March 20, 2024 

What to watch for from BIG EAST teams in the postseason

Key storylines from around the conference

Nine of 11 BIG EAST teams have advanced to postseason tournaments — three to the NCAA Tournament, four to the Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament (WBIT) and two to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). Who will each BIG EAST team face in the first round, and what are three key conference storylines?

Continue reading with a subscription to The Next

Get unlimited access to women’s basketball coverage and help support our hardworking staff of writers, editors, and photographers by subscribing today.

Join today

Check out CBB Analytics today!

Unlock the secrets of college basketball success with Our site offers exclusive data-driven insights and analytics, making it the go-to resource for fans, analysts and coaches alike.

First-round schedule


  • *No. 3 UConn vs. No. 14 Jackson State
  • No. 10 Marquette vs. No. 7 Mississippi
  • No. 7 Creighton vs. No. 10 UNLV

*As a top-four seed in its regional, UConn will host the first and second rounds of the tournament


  • St. John’s at No. 3 Florida
  • Seton Hall at No. 3 St. Joseph’s
  • VCU at *No. 1 Villanova
  • Georgetown at No. 2 Washington

*As a No. 1 seed, Villanova would host the first three rounds of the tournament (higher-seeded teams host first three rounds should they advance)


  • Bowling Green at Butler
  • Colgate/UAlbany winner at *Providence

*Providence earned a first-round bye and will host a second-round game

The Next, a 24/7/365 women’s basketball newsroom

The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff and dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.

Three key storylines

UConn’s quest for Final Four

Most college basketball programs hang a banner for making it to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. The UConn Huskies aren’t most programs, however, and they tally their Final Four appearances on a corner wall in Gampel Pavilion — 22 in total. The program reached the Final Four in every season that one was held from 2007 to 2022 — 14 in a row.

When Ohio State defeated UConn 73-61 in the 2023 Sweet 16, an absurd run of Final Four appearances ended for the heralded program. Around the sport, it signaled the end of complete UConn dominance in the NCAA Tournament.

“[The] thing that you take from it is how incredibly difficult it is to win in March in the NCAA tournament. And because we made it look so routine and so easy, we gave the impression that it’s very easy to do,” head coach Geno Auriemma said after last season’s Sweet 16 loss. “It’s a reminder that, no, it’s not. It’s very difficult to do. So you appreciate what we had, what we did, and, you know, you have to start another one next year.”

As a No. 3 seed in a competitive Portland 3 Regional, the path to the Final Four will not be easy. The Huskies have just eight available players, and four of them are first-year players. Paige Bueckers and fellow seniors Aaliyah Edwards and Nika Mühl have carried heavy minutes and leadership responsibilities all season. There is so little margin for error with such a tight rotation.

Pre-order ‘Rare Gems’ and save 30%

Howard Megdal, founder and editor of The Next and The IX, will release his next book on May 7, 2024. This deeply reported story follows four connected generations of women’s basketball pioneers, from Elvera “Peps” Neuman to Cheryl Reeve and from Lindsay Whalen to Sylvia Fowles and Paige Bueckers.

If you enjoy his coverage of women’s basketball every Wednesday at The IX, you will love “Rare Gems: How Four Generations of Women Paved the Way for the WNBA.” Click the link below and enter MEGDAL30 at checkout.

Despite their lack of depth and experience, the Huskies have a chance because of their All-American guard, Bueckers. She has never played in a NCAA Tournament that didn’t end with a Final Four appearance. In 2021, Bueckers swept all national player of the year awards and carried the Huskies to the Final Four semifinal. In 2022, she carried the squad to the Final Four with a heroic Elite Eight performance against N.C. State. The season ended in a title game loss to South Carolina.

Bueckers has had another All-American season this year after missing her entire junior season to an ACL injury. She averages 21.8 points per game on 53.8% shooting from the field, 42.4% from beyond the arc and 84.7% from the charity stripe. During the conference tournament, the BIG EAST Player of the Year averaged 27.7 points per game on 51.7% shooting from the field (50% from 3). She also added 8.3 rebounds per game, 4.3 assists per game, 4.0 blocks per game and 3.0 steals per game. Bueckers is playing the best basketball of her career and has transformed her body to be able to handle more wear and tear on the court.

