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Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: vs Georgetown & vs Villanova

The Golden Eagles wrap up their first pass through the conference with a pair of home games.

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

I think that Marquette women’s basketball hit their final stumbling block of the season last week Friday.

The Golden Eagles weren’t able to hold onto a lead late at Hinkle Fieldhouse and ended up taking a 61-55 loss to Butler. From a glance at MU’s most recent NCAA team sheet and the current RPI rankings, I think that’s the last bad thing that can happen to MU this season.

To be clear, losing to Butler isn’t that bad, it’s just that at #109, they’re currently the worst loss on Marquette’s schedule this season. I believe that the Golden Eagles will either be 1) favored at home, 2) tangling with top 60 RPI teams on the road, or 3) facing top 25 RPI teams at home in their remaining 11 Big East league games. That’s a pretty solid home stretch, especially with the next four games at home and seven of the remaining final 11 games at the McGuire Center. Obviously, conference play can bring various twists and turns with it, and the Golden Eagles will have to attack every game with ferocity, but it sure looks like things are lining up in their favor.

That’s all I really wanted from this season. Marquette is going to get a chance to play their way into the NCAA tournament over the next five weeks. Considering how much that the Golden Eagles lost from last season, you can’t really ask for much more, and that’s before you factor in Megan Duffy in her first year on the sidelines. After all, if they find their way into the field of 64, they will tie the program record (1997-2000) for consecutive tourney appearances with four straight.

But that’s the long view of the season. Let’s look at the short view of the season. There’s a chance that Marquette could be in second place in the Big East by the time the weekend is over, or tied for second at least. DePaul is in first place at 7-0, with Villanova in second at 5-2. Those two teams square off on Friday night before the Wildcats come to Milwaukee on Sunday. That’s the same day that travel partners Seton Hall and St. John’s play each other for their only game of the weekend, and they’re currently tied for third at 5-3. The Golden Eagles are at 4-3, and if Nova gets swept, and Marquette wins on Friday as well, that’s means a 6-3 record at the halfway point of the league schedule. It also means a 5-4 record for the Wildcats, and the NYC area teams will be either 6-3 or 5-4, one each way, by the time the weekend is over. Butler and Creighton, also both 4-3 right now, will play each other on Sunday, which means someone’s getting a fourth loss there.

So it’s a big weekend for the Golden Eagles in terms of positioning in the league standings. That’s pretty cool.

Big East Game #8: vs Georgetown Hoyas (4-14, 1-6 Big East)

Date: Friday, January 24, 2020
Time: 11:30am Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, WI
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on the Big East’s YouTube channel
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 18-4 all time against Georgetown. The Golden Eagles have won seven of the last eight and nine of the last 10.

Here’s how bad things are going for Georgetown this season: Xavier snapped a 13 game losing streak by beating them 85-64. I’m sorry, let me say that right: Xavier snapped a 13 game losing streak by beating Georgetown in Georgetown’s gym by 21 points in a game that was televised nationally on FS2.

In short, Georgetown is bad. Not “last place in the Big East” bad, because Providence has changed their culture right into an 0-7 start which includes a 62-53 loss to Georgetown, but still pretty bad. The Hoyas come in riding a five game losing streak since that win over the Friars. They have lost those five games by margins of 17, 19, 21, 1, and 21. Shouts to Butler for being the 1 in there.

So, let’s see here. What’s going right for the Hoyas? Uh.... well.... Oh, here we go! They’re a good defensive rebounding team. They rank #108 in the country per HerHoopStats.com in defensive rebounding rate as they grab up 70% of their opponents’ missed shots. It’s a bit of a team effort to haul those in, as Anita Kelava and Tayanna Jones are their top rebounders on that end, and they’re barely in the top 500 in the country in terms of rates. Marquette’s best plan for avoiding those rebounds for the Hoyas might be to let it fly behind the arc. Georgetown’s really bad at defending threes (bottom 70 of the country) and they’re really bad at keeping teams from shooting those threes, too (bottom 80 of the country in three point rate). A scheme to tilt things towards Selena Lott and Isabelle Spingola raining threes on the Hoyas sounds pretty good to me. Another reason why it might be good to do that is because the Hoyas are pretty good at blocking shots. Kelava and Breonna Mayfield are in the top 200 in the country in block rate, so avoiding shots against the 6’3” senior or the 6’5” junior is probably a good idea.

