BIG EAST Tournament Showcases Women's College Basketball
March 7, 2014
CHICAGO - The best basketball team in the BIG EAST Conference is ready to put on a show this weekend at an event that hopes to enlighten Chicago-area sports fans to the virtues of top-notch women's college basketball.
Regular-season champion DePaul heads up the 10-team field of the BIG EAST Championship Tournament that tips off with a pair of first-round games Saturday at McGrath-Phillips Arena in Lincoln Park beginning at 4 p.m..
The tournament shifts to Allstate Arena in Rosemont for the final three days with Sunday's quarterfinals beginning at noon. The semifinals are Monday starting at 3 p.m. and the title game is set for 8 p.m. Tuesday. FOX Sports 1 is televising the semifinals and title game.
It's the first time DePaul is hosting the BIG EAST tournament.
"I look at it was more than just the BIG EAST tournament," said DePaul's Doug Brunowho was named the BIG EAST Women's Basketball Coach of the Year on Wednesday. "It's about bringing quality collegiate women's basketball to the Chicago area.
"There have been so many dedicated and selfless people who have worked and sacrificed down through the years at every level to grow the game---youth basketball, high school, college and the pros.
"Now to be able to host a tournament from one of the most prestigious conferences in the country is a terrific opportunity. We'll do what we can to turn this into a festival of women in sports. We are trying to create a movement here.
"Female athletics are very underappreciated, and this is a chance for fans to see and appreciate the quality of women's athletics in the form of high-level Division I college basketball."
The tournament tips off with No. 7 seed Seton Hall (16-12) opposing No. 10 Providence (7-22) on Saturday followed by No. 8 Georgetown (10-19) against No. 9 Xavier (8-22).
Seton Hall boasts the league's top scoring tandem as Tabatha Richardson-Smith and Ka-Deidre Simmons combined to average 33.6 points per game. Georgetown features the BIG EAST's leading rebounder in 6-5 freshman Natalie Butler.
Top-seeded DePaul (24-6) will face the Georgetown-Xavier winner in Sunday's 6 p.m. quarterfinal. No. 2 seed St. John's (20-9) draws the Seton Hall-Providence winner in the noon quarterfinal.
At 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, it's No. 3 Creighton (18-12) taking on No. 6 Butler (15-14). Creighton's Marissa Janning is the BIG EAST scoring leader.
Closing out the quarterfinal round at 8:30 p.m. is a matchup of No. 4 Villanova (22-7) versus No. 5 Marquette (20-9). Villanova is the conference's top defensive team while Marquette is led by the BIG EAST's second-leading scorer Katherine Plouffe.
"It's going to be an extremely fair tournament for the other BIG EAST teams since DePaul does not play its women's home games at Allstate Arena," Bruno said. "It's a great neutral site in a wonderful community.
"The village of Rosemont has become one of the top entertainment destinations in the country. There are great restaurants everywhere along with the casual dining, live music, nightlife and bowling at the Park at Rosemont. There's the new Fashion Outlets premium mall. You have concerts and shows going on all year long.
"What an exciting atmosphere for the BIG EAST tournament."
DePaul enters the tournament having won 13 of its final 14 regular-season games behind the BIG EAST's highest-scoring offense. Bruno's team also leads the league in scoring margin, field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and baskets, assists, steals and turnover margin.
The Blue Demons are third in the country in assists (20.1 per game), fourth in steals (nearly 12 per game) and seventh in scoring at 84 points per game.
Megan Rogowski is fifth in the nation in 3-point percentage (46.7) and sixth in the country in 3-pointers per game (3.28). Jasmine Penny is DePaul's leading scorer and is 14th in the country in field goal percentage (57.1). Chanise Jenkinsis No. 15 nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio.
"Our team has made progress from the start of the season and we are continuously striving to improve," Bruno said. "We are still not close to being our best yet.
"We identified three areas where we had to improve. We had to defend better, and we had to rebound a lot better. Third, we had to play with much better intelligence on the offensive side of the ball. We needed more effective decision-making on offense.
"We have gotten much better in all three of those areas and continue to improve. When it comes to decision-making, our assist-to-turnover ratio (second in the BIG EAST) is an indication of where we are headed."
The Blue Demons' balanced attack makes it difficult for opponents to shut down.
"People ask me all the time who is our best player," Bruno said. "On any given night, it could be any of six players. Brittany Hrynko and Jasmine Pennyare the ones up front with the stats. Brittany led the BIG EAST in assists and steals and Jas led the league in field goal percentage.
"Megan Rogowski is the BIG EAST's best 3-point shooter and Chanise Jenkins is second in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio. Megan Podkowa is a quiet assassin and Jessica Januaryhas really developed as she continues to gain in self-confidence.
"Off the bench, Kelsey Reynolds, Centrese McGee and Brandi Harvey-Carr provide us with some great energy along with some very valuable and productive minutes. Injuries have limited the contributions Kelsey Smithcan make to our program.
"All in all, we're ready to play our best at the tournament."