter on her Gulf Coast State College squad, JUCO transfer Cracknell earned All-Panhandle First Team honors in 2022-23 as a starter. Duffy has rounded out her roster with promising freshmen in 6’3 Canadian forward Skylar Forbes and Iowa All-State guard Halle Vice, who led her high school team to a state title in her senior season.

It will be exciting to see what Coach Duffy has up her sleeve to blend the old and new talent on her team this season. She’s an incredible culture-builder, and the type of coach that knows how to hold her team accountable and set them up for success. Despite the changes, she plans to approach this season like any other.

“No matter what your roster looks like, you keep the culture the same,” Duffy said.

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2022-23 season: 30-7 (17-3 BIG EAST, 2nd), NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

The question that seemed to be buzzing around BIG EAST media day was: How will Villanova move forward without two-time BIG EAST Player of the Year and 2023 Naismith Player of the Year and Wade Trophy finalist, Maddy Siegrist? Siegrist graduated as the all-time leading scorer in the history of Villanova basketball. She also put up more points in regular season conference games than any man or woman to ever compete in the BIG EAST Conference. She is an incredible talent who just completed her first season for the WNBA’s Dallas Wings.

Despite graduating, Maddy Siegrist won’t be far from Finneran Pavilion. On Oct. 25, Villanova Athletics announced that, during the WNBA offseason, Siegrist will return to campus as Special Assistant to the SWA (Senior Women’s Administrator). In the newly-created role, the Wildcat legend will work to grow a fanbase and develop a marketing and branding strategy for the women’s basketball program. Coach Denise Dillon is thrilled that her program leader will still be a part of the Wildcats program, albeit in a slightly different role.

“I think Maddy will realize this year, [after] stepping away from it, how much she really has impacted the game and our community at Villanova,” Dillon told The Next. “She’s been involved [in] a couple of events already and just seeing the little kids come up to her — she’s so great with our players and they were happy to see her back already…I don’t even think she realized what she accomplished…she was a little bit surprised by it like ‘oh, okay, you guys want me back?'”

Indeed the WIldcats program is stronger because Siegrist will be in it, but there is no doubt that her absence will be felt on the court. Last season, she was responsible for 41% of the WIldcats points per game, averaging 29.2 points per game. This season, the Wildcats will have to replace that scoring, and more of the burden will be on the shoulders of junior guard Lucy Olsen and 6’2 junior forward Christina Dalce. Olsen was a unanimous selection to the Preseason All-BIG EAST team, and was the Wildcats’ second-leading scorer last season (12.4 ppg). She will need to increase her production and step into more of a scoring role with Siegrist gone. Dalce is a long, athletic forward who showed lots of growth and potential last season. Expect her to look for her shot more often this season. Seniors Maddie Burke and Bella Runyan will also need to be more aggressive offensively, and are the upperclassmen leadership of this squad.

Villanova junior guard <a rel=
Villanova guard Lucy Olsen drives to the basket. Olsen was a unanimous selection for the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. (Photo credit: Villanova Athletics)

“I think [with Maddy gone] they all…realized there are a lot of shots to be taken. So they’re all excited about that piece. It’s a combination. We need everybody stepping up their game for sure. But that’s what college basketball is about, each year, the development and wanting a little bit more for yourself. That’s going to bring greater things for your team,” Dillon said.

Middle of the pack: Seton Hall, St. John’s, DePaul

Seton Hall

2022-23 season: 19-15 (10-10 BIG EAST, 6th), WNIT second round

It’s difficult to imagine this Pirates squad without its small but mighty leader, Lauren Park-Lane, who decided to use her extra year of eligibility due to the covid year to transfer to Mississippi State. The 5’3 guard leaves Seton Hall as one of the greats in program history. She started in each of her 120 games played for the Pirates, and was twice named the Seton Hall Female Athlete of the Year (2021, 2022). Keep an eye out for the speedy guard in the SEC this season.

