Marquette women’s basketball is 5-0 for the first time since 2010-11.
They aren’t supposed to be, not if you take Associated Press poll rankings into account. They weren’t supposed to beat #3 Texas in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Friday. Even if they did, it was supposed to be #6 Louisville waiting in the second round, but Gonzaga matched Marquette by posting their best ever win over a ranked foe in their first round game. That put the Bulldogs in Marquette’s path instead, and after an 18 point, 8 rebound outing from Chloe Marotta, Marquette is 40 minutes away from a Battle 4 Atlantis championship trophy.
You know what’s wild about this game? With an 11am start, it’s going to tip off before Monday’s new AP poll is released. That means that we won’t know exactly how many voters were impressed by MU’s win over the #3 Longhorns much less following it up with a win over a Gonzaga squad that was receiving votes last week. It’s possible that Marquette could lose this game and then find out that they’re in the top 25. That’d be wild, wouldn’t it?
Speaking of “could” lose, Her Hoop Stats actually favors the Golden Eagles. It’s early in the season so maybe the math is a little wonky, but HHS gives Marquette a 66.8% chance of victory here on a neutral court. Heck, the algorithm likes MU so much, they would still be favored if this was at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles.
I don’t know about you, but that seems pretty good for a game where Marquette is playing with maaaaaaaybe the most house money that they’ve been playing with for years now. Heck, HHS didn’t even favor MU to win the last two games, and they did win them. Can they take advantage of a situation that miiiiight just be in their favor?
Game #6: vs RV UCLA Bruins (5-0)
This is the first ever meeting between Marquette and UCLA.
Much like Marquette, UCLA is not supposed to be here in the championship game. They played a South Dakota State team that was ranked in the preseason top 25 in the first game, After their 72-65 victory against the Jackrabbits, they got handed a semifinals contest against #11 Tennessee, and the Vols were coming off a 94-54 decimation of Rutgers in their first round game. UCLA won again and easily downed Tennessee, 80-63.
That moved them to 5-0 on the year after starting their season with three home wins. They were all relatively easy wins, posting a double digit margin of victory in all three, including beating Cal Poly by nearly 40 points. Their win over Troy maybe doesn’t look that impressive at “only” 12 points, but the Bruins were up as many as 27 in the fourth quarter and led by 21 with three minutes to go.
5’9” senior Charisma Osborne is the engine that makes things go for UCLA. She’s leading them in scoring at 22.4 points per game and has gone fore more than that in both of the Bruins’ games in the Bahamas. She’s also their leading rebounder at 8.4 per game, and the 2.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game are awfully helpful as well. Osborne is shooting exactly 33.3% from long range this season on 33 attempts, and she leads UCLA in that attempts column. Kiki Rice, a 5’11” freshman, is the only other player on the roster averaging more than 10 points a game, but there are another five women behind Rice who average at least five points a game so far this season.
Last year was an aberration for the Bruins in the offensive rebounding department. They finished the year ranked #122 in the country in OR rate according to Her Hoop Stats, and that is the only time in the last seven seasons where they were outside the top 100.... and the only time in the last five years that they were outside the top 25. Head coach Cori Close has been in Westwood since 2011, and she’s got her charges back on track this season. Sure it’s early or whatever, but they’re pulling in over 40% of their misses so far, something that they haven’t done since the 2018-19 season. In general, UCLA’s rebounding numbers so far this season are right in line with 1) what Marquette is doing and 2) what Marquette wants to be doing. That makes it pretty clear to me that both teams are going to need to figure out how to stop the other side on the glass if they want to win the game and take home the championship trophy.