As much trouble as Georgetown is having doing anything on the floor, they’re not shooting themselves in the foot all that much. They don’t turn the ball over very often, which is good news, and they don’t get their shots blocked very much, either. I don’t know if that’s the kind of thing that’s going to give them any kind of advantage against Marquette, but I’m trying to find something nice to say about them.

Big East Game #9: vs Villanova Wildcats (11-7, 5-2 Big East)

Date: Sunday, January 26, 2020
Time: 2pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, WI
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on the Big East’s YouTube channel
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 14-9 all time against Villanova. The Golden Eagles have won six straight games against the Wildcats, and those of you who are very good at quick math have realized that Villanova was leading the series before the winning streak started.

If you are free on Sunday/don’t have anything to do before the Royal Rumble starts, I highly recommend that you come to Marquette’s game against Villanova. This will be the final trip to Milwaukee for VU head coach Harry Perretta, as he announced that he will be retiring following this season. He has been the Villanova women’s basketball coach since 1978 when he was hired as the program’s fourth head coach. He has been VU’s coach longer than there has been a Big East conference. He is legitimately an icon in the history of the league if not women’s college basketball as a whole. He’s also a hoot to watch in person, although he does seem to have toned things down eeevvvvvver so slightly in the last few years. In any case, Sunday is the last chance to see Perretta patrol the sidelines at the McGuire Center, so take advantage of that.

As things stand right now heading into the weekend, Villanova is currently in possession of second place in the Big East. That’s probably not going to last through Friday night’s game against DePaul, but that’s not the point. The point is that the Golden Eagles are a game behind the Wildcats in the standings right now, and if Friday’s games go the way that it seems like they might, then Sunday will provide MU a chance to jump ahead of Villanova.

Villanova comes into the weekend on a three game winning streak, and they’ve won five of the last six. The loss in the middle there was a 58-41 defeat at the hands of Butler.... on Education Day at The Finn.... which sounds an awful lot like it was Field Trip Day..... so, yeah. That’s not great for them.

Relative to that score against the Bulldogs, we should probably not expect a high scoring game in this one. Marquette hasn’t exactly been kicking things into overdrive in Megan Duffy’s first season, and Perretta’s Villanova teams are notoriously slow paced. Right now, according to HerHoopStats.com, they’re currently the 11th slowest team in the country. They’re not particularly efficient about things on either end of the court, so the pace isn’t particularly beneficial for that reason.

Marquette’s post players are going to have to be on their toes here, as Villanova’s best offensive options are all going to the rim. They’re shooting 48.2% on two-pointers this season, which ranks 58th in the country. The Wildcats are shooting just 29.3% from behind the arc, which is bad for two reasons. First, it’s bad because they’re not even over 30%, much less the 33% mark where the effective field goal percentage hits 50%. Second, it’s bad specifically for Villanova..... because there’s only four teams in the country that shoots three-pointers more often than they do. Again: the bad shooting team shoots more three-pointers than almost anyone in the country.

I feel like that’s something that Marquette might be able to exploit.

Now, that doesn’t mean that the Golden Eagles can just take a nap on defense. In fact, quite the opposite. Villanova’s leading scorer this season is freshman Madison Seagrist, coming in at 20.2 points per game. More importantly to the point here, Seagrist is shooting 40.4% from behind the arc. She’s also the only VU player with more than 80 attempts from long range, and she’s up at 109 on the year. No one else on the team is shooting over 33% on the year, so Seagrist is the only one that Marquette needs to defend behind the arc. Seagrist is also Villanova’s leading rebounder, so generally speaking, MU is just going to need to keep someone on Seagrist’s hip the entire game.