This season’s Pirates team won’t look much like last season’s squad, with nine newcomers (six transfers and three true freshmen). It’s difficult to predict, therefore, what this team will look like and how the pieces will fit together. With head coach Tony Bozzella at the helm, though, fans can expect a squad that will compete hard and play tough team basketball.

The Pirates will be led by grad student Azana Baines, who will play her second season with the Pirates after spending her freshman season at Duke and her sophomore and junior seasons at Viriginia Tech. Baines, a Preseason All-BIG EAST Team honorable mention, was second last season in the BIG EAST in conference games with a .561 field goal percentage. She is expected to emerge as a key contributor for the Pirates, alongside fellow Seton Hall upperclassmen Kae Satterfield, Amari Wright and Sha’Lynn Hagans.

Bozzella added two impact transfers during the offseason as well, including All-MAC selection A’Jah Davis from Northern Illinois University, and SWAC Freshman of the Year Micah Gray from Texas Southern. A 6’1 forward/center, Davis led NIU last season with 16.2 points and 12.4 rebounds per game. Gray averaged a team-best 16.7 points for Texas Southern as as freshman, good for third in the SWAC. These transfers could have an immediate impact if they can adjust to BIG EAST play. Bozzella and his squad will have their work cut out for them to bring nine new players into their system. Early indicators suggest that they are a good fit so far, according the team leader Baines.

“We have so many different pieces on our team now with the new nine players where I feel like we all just fit together so well, so that in itself is a big win for us,” Baines said on media day.

St. John’s

2022-23 season: 23-9 (13-7 BIG EAST, T-4th) NCAA Tournament first round

Last season, the Red Storm were red hot. They started the 2022-23 season off with a program-best 12-0 record. In December, the program received votes in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2015. In February, they took down mighty UConn in Hartford. Following a historic regular season, St. John’s clinched its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2016 and 11th in program history. To achieve those milestones, 2023 BIG EAST Coach of the Year Joe Tartamella, the winningest coach in program history, brought in talent from the transfer portal in Jayla Everett, Mimi Reid and Jillian Archer. Those impact transfers were joined in the starting lineup by redshirt seniors Kadaja Bailey and Rayven Peeples. Tartamella masterfully blended the old with the new.

With just one starter from last season (Archer) returning this season, Tartamella hopes to again construct a national contender with both homegrown talent and new additions from the portal. It starts with redshirt senior and 2023 Sixth Woman of the Year Unique Drake. Last season, Drake embraced an off-the-bench role for the Red Storm, supporting a new influx of talent that would remain at St. Johns for just one season. Drake, who has spent each of her years of eligibility at St. Johns, knows Tartamella’s system. She’s demonstrated an ability to contribute both as a starter and off the bench, and her versatility is a major asset for the program.

“To be here for five years — obviously knowing what our expectations are, what we need from her, how she’s grown as a player…I think she had the best year of her career obviously last year, not just because she was the Sixth Woman of the Year — she probably could have been a sixth starter…She’s really embraced now this opportunity to to be the face, you know, between her and Jillian we need their leadership, their maturity and their, obviously, ability to play the game. I’m proud of Unique; for Unique to have been here the time that’s she been, where she’s come from — and I couldn’t be prouder,” Tartamella said on media day.

Tartamella and his staff — which includes associate head coach and Candice Hill and St. John’s Athletics Hall of Famer Shenneika Smith — were once again able to recruit incredible talent from the transfer portal. Transfers new to the squad for the upcoming season include Pittsburgh’s Amber Brown, Ber’Nyah Mayo (UMass), Tara Daye (DePaul) and Phoenix Gedeon (Robert Morris). Brown comes to Queens after a four-year career at Pittsburgh. She brings veteran leadership, having started all 110 games over four years at Pitt and was team captain her senior season. Ber’Nyah Mayo is a dynamic two-way player who was last season’s Atlantic 10 All-Tournament MVP. She holds the UMASS record for steals in a single-season (85). Daye, who is part of a significant exodus from the DePaul program (more on that below) joins in-conference rival St. Johns and will add depth to the guard position. In Gideon, the Red Storm add an All-Horizon League Third Team selection with two years of experience under her belt.

