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2019 NCAA Tournament Second Round Preview: #4 Texas A&M vs #5 Marquette

The Golden Eagles survived a first round scare and will play the hosting Aggies for a spot in the Sweet 16.

NCAA Football: Southwest Classic-Arkansas vs Texas A&M
What a nice lady dog.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

2019 NCAA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT SECOND ROUND

#4 Texas A&M Aggies (25-7, 12-4 Big 12) vs #5 Marquette Golden Eagles (27-7, 15-3 Big East)

Date: Sunday, March 24, 2019
Time: 1pm Central
Location: Reed Arena, College Station, TX
Television: ESPN2
Streaming: WatchESPN
Live Stats: NCAA.com, probably
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
All Time Series: Texas A&M leads, 1-0
Only Meeting: The Aggies won, 84-64, back on November 25, 2012, as part of an early season event that they hosted. Katherine Plouffe for Marquette led all scorers with 18 points, but Texas A&M got three players in double digits and eight with at least five points as they led by 25 at the half after a 26-0 run that was only broken up by a free throw from Plouffe before the half ended.

Marquette is the regular season champion out of the Big East, but they had a nasty downturn towards the end of the season, losing three of their final six. Part of that has to do with losing senior forward Erika Davenport for the year to a knee injury in the second of those three losses. MU still managed to get to the Big East tournament title game, but lost a lead late to DePaul and ended up with their second straight loss in the championship. The Golden Eagles made up for that late loss by coming up with a late win in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday. They trailed #12 seed Rice by nine points with less than three minutes to go and had just a 0.9% chance to win, but ended up tying the game, forcing overtime, and coming away with a four point victory. It was a horrible miserable game, not because it was played at Rice’s terrifyingly slow pace, but because literally neither team could hit shots for the first 37 minutes of the game.

Texas A&M finished third in the SEC this year with a record of 12-4 in league play and entered the SEC tournament with wins in five of their last six games. They ended up going out in the semifinals to Arkansas, even though they had beaten the Razorbacks by 13 in the regular season finale. Their first round game in the NCAA tournament was over pretty quickly, as the Aggies jumped out to a 22-8 lead on Wright State by the 3:28 mark of the first quarter. They never led by less than 13 the rest of the way and were up 20 the entire fourth quarter.

Sunday afternoon’s game will probably be a bit more uptempo than Friday’s game. Rice is one of the slowest teams in the country this season, while A&M falls around the middle of the country in terms of speed. By default, things will get a bit more speedy as there’s only so much that Marquette can do to drag Rice faster. It would seem that the Golden Eagles will have the advantage both ends of the court in terms of ratings by HerHoopStats.com, but that’s hard to say for certain. While Marquette is #7 and #5 on in the HHS offense and defense metrics compared to #45 and #12 for Texas A&M, the fact of the matter is Marquette’s math has Davenport’s mere existence baked into it. She’s not going to be out there for the Golden Eagles at all, so the question is how much that will affect MU, especially against that #12 ranked defense.

Actually, the bigger problem might be against the offense, even if A&M is ranked #45 in the country. It might be fair to say that the Aggies hate shooting three-pointers. HHS has them ranked #345 out of 351 Division 1 teams in terms of how frequently they shoot from behind the arc. Less than 17% of their shots are from out there, which means they’re going inside a ton. Lauren Van Kleunen managed to frustrate Rice’s Nancy Mulkey enough on Friday, but Mulkey was Rice’s only inside threat that had a notable size advantage against Marquette. 6’4” Ciera Johnson averages 12.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for the Aggies, and 6’3” Caylinne Martin comes off the bench as well. Martin doesn’t do much in terms of scoring or rebounding regularly, but she’s appeared in all but one game so far this season for A&M. N’Dea Jones is actually A&M’s leading rebounder at 11.4 per game, ranking in the top 50 in defensive rebounding rate per HHS. However, Jones is “only” 6’2”, which is much more manageable for Marquette’s overall roster.

The good news, if you want to call it that, is that Chennedy Carter, A&M’s Wooden Award finalist, is only 5’7”. While she presents all manner of difficulties when it comes to defending her, dealing with her size will not be one of them. We should point out that she sat out in the SEC tournament while dealing with “an open reduction, internal fixation of her right little finger as a result of an injury” that she suffered during their regular season finale. In short, she fractured her finger and needed to have it surgically reset and plated to make sure it healed properly. If you were wondering if that was going to bother her in the NCAA tournament, I’d like to remind you that I said she scored 27 points against Wright State while shooting 8-for-19. Carter also grabbed seven rebounds, dished two assists, and had a steal in 32 minutes. She averages 22.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.3 assists, so let’s call her “back to normal” and just move on.

If it comes down to it, Carter and Kayla Wells will be the most likely three-point shooters for head coach Gary Blair. They both have over 100 attempts on the year, which is what passes for a lot with this roster given how little they like to shoot it. Carter leads the team in attempts, but only makes 32% of them. If MU can force her into settling for jumpers, that’s probably going to work out okay. Wells is a different story, as she knocks down 39% of her threes. She shoots barely more than three a game, but if she gets cooking because Marquette leaves her open, that could end up being a problem.