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Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: at Creighton & at Providence

The worst road trip of the season rears its head as the Golden Eagles hunt for their first win in Big East play.

Big East Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals
I like when Marquette plays Creighton then Providence, because then I get to completely ignore PC’s mascot.
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

I’m not going to try and convince you that losing by 18 in the first Big East game of the season was a good thing for Marquette women’s basketball. Obviously that’s not the case.

However, we do need to keep an eye on the big picture, because that’s what is really important here in Megan Duffy’s first season on the sidelines. Marquette is 9-3 under Duffy’s guidance so far, and here are the three losses:

  • In overtime without Selena Lott against a Northwestern team that is currently 12-1 and inexplicably not ranked (although that will change after they just smashed the hell out of #12 Maryland on Tuesday)
  • By 6 against then-#10 and currently #15 Mississippi State after holding a lead in the fourth quarter
  • on the road against #16 DePaul, the only squad to beat that Northwestern team so far this season

That’s it. That’s their only missteps so far this season. If you want to look at it by HerHoopStats.com ratings, their losses are to #10, #12, and #24. If you prefer RPI, it’s #11, #13, and #19. Fine. Whatever. It’s the first year under a new head coach with a team that still barely knows each other, given the lack of returning experience and the volume of freshmen that are being required to contribute.

To a certain extent, sending this Marquette team out on the road against the unanimous league favorite for their first conference game of the year was handing the Golden Eagles a scheduled loss. It’s not great, sure, but it is what it is. Marquette isn’t supposed to contend for the Big East title this year — remember the coaches voted them to finish ninth — so losing to DePaul, even by 18, isn’t a big deal.

What is a big deal is what the team takes away from it. For example, a big take away has to be “you can’t turn the ball over 33% of the time and expect to win.” As is the case for the MU men’s team, Duffy’s squad is struggling to hang onto the ball this season. They’re turning it over more than 21% of the time, which ranks #270 out of 351 Division 1 teams per HHS. That’s bad! It’s especially problematic because Marquette is a very good offensive team, even with the turnovers, and they’re even better on defense. They’re doing a lot of things very well through the first 12 games of the season, but if they’re going to try to aim themselves at a postseason berth, they have to focus on cleaning up the little things. Four of the Big East teams they have yet to see are RPI top 100 squads, and Providence just dipped out to #102 after the first two league games. There’s going to be a lot of tests tougher than most of what MU has seen so far this season as the 18 game schedule rolls on, and minor tweaks and extra attention to details will go a long way towards a successful season.

Big East Game #2: at Creighton Bluejays (10-3, 2-0 Big East)

Date: Friday, January 3, 2020
Time: 7pm Central
Location: DJ Sokol Arena, Omaha, NE
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on the Big East’s YouTube channel
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 8-13 all time against Creighton. The Golden Eagles have won four of the last six meetings, although the Bluejays came out ahead in Omaha in the final week of the regular season last year in the most recent meeting.

The Bluejays come in with wins in four of their last five games after starting off Big East action with two wins. Creighton trailed Georgetown in their league opener in D.C. by as many as 14 midway through the second quarter, but that deficit was gone midway through the third. CU ended up with a nine point win there after leading by 12 at multiple points in the fourth quarter. Against Villanova on New Year’s Eve, the Bluejays used a 22-10 second quarter to blow that game wide open and coast in for a 58-42 victory.

Through two league games, Jaylyn Agnew is giving Big East foes the business. She’s averaging 27.0 points along with 6.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists and shooting 44% from long range. That’s both not surprising and also kind of a big deal. Agnew already had four 20+ point games this season, so she’s clearly capable of that kind of output. However, Creighton also needed her to step things up a bit, as Tatum Rembao is currently out with a knee injury. Rembao is one of four Jays averaging at least 10 points per game and at least three rebounds per game, so someone was going to have to step up their game until she can get back out on the floor. That someone is definitely Agnew for these first two games, but we’ll see what happens as the schedule continues to roll onwards.

Much like the men’s team in Omaha, the Bluejays are determined to bury you underneath an avalanche of three-point shooting. HerHoopStats.com currently has them as the 11th most prolific long range shooting team in the county in terms of how many of their shots come from back there, and they connect about 33% of the time. That’s not super great, but it is ranked #104 in the country. Creighton’s problem in terms of team accuracy is that people other than Agnew, Rembao, and Olivia Elger also attempt outside shots. Those three are all shooting over 36% from behind the arc. Agnew is a monster back there, with a full 56% of all of her shots coming as three-pointers. Outside of those three women, the rest of the Jays are shooting just 27% on threes. I’d say that it would be in MU’s best interest to force shots to go in those directions, but blanketing three women at once to do that is really hard.

