Back on February 11th, the NCAA women’s basketball selection committee revealed their view of the top 16 teams in the country. At the time, Marquette women’s basketball was 21-3 overall and 12-0 in Big East action, and the committee had them slotted in as the #3 seed in the Chicago region.
Marquette has finished the regular season 3-3. They lost their very next game after the bracket reveal, and the next week, they lost at home to Butler in a game where Erika Davenport suffered a season ending knee injury. That may have led to a road loss to Creighton on the final weekend of the regular season.
So now they’re 24-6, 15-3 in Big East play, and the Big East regular season champions...... but they’re not one of the top 16 teams in the country any more.
The selection committee released a new look at the top 16 on Monday night, and the Golden Eagles are nowhere to be seen.
#ncaaW Top 16 Seeds!— NCAA WBB (@ncaawbb) March 5, 2019
(as of today) pic.twitter.com/hRp28EDWIC
Both Marquette and Gonzaga dropped out of the top 16, where they were replaced by Syracuse and Texas A&M. As you can see from the list in the tweet there, Syracuse and A&M are occupying the bottom two spots in the top 16.
Why is this important? Well, the top 16 teams get to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. When you’re a top 16 team, all you have to do to reach the Sweet 16 is win two home games. Marquette has never reached a Sweet 16 before, and it’s been patently obvious all season long that this is the best team in program history. They’re primed to make that jump...... and now, after being aimed on target all season long, they’ve slipped and may end up having to win what amounts to a road game in order to reach the second weekend. It’s incredibly frustrating to see.
I want to believe that Marquette isn’t that far away from the top 16 right now. They still rank #12 in the RPI through games played on March 3rd, and they’ve done that against a top 50 schedule in terms of strength. The problem is that the Creighton loss and the St. John’s loss are sub-100 losses, with the Bluejays at #101 and St. John’s at #119. The Butler loss isn’t much better, falling into the 51-100 column on the team sheet breakdown, but the Bulldogs are at #60.
At this point, Marquette probably has to win the Big East tournament in order to shift back into the top 16. A meeting with DePaul could potentially give them another top 25 game on the team sheet, and a win over a top 25 Blue Demons team would even their record against top 25 teams at 3-3. The question is whether or not they can reach the title game. Davenport is, of course, done for the year, and Danielle King sat out the regular season finale after leaving the previous game with an injury. She appeared to be mostly okay during the final game, but her status relative to 100% is up in the air at best. How much will she be able to contribute as Marquette attempts to win three games in three days and shove their way back into the top 16?
Marquette plays their quarterfinal game on Sunday, March 10th, with tipoff at Wintrust Arena in Chicago scheduled for noon Central. It will be against either St. John’s or Seton Hall, with those two teams playing a first round game on Saturday afternoon to decide who advances to play the Golden Eagles.