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2018 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Preview: #8 Marquette vs #9 Dayton

The Golden Eagles are looking for their first NCAA tournament win since 2011.

2016 State Farm Chicago Legends Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

2018 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament First Round

#8 Marquette Golden Eagles vs #9 Dayton Flyers

Date: Friday, March 16, 2018
Time: 1:30pm Central
Location: KFC YUM! Center, Louisville, KY
Television: ESPN2 (but only in Milwaukee & Dayton), with Beth Mowins & Nell Fortner on the call.
Streaming: WatchESPN
Live Stats: NCAA GameCenter? Maybe?
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
All Time Series: Marquette leads, 14-12, with the Golden Eagles taking 12 of the last 14 meetings.
Stakes: The winner advances to Sunday’s game against either #1 Louisville or #16 Boise State.

If you find yourself inclined to wager on Marquette’s first round game against Dayton, you may want to take the over. We know that Marquette is going to try to play at 75 possessions or faster, but in a rare treat, the Golden Eagles get an opponent that might be willing to run with them. Per Her Hoop Stats, Dayton measures out at just under 71 possessions per game, ranking #127 in the country. The offenses are distributing their points in a somewhat similar fashion as well. Four Flyers average in double figures, led by 16.1 per game from Jenna Burdette. Marquette has five double-digit scorers, with Big East Player of the Year Allazia Blockton leading the way at 18.7 per outing.

The difference between the two squads, though, is defense. Both teams have elite offenses, ranking in the top 40 in the country in points per possession. However, Dayton’s defense can (kind of) match their offense, ranking #60 on Her Hoop Stats in points per possession, while the Golden Eagles are down below #200. Points per possession aren’t everything, though, at least that’s the impression you get from the HHS Defensive Rating. Marquette’s a top 35 defense in that metric, while the Flyers are merely top 45.

The big reason why Marquette lost and lost big in the Big East championship game against DePaul is three-point shooting. The Blue Demons shot 16-for-35 (46%) from behind the arc in that one, including a devastating 8-of-12 in the second quarter. This wasn’t a surprise to anyone, as half of DePaul’s shots have come from behind the arc this season. I bring this up because Dayton ranks 11th in the country in accuracy from long distance, knocking down nearly 39% of their triples. Marquette is going to have to identify every single time when the duo of Jenna Burdette (46%) and Lauren Cannatelli (41%) try to shake loose on the arc. If they catch fire, Marquette could be in for a long afternoon. They’re also going to have to keep an eye on JaVonna Layfield, who shoots 39%, but barely lets one fly once per game.

While the Flyers have the shooters, they don’t use them as much as they could. Dayton ranks #135 in the country with just 33% of their total shots coming from behind the arc. That seems like a weird choice for this team, especially with Cannatelli letting fly 200 times this season, but hey, I’m not a coach.

This game will be a fantastic contest on the glass. Both teams are good shooting teams, ranking in the top 60 in effective field goal percentage, but they both get after misses very well. The battle for Marquette’s misses may be where the game is decided, as both teams are strong on that end of the court. Dayton doesn’t clean up their own misses very well, and MU is a top 70 defensive rebounding rate team. If MU can limit Dayton’s three-point attempts and also keep the Flyers to only one shot per trip down the court, things should be shaping up pretty well in terms of advancing to Sunday. The big battle will be between Erika Davenport and Allazia Blockton for Marquette against JaVonna Layfield and Alex Harris for Dayton. Those duos are their teams two best rebounders on the defensive glass for MU and the offensive glass for the Flyers. Whichever pairing comes away with the W may end up the winner at the end of the game.

Allazia Blockton Watch: With two points, the Big East Player of the Year will tie Krystal Ellis for the most points by a Marquette junior. That’s pretty cool all on its own, especially since it’s the third most points in a season for a Marquette player, but don’t forget this part: Blockton is currently Marquette’s #5 all time scorer at 1,725 points. That’s just a touch past Christina Quaye at 1,720, and only 20 points away from Kristin Maskala at #4 at 1,745 points. She is also Marquette’s #15 all time rebounder already with 630, pushing past Kerri Reaves and Patti Baker at 608. It’s possible that Blockton catches Stephanie Krumrei in 14th place at 638 in this game. She has the most field goals made ever by a junior with 234, and she’s taking a run at the most field goals made in a Marquette season, sitting on 234 and needing just eight more to catch Maskala. For her career, Blockton has the fourth most field goals made at 664, and is chasing down Krystal Ellis at 669 next. Blockton’s 329 free throws made are the ninth most in program history, and Carolyn Kieger is next at 347, while her 436 free throw attempts are ranked 8th all time, with Julie Sievers and Arlesia Morse coming up at 444.

Natisha Hiedeman Watch: The junior from Green Bay is up to #17 on the all-time scoring chart at 1,255 points. Next up is current head coach Carolyn Kieger at 1,277. Her 199 made three-pointers are the fourth most in program history, and heading towards Krystal Ellis in third at 214 quickly. Hiedeman’s 585 long range attempts are also fourth most, and also chasing Krystal Ellis, this time at 624.

Erika Davenport Watch: The Michigan native is the lowest of Marquette’s current set of juniors with 1,000 points, currently camping out at 1,146 points. That’s still good enough for 21st all-time, and 40 points away from Beth Ayers in 20th place. She’s top 10 all-time in rebounds already at 765 grabs, and Lisa Oldenburg in 7th place is up next at 832.

Amani Wilborn Watch: She needs just eight points to become Marquette’s 28th 1,000 point scorer, which would give Marquette four on one team at the same time. Wilborn’s 348 career assists are the ninth most in MU history, trailing Beth Crossett and Sharon Flaiz in a tie for seventh at 356.

Danielle King Watch: The junior from Chicago is going to get to 1,000 career points, but it’s just probably not going to be in this game. She’s sitting on 967 right now, and while I wouldn’t turn down a 33 point outing from her, I just don’t think it’s in the cards.

I want to remind you that all five of these women are juniors and will be back in the blue and gold next season, too.