For the first time in several years, the NCAA tournament is not a guarantee for the DePaul Blue Demons women’s basketball team. A loss in the season finale to St. John’s made it imperative for DePaul (20-10, 9-7 Big East) to give a good showing in the Big East tournament this weekend in Hartford, Connecticut, or risk falling out of contention for the Big Dance.
Led by seniors Anna Martin and Katherine Harry, the Blue Demons have a first round bye and will play either Marquette or Pittsburgh on Saturday, March 9.
DePaul defeated Pitt twice in regular season play, including a 57-55 win in which sophomore point guard Brittany Hrynko hit a game-winning layup as time expired. The Blue Demons weren’t as lucky against Marquette, who they lost to by a score of 70-66 despite a career-high 35 points from Hrynko.
The numbers say that DePaul should be able to dispatch of either team without issue, but nothing is guaranteed in the Big East. Coach Doug Bruno’s squad will have to play like they did earlier in the season when they won six games in a row, and play better than they did at the end of the year, when they lost three of their last five games, all by double digits.
Of course, the biggest issue will be what lies ahead if they end up winning their opening game. The next opponent would be Connecticut, which dealt DePaul its worst loss of the year Feb. 10 when they crushed the Blue Demons 91-44. UConn is one of the premier teams in the entire country and DePaul will have to bring everything it has and more to unseat the Huskies.
It’s a very important tournament for other reasons as well – this will be DePaul’s last jaunt through the Big East after the announcement came Friday that the conference would be splitting for the foreseeable future. In their new conference, the Blue Demons will clearly be favored, so it’s imperative to leave the old conference on a good note and prepare for the next several years.
If DePaul wants to make the NCAA tournament, they may well have to win at least one game in the conference tournament. But you can be sure Martin and Harry will want to go out fighting the best teams in the nation. One win won’t be enough for them, and they’ll scratch and claw for every inch. UConn and Big East leader Notre Dame will be favored by double digits in every game, but there’s still a chance for the seniors to end their careers as winners.