As Tartamella enters his 12th season as a head coach for St. Johns, he’s excited about where his program is at and looking forward to the future. On Dec. 16 his squad will get a chance to perform under the lights of “The World’s Most Famous Arena”, Madison Square Garden, as part of a holiday tournament triple-header. It marks the 15th time the women’s basketball team has competed at MSG, and the first time since 2019.

“I think the community embraces our team, they embrace our program…I want to think that people want to come and play for us,” Tartamella said. “I think hopefully the way that I’ve coached, the sustained success we’ve had is attractive for players to come to our program and to be at our university…I think there’s just so much to offer.”


2022-23 season: 16-17 (8-12 BIG EAST, 7th), BIG EAST Tournament Quarterfinals

Led by tenacious then-sophomore Aneesah Morrow‘s 25th double-double of the season including 17 rebounds, the Blue Demons were seconds away from an epic BIG EAST Quarterfinal upset of eventual Sweet Sixteen team Villanova. So close, in fact, that the Wildcats needed a 7-0 run in the last 90 seconds of the game to eek out a 71-70 victory.

In some ways, the game was emblematic of DePaul’s season. Behind brilliant double-double performances from Morrow, Depaul took several teams to the wire. They nearly defeated UConn in Chicago, just narrowly losing their home finale 72-69. Morrow could often lead the Blue Demons to close games, but the team struggled to finish the job.

DePaul is used to being a national contender, and last season they didn’t live up to that expectation. Doug Bruno’s program has had 18 NCAA Tournament appearances in the last 19 years the tournament was held, a feat that only powerhouses Connecticut, Tennessee and Stanford can boast. Prior to UConn’s return to the BIG EAST for the 2020-21 season, DePaul won three consecutive conference tournament titles (2018, 2019, 2020). DePaul is used to winning and going dancing in the tournament every season. They qualified for the 2020 NCAA Tournament that was eventually canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. In 2021 they reached the WNIT second round, missing out on March Madness for the first time since the 2001-02 season. In 2022 they lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and last season they didn’t qualify.

After finishing the season with a disappointing 16-17 record, DePaul’s offseason seemed to make things worse. The Blue Demons lost seven players to the transfer portal, including standout forward Morrow, who landed with Kim Mulkey and the defending national champions LSU. Top three scorers Darrione Rogers and Kendall Holmes were also part of the exodus.

This DePaul program is definitely in the midst of a rebuild, as this season’s roster includes three players from the transfer portal, four true freshmen and one redshirt freshman. With so much new talent, DePaul will rely on vets Anaya Peoples and Jorie Allen. After spending her first three years of eligibility at Notre Dame, Peoples is a skilled graduate student guard who started in each of the 31 games she played last season, anchoring the Blue Demons’ backcourt. The Preseason All-BIG EAST selection will be the face of the program this season, hoping to make the most of her final season of college eligibility. In the frontcourt, 6’1 Allen brings a tough paint presence and strong defense to the floor.

Despite losing key players and being in a rebuild era, doubt head coach Doug Bruno at your peril. Bruno has been in the coaching game a long time, including two seasons as head coach of the Chicago Hustle of the Women’s Professional Basketball League, (WBL), the first professional women’s basketball league in the United States. Bruno is a proven winner who has grown the game of women’s basketball his whole career. This season, he and the DePaul program have already made history, participating in the Crossover at Kinnick exhibition game against Iowa. The game, held in Iowa’s football stadium, drew 55,646 fans, nearly doubling the previous record of 29,619 (Oklahoma v. UConn, 2002 NCAA national championship). Bruno’s program has consistently been among the nation’s elite, a place the Blue Demons will fight to rejoin this season.

