On Friday, Marquette women's basketball announced the non-conference portion of their 2015-16 schedule. Tucked into the second paragraph of the press release was the confirmation of something I've been pretty sure of ever since GoMarquette.com updated the WBB roster:
Along with playing on a brand-new court, the Golden Eagles will have a new look themselves, returning just two players from last year's team.
You see, if you look at the roster page, it only shows returning players Shantelle Valentine and McKayla Yentz amongst the 2015-16 crew. Head coach Carolyn Kieger was supposed to have three returning players, including redshirt junior Lauren Tibbs. This is the first time I've seen the athletic department mention Tibbs departing, even though Bowling Green announced that Tibbs was transferring after graduating from Marquette back in mid-June.
This means that Marquette returns a total of 641 minutes played, 141 points scored, 134 rebounds secured, and 18 assists handed out. I really don't lay any of this at Kieger's feet. There's a reason why Terri Mitchell was not retained as head coach after the 2013-14 season and Kieger going into 2015-16 without any seniors kind of explains a lot of that. Only one returning junior and one sophomore just adds layers of explanation to why the athletic department made the move two years ago.
Effectively, Kieger is starting the program over from scratch. The good news, if there can be any good news, is that she's doing it with players that she's chosen. With eight freshmen on the roster, there might be A LOT of growing pains this upcoming season. The flipside of that is that if several of the freshmen have an impact the same way that Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, and Wesley Matthews did for the men's squad back in 2005-06, Kieger could have this thing turned back around in a hurry.
Anyway. On to the schedule, then.
|Fri., Nov. 13||at UW-Green Bay|
|Mon., Nov. 16||IUPUI|
|Sat., Nov. 21||at Northern Kentucky|
|Mon., Nov. 23||at South Dakota|
|Fri., Nov. 27||FIU Tournament|
|Sun., Nov. 29||FIU Tournament|
|Thurs., Dec. 3||Oregon State|
|Sun., Dec. 6||Wisconsin|
|Sun., Dec. 13||Auburn|
|Sat. Dec. 19||at Arizona State|
|Tues., Dec. 22||at UWM|
The Florida International Thanksgiving tournament includes FIU (obviously), Wichita State, and Richmond. For right now, we don't know how the semifinals will pair off, but if I were in charge of things and basing it on RPI from last season, I'd keep Wichita State (#42) and Richmond (#86) in separate games for the first day.
For those of you keeping track, yes, that's more road games than home games. There are three teams - UW-Green Bay, Oregon State, and Arizona State - that qualified for the NCAA tournament last season. The Sun Devils had the best performance amongst those three, making it to the Sweet 16 as a 3 seed. Oregon State is the lone NCAA tournament team that's coming to the Al McGuire Center, and they bring back 11 players from that team.
Because we've been giving a lot of attention to how lousy the men's team's schedule is, I think it's only fair that we lend the same critical eye to the women's schedule. We'll have to use the final RPI numbers from last season instead of KenPom numbers, but that's how the cookie crumbles.
High: Arizona State (#13)
Low: UW-Milwaukee (#282)
Average Opponent RPI: 120.9
Median Opponent RPI: 151
*checks on men's schedule* Yeah, the women are playing a harder non-conference schedule than the men are, and the women are likely to be much, much worse than the men will be. Six of the already set nine opponents are return bouts from last season, so it may just be a luck of the draw/contractually obligated kind of thing that boosted the women's slate, but that's still not encouraging for the men's side of the aisle.