2018 Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship
Date: Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Wintrust Arena, Chicago, IL
Television: FS1, with Lisa Byington & LaChina Robinson on the call
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Season Series: Split 1-1, with each team winning at home.
All Time Series: DePaul leads, 43-26. However, Marquette has won four of the last five.
Well, here we are again.
For the second straight season, Carolyn Kieger’s Marquette squad will square off with Doug Bruno’s DePaul team in the Big East tournament championship game. Yet again, nothing is particularly on the line for the two teams other than bragging rights. As of very early Tuesday morning, DePaul was a #6 seed and Marquette was a #7 seed in Charlie Creme’s bracketology effort for ESPN. That was before both teams won their semifinal games, so there’s no reason to think they’re drifting closer to the cutline down past the #10 seeds.
However, this game is a little bit different than last year’s encounter. Last year, it was DePaul visiting Marquette’s building as the #1 seed taking on the #3 seeded Golden Eagles. This time around, Marquette and DePaul shared the regular season championship, but someone has to be the #1 seed, and thanks to tiebreakers, that is Marquette. The Blue Demons took the #2 seed, but they have the advantage of playing the tournament in Wintrust Arena, which kind of counts as their arena. While the men’s team has played all of their home games there this season, the women’s squad had six home games and an exhibition game at Wintrust with the remainder at their on-campus gym. So it’s not quite the same thing as the McGuire Center was for Marquette last season, but by nature of being in Chicago, it’ll be a home court experience for DePaul. Probably.
DePaul reaches the championship game after downing Seton Hall and Georgetown in relatively easy fashion in the quarterfinals and semifinals respectively. Double-doubles from Mart’e Grays and Chante Stonewall guided the way to the 78-52 victory over the Pirates, while four Blue Demons scored in double digits including an 11 & 11 double-double from Kelly Campbell while smashing the Hoyas, 85-53. Marquette did the opposite, and had two trying experiences to get through their first two games of the tournament. MU pushed away from Butler in the fourth quarter to win 73-61 on Sunday, and then they let a 12 point lead midway through the third quarter dissipate against Creighton Monday afternoon. Allazia Blockton plays for Marquette, though, and she scored nine of her MU Big East tournament record and career high 32 points in the fourth quarter to help the Golden Eagles bounce back from trailing by as many as four points in the final frame against the Jays.
I can tell you one thing about this game: we’re going to see some points scored. In the previous two meetings this season, the winning team scored over 90 points. Last season, in three meetings, the winner (which was Marquette all three times) scored at least 85 points and in the two regular season meetings, MU scored at least 95 points. It’s not to say that this won’t be a defensive minded contest. Far from it, in fact. Both DePaul and Marquette are top 40 in defensive rating on Her Hoop Stats. It’s just that Bruno and Kieger want as much explosive speed in their teams as possible. Marquette ranks #31 in tempo on Her Hoop Stats, and DePaul is even faster at #24. These two teams are going to GO, and if you’re going to be watching, you’re going to need to be ready for a breakneck pace of play.
The difference between the two squads is that Marquette is going to try to go to the rack on a regular basis while DePaul is going to try and shoot threes all day long. There are just two teams in the country that have a higher percentage of shots from behind the arc than DePaul has. Thankfully for them, they’re really good at sinking the triples, connecting on 36% as a team, which is the 46th best mark in the country. Unfortunately for them, Marquette did a great job of making DePaul uncomfortable from long range in both of the regular season meetings. In the game at the McGuire Center, DePaul only got 34% of their shots from behind the arc, and they only connected on 21% of them. In the DePaul victory down in Lincoln Park, the Blue Demons got the shots they wanted, lofting over 51% of their shots from behind the arc, but they only connected on 32% of them. You don’t want to distill a preview down to just one thing, but if MU can limit DePaul’s options from long distance, that should turn things into a Marquette victory.
Perhaps the best part about this game is that I can’t tell you who will lead either team in scoring in the game. DePaul has six players averaging between 14.4 and 9.2 points per game. Any one of them could be the top scorer for the Blue Demons on Tuesday night. Marquette’s scoring is a bit more compact with five players averaging between 19.1 and 11.7 points per game. Both teams have had two different players lead them in scoring so far in the Big East tournament, and it would not be surprising in the slightest to have a third player take the reins for each side here.