DePaul head coach Doug Bruno stands on the sideline and talks with guard Maeve McErlane.
DePaul head coach Doug Bruno talks with guard Maeve McErlane (13) during the Crossover at Kinnick exhibition game against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Oct. 15, 2023. (Photo credit: Angela Holmes | The Next)

Looking up: Butler, Providence, Georgetown, Xavier


2023-23 season: 11-19 (6-14 BIG EAST, T-8th), BIG EAST Tournament first round

When head coach Austin Parkinson was hired by Butler prior to the 2022-23 season, he inherited a one-win team (1-18) that went winless in conference play. In his first season, Parkinson led the program to a 11-19 finish, including six BIG EAST wins. Although still not a winning record, a 10-game win increase is a significant improvement. The Bulldogs improved towards the end of the season, going on a four-game win streak during February. Butler is trending up, and Parkinson has impacted the program positively in just one season at the helm.

In building a program at Butler, Parkinson is looking to the homegrown talent in Indiana. Of 14 players on this year’s roster, seven of them (50%) are from the Hoosier state, including all three incoming freshman. Transfers Lilly Stoddard (Purdue) and Ari Wiggins (Michigan) transferred to Butler during the offseason from Big Ten schools with championship pedigree.

Lilly Stoddard, a 6’4 forward, joins her sister, Butler senior Abby, on the Bulldogs. She will add height and a post presence for Butler, a team that ranked a dismal 340 out of 361 NCAA D-I teams in total rebounds per game (31.5) last season, per Her Hoop Stats.

“We are excited to add Lilly to our post core for the next three years,” Parkinson said. “Lilly can immediately help us in two areas we needed to improve and that is shot blocking and rebounding. Her length and speed can be very good for us on the defensive end. I also think she has tremendous upside on the offensive end as well and will be fun to see her develop in our offense in the coming years.”

Ari Wiggins, 2021 Indiana Miss Basketball runner-up, returns to hometown Indianapolis after a two-season stint with Michigan. She’s a speedy point guard with the ability to find her shot from multiple spots on the floor. She was drawn to Butler’s culture, and has the potential to be a veteran voice for this program on the rebuild.

“I decided to come to Butler because it’s like a homecoming,” Wiggins said. “The women’s basketball team operates as a family and values me as a person, a student and a basketball player. Butler will help me grow in each area of my life. I’m glad to be a part of the Butler family.”

Austin Parkinson has done a great job setting the foundation for the Butler program to grow and thrive. As he continues to recruit and attract players that fit into his system, expect this program to continue to become more and more competitive in a deep BIG EAST conference.


2022-23 season: 13-19 (4-16 BIG EAST, 10th), BIG EAST Tournament first round

When Providence’s new head coach Erin Batth addressed the Friar faithful alongside new men’s head coach Kim English in March of this year, fans were hanging on her every word. She spoke with passion about how grateful she was for the opportunity to lead the team, and shared her vision for the program.

“When I talk about the sky is the limit, that’s how I feel when I’m here,” Batth said. “Over time, Providence College has become synonymous with high-level basketball and high-level academics. I knew when the time came I would be ready to become a head coach, and that time is right now. More importantly I am excited to build something that everyone in the community will be proud of.”

Batth brings several years of NCAA Division I coaching experience to Providence, but this will be her first time in the head coach’s chair. She is inspired to bring the Friars back to the top of the conference. The program boasts three BIG EAST regular season titles (1983, 1986, 1990), one conference tournament title (1990) and five NCAA tournament appearances, its most recent in 1992. Since then, however, the program has had five head coaches who struggled to attain winning records during their tenures. Under then-head coach Jim Crowley, the Friars finished last season 13-19, ending the season with a first round exit from the BIG EAST tournament.

Already, there appears to be a fresh energy surrounding the Providence program due to Batth’s influence.

“I think we’ve gotten 10 times better just from this summer being with her,” Friars junior guard Kylee Sheppard said. “We learned so much. We’ve implemented more offenses and more defenses than we had last year.”

