Let’s start with the most important thing: With nine games left in the league schedule, Marquette’s magic number to clinch a second straight Big East title is six, and the magic number to lock up the outright Big East title and the #1 seed in the conference tournament is seven.
Things are slightly more complicated than that, as there are currently two teams — DePaul and Butler — tied for second place in the Big East at 6-3, and the Golden Eagles will have to contend with both squads over the next five weeks. Still, Marquette can do themselves a favor straight out of the gate into the second half of the Big East schedule by 1) recording a win and 2) handing DePaul a loss. By rule, a win by the Golden Eagles will drop both magic numbers by one, and then from there it’s up to what Butler does in their two games against St. John’s and Seton Hall to see where things stand after that.
The important thing is that Marquette is firmly in the driver’s seat here with a three game lead in the loss column. They’re also in control of their destiny when it comes to the NCAA tournament as well. Through games played on January 30th, MU has the #11 RPI in the country. That bodes well for earning a top 16 seed in the tournament and then hosting tournament games as a result. The only thing holding Marquette back right now is their 0-3 record against teams ranked between 1-25 in the RPI. On one hand, that’s not great when you want to be one of the top 16 teams. It’s also not great that Marquette probably won’t get another chance to play a top 25 team, as DePaul is the best team out of the other nine in the Big East at #37. The good news is that those are Marquette’s only three losses of the season. As long as MU avoids a bad loss for the rest of the season (lookin’ at you, road trip at #123 St. John’s), things should be fine.
Two final things I want to point out in terms of history. She’s not going to get it this weekend, but Erika Davenport is 34 rebounds away from becoming Marquette’s fourth player with 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds. She’s following in the footsteps of Abbie Willenborg, Julie Sievers, and Christine Kennedy. Allazia Blockton is one — just one — rebound away from 700 in her career. That would make her Marquette’s first ever player with 1,600 points, 700 rebounds, and 300 assists.
Big East Game #10: at DePaul Blue Demons (15-6, 6-3 Big East)
Date: Sunday, February 3, 2019
Time: 1pm Central
Location: McGrath-Phillips Arena, Chicago, IL
Television: NBC Sports Chicago, if you’re lucky enough to live in Chicago
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette is 27-44 all time against DePaul after laying the smacketh down at the McGuire Center earlier this season. MU has now won five of the last seven meetings.
With a record of 6-3 in league play at the halfway mark, DePaul finds themselves in a situation where they can claim that they have turned things around since their bad start. They went 1-2 in their first three games, which was a real problem for them, as they were ranked in the AP top 25 for all of those games. Since then, and the loss to Marquette was in Game #3, the Blue Demons have gone 5-1, which allows them to claim that they’re on the upswing. This claim might not carry the most weight in the world, as they barely escaped from Washington D.C. with a five point win, needed overtime to win at Villanova and at Butler, and lost at home to Seton Hall. Still, as of January 28th, ESPN had the Blue Demons as a #8 seed in the NCAA tournament, and on January 30th, High Post Hoops as them as a #9 seed. They probably can’t afford any bad losses, but for now, they are trending towards another NCAA tournament appearance.
The primary storyarc of Marquette’s 96-63 victory over DePaul earlier this season is the simplest one you can have in basketball: Marquette hit a whole bunch of shots and DePaul did not. The Golden Eagles had an effective field goal percentage of 58.1%, while the Blue Demons were at merely 37.9%. Both of those numbers are above and below the teams’ respective season averages, but Marquette is more likely to be able to recreate theirs a second time around. MU’s season long eFG% is 53.5%, the #13 mark in the country per HerHoopStats.com, while DePaul is at #60 with an eFG% of 49.1%. If DePaul does tighten up their shooting, then Marquette may have to rely on turnovers to carry the day. The Golden Eagles had a notable advantage in turnover rate at the McGuire Center, turning over on 11% of their possessions, while DePaul coughed it up nearly 23% of the time.
Much like Marquette, DePaul is a high tempo team, but the Blue Demons utilize their pace in a slightly different manner. While Marquette’s scoring is largely dominated by the five core seniors, DePaul spreads it around a lot more. Chante Stonewall, Mart’e Grays, and Ashton Millender are all averaging over 10 points a game, but none of the trio is doing better than 14 per outing. Below them, everyone in DePaul’s regular nine woman rotation averages at least five points per game. With that in mind, it’s probably not surprising to you that DePaul ranks #18 in the country in assist rate per HHS.
DePaul’s primary offense goal is to shoot as many three-pointers as possible. Millender, Kelly Campbell, Rebekah Dahlman, and Lexi Held are all plus-shooters, with all four connecting on at least 34.8% of their long range bombs, and Held tops the team at 43.4%. They derive more of their shots from behind the arc (45.7%) than all but two other teams in the country, and get more of their points (43.2%) from back there than all but five teams. This angle was a massive letdown for DePaul in Milwaukee, as they launched their usual amount of shots but only connected on 16% (5-for-31) of them. It’s unlikely that MU will be able to force that out of them again, especially in the gym that the Blue Demons practice in, so the goal needs to be to force them into taking other shots.