clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: vs #3 Connecticut & #20 DePaul

It’s a big three days for the Golden Eagles and for the Big East as well.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 07 Illinois at UConn
What a good dog.
Photo by Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Since we last did a preview, Marquette women’s basketball played their 13th and 14th games of the season. The 13th one was the important one, as that means the Golden Eagles hit the minimum number of games required by the NCAA for entry to the national championship tournament.

Marquette is now 12-2 on the year with a 9-1 record in Big East play. Since Marquette is now NCAA tournament eligible, I wanted to take a moment to look at where MU exactly is in terms of an NCAA tournament profile. Normally, I would use the NCAA’s official Team Sheet, but those aren’t existing for some reason. Instead, we’ll look at the Team Sheet that’s being approximated by Warren Nolan.

NET Ranking: #41
Quadrant 1 Record: 1-1
Quadrant 2 Record: 2-1
Quadrant 3 Record: 5-0
Quadrant 4 Record: 4-0

This is fine with 10 Big East games (theoretically) left to go. Right now, or at least as of Tuesday, ESPN’s Charlie Creme has the Golden Eagles as a #9 seed in his bracketology outlook. Again, this is fine. However, I do want to point out that two of the #10 seeds are in Creme’s Last Four In, so it’s clear that Marquette can still do quite a bit to improve their positioning.

Enter Connecticut and DePaul, currently at #2 and #55 in the NET.

Merely playing this weekend’s games will be beneficial to Marquette, as Connecticut will be the best ranked team that the Golden Eagles have played all season. DePaul will have to settle for being the third best team behind Connecticut and Milwaukee, who currently sits at #54. Coming up with two wins might be a tall order, but a split is not, and that would definitely work wonders for MU’s NET ranking.

That’s the Big Picture, and I want to bring it down just a little bit more local to wrap up here. First place in the Big East is on the line on Friday night. Connecticut is 10-0 in league action, Marquette is 9-1. You don’t need to be a mathematician to be able to tell that the Golden Eagles can pull even with the Huskies at 10-1 with a win. With MU already suffering a loss at Seton Hall this season, the Golden Eagles will need UConn to take a loss at some point if MU is to even share in the regular season title. A Marquette loss on Friday gives the Huskies a two game lead in the loss column, and at this point of the season, that might be insurmountable. Marquette is also a game in front of 6-2 DePaul in the loss column in league play. No matter what happens on the court on Friday, Sunday is still a big game for the Golden Eagles as the Blue Demons are right there waiting in the wings for MU to screw up.

Big East Game #11: vs #3 Connecticut Huskies (12-1, 10-0 Big East)

Date: Friday, February 5, 2021
Time: 6pm Central
Location: A very empty Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Television: SNY, if you get it on your cable system
Streaming: FoxSports.com, and we’ll get into this in a second.
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is, as you might expect, 0-9 all time against UConn. All eight meetings happened after Marquette joined the Big East back in the 2005-06 season. The closest Marquette ever came to defeating the Huskies was the 2006-07 meeting, as UConn won in their first trip to Milwaukee by the final score of 52-48. Marquette has only scored more than 51 points once in this series, and the 2007 meeting was the only time that they held Connecticut under 60.

Okay, let’s get into the streaming thing. People outside SNY’s natural viewing area can stream the game thanks to Fox Sports, but there’s a catch. 1) You have to have a cable/cable-type subscription to let you sign in to FoxSports.com. That’s the easy part. Hulu+Live TV works, I’ve done it before to watch the Huskies. 2) You have to check the website AFTER the game tips off. I don’t know why Fox won’t put the streaming link up before then, but they don’t.

Okay, so, the bad news. HerHoopStats.com says that the Huskies are the best team in the country. They’re the best defensive team in the country and their offense is rated #2 in the country. #1 in field goal percentage, #1 in two point percentage, #1 in effective field goal percentage. Marquette’s biggest problem in this game is going to be slowing down the Huskies’ offense, honestly, even though technically HHS says that the defense is the better unit. The effort may have to start right with Paige Bueckers, the shoo-in candidate for Big East Freshman of the Year. Sure, she leads the Huskies in scoring at nearly 20 points per game, but the fact that she’s shooting — and this is not a joke — better from behind the arc (58%) than she is inside the arc (55%) is bonkers and makes her the biggest threat on the team. Oh, and even while she’s doing all that, Bueckers still has time to rank #201 in the country in assist rate. Christyn Williams (16.8), Evina Westbrook (11.6), and Olivia Nelson-Ododa (13.9) are all in double digits in points per game, too, so even if MU figures out a way to disrupt Bueckers, they’re still in a lot of trouble.