“[Paige] almost single-handedly took us to the Final Four and the national championship game, and it was only two years ago. How quickly people forget, right?” Auriemma reminded the media after his team’s BIG EAST Tournament championship victory.

The standard in Storrs, Connecticut, is high. Fans are ready to see their team back on top, and the program is poised to return to the sport’s final weekend. If UConn performs like it did during the BIG EAST Tournament, a Final Four appearance for the third-seeded Huskies may not be such a far stretch.

One-seed Wildcats

Last season Villanova was firmly on the national basketball radar. Behind inspired play and leadership from the program’s all-time leading scorer, Maddy Siegrist, the Wildcats entered the top 10 of the AP Top 25 for the first time in program history and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 20 years. When Siegrist left for the WNBA last spring, Villanova head coach Denise Dillon was faced with a bit of a rebuild, anchored by bucket-getter Lucy Olsen, senior leader Bella Runyan and developing post player Christina Dalce.

The results this season were mixed. Villanova finished the season at No. 4 in the BIG EAST, which is exactly where it was predicted preseason. Their record on the season was 18-12, a decline from last season’s 30-7. There were times this season when the team looked out of sorts, lacking the on-court leadership and steadiness that Siegrist provided. Dalce, a junior, showed out on the defensive end of the court but was inconsistent and fell short of expectations on the offensive end of the court, averaging just 8.5 points per game. The Wildcats had some trouble in close matchups, losing five games by five points or fewer.

Had the Wildcats won a few of their close losses, they would very likely be dancing right now. When all was said and done, though, Villanova fell just outside of the tournament bubble, selected instead as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA’s inaugural WBIT. As a one seed, the Wildcats have the chance to host each game of the first three rounds, should they advance. If they can win each of those home games, they’ll advance to the semifinals of the WBIT with a chance to add a tournament trophy to their case.

March 2023 was a magical time for Villanova, and the legacy of Siegrist looms large on the program. Can this year’s team, with all its developing talent and potential, make more magic this March by winning the WBIT?

Hoyas have something to prove

All season long, Georgetown head coach Darnell Haney kept his players and staff locked in on a goal — become a tournament team. To become a tournament team, Haney knew that it came down to some basic math.

“You’re not going to be a tournament team if you don’t have 20 wins. It’s not going to happen. So what do you got to do? You’ve got to get 20 wins. You’ve got to figure out a way,” Haney said. “So every four games we get three wins — you play 28 games in a season — you’ve got a chance to get 20 wins.”

Georgetown’s Graceann Bennett dribbles the ball against a defender during the BIG EAST Tournament.
Georgetown senior Graceann Bennett eyes the basket during the BIG EAST Tournament semifinal. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)

Add Locked On Women’s Basketball to your daily routine

Here at The Next, in addition to the 24/7/365 written content our staff provides, we also host the daily Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast. Join us Monday through Saturday each week as we discuss all things WNBA, collegiate basketball, basketball history and much more. Listen wherever you find podcasts or watch on YouTube.

The Hoyas got that 20th win this season, the program’s first 20-plus win season in more than 10 years. They would pick up wins 21 and 22 en route to a program-first BIG EAST Tournament championship game. According to Georgetown fifth-year senior Graceann Bennett, the team’s success can be attributed to the program’s first-year coaching staff.

“I didn’t even label what success would mean to me because I would never have thought we would be in the BIG EAST championship game,” said Bennett. “[The coaching staff] came in and said our goal as a unit is to be a tournament team … this is how we’re going to work at it, these are our expectations, this is our work ethic, this is what we’re repeating to each other every single day. This is the culture building. We’re going to have family fun day every single month — instead of practice — where we’re going to invest in the bonds and relationships we have together. That was him and the staff.”

Coach Haney and the Hoyas will travel to Washington (16-14, 6-12 in Pac-12) on Thursday with a chance to advance to the WBIT round of 16. It will be the first time the programs meet and a chance for Georgetown to show the country that it is indeed a tournament team.

“In order to be a tournament team, you’ve got to walk like a tournament team. You’ve got to talk like a tournament team. You’ve got to play like a tournament team. It’s every single day.”

Let’s face it — sports fandom can be intimidating

That’s why we love The GIST, a one-stop shop for men’s and women’s sports coverage, and a place where no one will ever question your love of the game.

Ready to join an empowering and inclusive community for all sports fans? Subscribe to their free 4x-weekly newsletter.

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.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.