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2017 Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship Preview: #1 DePaul vs #3 Marquette

The Golden Eagles aim to topple the Blue Demons for the third time this season and earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

DePaul v Connecticut Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty ImagesI

2017 Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship Game

#1 DePaul Blue Demons vs #3 Marquette Golden Eagles

When: Tuesday, March 7, 2017, at 8pm Central
Where: Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee, WI
Television: FS1
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: GameTracker
Season Series: Marquette won, 2-0
All Time Series: DePaul leads, 42-24
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

There’s nothing on the line on Tuesday night but pride and trophies.

DePaul already has a regular season title in their back pocket, and as of Monday morning, ESPN’s Charlie Creme had the Blue Demons as a #4 seed in the NCAA tournament. Nowhere to go but up for them, and that mobility is probably limited, generally speaking. Marquette, on the other hand, was shifted up a seed line by Creme on Monday. The Golden Eagles now project as a #7 seed in the NCAA tournament after a few weeks of hanging out as a safely in the field #8 seed. That was, of course, beating Creighton on Monday afternoon, and the Bluejays were ranked #23 in the newest Associated Press poll. They also sat at #22 in the RPI through Sunday’s games, while the Golden Eagles were chilling at #32. Safe to say that after the win over CU, Marquette is a teensy bit higher up on the food chain.

But again, Marquette is just as safely in the NCAA tournament as DePaul is. All they’re playing for on Tuesday night in the 2017 Big East tournament championship game is pride and trophies.

Of course, you can look at it a little deeper if you want. Marquette got the 2-0 season sweep over the Blue Demons in the regular season. What DePaul will tell you is that while those were the only two losses that they suffered in league play, they also came without Big East Preseason Player of the Year Jessica January. The DePaul star broke her finger during their very first Big East contest this season and missed the next 15 games, including the 102-101 overtime MU victory in Chicago and the 96-81 victory by the Golden Eagles in Milwaukee.

The counter to that from Marquette fans, of course, is that the Blue Demons ran roughshod on the rest of the league without January but still couldn’t find a way to unlock the code to beat the Golden Eagles. Deep down, Marquette fans (and probably the coaching staff and the players) want to see MU face off with DePaul with January in the lineup like they’ll see on Tuesday night. Let’s find out if MU’s two regular season wins were injury-tinged luck or if it never really mattered because blue and gold beats blue and red.

There’s also a bit of long term meaning to Tuesday night’s title game. Since The Reformation, DePaul has won or shared every single regular season title, and the Blue Demons have won two of the three conference tournaments as well. Here in head coach Carolyn Kieger’s third season manning the helm at Marquette, there’s a chance to announce that there’s a new lead dog in the yard. MU has a sophomore heavy lineup and they are clearly on the ascent under Kieger. DePaul’s not going anywhere, of course, even with Jacqui Grant, Brooke Schulte, and Jessica January all as seniors this year. Doug Bruno isn’t going to suddenly forget how to coach and the Blue Demons have a strong set of underclassmen to carry that program forward. But if Marquette hoists that championship trophy on Tuesday night, the message is clear: If you want to win in the Big East going forward, you have to win in Milwaukee to do it.

Allazia Blockton Watch: Blockton scored 19 against Georgetown to get her to 539 on the season and 1,100 for her career. That has the sophomore (yes, sophomore) in 21st place all time in Marquette scoring, and up next is Lori Goerlitz at 1,133. Blockton now has the third most points by a sophomore, passing Lisa Oldenburg's 535. Krystal Ellis in second place at 593 is still a bit off, though. With 213 made field goals on the season, Blockton has the second most by a sophomore and the second most by any Golden Eagle ever, but Kristen Maskala's record of 242 is still a ways off.

Natisha Hiedeman Watch: The sophomore from Green Bay has passed Courtney Weibel for the 10th most three pointers in a career with 136. Hiedeman had 68 a year ago and 68 so far this season has driven her that far up that chart as only a sophomore. Her 68 makes this year give her the second most ever by a sophomore, and she needs just one more to tie Kristen Maskala's record, set in 1991-92. Hiedeman is also tied with herself for the sixth most threes in any season by a Golden Eagle. Her 190 long range attempts this season are the most ever by a Marquette sophomore and one away from tying Lori Goerlitz for the sixth most by any MU player.

McKayla Yentz Watch: The reason why Hiedeman is 10th in made threes is because Yentz has the 9th most made three-pointers in program history. Yentz’s 67 made threes this season moved her to 149 in her career. Courtney Romeiser and Tatiyiana McMorris are tied for seventh at 152 triples, so that's in range for Tuesday night. She’s also three away from Kelly Schwerman’s third most makes for a senior at 70. Yentz’s evolution as a shooter for this team in her 4 year career is quite impressive, as her 176 attempts from long range this season have given her the 7th most in program history at 442. Yentz passed current head coach Carolyn Kieger as well as Courtney Weibel in attempts last weekend and now has her sights set on Kelly Schwerman’s sixth highest total of 454.

Erika Davenport Watch: The Michigan native is up to 292 rebounds on the season, which is now the third best season by a Marquette sophomore. Davenport passed Kathy Andrykowski, who grabbed up 273 in 1977-78, last weekend, and Abbie Willenborg's 297 is easily in range against the Blue Demons.

Team Watch: Allazia Blockton drained a three midway through the first quarter against Creighton to give Marquette 209 made triples this season, breaking the team record of 208 set in 1994-95. MU added two more by the end of the game to push the record up to 211, officially making this the best three-point shooting season in Marquette basketball history, as the men's team has already broken their record for triples in a season. The Golden Eagles are also in range for the team record for assists in a season. After 13 assists against Creighton, they have 526 so far, and the record is 537, also set in 1994-95. Odds are that we’ll see that record fall on Tuesday night.