Remember the joy that was getting to see Marquette women’s basketball at the McGuire Center back on December 21st? Well, it’s going to be nearly two more weeks before we get to see it again. That brief experience at home will be MU’s only home game amidst seven road games: Four non-conference games dating back to Thanksgiving and now the first three games on the Big East schedule.
To make matters more ridiculous, Marquette will start off Big East play with arguably their three worst or three toughest road games depending on how you want to think about it. First, they start off by visiting DePaul, the favorites to win the league this year and the only team that’s currently ranked in the Associated Press poll. We can nicely and politely say that Marquette is not favored to win this game. That’s fine! It will be an interesting measuring stick for the Golden Eagles as they start to nudge their way into the NCAA tournament conversation, as well as a nice comparison point when March rolls around. Marquette closes the regular season by hosting DePaul, so that might end up telling us a lot about how first year head coach Megan Duffy guides her team through the regular season.
After Sunday afternoon’s jaunt down I-94, Marquette will pull the Creighton/Providence road trip out of the bag for the second set of games to the season. It’s Friday night in Omaha, followed by Sunday afternoon in Rhode Island. Not only does that 39 hour turnaround absolutely stink because of the trip literally halfway across the country in the middle of it, but Marquette’s doing the hard version of it. At least DePaul gets to gain an hour by traveling westward.
The good news is that MU gets all three of those out of the way right out of the gate before the weekly grind of the season starts to wear on the players, particularly the freshmen who have never played a season this long and this intense before. The other good news is that Marquette gets to knock the Creighton/Providence trip out while school is still out of session for winter break. The team doesn’t have to worry about anything else other than getting fully rested and refreshed between games.
All of this doesn’t even take into account how good Providence and Creighton might actually be this season, but that’s something we can talk about next week. For now, the only thing on Marquette’s plate is taking their best crack at the Blue Demons.
Big East Game #1: at #16 DePaul Blue Demons (10-2, 0-0 Big East)
Date: Sunday, December 29, 2019
Time: 4pm Central
Location: McGrath-Phillips Arena, Chicago, IL
Streaming: The Big East Digital Network on the Big East’s YouTube channel
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette is 28-45 all time against DePaul. The Golden Eagles took both regular season meetings from the Blue Demons last season, but DePaul was standing tall at the end of the Big East tournament title game.
It’s an old sports discussion cliche, particularly when it comes to basketball, but it’s tried and true and it applies to this game: Whichever team can dictate their terms/tempo/style to the game will have a significant advantage in this game. DePaul is high octane tempo with the 5th fastest pace in the country, as you would expect from a Doug Bruno team. Marquette has opted for a more methodical pace at #275 in possessions per 40 minutes in Megan Duffy’s first season. The Blue Demons have an electrifyingly effective offense, ranking #10 in the country in points per 100 possessions according to HerHoopStats.com, while Marquette is perfectly acceptable at #97. DePaul struggles to get stops, ranking #232 in defensive efficiency, while the Golden Eagles are making their mark on the defensive end at #57 in efficiency.
In short, it seems obvious that this game will be won or lost, depending on your point of view, when DePaul has the ball. Either the Blue Demons are going to operate with their usual efficiency and win, or Marquette is going to get stops like they have with regularity this season, and they’re going to win.
Marquette’s biggest challenge on defense is going to be denying three-point shooting opportunities from DePaul. The Blue Demons rank #8 in the country in terms of how many of their shots come from behind the arc, and they connect nearly 35% of the time. That’s something of a weakness for the Golden Eagles, as HHS has them at #152 in the country in opposition three-point rate. That’s middle of the road, but when you’re facing a team that’s going to try to let it fly from back there two times out of five, then being middle of the road is a problem. The good news is that teams have been bad at shooting threes against Marquette, so “let them shoot it” can be a defensive decision against bad shooting teams. That’s not DePaul.
The Blue Demons have three women averaging at least 12 points per game, led by 18.1 per game from senior Chante Stonewall. When you take volume into account, Stonewall is probably DePaul’s worst three-point shooter, connecting on just 26% of her 53 attempts this season. With five regulars shooting over 34% behind the arc, and four of them up over 38%, I have zero idea why Bruno is letting his leading scorer let it fly so often. She was a 38% shooter as a sophomore, but under 32% a year ago.
While Stonewall is the top scorer on the team, it’s Kelly Campbell that’s the glue that holds everything together. The 5’10” senior guard from New Jersey has to be considered a major candidate for Big East Player of the Year at this point of the season. She averages just 7.6 points per game, but she leads DePaul in both rebounding (7.8 per game) and assists (6.0 per game). That rebounding mark is fifth best in the league and Campbell leads the etnire Big East in assists per game. Yes, yes, DePaul’s pace inflates those numbers, but she’s top 350 in the country in defensive rebounding rate per HHS, and top 250 in assist rate. That’s a pretty impressive combination of skills, and in her free time, Campbell is shooting over 42% from behind the arc. Someone — Selena Lott, I’m looking at you — has to be within two feet of Campbell at all times, because disrupting Campbell’s play is most likely Marquette’s quickest path to disrupting DePaul’s entire offense.