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Marquette Women's Basketball Preview: at Seton Hall & at St. John's

The Golden Eagles continue their three game road trip to open league play with a trip out east for two games.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette's 5-7 on the season, which, if you dig deeper, isn't that bad.  They started out the year with four straight losses, which, yes, is no good.  But Marquette is 5-3 since then, and all three losses are against teams that were ranked at the time.  You can't really fault a team consisting of eight freshmen and two women who barely played last year to suddenly figure out how to beat veteran ranked opponents, so you have to be encouraged that all three contests were competitive.

With a trip to the NYC area, Marquette's looking to avoid consecutive losses for the first time since that 0-4 stretch to open the season.  That might be a rough test, as they're going to see a team that won last year's regular season title and a team that was picked to finish second in the Big East this season.  If Marquette is going to pull out a win (or multiple wins?) on this two game hitch, they're going to need Allazia Blockton and Natisha Hiedeman to keep going bananas.  Hiedeman was named Big East Player of the Week last Monday for her 30 point outing against UWM, while Blockton picked up her fourth straight Big East Freshman of the Week award.  Think about this: a Marquette basketball player is a runaway favorite for Big East Freshman of the Year, and it's NOT Henry Ellenson.  Hell, if Blockton keeps this up, I can start making a case for her as Big East Player of the Year.

Big East Game #2: at Seton Hall (12-1, 2-0 Big East)

When: Sunday, January 3, 2016, at 1pm Central
Where: Walsh Gymnasium in South Orange, NJ
Audio/Visual: The Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go has the video broadcast, plus there's live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

So I didn't realize that the Big East coaches didn't think very highly of Seton Hall before the season started.  They picked the Pirates to finish fifth in the league this season.  I know that Tony Bozzella's crew lost some very important seniors, but he's plugged the holes with a couple of transfers nicely, one of them of the graduate variety, and the Pirates are 12-1 with only a road loss to a very good Georgia team marring their season.

This will be the Big East home opener for the Pirates, but they're already holding two wins in league play.  They opened the season with the worst travel partner pairing on the schedule, winning at Providence on Tuesday and then following that up with a win at Creighton Thursday.  That's just a rough stretch of travel for any team, and I can't help but wonder if getting that roadie out of the way during winter break is going to end up paying off down the road for Seton Hall.

Tabatha Richardson-Smith continues her stellar collegiate career, averaging 16.7 points per game to lead SHU and also rank fourth in the Big East.  Tiffany Jones one-ups Richardson-Smith when it comes to the conference rankings, as her 7.8 rebounds per game are good enough for the third best mark in the conference.  Shakena Richardson is that grad transfer that I mentioned, and she's got bragging rights on Jones and TRS by ranking second in the Big East with 5.8 assists per game.

Big East Game #3: at St. John's (11-2, 2-0 Big East)

When: Tuesday, January 5, 2016, at 6pm Central
Where: Carnesecca Arena in Queens, NY
Audio/Visual: The Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go has the video broadcast, plus there's live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

As you can guess from Marquette visiting St. John's after going to Seton Hall, the Red Storm also pulled off the Creighton/Providence road trip this week, just going in the opposite direction that the Pirates did.  I don't want to accuse anyone of anything here, but it does seem awfully unfair for the teams that are contending for the league title to get to swing the hardest road trip of the season during winter break.  The fact that Marquette will go to PC and CU for their final road games of the season way down in mid-February has nothing to do with my thought process here.

Back to the Red Storm: Just like Seton Hall, St. John's came away from that rough road trip with two wins, and they did it in slightly more impressive fashion.  It was a 10 point win at Creighton, bettering SHU by six, and then a 19 point drubbing of the Friars, a good nine points better than the margin provided by Seton Hall.  Because of the travel partner situation in the Big East, Marquette avoids having to be the home opener for two teams by nature of DePaul traveling to the NYC area along with the Golden Eagles and heading to Queens on Sunday.

On Tuesday, we saw how Marquette's defense reacted to squaring off with the best scoring offense in the conference.  Here, they'll face the two best individual scorers in the league.  Danaejah Grant (19.0ppg) and Aliyyah Handford (18.8 ppg) are 1-2 on the Big East's scoring chart, and while Jade Walker is down at #21 on that list, her 11.5 ppg is a nice third option for the Red Storm.

Grant and Walker are tied for the team lead in rebounds at 5.8 per contest, and if you're thinking to yourself, "that's not very good," you're not wrong.  St. John's is second to last in the Big East in terms of the rebounds that they grab up, and on average, their opponent outrebounds them by one per game.