Sheppard, alongside senior guard Brynn Farrell, senior guard Grace Efosa and junior forward Emily Archibald are the Friars’ co-captains for the upcoming season. They will be the leaders responsible for helping to execute on Coach Batth’s vision for a new era of Friars basketball. The roster is also boosted by the addition of two players with international basketball experience. Transfers Marta Morales Romero (Spain) and Ugne Sirtautaite (Lithuania) have both represented their countries in FIBA competitions.

Batth and her coaching staff, which includes two-time national champion and UConn alum Kaili McLaren, are poised to raise the bar for a Providence program that is hungry to once again be a BIG EAST contender.

“The team might be nine right now, but we’re not going to stay there,” Batth said. “That’s how it is.”


2022-23 season: 14-17 (6-14 BIG EAST, T-8th), BIG EAST Tournament Quarterfinals

The day before BIG EAST media day, Georgetown Athletics announced the passing of head coach Tasha Butts. Tasha was a Tennessee Lady Vol legend as a collegiate player, and spent her career developing the next generation of student-athletes as a coach. She was hired by Georgetown in April of this year, accepting her first head coaching role. The women’s basketball community mourns her loss and celebrates her life.

Stepping in as head coach for the Hoyas is Darnell Haney. Haney brings head coaching experience to the Georgetown bench, coming to D.C. after five years as head coach of Jacksonville. When Tasha Butts called him about a role on her staff, Daney thought she was calling with interest in hiring one of his assistants at Jacksonville. Instead, she was calling to hire him to talk about his potential interest in the role.

“She talked to me about her values,” Haney said. “And she talked to me about things she thought were important and the program, how I would be able to help her — our values aligned.”

Haney will now have the chance to execute on those values, taking over a program that finished last season 4–17 and with a disappointing first round defeat in the first round of the BIG EAST Tournament. Fortunately, he’ll have the help of Preseason All-BIG EAST Team honoree: senior guard Kelsey Ransom. Ransom, who has been team captain since her junior season, led last year’s team in scoring, assists, rebounds and steals. She is poised to lead the Hoyas this season, applying the standards that Coach Butts instilled in the team.

“She translated what she learned from [former Tennessee head coach] Pat Summitt to us,” Ransom said. “Things outside of basketball. There are standards we have as a team now where it feels wrong not doing them.”


2022-23 season: 7-23 (0-20 BIG EAST, 11th), BIG EAST Tournament first round

Conference play can’t get much worse than it did last season for Xavier, unable to win any of its conference games. After four seasons the Musketeers parted ways with head coach Melanie Moore during the offseason. Moore went 24-81 (8-60 BIG EAST) during her tenure with the program. They are a program in need of a major boost to emerge from the conference’s basement.

“Basketball is important for Xavier University, and our women’s basketball program has a tradition and history of success,” said Greg Christopher, Xavier director of athletics said upon Moore’s departure. “We expect that our women’s basketball team can be competitive within the BIG EAST and play in the postseason.”

To replace Moore, Xavier hired Billi Chambers as head coach during the offseason. Chambers comes to the Xavier program after spending a decade as the head coach at Iona University (2013-23) in New Rochelle, New York. During her tenure there, she was a two-time Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Coach of the Year, clinched two MAAC regular season championships (2013-14, 2022-23) and two MAAC Tournament Championships (2015-16, 2022-23) apiece, and led the program to two NCAA Tournament appearances (2015-16, 2022-23).

Chambers is poised to elevate Xavier program, and has her work cut out for her to do so. The BIG EAST is an increasingly competitive conference, and there will be no easy games for the Musketeers. She isn’t thinking too far ahead, though, and knows that a rebuild happens in the moment to moment growth of her players.

“It’s just a matter of getting to one game at a time and seeing how we grow from that game to the next game,” Chambers said. “…How are we growing today? And how are we growing from game one to game two?”

Game one of women’s college basketball season is just days away. The full non-conference and conference schedule for each BIG EAST team can be found here.

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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