Friday night at the McGuire Center is quietly a pretty important game for Marquette women’s basketball.
First, there’s the issue of the Big East standings. Marquette currently sits at 11-3 in league play with four games scheduled left to play. The final two games of the year are on the road against DePaul and Connecticut, and given that MU lost at home to both teams already, the chances of getting W’s out of those two are slim. That leaves two obviously winnable games for MU to solidly position themselves in the standings for the Big East tournament. On top of that, they’re playing the team that’s currently one spot below them in the standings. Villanova sits at 7-3 with four games to play themselves. Obviously, they’re not getting to even the 18 games that Marquette can get to.... but VU’s four games are all winnable for the Wildcats. If we’re looking at winning percentage being the option for seeding in the conference tournament, then Marquette needs to take advantage of playing the team directly behind them in fourth place right now and hand them a loss to push them away.
Then there’s the issue of the NCAA tournament. As of the morning of the 16th, three days ago, ESPN’s Charlie Creme had Marquette as a #8 seed in his 64 team bracket. His Last Four In teams are his four #11 seeds right now. Since we don’t know where exactly MU is on his seed lines, the Golden Eagles could be anywhere from 13 to 16 spots away from the cut line. Sure, that sounds pretty safe, but remember when I said that Marquette has two games that they’re not favored to win looming at the end of the year? Losses, even to tournament caliber teams, isn’t helpful. Losing to a team that Creme has as his eighth team out? Even less helpful. However, beating Villanova, which currently sits at #68 in the NET and at least right now would project as a Quadrant 2 victory? Yes, I would say that improving Marquette’s record to 4-4 in the top two quadrants would be very helpful, especially since they have zero losses in the bottom two quadrants.
So, nobody freak out or nothing.
Oh, and we have to point out that this is the Gold For Sarah weekend, too. Please head over thisaway to go read about senior setter Sarah Rose’s battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma. Marquette will be wearing their gold jerseys in this game, and I would presume that we’ll hear about it on the streaming broadcast at some point.
Big East Game #15: vs Villanova Wildcats (12-3, 7-3 Big East)
Date: Friday, February 19, 2021
Time: 7pm Central
Location: A very empty Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloHoops, with Patrick Reed and Meghan McKeown on the call
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette is 16-10 all time against Villanova. The Golden Eagles have won nine of the last 10 meetings between the two teams. The Wildcats’ only win in that run was last season in Pennsylvania, and MU already took that advantage off the table from them by winning 95-77 earlier this season.
The Golden Eagles left The Finn with that lopsided victory on short notice back in late January thanks to a third quarter where they went on a 25-9 run to close it out. That turned an 11 point game at halftime into a 26 point game with 10 minutes to go. Villanova would manage to chew that down to 14 points with 5:32 to go, but six straight MU points after that ended any hope that the Wildcats had left remaining.
While the series has been tilted heavily in MU’s favor over the past few years, and while MU won pretty easily on the road already this season, that game was a lot closer than the final score makes it look. The Wildcats shot 40% from behind the three-point line in that game and Marquette let them take over 40% of their shots from out there. If Villanova can replicate that performance again, Marquette is in a lot of trouble. Heck, even if Villanova can’t but still shoots 53% on two-point attempts, that’s probably not going to work out real well for the Golden Eagles. I’ve been able to say a lot of times this season that Marquette has won a game with their defense, but that is definitely not the case for the first meeting of these two teams.
Villanova has three women who average more than 10 points a game, and all three are north of 12 per contest. All three topped that 12 point mark in the first meeting, and the fact that Marquette couldn’t lock up the three biggest names on the scouting report isn’t particularly good news for a second go-round with the Wildcats. Villanova is a top 40 offense in the country per HerHoopStats.com, and Marquette is going to have to be dialed in on the defensive end to get the stops they need.
On the other end of the floor, things look pretty rosy for the Golden Eagles. It’s unlikely that Marquette has the same kind of offensive performance (52% from the field, 59% behind the arc!) that they had against Villanova out east earlier in the year, but Denise Dixon’s squad isn’t doing a good job at coming up with stops, either. If MU can play their high assist/high offensive rebound type of game, they’ll probably be fine even if the shots aren’t going down with the same frequency.