The Big East's athletic directors have decided: Marquette will host the 2017 Big East Women's Basketball Tournament at the Al McGuire Center on March 4-7, 2017.
It will be the second straight year that the tournament will be played in an on-campus facility, and the first year since The Reformation that DePaul is not the host of the annual championship tournament.
Here's some quotes from the various power players, starting with Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman:
"The BIG EAST is very proud to bring our 2017 Women’s Basketball Tournament to Marquette University and ‘The Al,’ and we look forward to working with Bill Scholl and his staff in planning this marquee championship competition. Our student-athletes, coaches and supporters can count on an exciting in-arena atmosphere, a first-class operation and all the amenities that the great city of Milwaukee has to offer, led by a program that’s on the rise. In short, this will be a terrific event for the conference and our schools."
Marquette Vice President and Director of Athletics Bill Scholl:
"We are very excited that Marquette University has been awarded the opportunity to host the 2017 BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Tournament. Milwaukee is a fantastic city, and we believe our visitors will really enjoy their time here. It is a privilege to host this premier women’s basketball event, and I know that our staff will do an excellent job in welcoming all 10 BIG EAST teams to the Al McGuire Center. It is a great opportunity for our program."
Marquette is coming off the second season under the guidance of head coach Carolyn Kieger. The Marquette alum improved her squad's win total by five in year two, with the difference coming in Big East action. Picked to finish ninth after a 4-14 season, Kieger guided the youngest team in the country to a 9-9 record in Big East play and 14-16 overall. Since there were no seniors on the roster, Marquette will return everyone from that team, including Big East Freshman of the Year Allazia Blockton. They'll be adding JUCO transfer Chelsey Gibson, who sat out the 2015-16 season with a knee injury, along with four freshman, all of whom are listed as at least 6 feet tall.
While I'm sure it's important for the league to send the conference tournament to be hosted by a team that's expected to excel this coming season, it's likely that Marquette's attendance played a factor as well. Even though the Golden Eagles are just 23-38 in two seasons under Kieger, Marquette averaged 1,358 in attendance, the third best two year average in the Big East, trailing only DePaul and St. John's. Marquette's average attendance was up nearly 400 people in Kieger's second season, and with the team poised to make the leap back to the postseason this year, there's no reason to think that the Al McGuire Center won't be jumping more often than not in 2016-17.