The first thing we should do is address the elephant in the room.
Now, I know what you’re saying. “Hey, I thought you said that Marquette started Big East play against DePaul two weeks ago, and since Saint Louis and Iowa State aren’t in the Big East, that means that they’ve only played two league matches!”
You are mostly correct.
That was true information at the time. However, since then, the Big East has decided that the two non-conference matches that the Golden Eagles played in Omaha earlier this season against Creighton will be counted as conference matches instead. The return weekend in Milwaukee was waved off because the Bluejays had COVID issues, and instead of rescheduling the postponed matches, they have just been cancelled and thus Marquette is 1-1 in the Big East against Creighton and 2-0 against DePaul.
It’s the right decision by the Big East. They have two matches played, and keeping the weekend before the Big East tournament open for both teams to reschedule matches does make the most sense. Heck, it would make sense even if Creighton didn’t have matches against Marquette and Xavier to make up. But they do, and counting the MU/CU games in Nebraska towards the league count means that Creighton can use the spare weekend to play Xavier instead.
Kind of a win all around. Defeats the purpose of Ryan Theis and Kirsten Bernthal Booth agreeing to play the games to bolster each other’s RPI rankings, but it’s the right and best decision for everyone involved.
With that in mind, Marquette has just four Big East matches left to be played this season, and those four are the only contests left in the regular season as well. All four will be on the road as well, as MU looks to lock up one of the top two spots in the Midwest Division and thus one of the four spots in the Big East tournament. In addition to that angle of the postseason, Marquette is looking to put themselves in position for, at worst, an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. It’s a reduced field this spring, down to 48 teams from the usual 64. The reduction came from the pool of at-large bids, so there’s only about half as many at-large bids as there would be in a normal season.
MU is ranked #24 in the country at the moment, which would definitely tip towards the Golden Eagles being one of the 15 best at-large programs in the country if it comes to that. But that also means that Marquette can’t afford to have any slip ups on their NCAA tournament resume between now and the end of the season. The NCAA hasn’t released any RPI data for this season at this point, so we don’t know for certain where Butler and Xavier stand.... but at the end of the 2019 season, both squads were between 150 and 200 in the RPI. Those wouldn’t awful losses, if that’s where they are now, but they wouldn’t be explainable losses either.
Big East Match #5: at Butler Bulldogs (3-5, 0-2 Big East)
Big East Match #6: at Butler Bulldogs (3-5, 0-2 Big East)
Marquette is 16-7 all time against Butler. The Golden Eagles have won each of the last five meetings with the Bulldogs and 11 of the last 12. Marquette has not dropped a set to Butler since winning 3-1 in the 2017 Big East semifinals.
Officially, Butler is 3-5 this season. However, win #3 on the year came against NAIA Marian, so the Bulldogs are only 2-5 against Division 1 competition. They went to five sets against Bellarmine and Indiana State for those two wins back on January 31 and February 4 respectively. BU has lost their three D1 contests since then, falling in straight sets to the Saint Louis team that Marquette beat last weekend and then going 0-2 against DePaul a week ago. Butler had a 2-1 lead on the Blue Demons in their first match before dropping sets #4 and #5, and that turned into a five set losing streak as DePaul swept Butler in the second meeting in Chicago.
Butler’s top attacker is Brittany Robinson, a 6’1” redshirt sophomore from Peoria, Illinois. Her 3.39 kills per set tops the team as does her 317 attacks, which is over 100 more than anyone else on the team. However, Robinson is not an efficient striker, as she’s only hitting .174 on the year. Volleyball is a lot like baseball in terms of batting average numbers, so you can see how that’s not super great. Melody Davidson, a 6’2” middle blocker from Indiana, is the most precise regular attacker on the team, hitting .303 and averaging 2.63 kills/set. The Bulldogs will turn to Elana Brueggemann for offense as well, as she hits .147 to average 2.7 kills per frame.
The setting is done by freshman Madison Friebel almost exclusively, as she averages over 10 assists per set. Sophomore Jaymeson Kinley handles the libero duties to the tune of 3.38 digs per set, but Friebel is right behind her at 3.00/set. That’s a surprisingly high number of digs for a setter that’s still assisting on 10 kills, too. Freshman Hannah Kelly is called on to take care of a respectable amount of the back line work as well, matching Friebel in digs. Butler’s net work doesn’t really turn into points all that much, with Amina Shackelford leading BU with 0.63 blocks per set.