Marquette women’s basketball can’t lose their regular season finale on Monday night.
I mean, sure, they could end up with fewer points than the other team, and as you can tell from the top of the page, that’s actually the likely outcome. But the Golden Eagles won’t lose anything if the game ends in a defeat.
At 14-3 in Big East play this season, Marquette has already clinched the #2 seed in the conference tournament. At 17-0, UConn has clinched the regular season title, so there’s no chance of Marquette ending up in a tie for the title anyway at this point and so the Golden Eagles can’t do any better than the #2 seed. Marquette also can’t finish any lower than 2nd, so there’s no risk in ending up in the losing end of Monday’s game in Storrs.
As of Friday evening, ESPN’s Charlie Creme had Marquette as a #8 seed in his NCAA tournament bracketology efforts. His last team in — Notre Dame, in case you were wondering — holds one of the four #12 seeds. At absolute worst, that puts 12 teams in between Marquette and the cut line, and losing on the road to Connecticut isn’t going to actually damage that standing whatsoever. Same goes for Marquette’s NET ranking, which was sitting at #35 through games played on Saturday. Marquette might even be slightly underrated as the Golden Eagles are 3-2 in Quadrant 1 games through Saturday’s contests and 5-4 against Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 opponents. For those of you scoring at home, the 17-4 Golden Eagles are a perfect 12-0 against all other foes this season. Playing the Huskies on the road just gives Marquette another Quadrant 1 opponent and thus boosts their strength of schedule up a little bit.
There’s absolutely zero downside to this game, and honestly, that goes for both sides. All UConn is really playing for is avoiding a regular season loss to a conference opponent for the seventh straight season and their first home loss of the season and first since hosting Oregon back on February 3, 2020.
So, nothing but house money for the Golden Eagles. May as well just go out and win the damn thing.
Big East Game #18: at #1 Connecticut Huskies (20-1. 17-0 Big East)
Date: Monday, March 1, 2021
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Connecticut
Television: CBS Sports Network, with John Sadak and Julianne Viani on the call
Streaming: CBSSports.com, as long as CBSSN is in your cable package.
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette is 0-10 all time against Connecticut. This will be MU’s first game on the road against the Huskies since February 5, 2013, which was the last time that the two met before UConn departed the Big East. Connecticut won the meeting earlier this season in Milwaukee by the final score of 87-58, marking just the second time in series history that MU has scored more than 51 points.
The problem here is, of course, that Marquette will have to play perfect basketball for 40 minutes to beat the Huskies. They fell woefully short of that mark earlier this year in Milwaukee, as UConn blew the game wide open with a 20-8 second quarter that left the visitors up 19 at halftime. MU shots just 42% from the field in the game, and with 3-for-14 shooting from outside, they were at just 44% in terms of effective field goal percentage. Meanwhile, on the other end of the court, MU’s defense wasn’t up to the challenge, either. The Huskies connected on 57% of their shots in the game, and thanks to a 6-for-9 long range performance from all-everything freshman Paige Bueckers, UConn compiled an eFG% of 65.6%.
We can dig deeper if you want — turning the ball over 25% of the time against a top five team is bad, for example — but the shooting on both ends pretty much explains what happened in that game. Now, the good news, such as it is, comes in the format of UConn fans telling me that the game at the Al might have been the best that Geno Auriemma’s women had looked all season up to that point. Sometimes you just run into a buzzsaw, and sometimes you just run into a well oiled and maintained buzzsaw. It happens.
Still, Marquette has to do much better than they did in Milwaukee if they want to win. Heck, after losing 87-58 in the first meeting, MU is going to have to do much better just to keep it within shouting distance down the stretch.
Think about it this way: This game should — fingers crossed — be a preview of the Big East tournament championship game. It’s the already determined #1 seed vs the already determined #2 seed. These two teams can’t meet until the title game at Mohegan Sun exactly one week later. Maybe Marquette can’t win this game. Can they solve enough of the UConn riddle to figure out a way to win on March 8? That would be a much bigger deal than winning this game, I’d wager.