So, here’s the deal.
Heading into the weekend’s games against UConn and DePaul, we talked about Marquette’s positioning in terms of the NET and their quadrant records. It turns out that losing both games was not 100% beneficial to the Golden Eagles. As of games played on Sunday, February 7th, Marquette now has a NET ranking of #45. That’s down four spots from where they were before losing to the Huskies and the Blue Demons. That’s not ideal. I guess only falling four spots after two home losses is still pretty good, but you would have hoped that merely playing the other two best teams in the league would have been more helpful than that. With four Big East games left to go before wrapping up the regular season with the road trips against UConn and DePaul, Marquette has to take each contest seriously in order to lock in their NCAA tournament status.
There’s still a lot to be decided in the Big East standings, too. Right now, Marquette can’t do any worse than a tie for 9th in the conference standings. They have surpassed 1-11 Butler’s best positioning since MU can’t do any worse than nine losses at this point. Georgetown is sitting on exactly nine losses right now, but MU has already swept the Hoyas. Other than that, everything else is still on the table. It’s hard to say exactly what’s possible as I suspect that 1-4 and in 9th place Xavier is not going to fit in 15 games between now and the start of March. Marquette could have another two losses waiting for them at the end of the season, so they have to be sure to stack wins over the next four games in order to get them to the best possible conference tournament seeding that they can get.
One final thing I want to point out. Friday’s game against UConn and Sunday’s game against DePaul marked just the second time that Megan Duffy has lost two straight games while coaching the Golden Eagles. Sure, it’s late in her second season, so she hasn’t had a lot of opportunities..... but it still only happened one time before. Last season, Marquette opened up Big East action with two straight losses: At DePaul and at Creighton. The response from the team? Three straight wins, and W’s in seven of the next eight. Duffy knows how to get her team to rebound from losses, and the one time that they didn’t bounce back the next time, they responded with a win streak. Let’s cross our fingers that we see another one of those start on Wednesday.
Big East Game #13: vs Butler Bulldogs (1-12, 1-11 Big East)
Marquette is 15-9 all time against Butler. The Golden Eagles have won 14 of the past 19 meetings as well as two straight after winning in Indianapolis earlier this season.
Butler has played just one game since losing 95-57 to Marquette back on January 24th. That was a January 31st loss at home to Villanova. Your final from Hinkle Fieldhouse: 90-53. They had trips to Creighton and Xavier postponed/cancelled on them in the middle there, and so this will be their first game in 10 days.
With just one new game of data on the Bulldogs since Marquette squared off with them, I’m not going to put a lot of effort into previewing this game. If you want to read about Butler women’s basketball this season, go read our preview of the earlier matchup this season. Essentially nothing has changed, even though that was over three weeks ago.
We can talk about what Marquette did well against the Bulldogs last time out if you want. They did a lot of things well, which is the kind of thing that happens when you nearly win by 40. The Golden Eagles did catch a little bit of a break in that game — yes, I know, winning by 40 involved a lucky break — as they shot 53% from behind the three-point line. A 2-for-5 first quarter led to a 7-for-12 final 30 minutes. Claire Kaifes was the leader, netting four of her six long range attempts, while Selena Lott splashed three of her seven. Marquette is only shooting 32.7% as a team this season in that department, although that has gone up to 34% in Big East games.
In general, Marquette shot the lights out against the Bulldogs in the first meeting. After shooting 57% in the first quarter, which left them leading by 12, the Golden Eagles never shot worse than 60% in any of the final three quarters of the game. Eight of the 10 MU players who lofted a shot in the game made at least half of their attempts against Butler. This is all very good news, of course. The flipside of the good news is questioning whether Marquette can do that again for another 40 minutes. It’s unlikely that’s the case, of course, so Marquette will have to be on guard until they build a lead that’s sustainable.
One thing that isn’t sustainable but might be more likely to be recreated is Marquette’s advantages on the glass against Butler. While MU didn’t miss all that many shots against the Bulldogs last time out, they did grab up 48% of the few misses there were to be had. That’s a great number, even for a great offensive rebounding team like Marquette. They also kept Butler to just 28% of their own misses, and that’s a very solid number of possessions ended in just one shot.
In short, I think we can safely say that standard issue Megan Duffy Marquette basketball should be enough to end up victorious on Wednesday afternoon.