Five Thoughts About 2022-23 Baylor Women’s Basketball Season
The Baylor Bears finished 20-13 in 2022-23 in Big 12 women’s basketball and here are five thoughts on the team and the future with the season concluded.
Baylor played more ranked teams than any other Big 12 women’s team in non-conference. The Bears’ record was 1-3. The only win came against Villanova. The losses came to Maryland, Michigan and Arizona. All four made the NCAA Tournament.
Even though Baylor dominated every other non-conference game, the record against ranked teams was a portent of things to come. For the first time in more than 10 years, Baylor would not win the Big 12 regular-season title.
The Bears started Big 12 play 3-0 and then lost to Oklahoma State at home and then fell to West Virginia on the road. After that, the Bears swung back and forth. After three straight wins over Texas Tech, Kansas and Iowa State, the Bears lost four straight, including a game against Iowa State. The Bears then won three straight, followed by a regular-season finale loss to West Virginia and a loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 quarterfinals.
The Bears did more than enough to make the NCAA Tournament for the 18th time in 19 years. Their comeback against Alabama in the first round was epic. The 18-point comeback was the third-largest in NCAA Tournament history. The season ended with Baylor falling in the second round to UConn.
Guard Sarah Andrews turned out to be Baylor’s leading scorer, averaging 14.7 points per game. Forward Cailtin Bickle — who finally moved into a starting role — averaged 11.9 points and 7.1 rebounds. She was also one of the few players in the country to shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from the 3-point line and 80 percent from the free-throw line.
Guard Ja’Mee Asberry averaged 11.4 points and set a Baylor NCAA Tournament record with seven 3-poitners in the win over Alabama.
Baylor had two true freshmen that played vital roles. Guard Darianna Littlepage-Buggs, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, averaged 10.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Guard Bella Fontleroy 8.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
Jaden Owens stepped up into a full-time role as the point guard and led the team with 5.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game. She also scored eight points per game.
Guard Jana Van Gytenbeek, the Stanford transfer, and guard Catarina Ferreira, were the only other Bears to play in 20 or more games.
Two transfers — guard Aijha Blackwell and forward Dre’Una Edwards — played little to no time due to injuries and transfer issues, respectively.
Not much, actually. Bickle and Asberry were the only two Bears honored at Senior Day. The Bears have three other players listed as seniors — Owens, Blackwell and Edwards. All three still have COVID waivers they can use. It’s possible that Blackwell gets a redshirt, given how little she played. Baylor coach Nicki Collen said in January that she’s getting Edwards ready for next season. So signs point to her returning, but Edwards could also opt to go pro at this point.
The Bears also lost forward Kendra Gillespie to the transfer portal.
Who’s Staying and Who’s Coming In?
So, let’s assume Owens, Blackwell and Edwards all return. That’s three starters. Then add in Andrews, an all-Big 12 First Team selection. The Bears also expect Van Gytenbeek, Littlepage-Buggs, forward Kyla Abraham, forward Erika Porter, Fontleroy and Ferreira. That’s 10 players back.
Collen snagged just one player in the early-signing window, but it was a big get. Letycia Vasconcelos is a 6-foot-7 center from Brazil who is currently playing at the Montverde Academy in Florida. ESPN.com ranked her as the nation’s No. 36 recruit at the time she signed. Vasconcelos would be Baylor’s tallest player next season.
Based on what’s coming back and what’s coming in, Collen has a little room to add either transfers or late-signing 2023 recruits.
The Bears aren’t starting from scratch, especially if Blackwell and Edwards return. That’s 33 points and 22 rebounds per game in 2021-22 walking through the door to join Andrews and Owens. Littlepage-Buggs figures to be the fifth starter, with Fontleroy, Van Gytenbeek and Abraham growing into larger roles. Baylor would be well-served to look for some experienced height in the transfer portal, someone with the toughness of Bickle.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard