If you’re a Marquette women’s basketball season ticket holder, you should probably have received your paper invoice for your 2018-19 renewal in the mail by now. The invoice came with a letter from head coach Carolyn Kieger, and the letter contains the standard kind of stuff you get in this kinds of letters: thanks for your support, we couldn’t have done it without you, we set a record for average attendance, our team brings back so many great players, we’re going to Australia in August, etc., etc., etc.
The third paragraph of the letter contains actual news, though, as Kieger announces that the home schedule “will be one of the toughest we have had in recent years,” and she is not joking around with that. The headline act on the home slate this coming is season is none other than reigning national champion Notre Dame, returning Marquette’s visit to South Bend last December. This makes all the sense in the world, as Arike Ogunbowale, the superstar who hit buzzer-beaters for the Irish in both the national semifinals and national championship, is a Milwaukee native. She attended Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, and she’ll be a senior for Notre Dame in 2018-19. Only makes sense to make the arrangement to get her a home game, and it works out in Marquette’s favor to get to cash in on ticket sales by hosting the reigning national champions.
Joining the Irish on the home slate are Michigan, Green Bay, and South Dakota State. All three of those squads qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2018. The Wolverines earned a #7 seed before bowing out in the second round, while the Phoenix (#7 seed) and the Jackrabbits (#8 seed) lost their first round contests.
The Michigan game, like the Notre Dame game, is a return bout from Marquette’s visit to Ann Arbor last season. Also like the Notre Dame game, Marquette will be looking to answer back after losing on last season’s road trip. The Green Bay game is an extension of a near-yearly series that has been skipped just twice since the 2004-05 campaign and has been played in each of the past four seasons. South Dakota State is something of a surprise on the schedule, although all six contests against SDSU have come in the 21st Century, with four of them in this decade.
In addition to the idea of tangling with four 2018 NCAA tournament squads, this is a challenging schedule in terms of history against the four programs. Marquette is just 8-33 all time against Notre Dame, and hasn’t won since 2009. MU has gone 8-35 against Green Bay since that series kicked off in 1980, and the Golden Eagles have now lost six straight. Michigan has taken four of the last six meetings against Marquette to send the Golden Eagles to a 3-5 record all time agains the Wolverines. MU does have a winning record of 4-2 all time against South Dakota State, but both of the SDSU wins have come in the last two meetings.
Marquette will open the season with at least three games as part of the Preseason WNIT, starting with Montana State on November 9th. If they advance to the title game, and they have to be favored to do that, then they’ll play four games. These four home games give MU at least seven games, possibly eight if they reach the WNIT championship. The Golden Eagles played 11 non-conference games last season, so there’s still a few spots left on the calendar to be announced. I would presume that one of them would be a road game against Wisconsin, continuing the alternating home-and-home series that’s been going without interruption since 2007. MU has also played Milwaukee in each of the past five seasons, alternating home and road. Last season’s game was on UWM’s campus, though, so we’ll have to wait and see if that pattern and series continues in 2017-18.