It’s your lucky day, Marquette women’s basketball fans.
You’re getting TWO game previews for the price of one today. Marquette is starting off Megan Duffy’s coaching tenure with two games less than 56 hours apart. Let’s be clear: We’re not learning anything particularly new about the Golden Eagles from one game, and it’s not like we’re learning anything important from the one game that Opponent #2 will play on Tuesday, either.
So, we’re going to preview the start of the MU season as well as where the two opponents are coming in to the 2019-20 season all at the same time. We’ll circle back around for a look at Opponent #3 for that game on Sunday later on this week. It’s a lot of hoops, let me tell you. Thank goodness that the men are taking eight days between games.
Marquette gets started with their new head coach with five players returning from last year’s active roster and six freshmen available for action. Selena Lott is the big name to remember from last year. She’s Marquette’s leading returning scorer from a year ago at 7.1 points, and she added 3.3 rebounds, and 1.4 assists as well. Partly because of her role as a starter during league play last year and partly because of the heavy glut of seniors in the Big East a year ago, Lott earned a spot on the Big East’s preseason all-conference team.
If MU’s 93-47 exhibition victory over Winona State is any indication, it seems that to start the season, Duffy will favor the returning players when it comes to her starting lineup. The one exception is Jordan King. The Rockton, Illinois, native was named the preseason Big East Freshman of the Year, and she started alongside four of the returning players in the exhibition game.
While King might be getting the inside track on playing time and major contributions for this year’s squad, she can’t be the only freshman who chips in this year. With only five returning players, the six freshmen are going to have to play significant minutes along the way. It’s just math. Some of them might play more than others, but even if you think Duffy eventually whittles her way down to a regular eight woman rotation, that’s three freshmen making notable impacts. Who are the next two after King? That remains to be seen.
It also remains to be seen as to whether Claire Kaifes plays at all this year. She didn’t dress to play in the exhibition game, so we’re still waiting to see what she can contribute. If it’s for injury reasons, it’s entirely possible that Kaifes ends up sitting out the year, because six freshmen is a very big class that MU will end up having to re-recruit in four years to re-fix the roster.
Game #1: vs Morgan State Bears (0-0)
This is Marquette’s first ever meeting with Morgan State.
Morgan State is coming in off of a 10-21 season a year ago. Now, that sounds bad, sure, but they went 8-8 in MEAC play, which is perfectly respectable. They ended up with a 50-48 upset loss in the first round of the conference tournament to a team that they had beaten 70-47 just four days earlier, but that’s a different issue.
The Bears are picked to finish seventh in the 11 team MEAC this season. None of head coach Ed Davis’ players made it onto any of the MEAC’s three preseason all-league teams, which probably does explain the seventh place prediction.
MSU finds itself in something of the same position as Marquette, as they return just four players from last season. There are 12 new players on the roster, so Morgan State is clearly going to be doing some figuring things out on the fly on Tuesday afternoon at the McGuire Center. Ashia McCalla is probably the big name to know, as she was second on the team in scoring last season at 10 points per game. Jihayah Chavis chipped in 8.9 points per game last season while shooting waaaaaaaay too many three pointers (over three attempts per game at just a 23.5% clip), so she’ll probably get a significant chunk of attention off the tip from the MU defense as well.
Game #2: vs St. Francis Terriers (0-0)
As is the case with Morgan State, this will be Marquette’s first ever encounter with St. Francis. You might be thinking, “Hey, didn’t MU play St. Francis in 2016?” You would be right, but that’s the St. Francis in Pennsylvania, this is the one in Brooklyn. If you think that’s complicated, it’s worse than you think: They’re both in the Northeast Conference.
The Terriers went 18-13 last season with a 12-6 record in the NEC. That was good enough to get them a #3 seed in the conference tournament and to host a quarterfinal game for the first time since 1994, but they suffered an 80-74 loss to end their season.
SFC is going to be a wildly different team this year after losing senior guard Amy O’Neill. She wrapped up her senior campaign with an NCAA-best 8.6 assists per game, which is just bonkers to think about. While that kind of playmaking is gone now, the Terriers can rely on having their top scorer back from last season. Jade Johnson averaged 19.9 points per game, as well as 4.4 rebounds per contest, so that’s pretty good. She knocked in 43% of her long range shots, so the Golden Eagles will have to be careful to not let her get on a hot streak. Johnson is one of five women tabbed as preseason all-conference honorees in the NEC this season, and SFC ended up a tie for fifth place in the preseason league poll.
This game may provide an interesting insight into Megan Duffy’s planned tactics for Marquette. SFC ranked #58 in the country in possessions per 40 minutes a year ago at 73.5. That was a big change from previous years for the Terriers according to HerHoopStats.com, but then again it was also the first season under the guidance of head coach Linda Cimino. If that’s her selected play style regardless of who her point guard is, then Marquette might be getting themselves into a track meet here, and we’ll see if Duffy is interested in trying to match the pace.