As prolific of a three-point shooting team as they are, head coach Jim Flanery is clearly mindful of his defense as well, and it’s paying off. HHS has the Jays as the #65 defense in the country even though they rank #150 in terms of points per 100 possessions. Here’s why: They force you into bad threes that you don’t want to take anyway, as they rank #48 in defensive three-point rate and #52 in three-point shooting percentage. On top of that, they end possessions with a rebound incredibly well. In fact, they’re so focused on getting back on defense that Creighton has basically voluntarily turned their offense into a one-shot-and-out situation. They’re #60 in the country in defensive rebounding rate, but #308 on the offensive glass per HHS. If you can force the Jays into bad shots — and generally speaking, Marquette can do that this year — then you’re almost guaranteed to gather up their miss and go the other way. MU is an excellent rebounding team, ranking in the HHS top 50 on both ends of the floor, so that should give the Golden Eagles an edge.

Big East Game #3: at Providence Friars (9-5, 0-2 Big East)

Date: Sunday, January 5, 2020
Time: 12pm Central
Location: Alumni Hall, Providence, RI
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on the Big East’s YouTube channel
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 15-5 all time against Providence. After a regular season closing win over the Friars last year, the Golden Eagles have won four straight in this series and nine of the last 10.

On Sunday afternoon, I turned on the Providence/Villanova game. I was washing some dishes and generally killing time until the Marquette/DePaul game started. The FS1 analyst talked a little bit about how head coach Jim Crowley had changed the culture at Providence. I hate discussions about “changing the culture.” It’s a lazy way to talk about “hey, this coach is winning games when the previous coach did not!” It’s okay to say that Jim Crowley is a better coach than any other Providence coach in the last 20 years, or at least to say that he’s getting better results than any other coach. That’s a low bar, of course, as last year was Providence’s first winning season in a decade. No, really, they had six straight losing seasons when he was hired, and they finished under .500 in his first three years.

Why am I talking about this? Because Providence is 0-2 in league play right now. The team picked to finish tied for fifth in the league lost on the road to the team that they were picked to finish tied with (well, that’s not so bad) and also to the team that was picked to finish dead last. That’s bad, and definitely not the kind of opening salvo you’d expect to see from a team that has undergone such a “culture change” that I had to hear about it from a different team’s SID after I tweeted about how much I dislike hearing discussions of “culture changes.”

Oh, and the Friars have now lost four of their last five games.

Anyway.

Mary Baskerville is the player to watch out for on the Providence roster. The green-haired (at least as of their first two games) sophomore stands 6’3” and leads PC in both scoring (12.8 ppg) and rebounding (8.5 rpg). She has great touch around the rim, ranking #211 in the country in two-point shooting, as well as #298 per HerHoopStats.com in offensive rebounding rate and — no joke — #6 in defensive rebounding rate. If you miss a shot against the Friars while she’s on the floor, you can invariably expect it to end up in Baskerville’s hands. The catch here, of course, is the phrase “when she’s on the floor.” Her season high for minutes is 29, which was against Loyola Marymount three games ago, and she had 28 against Georgetown on Tuesday. Baskerville has one of the worst foul rates in the country, which HHS marks at 8.1%. If you prefer it as “fouls per 40 minutes,” then she’s at 6.7 per 40 minutes. She’s incredibly effective for the Friars... if she’s on the floor. With Marquette’s interior rotation of Lauren Van Kleunen, Chloe Marotta, Camryn Taylor, and Altia Anderson, the Golden Eagles clearly have the bodies to be able to entice Baskerville into the fouls that she’s apparently willing to give out for free.

Even with Baskerville playing less than 20 minutes per game on average, the Friars are still an excellent interior defensive team. They’re #14 in the country in two-point defense, with teams shooting just 36% inside the arc against them. They’re also grabbing nearly 75% of their opponents’ missed shots to rank #17 in the country in defensive rebounding rate. That’s bonkers, but again, as was the case with Creighton, Marquette has the components to be able to counter that, especially if Baskerville is off the floor. Surprisingly, even as good as Baskerville is, Providence is a horrible offensive rebounding team, ranking #343 in the country in terms of rate. That’s clearly a style choice by Crowley, given how defensively oriented the entire squad is. He’s sacrificing second chances in order to be set up on defense when you go the other way, which is definitely an option.

Providence is a pretty good shooting team, at #69 in the country in effective field goal percentage, so trusting your players to hit shots is a solid plan. They actually rank #10 in the country in three-point shooting percentage at 39%, which is outstanding. Earlette Scott, Kyra Spiwak, and former Marquette commit Kaela Webb are all hitting at least 40% of their long range attempts, so the MU defensive rotations will have to be precise and careful. Webb leads the team in attempts and fires off just over seven per game on average from behind the arc, so she can not be left alone to cash in those long range bombs.