The Marquette Golden Eagles will travel to Cincinnati to play the Xavier Musketeers on Friday night before going Indianapolis to play the Butler Bulldogs on Sunday. Marquette is now out of the receiving votes category in the AP Poll and for good reason. They’ve been alternating wins and losses since their loss to Georgetown (yup, that actually happened) in mid January. Before that? A nice 7-0 in conference play. I’ve had high expectations for this team all season so three conference losses is already too much. Suffice it to say, every game is a must win the rest of the way.
Why you may ask? The DePaul Blue Demons are holding the top spot and have a one game lead on the Golden Eagles in the conference rankings. I (and probably coach Carolyn Kieger too) expected the Golden Eagles to win the Big East this year and falling short of your expectations is never fun. It’s an uphill battle because you have to win every game and hope DePaul falters down the stretch. Possible? Yes. Probable? Ehhh we’ll see...
Bold Prediction: The winning streak for MU starts this weekend with Xavier and Butler.
Big East Game #13: at Xavier Musketeers (9-15, 2-11 Big East)
Date: Friday February 9, 2018
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, OH
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
The Xavier Musketeers are tied for last in the conference standings. That’s all you need to know. Easy win. Moving on to Butl...I wish it were that easy. What I can tell you is that the Musketeers have had a ROUGH season. Just two conference wins to show for and most recently getting blown out by 34 points to St. John’s is likely not how 5th year head coach Brian Neal wanted this season to play out. Side note: Brian Neal’s day job is definitely a used car salesman. Look at that face and tell me you can’t see him trying to convince you to buy his crappy cars.
Fun Fact: Xavier is last in... scoring offense, free throw percentage, defending the three ball, and turnover margin in the Big East. What does that tell me? Marquette needs to play with high energy and confidence and take care of the ball in this game. Xavier won’t be able to keep up offensively. Even if Xavier is finding lanes inside or miraculously goes off from threes, just foul them. They are shooting 66% as a team from the charity stripe. I’m confident it won’t get to that point. But Marquette does need to get out to a fast start to avoid letting the Musketeers stick around.
Xavier has a ground total of ZERO players averaging double digit scoring this season. [Golf Clap] Their leading scorer is Imani Partlow with 9.6 points per game. Back to my earlier point, the Musketeers only have two players averaging above 40% for the year but they've both put up less than 61 attempts. So here’s to hoping that neither Na’Teshia Owens or Aaliyah Dunham go off from behind the arc. Otherwise, the Marquette defense should hold strong in the paint as they typically have all season with the play of Erika Davenport, Allazia Blockton, and Amani Wilborn. Did I forget to mention that MU beat Xavier by 21 last time out? Yup, this should be a game that’s all wrapped up in the third quarter buuuuut you just never know. With how this college basketball season has gone in both men’s and women’s ball, I know nothing about anything and you shouldn’t be listening to me right now.
Big East Game #14: at Butler Bulldogs (13-12, 5-8 Big East)
Date: Sunday February 11, 2018
Time: 12pm Central
Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse, In(THE)annapolis, Indiana?
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Conventional wisdom would tell ya that Butler will provide a tougher challenge for the Golden Eagles. I mean they have an average record but at least it’s better than Xavier’s right? Well, similar to the Musketeers they have a looong losing streak. The Bulldogs have dropped four straight games and also recently got wrecked by the Johnnies. However, all this means is that they are all the more dangerous because they’ll be desperate for a win. And desperate teams sometimes find a way to beat teams that are supposedly better than they are as we saw Wednesday night from the Marquette men’s basketball team. And thank God for that because it has momentarily saved their season.
Where was I? Oh right.
Anyways, I’m not saying that Butler will have the same luck. Just saying Coach Kieger should tell her ladies to be very cautious about not getting complacent after a likely win over Xavier. Worst case scenario, she just needs to run back tape of their game at the McGuire Center earlier this year, which required an Allazia Blockton buzzer beater for the Golden Eagles to win.
What can Butler do to make this a close game? Well, we probably shouldn’t put them at the line since they are shooting nearly 76% which is best in the Big East. The Bulldogs also lead the Big East in defensive rebounding, so their has to be an emphasis on following up misses for MU. Or just shoot 45% from the field like we’re used to seeing and you won’t even have to worry about offensive rebounding.
Butler has three players that MU should guard very closely. Whitney Jennings (17.6), Tori Schickel (17), and Kristen Spolyar (11.5) are all averaging double-digit scoring for the Bulldogs. If I were to pick one player to try and neutralize it would be Schickel since she’s shooting a team high 54% from the field and is oh so close from averaging a double double with her 9.8 boards per game. This game will be a lot closer than the Xavier game, but I fully expect the Golden Eagles to pull through. As we’ve seen for the majority of the season, the MU offense just has too many weapons for most teams to handle. I can’t imagine Blockton, Davenport, Wilborn, King, and Hiedeman all having an off shooting night. The day that happens is the day I stop writing for this goofy blog.
Two wins, two wins is all I ask for this weekend. Make me proud Lady Eagles, make me proud.