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Marquette Women’s Basketball Weekend Preview: at Butler & at Xavier

The Golden Eagles need wins, pure and simple.

NCAA Basketball: DePaul at Butler Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette can not afford to lose either of their two games this weekend.

Can’t do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.

In his most recent bracketology effort, ESPN’s Charlie Creme has MU as a 9 seed in the NCAA tournament. Now, you might be saying, “Hey, that sounds pretty good and safe when it comes to the bubble,” and if you were using the men’s tournament as a comparison there, you’d be 100% correct.

However, women’s hoops is much more top heavy than the men’s side of the aisle. Creme has the “auto-bids from here on down” section of his bracket start with one of the 10 seeds. 11 seeds? All automatic bid teams. Same for the 12 seeds. Marquette is a 9, and the cutoff for the at-large squads is a 10. It’s not that far away. MU isn’t listed in the “Last Four In,” so they’re at least not the lowest ranked 9 seed.

The point of all of this is that right now, Marquette is somewhere in the final 10 at-large spots in the bracket, probably somewhere between 6 and 10. Marquette has an RPI of 43 through games on February 8th, but they’re still in the tournament. Butler is the worst RPI team in the Big East at #232, and Xavier’s not exactly a picnic at #171. It’s entirely possible that MU’s postseason profile won’t be able to absorb a loss to either one of these squads, even with the game coming on the road.

Can’t lose either of these games. Can’t do it.

Allazia Blockton Watch: The countdown to 1,000 career points continues, as Blockton’s 418 points this season have pushed her to 979. I feel like it’s safe that her 17.4 points per game average will be enough for Blockton to get 21 points in two games, but my math could be off there. The sophomore from Milwaukee (yes, sophomore) needs 23 points to tie Kerri Christianson for 24th place on the all-time scoring chart at 1,002.

Natisha Hiedeman Watch: The sophomore from Green Bay has the 12th most made three-pointers in a Marquette career. Hiedeman had 68 a year ago and 53 so far this season gives her 121. Erin Monfre at #10 with 125 might be in range for this weekend. Hiedeman also has the third most made threes for a sophomore, and next up is Kristen Maskala at 65.

McKayla Yentz Watch: The reason why Hiedeman is 12th is because Yentz is tied with Courtney Weibel for the 9th most made three-pointers in program history. Yentz’s 53 made threes this season moved her into the tie at 135. Courtney Romeiser and Tatiyiana McMorris are tied for seventh at 152 triples, so that’s still a bit off. Yentz’s evolution as a shooter for this team in her 4 year career is quite impressive, as her 139 attempts from long range this season have her with the 11th most in program history at 405. Tatiyiana McMorris at 410 and Kristi Johnson at 413 are up next on that list, and could get passed this weekend.

Big East Game #14: at Butler Bulldogs (5-18, 2-10 Big East)

When: Friday, February 10, 2017, at 6pm CT
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN
Audio/Visual: The Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go has the free video stream & there’s live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette has an 8-7 all time record against Butler after beating the Bulldogs earlier this season in the McGuire Center. The Golden Eagles have won four straight meetings (and eight of the last 11) to take the lead in the series.

Since Last We Met: The Bulldogs have followed up their 38 point smackdown at the hands of Marquette with five more losses to run their losing streak to seven straight. They had a chance to steal a win immediately after their trip to Milwaukee, holding a 59-56 lead on Villanova with five seconds left.... but they fouled Alex Louin while she was trying a desperation triple, and she canned all three freebies to force OT where the Wildcats led by as many as six before holding on to dish BU the loss.

They’ve had some other close calls: losing by six at home against Georgetown, losing by seven in New York against St. John’s, and giving up a last second jumper to lose by 2 to Seton Hall out in South Orange. Their most recent game sounds like a nightmare to watch, as Butler lost 53-43 to Xavier in Hinkle Fieldhouse. No thank you, sir and/or madam.

Tori Schickel provides Marquette with the biggest defensive question. The sophomore forward is averaging 14.3 points (7th best in the league) and 11.3 rebounds (#1 in the league), making her the only player in the Big East that averages a double-double. That’s the bad news. The good news is that MU contained Schickel to eight points and eight rebounds in the first meeting, although it’s probably worth mentioning that head coach Kurt Godlevske sat Schickel down for the final 13 minutes of the game because BU was getting massacred.

The primary reason that Marquette could do a number on Schickel is because there is absolutely no reason to worry about Butler shooting from outside, at least not until they start hitting. Butler’s shooting just 26% on three-pointers this season, and an even worse 25% in league play. Sydney Buck is their best shooter at 30%, and Sydney Shelton is their most likely shooter, averaging more than six attempts per game, but she’s only connecting on 27%. Butler’s players can be completely ignored outside the arc as far as I’m concerned, at least until they hit two in a row. Not as a team, each individual player. Otherwise, double Schickel at all costs and let the chips fall where they may.

Big East Game #15: at Xavier Musketeers (11-12, 3-9 Big East)

When: Sunday, February 12, 2017, at 1pm CT
Where: Cintas Center in Cincinnati, OH
Audio/Visual: The Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go has the free video stream & there’s live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette has an 9-7 all time record against Xavier. The Golden Eagles have won two straight against the Musketeers to break the series tie.

Since Last We Met: The Musketeers ran off five straight losses coming off their 85-61 loss to Marquette in Milwaukee, but thankfully (for them) they snapped that streak by slogging their way to a 53-43 win over Butler. Xavier’s losses weren’t as nip and tuck as Butler’s losses were, although they did have a 69-64 home overtime loss to Georgetown. Much like Butler against Villanova, Xavier had an OT loss that probably should not have happened. Raeshaun Gaffney had put XU up by two with 23 seconds left, and they forced a missed shot by Dionna White, but they fouled Dorothy Adomako on the rebound. She hit both freebies, overtime was forced, and Xavier took the L.

While Marquette might be able to just let Butler shoot from outside without worrying about it, the same can’t be said for Xavier. As a team, XU is shooting under 33% from long range, which is good news, but there’s a couple of players to worry about. Gaffney is connecting on 41% of her treys to help drive her scoring average to the fourth best mark in the Big East. Kindell Fincher is only hitting on 32% of her three-pointers, but she averages 5.5 attempts per game and she let fly 10 times against Marquette in Milwaukee. She only sank two of them, and Gaffney missed all five of her long range attempts in that game as well. Odds are that the two of them won’t be that bad again, so MU’s defense will have to be on alert.

One other thing to watch is how Xavier’s Imani Partlow will play. The redshirt sophomore has mostly come off the bench for head coach Brian Neal, much like she did for the game in Milwaukee earlier this season. Partlow is the physical type of player that has given MU fits over and over this year, and that was the case in the previous meeting. In just 19 minutes, she scored 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, grabbed four rebounds, and blocked a shot. Marquette will have to find a way to limit her contributions.