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Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: vs Xavier & vs Butler

Yes, it’s time to start Big East play.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 14 Seton Hall at Xavier Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

You have not misread the headline on this page! It is time for Marquette women’s basketball to start Big East play!

Yes, Marquette has only played six games so far this season. Yes, Marquette is not done playing non-conference games. But it’s a 20 game league schedule, and thanks to Christmas mucking things up for nearly a week later in December, it’s not like we can just wait around and start the games then! Gotta get them in when we can get them in, and that time is now.

The Golden Eagles are 4-2 on the year so far, and they have actually lost two of their last three coming into Friday night’s Big East starter. If you’re of the more particularly worrying type, then it’s probably troubling to you that by the final horn, Marquette hasn’t been particularly competitive in their two losses this year. Getting off to a bad start against a Georgia team that was just outside the AP top 25 at game time and jumped in at #20 following said win is probably less bothersome than committing roughly half a million turnovers on the road against Colorado. Then again, the Buffaloes are rapidly running towards the top 25 right now with a 7-0 record, so maybe all we’ve learned so far is that Marquette isn’t ready to beat ranked teams.

That’s not the worst thing in the world, especially when Marquette is replacing two starters and a third rotation player from last year’s roster. There are three clear areas that the Golden Eagles need to clean up: shooting, shooting, and ball control.

Yes, I listed shooting twice.

See, Marquette is atrocious at shooting three-pointers so far this season at just 25.3%. That’s #282 in the country, and to the other 70-something programs that are worse: What on earth are you people doing? At the moment, grad transfer Karissa McLaughlin is MU’s only real three-point shooting threat, and she’s knocking down 37% of nearly six tries a game. No one else is doing better than the 25% from both Lauren Van Kleunen and Jordan King. Liza Karlen, who shot nearly 40% as a freshman lasat year, has missed every single one of her 15 attempts so far this season. I’m figuring some of this will solve itself eventually, but for now, whewwwww, it’s a thing.

Marquette’s also really bad at free throw shooting, connecting on just 66%, and for a team that is going to have to rely on getting to the rim right now, that’s bad. MU is also not getting to the line very much, which is kind of mitigating that free throw shooting percentage problem, but if the threes aren’t going to be going in, the Golden Eagles need to start manufacturing extra points, and that means freebies.

It also means finishing more possessions with a shot, and the Golden Eagles turn it over 23% of the time. According to HerHoopStats.com, that’s #288 in the country, and that is very much not okay. MU is the #1 offensive rebounding team in the country. Quite literally, any shot at all that MU puts up is okay because they’re going to get a second chance an awful lot with nearly 47% of those offensive misses landing in a Marquette player’s hands. But they have to get to those shots.

Now, sure, some of those turnovers are just overzealous outlet passes to launch into a transition attack. That’s not too bad. But MU is also not playing nearly fast enough as a team — #201 in possessions per 40 minutes — to justify the occasional overthrown fast break pass.

Without being mean to anyone, this weekend presents Marquette two very good opportunities to get themselves righted and moving in a positive direction. The question is whether or not they can fix the problems or if they’re just going to keep being problems all year.

Big East Game #1: vs Xavier Musketeers (3-3, 0-0 Big East)

Date: Friday, December 3, 2021
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloHoops
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 17-7 all time against Xavier. The series started back in 1985 and was pretty even through the first nine encounters. The Musketeers won three of the first five meetings between the two teams once XU joined the Big East, but the Golden Eagles have now won 10 straight in the series.

Xavier is having a wild season so far. They started out the year getting clonked in the head on the road by both Memphis and Utah, and then lost to local rival Miami (OH) in their home opener. Then they zipped past Valparaiso to log their first win of the season, and then hit the road to even things out at .500 against Wright State and Eastern Kentucky. Yes, those last two were away games for the Musketeers.

