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

There’s a lot on the line for the Golden Eagles this weekend.

Butler v Villanova Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

There are just three more games remaining in the regular season for Marquette women’s basketball. Here’s what we know for sure about the Golden Eagles and their spot in the Big East standings:

  • Marquette can not finish worse than a tie for sixth place. At 11-4 with three games to go, MU can’t finish worse than with seven losses, and there are three teams with double digit losses already. St. John’s is at 8-7 in seventh place right now, so in theory, Marquette can end up in a tie with them. However, Marquette has the season series sweep advantage on the Johnnies, so even with that very bad end result, MU would still end up as the #6 seed.
  • A win on Friday would clinch a top five finish for Marquette. Conveniently, the Golden Eagles are playing the team currently in sixth place on Friday night. A win would mean a seventh loss for Villanova and leave Marquette unable to dip any lower than six losses on the season, thus clinching a top half finish.
  • Two wins by the Golden Eagles means that they would clinch a top three finish in the league and at least one loss by Butler locks up second place in the conference for Marquette. The Bulldogs are at 9-5 in league play right now, and two wins by Marquette over the weekend would mean that the Golden Eagles couldn’t finish worse than with five losses. Marquette and Butler split their season series with each side winning at home, so MU needs to be distinctly ahead of BU in order to avoid tiebreaker foolishness. Butler hosts Creighton and Providence this weekend, so Marquette’s most likely best shot at the loss they need will be on Friday against the Bluejays. Then again, Butler struggled more with the Friars on the road (three point win) than they did with Creighton (six point win), so who can really say?
  • Marquette is still mathematically alive for the Big East regular season title. DePaul is at 11-1, three games ahead of Marquette with three games to play. The Golden Eagles can not win the title outright at this point, but the Blue Demons have only clinched a share of the title so far. Any loss by Marquette or win by DePaul — and remember, DePaul is MU’s travel partner, so they play the same opponents in the same buildings this weekend — means that DePaul wins the regular season title outright in the second to last weekend of the regular season. By some insane chance that DePaul loses their mind and blows two straight games this weekend, then Marquette’s shot at the title might come down to — you guessed it — the regular season finale at the McGuire Center against the Blue Demons.

These are all very important things! In addition to all of this, Marquette still has their NCAA tournament future to worry about. ESPN’s Charlie Creme had the Golden Eagles as a #11 seed in his bracket projection earlier this week, while Russ Steinberg at High Post Hoops has them as a #10 seed. Losing on the road to RPI #99 Villanova wouldn’t be the absolute worst thing in the world for #33 Marquette... but losing to #248 Georgetown might be!

Yes, I am looking forward to playing Connecticut twice next year to help balance out this kind of thing.

Big East Game #16: at Villanova Wildcats (14-11, 8-6 Big East)

Date: Friday, February 21, 2020
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Finneran Pavilion, Villanova, PA
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on the Big East’s YouTube channel
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 15-9 all time against Villanova. The Golden Eagles have won seven 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.

This will be Marquette’s final regular season against a Villanova squad coached by Harry Perretta. The Big East women’s basketball legend will be stepping down after the 2019-20 season is over, and it’s possible that this would be MU’s last ever game against Perretta’s Wildcats. Quite honestly, I’m all for it.

It’s not that Perretta is bad at his job, and with MU winning seven straight, I’m obviously not trying to push him out the door either. However, it’s safe to say that Villanova might possibly play the absolute worst style of basketball possible, and I don’t mean because of their tempo. There are just two teams in the country that shoot more three pointers as part of their offense than Villanova. Since they are one of the 20 slowest paced teams in the country, this is a relatively smart style. Well, it would be if Villanova could shoot threes at all. They’re connecting on just 29.3% this season, which is awful, but still somehow not one of the 100 worst shooting percentages in the country. They have just one regular rotation player — Big East Freshman of the Year favorite Madison Siegrist — who shoots better than 33% from long range. Brooke Mullin is passable at 32.8%, but that’s about it. For some reason, Mary Gedaka and Raven James combine to attempt more than seven threes per game, but they’re both under 27%! It’s such a terrible pile of decision making.

This game may be decided by which team functions best on offense. Marquette and Villanova are #5 and #6 in the country per in assisted shot rate. They’re both tacking on a helper on over 70% of their buckets this season. In the first meeting between the two sides this season, Villanova assisted on 13 of their 20 made baskets, while Marquette dished for the bucket 17 times on their 24 makes. That’s advantage Marquette in terms of rate, not to mention in terms of total assists and total makes. The whole thing works together there in terms of functionality, and Megan Duffy’s system won out, ever so slightly, in Milwaukee

Big East Game #17: at Georgetown Hoyas (5-20, 2-12 Big East)

Date: Sunday, February 23, 2020
Time: 1pm Central
Location: McDonough Arena, Washington, D.C.
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on the Big East’s YouTube channel
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 19-4 all time against Georgetown. The Golden Eagles have won eight of the last nine and 10 of the last 11.

From a certain point of view, Marquette beat Georgetown by 32 points back on January 24th. The final margin was actually only 22 points, but the Hoyas had a 16-6 lead late in the first quarter. That means MU finished the game on a 67-35 run, which, TAA-DAA, 32 points. The big swing came as the first quarter ended and the second quarter started, and by halftime, Marquette was up nine. The Golden Eagles didn’t firmly put the game away until the fourth quarter, though.

Yeah, Georgetown’s not particularly great, although they are only sitting on a one game losing streak — 48-40 at home to Villanova — after beating Xavier in their second most recent game. It was 10 straight losses before that, which is how you end up 2-12 in league play. Still, even with a coaching change on Marquette’s end, James Howard’s Hoyas still gave the Golden Eagles fits, just like they had for the last few years, for the large majority of 40 minutes about a month ago. It’s definitely possible that it could happen again, and with this one coming on the road, MU is at risk for a very unpleasant loss.

Marquette’s strength, to a certain extent, is their interior play. Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, Georgetown excels at taking that away. The Hoyas are #102 in the country in defensive rebounding rate per Anita Kelava and Brianna Jones are both yanking down at least four rebounds per game on the defensive end to shut down opposing possessions, and that’s a big deal for Marquette. MU is a top 15 offensive rebounding team, and if the Hoyas are taking away their second chances, that stunts the overall offensive efficiency.

One of the reasons why Georgetown is good at defensive rebounding is because grabbing the ball after you block a shot counts as a rebound. They don’t do much particularly great, but as a team, the Hoyas are blocking over 11% of shots against them. That’s top 35 in the country, and once again, they are led by Kelava, who averages nearly two per contest. Marquette’s big solution to all of this last time out was to shoot 53% from behind the three-point line, led by a 6-for-8 outing from Isabelle Spingola. I’m not saying she won’t do it again, but mayhaps it is best if Marquette does not count on that happening again.