Five questions as the UConn women head into the Big East women’s basketball tournament

Alexa Philippou, Hartford Courant
·5 min read

Welcome to the postseason, UConn fans. The next time the No. 1 Huskies are back in action, they’ll be playing at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville with the Big East women’s basketball tournament crown on the line.

As the No. 1 seed, UConn has a first-round bye and will start postseason play against the winner of Friday’s St. John’s-Xavier matchup in Saturday’s Big East tournament quarterfinals (noon ET, FS1) . With a victory, the Huskies would face the winner of the DePaul-Villanova in Sunday’s semifinals (3 p.m. ET, FS1). On the other side of the bracket, Seton Hall and Marquette appear most likely to duke it out for a spot in the Big East tournament championship game on Monday (8 p.m. ET, FS1).

As UConn shifts its focus to tournament play, here’s what you need to know about the Big East bracket and some questions about the Huskies and their potential opponents.

What’s happening with DePaul?

When UConn rejoined the Big East Conference, most expected that DePaul would be the top contender to challenge the Huskies in league competition. That hasn’t been how it’s played out so far this season. UConn beat DePaul, a four-seed in this year’s Big East tournament after winning the last three, by an average margin of 28 points this season. The first meeting at Gampel Pavilion was the closest — it was a six-point game in the third quarter — before UConn pulled away.

The Blue Demons have lost three of their last four games to Creighton, Marquette and Butler. Yes, Butler, which was 2-16 going into that matchup. Notably, top DePaul scorer Sonya Morris (18.5 points per game) did not play and is dealing with a freak glute injury per The DePaulia. Her status for the Big East tournament is unclear.

DePaul remains ranked at No. 25 and is considered a NCAA Tournament team. It has a tough challenge ahead, facing Villanova in its first Big East tournament game. DePaul beat Villanova 94-82 in their only meeting of the season, but if Morris can’t play this weekend ...

Will Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist go off?

Paige Bueckers wasn’t the only player to take the Big East by storm this year. Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist finished the regular season as the conference’s top scorer (23.3 points per game) and rebounder (10.3 rebounds). The 6-foot-1 forward was the only player to surpass a 20-point scoring average and 10-point rebound average in the league. The battle between conference player of the year is likely between her and Bueckers.

A UConn-Villanova matchup could await in the semifinals, which would be an interesting rematch after the teams never made up their postponed second regular-season game. When the teams faced off in December, Siegrist did some damage in the first half with 13 points, but UConn slowed her down once they switched to a zone, and she only managed two after the break. Needing to contain a player of this caliber with the NCAA Tournament around the corner would certainly be a good test for the Huskies.

Can Seton Hall go on a run?

After the Huskies, the longest win streak in the conference belongs to Seton Hall. Following a tough stretch where it fell to UConn, Creighton and DePaul, the Pirates have won five straight, including a big win against Villanova, and secured the No. 3 seed, their highest since 2016. Coming off a 30-point outing at St. John’s, Hartford’s Desiree Elmore seems to be peaking at the right time, and guards Andra Espinoza-Hunter and Lauren Park-Lane can make some noise. A deep, impressive run at Mohegan Sun Arena would help Seton Hall make a case for a NCAA Tournament bid.

Prior to Monday’s UConn-Marquette game, Seton Hall had arguably been the most competitive against the Huskies, sporting a 24-point average win margin. Seton Hall would most likely have to get past Marquette, who they beat earlier in the season by 11, to advance to the final.

UConn vs. Marquette rematch?

UConn grinded out a 63-53 win over Marquette on Monday night, hardly reminiscent of its 29-point takedown of the Golden Eagles in February. UConn’s offensive stagnation and decision-making were issues, but Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Aaliyah Edwards saved the day with a combined 35 points and 18 rebounds. Credit goes to Marquette for making the Huskies play a half-court game that doesn’t play to their strengths (UConn had only two fastbreak points) and for staying within striking distance all game.

UConn would only play Marquette in the tournament final and would likely have to take care of business against Seton Hall first. That said, the Golden Eagles have some momentum going into this weekend after beating Villanova and DePaul over the last two weeks and competing to the buzzer with UConn.

Can Marquette force another defensive slog if it matches up against UConn? And how do the Huskies respond after the Golden Eagles tested them this week?

Can UConn build some good momentum?

Even though it pulled out the win, UConn didn’t look like itself Monday. Luckily for the Huskies, they have some days to reset and hit the practice court before their next game on Saturday.

It’s officially March now and, as Geno Auriemma pointed out, this team has anywhere between two and nine games remaining. A strong showing at Mohegan Sun Arena this weekend — particularly from its upperclassmen and Bueckers, who struggled on Monday — would only inspire more confidence for the team before it heads to San Antonio.

Schedule

First round (Friday):

No. 8 St. John’s vs. No. 9 Xavier

No. 7 Providence vs. No. 10 Butler

No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 11 Georgetown

Quarterfinals (Saturday):

No. 1 UConn vs. 8/9 winner

No. 4 DePaul vs. No. 5 Villanova

No. 2 Marquette vs. 7/10 winner

No. 3 Seton Hall vs. 6/11 winner

Semifinals (Sunday):

No. 1 UConn or 8/9 winner vs. No. 4 DePaul/No. 5 Villanova winner

No. 2 Marquette or 7/10 winner vs. Seton Hall or 6/11 winner

Finals (Monday)

Winners of semifinal games

Alexa Philippou can be reached at aphilippou@courant.com