I think Megan Duffy’s biggest accomplishment so far as Marquette Golden Eagles head women’s basketball coach is what she’s doing with the defense.
That’s probably the biggest thing that a coach can impact. You can design plays til the cows come home in order to get your team the best shots, or the best shots for the right players, or however you want to think about it, but the players still have to hit the shots. Quality defense comes down to a good game plan (coaching), players knowing their assignments (coaching), and pure want-to execute the gameplan (again, coaching).
With a team of five returning players and six freshmen, Duffy has crafted a defensive culture through nine games that has the Golden Eagles ranked #32 in the country in HerHoopStats’ Defensive Rating system and ranked #57 in the country in terms of raw points per possession. 11 women with very little experience playing together have bonded over the past two months and turned themselves into something of a defensive juggernaut.
The Big East calendar is rapidly approaching, as Marquette has just two non-conference games left to go. As such, the quality of opponent for MU is going to jump up just a wee bit, and it’s going to get harder to defend teams on a night in and night out basis. That’s fine. Maybe the results over that 18 game stretch don’t quite match the level of accomplishment that we’ve seen so far this season. That’s fine. It’s Duffy’s first year at Marquette and just her third as a head coach, and she’s figuring things out with her players on the fly to a certain extent. However, the bedrock for her tenure as head coach has been built now. She knows what she can expect from her players, and her players know what she expects from them. With this many freshmen on the roster, that kind of starting point is going to pay dividends for the Golden Eagles in the long term.
In the short term? Well, we’ll see what happens this year. So far, though, things are looking prrrrretty good.
Game #10: at South Dakota State Jackrabbits (7-5)
Date: Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Frost Arena, Brookings, SD
Streaming Video: GoJacks.com, but it appears to be subscription only.
Streaming Audio: GoJacks.com, and this appears to be free.
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette is 5-2 all time against South Dakota State. The absolute buzzsawing that MU handed the Jackrabbits last season snapped a two game winning streak by SDSU in the series.
For a team coming off a Summit League regular season and tournament title as well as a Sweet 16 appearance a year ago, the 2019-20 season has not been going well for South Dakota State. They currently sit at 7-5 on the year, with a 6-5 mark against Division 1 foes. On top of a rough start, it’s been an all over the map start, too. They opened with back-to-back road losses against Drake and Creighton, and then reeled off five straight wins, including conquests of #21 South Florida and Notre Dame in the Cancun Challenge.
And then they lost to Florida Gulf Coast in the final game of the Cancun Challenge.
They rebounded with a home win over Coppin State, and then took an absolute shelling against #3 Oregon out in Eugene. Their last two games have been at home, but they beat Chattanooga before losing to Central Michigan, 79-74, on Saturday. The Jackrabbits had won 13 straight at home dating back to a 87-79 loss to Oregon last December before stumbling against the Chippewas.
It should be noted that South Dakota State has had a bit of trouble with roster consistency this season. Only three players have started all 12 games, and only five have played in all 12. Myah Selland leads the team in scoring at 13.8 per game and chips in five rebounds and three assists, too, but she played just 15 minutes against Coppin State and hasn’t played since.
I’m going to warn you right now: Don’t expect a high scoring affair on Tuesday in Brookings. Marquette has not been that interested in pushing the pace this season, and SDSU is one of the 20 slowest paced teams in the country. With that said, it should still be a pretty good game, as even with the weird results, the Jackrabbits are still ranked #82 in the country per HerHoopStats.com, and the Golden Eagles come in at #41.
Marquette’s defense may get tested in this one. SDSU has a top 80 offense in terms of efficiency according to HHS, as they convert both two-pointers and three-pointers with reliability. Tori Nelson, who hasn’t played in SDSU’s last two contests, is devastating behind the arc, connecting on 46% of her tries, and the Jacks have three more players hitting more than 35% of their long range bombs.
While South Dakota State can get it done on offense, their defense has struggled a bit in 2019-20. They rank #211 in points per possession by the math on HHS, and their biggest problem appears to be letting teams get to the rim. Their two-point defense ranks #257 in the country, which is, y’know, not good. The Jackrabbits can rebound it pretty well on both ends, especially on defense, where they rank #26 in the country in terms of rate. They don’t have one particular player who is standing out in terms of grabbing those caroms, which is both good and bad news for Marquette. The good news is that there’s no one singular player that will cause havoc for MU’s bigs. The bad news is that there’s about five different Jackrabbits who could start piling up the rebounds on any given night depending on who’s in the lineup.