2018 Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament Semifinals
Date: Monday, March 5, 2018
Time: 3pm Central
Location: Wintrust Arena, Chicago, IL
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Season Series: Split 1-1, with each team winning on the road
All Time Series: Creighton leads, 12-6
We arrive on Semifinals Monday with Marquette squaring off with Creighton for the second straight season. Last year, it was #2 Creighton tangling with #3 Marquette in MU’s building in Milwaukee with the Golden Eagles coming out on top, 72-65. This time, it’s #4 Creighton against #1 Marquette, but both squads will be on a neutral floor at Wintrust Arena.
Want to hear an interesting theory? This game is going to come down to the play of Marquette’s Amani Wilborn.
Here’s what I mean.
Last year, in the semifinals, the Bluejays were unable to contain the Milwaukee native, as she went for a then-career high 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting, along with three rebounds and four assists. Marquette won, 72-65. This year, in Omaha, Marquette got a career high 23 points from Wilborn on 9-of-15 shooting against the Bluejays, and she added eight rebounds, an assist, and two steals. Marquette won, 92-77.
In the return bout in Milwaukee, Wilborn shot 3-of-9, including four misses on four attempts behind the arc. She finished with 10 points, a pretty strong six rebounds and three assists, and a block. Marquette lost, 74-73.
Now, I’m not saying that she needs to knock down another career high for Marquette to beat the Bluejays. I am saying that when Wilborn is running wild, much like she ran wild all over Butler on Sunday afternoon, the Jays can’t beat Marquette. When Creighton figures out a way to contain her, or force her into shots that she doesn’t like, then the advantage in this one may just tip in the Bluejays’ favor.
Big picture, this game is a clash of two styles. Creighton tries to play with fewer than 65 possessions in a game, ranking #334 in the country in tempo according to Her Hoop Stats. The Golden Eagles, on the other hand, are trying to get to at least 75 possessions, and have the 31st fastest tempo in the country. Creighton’s style makes sense for them, as they have an incredibly efficient offense (#47 in the country) but an incredibly suspect defense that ranks #294 in the country in terms of points per possession. This goes sideways pretty quickly for the Bluejays when they face Marquette, because the Golden Eagles 1) go faster than them, 2) have a more efficient offense (#24) at that speed, and 3) are much, much better on defense (#182 in efficiency).
Creighton’s offensive efficiency lies primarily within their three-point shooting. They’re the 23rd most accurate shooting team in the country, and only 33 teams launch a higher percentage of their shots from behind the arc. Audrey Faber and Jaylyn Agnew are the most likely shooters, with both launching more than 150 triples this season, but they’re not the most accurate. They’re knocking down over 37% of their threes this season, which is pretty good. However, Marquette has to watch out for Sydney Lamberty and Olivia Elger, both of whom are shooting over 40% from long range. Elger in particular has been pretty great, dropping down 44% of her shots.
Beyond the issue of “allowing lots of threes is bad,” Marquette has another reason to not let CU fire away. In short: Marquette isn’t a great long range shooting team, preferring to their damage inside and on the break. The Golden Eagles can not find themselves in a game where they’re trading twos for threes for an extended period of time.
One final thing: Marquette is in no danger of missing the NCAA tournament if they lose. ESPN’s Charlie Creme updated his bracket early Monday morning, and he has the Golden Eagles as a #7 seed with the cutline coming between the #10 and #11 seeds. This meeting is incredibly critical for Creighton, as Creme as them rising to a #10 seed, but that has them as just the third to the last team into the 64 team field. A loss may send Creighton to the WNIT.
The winner of this game advances to Tuesday’s championship game, where they will play the winner of the other semifinal game. That’s #2 DePaul squaring off with #6 Georgetown, and the title game is set to tip off at 6pm Central on FS1.