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Marquette Men’s Lacrosse Preview: vs #14 Denver

The traditionally biggest conference game of the year is bigger than ever this time around.

2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship - Semifinals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

We enter the final weekend of regular season in lacrosse, and things are a total mess. Let me drop in this section from the official preview:

Denver can clinch at least a share of its sixth-straight BIG EAST regular season crown with a win, while Marquette likely needs a victory for a berth into next week’s BIG EAST tournament. MU could still earn a share of the league’s regular season title at 3-2 should it win but tiebreakers will determine tournament seeding and the four teams who make the semifinals.

“Likely needs a victory” means there’s a path into the top four and the postseason for Marquette if they lose. However, there’s also a possibility that Marquette will be able to claim part of a five-way share of the conference’s regular season title.... and still miss the four team tournament.

Yep, things are that bonkers.

It should be pointed out that this is unlikely. It would require St. John’s to beat Georgetown for their first Big East win of the season. Seems unlikely, but as we’ll get to in a moment, Villanova and Denver have already proven that this is the year for unlikely nonsense and silliness.

One way or another, Marquette will need help if they want to reach the Big East tournament next weekend. However, the biggest help that they can get is knocking off Denver in the final home game of the year. It should be a giant event, as it’s being televised on FS1, the weather should be pretty great before a late April snowstorm blows in on Saturday afternoon, and on top of all of that, there’s going to be the “Rally At The Valley.”

Prior to face-off, the Golden Eagles will host “Rally at the Valley,” a pregame tailgate at the Shimek Track & Field Facility at the east end of Valley Fields. The event, which features live music, food, drinks and yard games, is open for all to attend (a game ticket is not required for “Rally at the Valley”).

Seems like fun. Hopefully the pregame fun and cheeriness leads to postgame celebration and exuberance. Ultimately, Marquette will not know their postseason fate until Saturday, as the remaining four Big East teams do not play until Saturday afternoon.

Big East Game #5: vs #14 Denver Pioneers (8-4, 3-1 Big East)

Date: Friday, April 26, 2019
Time: 8pm Central
Location: Valley Fields, Milwaukee, WI
Television: FS1, with Scott Sudikoff and Rich Donovan on the call
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax

Marquette is 2-7 all time against Denver. The wins came in the Big East tournament in 2016 and 2017. As such, you can figure out that Marquette is 0-6 against the Pioneers in the regular season, as they also lost to them last year in the Big East tournament.

2019 is what passes for a down year for Denver lacrosse. They’ve lost four games in the regular season for the first time since 2012, and with a 12-11 defeat at home at the hands of Villanova, the Pioneers have lost a regular season Big East game for the first time ever. They’ve been in the league since 2014 and have lost just three times to Big East teams since then: Twice to Marquette and once to Georgetown, with each loss coming in each of the past three Big East tournaments. They had won 27 straight regular season games against Big East foes before losing to the Wildcats.

They’re pretty good, generally speaking.

Denver’s pride and joy this year is their defense, which Lacrosse Reference says is the #15 most efficient defense in the country. This is probably bad news for Marquette, as the Golden Eagles have a middle of the road offense and a defense that struggles at times, at least in terms of efficiency.

Denver’s offense isn’t bad, ranking #22 in efficiency, but they are pretty much dependent on Ethan Walker for scoring. The junior from Ontario has 33 goals and 11 assists on the year, making him the only Pio with more than 20 goals and 30 points. If Nick Grill & Co. can find a way to keep the ball away from Walker or at the very least shut down his shooting alleys, then Marquette will have a chance to get the win here.

They have a collection of guys who are averaging right around a goal per game or so, led by Ellis Geis with 17 on the year. However, Geis hasn’t played in the last two contests, so his availability against Marquette is up in the air. Colton Jackson and Ted Sullivan (15 goals each) are the next most dangerous attackers to watch. Denver has guys who can throw it in the net, but they don’t have anyone but Walker who is doing it regularly. Jack Hannah might actually be more important to the team than Walker, as he leads the way with 15 assists on the year.

Goalkeeping has been a weird issue over the last several years for DU head coach Bill Tierney. He has seemed to favor splitting time between netminders in the past, but that’s not the case this year. Alex Ready has been the guy this year, logging nearly 600 minutes and starting all but one game. However, Cole French came on in relief after Ready allowed six goals in less than 18 minutes two games ago against St. John’s. Then French started and played all but the final four minutes against Providence last time out. It seems like we’ll see French, a freshman from California, again on Friday night, but that’s far from a guarantee. French has a goals-against average of 7.95 and a save percentage of 55.2% in his two appearances this year, while Ready’s numbers are 9.24 GAA and 47.7% SV5%.