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2018 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Second Round Preview: #1 Louisville vs #8 Marquette

NCAA Football: Louisville at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

2018 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Second Round

#1 Louisville Cardinals (33-2) vs #8 Marquette Golden Eagles (24-9)

Date: Sunday, March 18, 2018
Time: 11:00am Central
Location: KFC YUM! Center, Louisville, KY
Television: ESPN2, and it’s the only tourney game scheduled for that time, so you will see it no matter where you live.
Streaming: WatchESPN
Live Stats: NCAA Gamecenter, maybe?
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
All Time Series: Marquette is 9-15 all time against Louisville. The two teams played at least once every season between 1995-96 through 2012-13, when the Big East 2.0 broke up. They have not played since, and the Cardinals have won five of the last six meetings.

I think that Marquette is playing with house money on Sunday. Won a Big East regular season title, made the BE tournament title game, won an NCAA tournament game for the first time since 2011. That’s easily a successful season, no matter what happens against the Cardinals.

With that said, though.....

Marquette is 100% capable of beating Louisville, even with the game coming in UL’s home arena.

Back on December 20th, Marquette rallied from down eight in the fourth quarter to first tie, then take a four point lead late against then-#2 Notre Dame. The Irish tied the game in the final minute, but the Golden Eagles had one final shot to win in regulation before falling in overtime. That game was in South Bend, on Notre Dame’s floor, and the Irish went on to finish as co-regular season champions in the ACC with Louisville and earn a #1 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament.

In other words, Marquette has it in them to put themselves in a situation to win a game exactly like this. Is this a higher pressure situation with a survive and advance scenario? Of course, but you can’t let that kind of thing affect you when you take the court to actually play the game.

It won’t be easy, of course. There’s a reason why Louisville’s a #1 seed. They’re #5 in the country on Her Hoop Stats’ overall rating, and hold the same rating on both the offensive and defensive charts. They have a candidate for national Player of the Year in Asia Durr, who is absolutely capable of burying Marquette all on her own. Durr averages 18.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game, which yes, compares very well to Allazia Blockton (18.6/6.2/2.8), but Durr is a better (42% vs 39%) and more prolific (244 vs 90) three-point shooter. Honestly, it’s almost a disappointment that the Marquette men’s team is busy with NIT prep right now, because throwing Andrew Rowsey on the scout team to replicate Durr’s abilities and size (she’s 5’10”) might actually be a smart idea. Durr’s actually having a better shooting season than Rowsey, if you want to think about it that way.

While Durr is likely to drop bombs on an opponent from distance, it’s not what head coach Jeff Walz wants to rely on. Louisville only gets 28% of their shots from behind the arc, with only Arica Carter (46/114, 40%) as the lone Cardinal behind Durr with more than 80 long range attempts this season. To that end, Marquette is going to have to contend with Myisha Hines-Allen on the interior. The 6’2” senior from New Jersey averages 14 points and 10 rebounds on the season, and is almost single-handedly responsible for Louisville’s ability to dominate the glass on both ends of the floor. She’s a top 140 offensive rebounder and, per Her Hoop Stats, ranks #17 in the country in defensive rebounding rate. UL ranks in the top 75 in offensive rebounding rate as a team and top 20 on the defensive end, which is going to create a great clash against Marquette, which is floating around the top 100 margin on their own misses and top 70 at grabbing their opponent’s misses. The Golden Eagles will have to use a team effort, much as they have all season, to clean the glass to help remove Louisville’s advantage.

The two teams are well matched elsewhere as well. Both teams generate a bunch of offense by way of passing, ranking in the top 40 in assist rates. Neither team turns it over all that much, ranking in the top 75, although Marquette (#20) is much better off than Louisville (#73). Both teams force turnovers at a fairly successful rate, although UL (#68) has the advantage over Marquette (#114.)

Ultimately, this game may come down to who can dictate their tempo. Marquette is going to try to drop the hammer and go as fast as possible, aiming for north of 75 possessions in the game. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are a middle of the road tempo team, averaging below 70 possessions. If Marquette can speed up the Cardinals, it is most likely going to lead to an advantage for the Golden Eagles. That’s what happened to Dayton on Friday, to a certain degree. The Flyers are hovering a little below 71 possessions on the season, and while that game ended up at only 72 at the end, there were 40 possessions in the first half, and Dayton had kicked the ball away on 40% of those possessions. If Marquette can make Louisville uncomfortable with the speed, perhaps that can tilt the game in their favor.

Allazia Blockton Watch: The Big East Player of the Year now has the most points by a Marquette junior after scoring 15 against Dayton. That’s pretty cool all on its own, especially since her total of 614 is also the second most points in a season for a Marquette player, trailing Kristen Maskala at 635. Don’t forget this part: Blockton is currently Marquette’s #5 all time scorer at 1,740 points. That’s just a touch past Christina Quaye at 1,720, and only 5 points away from Kristin Maskala at #4 at 1,745 points. She is also Marquette’s #15 all time rebounder already with 634, 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 238, and she’s taking a run at the most field goals made in a Marquette season, sitting on 238 and needing just four more to catch Maskala. For her career, Blockton has the fourth most field goals made at 668, and is chasing down Krystal Ellis at 669 next. Blockton’s 333 free throws made are the ninth most in program history, and Carolyn Kieger is next at 347, while her 440 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 #16 on the all-time scoring chart at 1,287 points, using her 32 point explosion against Dayton to pass Carolyn Kieger. Next up is Tammy Shain at 1,289, and Kathy Andrykowski is at 1,308. Her 207 made three-pointers are the fourth most in program history, and heading towards Krystal Ellis in third at 214 quickly. Hiedeman’s 597 long range attempts are also fourth most, and also chasing Krystal Ellis, this time at 624.

Erika Davenport Watch: The Michigan native is now up to 1,162 points, good enough for 21st all-time, and 14 points away from Beth Ayers in 20th place. She’s top 10 all-time in rebounds already at 778 grabs, and Lisa Oldenburg in 7th place is up next at 832.

Amani Wilborn Watch: She scored the exact eight points she needed against Dayton to become Marquette’s 28th 1,000 point scorer, which would give Marquette four on one team at the same time. Wilborn’s 352 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 978 right now, and while I wouldn’t turn down a 22 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.