Marquette’s biggest problem on offense is going to be the steals. Marquette already has a teeny bit of a turnover problem that they manage to paper over with great offensive rebounding and great shooting. The Huskies do a lot of things really well on defense, but the thing they do best is take the ball from you. #9 in the country in steals per game, #6 in steal rate. If you want to pull the stunner, you have to have the ball long enough to put shots up. Unless the Golden Eagles are running wild and raining in threes left, right, and center, if the turnover rate creeps above their season average of 18%, things are going to go south on them in a hurry.

Big East Game #12: vs #20 DePaul Blue Demons (9-4, 6-2 Big East)

Date: Sunday, February 7, 2021
Time: 11am Central
Location: A very empty Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Television: FS1
Streaming: FoxSportsGo.com
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 29-47 all time against DePaul. However, the teams have split the last six meeting clean down the middle, with the Blue Demons winning in their building and in the Big East championship game last season.

Before you get too far over your skis and say “oh, snap, 9-4, is DePaul bad this season,” let me go ahead and quickly disperse that idea. The Blue Demons have lost to then-#13 Texas A&M, then-#5 Louisville, then-#4 Connecticut, and then-#3 Connecticut. They are undefeated against everyone else on their schedule, and that includes then-#9 Kentucky, which is probably why they’re still holding on to that top 25 ranking right about now. When your explanation as to why you have a .692 winning percentage is “we’re 1-4 against top 15 teams,” you’re doing just fine.

As could be expected, the biggest difference between Marquette and DePaul this season is the tempo. DePaul currently ranks #2 in the country in possessions per 40 minutes according to HerHoopStats.com, as they squeeze over 82 possessions out of a game on average. Marquette is down around 71 per game, which makes the Golden Eagles an average team nationally speaking. The Golden Eagles have shown a willingness to start slinging the ball down the court on offense when they see an advantage to it, particularly when speedy guard Taylor Valladay is on the court. It’s not how Marquette wants to play all the time, though, and if they get sucked into a track meet against the Blue Demons, I suspect it may not go particularly well.

The good news for Marquette, though, is that while DePaul may deserve that top 25 ranking, their defense does not. The Blue Demons have to go nine million miles an hour because they need to score and score a lot.... because they rank #247 in the country in defensive points per 100 possessions. If you prefer to take a more in depth look at it than raw points per possession, let’s go look at the HHS Defensive Rating..... where they rank #141 in the country. Pretty much the only thing that DePaul does right on defense is stop you from taking three-pointers. They’re not worldbeaters in that department, but when you rank #339 in the country in effective field goal percentage, ranking #61 in how often the other team throws up threes is a minor victory.

Defending DePaul is something of a nightmare because the five women who have played in all 13 games this season are all averaging at least 11 points per game. Sonya Morris leads the group at 18.3 points per game, but there’s clearly a “whoever has it going today gets to do the scoring” attitude going on here. Helping on defense isn’t going to be particularly useful, since that’s just leaving a talented scorer available. DePaul is going to want to shoot it from long distance, but Marquette can pick and choose their spots there. Dee Bekelja and Darrione Rogers are both firing off about five threes per game, but they’re only hitting 29% on the season. If you want to give them space to shoot until they hit one, fine by me. Stopping Morris (38%) and Deja Church (35%) is a much more important priority, especially with Morris starting to lean towards six attempts per game.

I mentioned it a second ago, but DePaul is not a very deep team for a squad that likes to play lighting quick. Their four every game starters are all averaging over 29 minutes per game. In DePaul’s last game, a 100-67 loss to Connecticut on January 31st, head coach Doug Bruno only went eight deep, with #7 and #8 playing less than seven minutes each. This was a game where his team was losing by 14 at halftime and by 32 at the start of the fourth quarter. Part of this is not by choice. Freshman Kendall Holmes was averaging nearly 10 minutes a game before tearing her Achilles. Maya Stovall played in four games, starting two, and then transferred to Memphis at semester. Kiara Dallmann spent the first month-plus of the season recovering from an injury, and might not be up to speed based on how much she has played since the 1st of the year. It’s an interesting mixture, to be sure. It would certainly seem like Marquette would be able to take advantage of situations where the Blue Demons start getting into foul trouble. That would seem to cause A) DePaul’s already porous defense to lighten up even further, B) DePaul to start leaning on players that they don’t particularly feel comfortable playing, or C) the game to start slowing down to a pace that Marquette prefers. Any of the three would work in MU’s favor, but the Golden Eagles would have to get there first.