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Big East Women’s Basketball Semifinals Preview: #2 Marquette vs #3 St. John’s

The Golden Eagles are playing for positioning, the Red Storm desperately need a win for an NCAA bid.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Four-Arizona State Sun Devils vs St. John’s Red Storm Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

2020 Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament

Semifinals

#2 Marquette Golden Eagles (23-7, 13-5 Big East) vs #3 St. John’s Red Storm (19-11, 11-7 Big East)

Date: Sunday, March 8, 2020
Time: 7:30pm Central
Location: Wintrust Arena, Chicago, IL
Television: FS1
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
All Time Series: Marquette leads, 15-10
Current Streak: Marquette has won three straight, including in last year’s Big East quarterfinals, and six of the last seven.
Season Series: Marquette won, 2-0

And so, two former co-workers are now tasked with outwitting each other for a spot in Monday night’s Big East championship game. Joe Tartamella and Megan Duffy, the head coaches at St. John’s and Marquette respectively, were both assistants for Kim Barnes Arico when she was the head coach of the Red Storm. When KBA took the Michigan job, Duffy went to George Washington to become the associate head coach there, while Tartamella moved up to the big chair in Queens. Now they’re both in the Big East together, and in their very first Big East tournament together, they’ll have to duel for 40 minutes. That’s fun.

Marquette got here by way of a 72-59 win over #7 seeded Villanova in the quarterfinals. The Wildcats spent the middle half of the game working their way back into things, but the Golden Eagles poured it on in the end to secure the victory. St. John’s went about advancing from the quarterfinal round in the complete opposite way. The Red Storm trailed 20-5 after 10 minutes, but ended up tied at the half at 30 and then won going away, 70-54.

It came up the first two times these teams met, so we have to talk about it again. Twice this year, Marquette has both seen the damage that St. John’s can do from behind the three-point arc and also benefited from their lack of interest in shooting threes. In the first meeting this season, the Johnnies hit nine of their first 11 attempts from downtown.... and then just kind of forgot that it was working for them as Marquette pulled away in the fourth quarter. In Carnesecca Arena, St. John’s seemed to be aware of their three-point shooting ability and started out hot in the first quarter, hitting 4-of-7 attempts. They would connect on just two of their next 13, and Marquette kept on chugging for the win.

This is all relevant, because HerHoopStats.com says that St. John’s is a top 40 squad in terms of accuracy from long range. They have three players — Emma Nolan, Alissa Alston, and Qadashah Hoppie — who are all hitting 40% of their three-point attempts. They have three more regulars that are keeping their shooting percentage north of that magical 33% mark where your effective field goal percentage on three-pointers goes above 50%. And yet, somehow, even with all of this ferocious shooting prowess, SJU ranks 129th in the country in three-point rate, aka what percentage of their shots are from behind the arc. That’s probably not good, and I’m really not sure what Joe Tartamella is doing with his team.

Marquette’s biggest strength as a team may be the Red Storm’s biggest weakness. They are a terrible rebounding team. #272 in the country in offensive rebounding rate per HHS, and #263 in defensive rebounding rate. You can kind of look the other way on the offensive end, as the Johnnies are a very good offensive team. The better you are at putting the ball in the net, the less you’re interested in trying to grab misses, y’know? Marquette is a top 30 rebounding team in terms of rate on both ends of the court, with the four-pack of post players combining to do massive damage. Megan Duffy’s ability to rotate freely between Altia Anderson, Lauren Van Kleunen, Chloe Marotta, and Camryn Taylor without suffering any kind of drop off in skills and talents is one of the biggest strengths of the team this year. Their ability to haul in shots to either extend a possession or end it quickly is vastly underrated, and on Sunday, they’ll be going against a Red Storm squad that just does not get the whole rebounding thing at all.

This game does have a little bit extra importance for the Red Storm. As of Saturday morning, ESPN’s Charlie Creme had St. John’s as one of his “first four out” teams for the NCAA tournament. Beating Creighton will do them good in terms of their own RPI ranking, but I don’t know if it would be enough to get them into the field of 64. Marquette, on the other hand, is a #9 seed. Winning would probably be helpful, but I don’t think losing would really affect the Golden Eagles all that much. Still, better safe than sorry, right?