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#14 Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: vs Seton Hall & vs St. John’s

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The Golden Eagles return home with an eye on staying unbeaten in Big East action.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Seton Hall Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette women’s basketball is 5-0 in Big East action this season while getting eight total minutes of action from Preseason Player of the Year Allazia Blockton, all of which came in the first half of the first game.

Let me say that again.

Marquette women’s basketball is 5-0 in Big East action this season while getting eight total minutes of action from Preseason Player of the Year Allazia Blockton, all of which came in the first half of the first game.

It’s kind of insane.

Think about it this way: Imagine if Markus Howard’s back spasms happened early in the St. John’s game, and Marquette still won that game anyway, and all of their successive games without him. That’s roughly comparable to what the MU women’s squad is doing right now. They’re not even just figuring a way how to get through these games. They have an average margin of victory of 27.2 points, and that includes “only” beating Georgetown by 10 points.

At this point, I have no idea if Blockton will play this weekend. I can say that while watching the games at Villanova and at Georgetown last weekend, it looked like she was not wearing a walking boot as she had been the week before at home. That would imply that she’s closer to coming back than not, but we’ll have to wait and see. It’s reasonable to think that the more time she misses, the harder it will be for her to win Big East Player of the Year, but Marquette is only getting to one-third of the way through the league slate on Friday. There’s time left for her to show what she can do, but at some point, she’ll have just missed too many games.

Two things are in the headlights for the Golden Eagles at this point. As always has been the case, MU is running hard towards a Big East regular season championship. To a certain extent, Marquette’s path to the title has gotten a little bit easier through the first three weeks of the league slate, as eight of the other nine teams all have at least two losses already, and most of them already have three or more losses. You’ll notice I said “eight of the other nine teams,” which means we have to address the other thing in the headlights, which is much closer than that regular season title. Butler is 5-0 as well so far, but that’s really a conversation for next week when the Golden Eagles head to Indianapolis to wrap up their first pass through the league by visiting the Bulldogs.

For now, let’s focus on what’s on Marquette’s schedule this week.....

Big East Game #6: vs Seton Hall Pirates (11-5, 3-2 Big East)

Date: Friday, January 18, 2019
Time: 11:30 am Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, WI
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 13-7 all-time against Seton Hall, including wins in the last four meetings and five of the last six. The Golden Eagles are undefeated in regular season home games against the Pirates.

Seton Hall comes in off of two home wins last weekend. First, they fended off a fourth quarter charge from Creighton to get an 82-75 victory, then they had to go neck and neck down the stretch with Providence to secure a 79-73 victory. It was a nice turnaround for the Pirates after dropping two road games the weekend before. No one is going to fault them for losing at Butler, who has now moved to 5-0 in the league and is headed towards the top 25, but the overtime loss to Xavier two days later was not a desired outcome, especially since SHU had to rally to force OT in the first place.

It appears that this game is going to be one of the more high octane games that Marquette will play this season, as Seton Hall is one of the few teams in the country that actually tries to play faster than MU does. Per HerHoopStats.com, SHU averages nearly two full possessions more per game than Marquette, so both squads are going to try to run, which should make for an interesting watch. Seton Hall likes to huck it from deep, and HHS says they rank #85 in the country in terms of three-point shooting percentage. Nicole Jimenez is their most likely shooter, as roughly three-quarters of her 213 attempts on the season have come from behind the arc, but Victoria Cardaci is a bigger threat. With 105 field goal attempts on the year, 94 have been from long range, and she’s shooting 34%.

The place where Marquette will have the biggest advantage on Seton Hall is when it comes time to clean the glass. The Pirates are not a good rebounding team, and as ranked #257 by Her Hoop Stats in terms of rate, they’re objectively bad on the defensive glass. Meanwhile, Marquette is good on both ends of the court, both to grab their opponents misses to engineer the break as well as get second chance shots. If the Golden Eagles can extend possessions with offensive rebounds, and it certainly looks like they’ll be able to do so, then things should turn out pretty happily for the MPS kids in attendance.

As mentioned in the Where Are We Now article at the start of league play, I continue to be confounded by how SHU head coach Tony Bozzella uses point guard Kaela Hilaire, and it’s getting worse. Hilaire played a combined 17 minutes against Creighton and Providence last week after going 20+ minutes in each game the weekend before. I know that Hilaire is just 5’3”, but she also has the 11th best assist rate in the country. It would seem to me that in a high tempo offense like Seton Hall is trying to run here that a talented distributor would be particularly helpful. It’s somewhere between possible and likely that we’ll see a lot of Hilaire in this game as pairing her against the 5’5” Danielle King isn’t much of a disadvantage for the Pirates.

Big East Game #7: vs St. John’s Red Storm (8-8, 1-4 Big East)

Date: Sunday, January 20, 2019
Time: 2pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, WI
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on FoxSportsGo.com
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 11-9 all time against St. John’s, including sweeping the season series last year. Before last year, MU was just 5-9 against the Red Storm in the previous 14 encounters dating back to the 2007-08 season.

If the Golden Eagles are not careful, they are bound to suffer a case of whiplash this weekend. As fast as Seton Hall likes to play in terms of possessions per game (#24 in the country), St. John’s matches them in the opposite direction. The Red Storm ranks #325 out of 351 Division 1 teams in tempo on HerHoopStats.com, which as them ranked as the 26th slowest teams in the country. Nearly an exact reversal between these two teams, which is very weird and somewhat disconcerting.

When you look at the St. John’s roster, head coach Joe Tartamella’s decision to play as slowly as possible makes a lot of sense, even it’s not actually helping them win games this season. They have just 10 players, and one of them is currently sitting out for a year after transferring from Ole Miss. That leaves Tartamella with nine active players, and two of them average fewer than six minutes per game, and Kayla Charles is down under 16 minutes per game. Six true rotation players, averaging somewhere between 31.4 minutes and 24.7 minutes per game. There’s almost no margin for error here for the Red Storm in terms of sheer bodies available, and if you cut down the number of possessions in the game, then you’re more likely to be able to get through things as best as possible.

I mean, mostly.

St. John’s has lost three straight games at this point, and five of their last six. Before they come to Milwaukee for this game, they’ll have to stop in Chicago to play #24 DePaul. Let’s be honest: That’s probably not going to go well for them. SJU is 1-6 against HHS top 100 teams this season, and they have losses to their next two best teams that they’ve beaten, too. With that said, they did give Connecticut all that they could handle for 40 minutes, ending up with a 65-55 loss, so it’s not like they’re particularly bad. Just .... unlucky, perhaps.

There’s nothing particularly notable about St. John’s as an offense, or as a defense if we’re being honest. The one thing that they are very good at is not turning the ball over, and that’s what you’d expect from a team that’s not playing fast. It’s going to be hard for Marquette to accelerate the Johnnies if they can’t get turnovers, so MU will have to find other ways to get their fast break going.

Qadashah Hoppie and Alisha Kebbe are a pretty solid starring duo for St. John’s, with both women averaging over 11 points per game and Kebbe grabbing up 5.2 rebounds per game. Both women take about half their shots from behind the arc with both shooting over 34% on the season. That’s a pretty dangerous inside/outside combo, especially with no one else posing much of a threat from three point land.