Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
With two weeks under the season, we’ve got enough data for the first Big 5 Power Rankings.
Without further ado here’s our first look at the women’s side in 2023-24…
St. Joe's guard Mackenzie Smith is averaging 14.5 ppg and 5.5 rpg in the Hawks' undefeated start. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
1. Saint Joseph’s Hawks (4-0)
Notable Results: win @ Yale (66-45), win @ Penn (77-49), win @ Drexel (64-53)
The Hawks have flown high to start the season, winning four games by an average of 20.5 ppg, Drexel coming the closest on Sunday. St. Joe’s is being led by the four-woman core of Talya Brugler (16.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg), Mackenzie Smith (14.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Laura Ziegler (13.3 ppg, 11.8 rpg) and Chloe Welch (13.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg), while Lansdale Catholic product Gabby Casey is chipping in 5.8 ppg off the bench. They’re winning the rebound battle by 7.5 per game and shooting 34.4% from deep.
Next Up: @ Temple (Nov. 22), @ Bucknell (Nov. 28), vs. North Florida (Dec. 2)
2. Villanova Wildcats (2-1)
Notable Results: loss @ Oregon State (63-56), win vs. Temple (90-62)
The Wildcats shook off a one-week wait after the loss to Oregon State to stomp all over Temple on Sunday, getting a career-high 40-point outing from junior guard Lucy Olsen. Olsen has been the real deal as she steps into the leading scorer role, averaging 28.0 ppg on .508/.462/.727 splits early on. It was good to see Wood product Kaitlyn Orihel back on the floor after an offseason injury, as she chipped in seven points in 14 minutes against Temple. Freshman guard Maddie Webber is averaging 7.3 ppg and 4.7 rpg off the bench as well.
Next Up: vs. Holy Cross (Nov. 21), @ Wake Forest (Nov. 26), vs. Richmond (Nov. 30)
3. Penn Quakers (2-1)
Notable Results: loss vs. Saint Joseph’s (77-49), win @ Siena (85-79)
There was a lot to like about the Quakers’ road win at the Saints on Sunday: a breakout performance from freshman guard Mataya Gayle (25 points), a clutch three triples off the bench — the first three of her career — from freshman Abby Sharpe (11 points), the continued impressive play of Stina Almqvist (25 points, 10 rebounds), Michaela Stanfield’s return to the court after missing nearly a year with an ACL injury. Almqvist, a 6-1 junior wing, is averaging 20.7 ppg and 9.3 rpg through three games, with two double-doubles already; she’ll be on a few triple-double watches this season. Up next is a three-game West Coast swing for Thanksgiving.
Next Up: @ Chapman (Nov. 22), @ San Diego State (Nov. 25), @ UC San Diego (Nov. 26)
Graduate transfer Brooke Mullin is averaging 8.5 ppg for Drexel. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
4. Drexel Dragons (2-2)
Notable Results: loss vs. Norfolk State (51-49), win vs. La Salle (71-46), loss vs. Saint Joseph’s (64-53)
There’s been a learning curve for this Drexel team, with everybody entering some kind of new role for the Dragons. Perhaps the biggest surprise early on has been freshman Laine McGurk not seeing any minutes against Norfolk State and then coming off the bench in the following three to lead the team in scoring (14.0 ppg) at this point in the season. Harcum transfer Amaris Baker (13.8 ppg) has brought her scoring touch right over from the JUCO level, and Brooke Mullin (8.5 ppg) seems to be adjusting well to more of an offensive load. They could use more frontcourt production, and sophomore point guard Grace O’Neill (4.8 ppg) started strong with 12 against Norfolk State but hasn’t quite had her rhythm the last few games.
Next Up: @ Lehigh (Nov. 28), @ Marist (Dec. 6), vs. Buffalo (Dec. 9)
5. La Salle (2-2)
Notable Results: loss vs. Maine (58-45), loss @ Drexel (71-46)
It’s really a tie for the last spot with La Salle and Temple, as neither have much to brag about early in the year. But the Explorers had lower expectations coming into the year, so picking up a road win at Coppin State to open the year gets them the fifth spot. A pair of freshmen, Nicole Melious (13.3 ppg) and Aryss Macktoon (10.8 ppg) are leading them in scoring, but they’re desperate for some 3-point shooting (22.1%) and are turning it over more than 20 times per game.
6. Temple Owls (2-3)
Notable Results: loss vs. Georgetown (68-45), loss @ Ole Miss (80-63), loss @ Villanova (90-62)
Temple hasn’t played a close game yet. There have been two crushing wins against a pair of outmatched squads in Delaware State and Bucknell, and then three blowout losses to high-major opponents. A team that takes a lot of 3s is shooting just 27.7% from deep, and they have more turnovers (65) than assists (63). Tiarra East (10.4 ppg) and Aleah Nelson (9.6 ppg) are their leading scorers but neither have been efficient, and sharpshooter Tarriyonna Gary has yet to get going (24.2 3PT%).
Next Up: vs. Saint Joseph’s (Nov. 22), vs. Xavier (Tempe, Ariz, Dec. 1), vs. Pacific (Tempe, Ariz., Dec. 2)