It’s probably not a surprise that XU hasn’t used the same starters very much this season. Only two women — Nia Clark and Shaila Beeler — have started all six contests. Head coach Melanie Moore has gone nine deep every time out, but seven different players have started a game so far this season. One of the reasons for the changes is Shelby Calhoun. The transfer from Virginia Tech started in XU’s first two games of the season and has not played since.

Defending the Musketeers should be pretty straight forward for the Golden Eagles. Xavier is bad at shooting three-pointers — 19% on the year — and they’re aware of it, as they rank in the bottom 10 teams in the country in terms of how much of their offense comes from behind the arc. Through six games, only two Musketeers are attempting more than two three-pointers per game, and both of them are shooting 25% or worse. So, with Xavier averaging just barely over two made three-pointers a game, I vote that Marquette doesn’t bother closing out on shooters until they’ve made three in the game.

Clark is the top scorer on the team this year, getting 16.0 points per game, and she leads in assists as well at 2.8 per contest. The erstwhile Calhoun and Aanaya Harris tie for #2 on the team in scoring at 11.5 points per game, with Kae Satterfield just outside double digit territory at 9.7/game. Satterfield is the top rebounder on the squad at six per game, and she’s doing that on just under 25 minutes a game. Mikayla Hayes gets to 5.7 misses per game as well, but as long as Marquette sticks to their basics when it comes to cleaning the glass, they should be able to beat Xavier in this department.

Big East Game #2: vs Butler Bulldogs (0-6, 0-0 Big East)

Date: Sunday, December 5, 2021
Time: 2pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloHoops
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 16-9 all time against Butler. The first ever meeting was in 1986, and like all of the first four, the Bulldogs came away victorious. Since 1991, Marquette has lost just five times and comes into this one on a three game winning streak.

Okay, look. I’m not going to fault Butler for losing by 23 at home to then-#8 Indiana in their opener. That was, probably, the most likely result. However, everything that has happened since then..... well, I have to fault the Bulldogs for that.

  • 27 point home loss to Western Illinois
  • 14 point home loss to Ball State
  • 3 point home loss to Austin Peay
  • 13 point home loss to SIU Edwardsville
  • 33 point road loss to IUPUI

Y I K E S

Well, Butler was picked to finish last in the league, I suppose. Then again, there’s a difference between “picked to finish last in a Major Seven conference” and “leaning into finishing last in the league.” This kind of thing is actually bad for the Big East. There’s a legitimate chance that being forced to play this apparently god-awful Butler team twice could be the difference between getting or missing on an at-large bid for a team in the league this year.

A quick glance at Butler’s HerHoopStats.com page literally caused me to shout “oh, Butler, what are you doing?” out loud while writing this preview. To wit: Butler ranks #12 in the country in two-point shooting percentage. That’s really good! Almost to the point of making you wonder how the hell they’re getting smashed by Summit League and Horizon League teams. The short answer? Butler also ranks #32 in the country in deriving their offensive output from behind the three-point line, as in only 31 teams get a higher percentage of field goal attempts from long range..... and the Bulldogs are hitting just 28% from beyond the arc.

Gross.

Emilia Sexton and Kendall Winger are both connecting on 33% of their three-balls, and they’re both firing off more than six per game. This isn’t terrible, it’s merely “don’t you have something better you can do?” They’re the only players north of 30% on the season so far, though, and that’s how Butler is at just 28% as a team while launching more than 22 threes a game. This is awful. I don’t know why they think this is a good plan. I don’t know why head coach Kurt Godlevske thinks this is a good way to keep his job.

Alex Richard, a 6’1” freshman, is leading the team in scoring at 12.8 per game, and she has yet to attempt a long range shot all year. I like this, this is good, do more of this, Butler. Richard, however, did not play in Butler’s game against IUPUI, so we’ll have to wait to see if she’s available for the weekend swing against DePaul and Marquette. Tenley Dowell leads the squad in the rebounding department at 5.2 per game, while Zoe Jackson tops the assists chart at 4.5 per game.