And so we come to the start of a new Marquette women’s basketball season.
For the first time since 2016-17, we start the year without the Golden Eagles coming off an NCAA tournament bid. Between Carolyn Kieger and Megan Duffy, Marquette went to four straight NCAA tournaments, and it would have been five, a new program record, if the 2020 tourney hadn’t been dumped for health and safety reasons. Last year, MU went 20-9 in the regular season with a 13-7 record in Big East play. They got bumped out of the Big East tournament in the semifinals by UConn, 71-51, and that left them without enough quality wins to get into the field of 68. It was, however, enough for them to be the best Big East team that didn’t qualify for the NCAA tournament, and that made the Golden Eagles an automatic bid for the WNIT. They beat Ball State and Purdue at the McGuire Center, but fell in a barnburner, 92-82, to Toledo in the third round.
The Golden Eagles have lost their top two scorers from that squad, Lauren Van Kleunen and Karissa McLaughlin, both of whom averaged just a bit over 13 points per game last season. They went about getting their points in different ways, as LVK was one of if not the most dangerous post scorer in the Big East, while McLaughlin rained in threes from the outside at a nearly 42% clip. That leaves a lot of production to be replaced this year, and while LVK’s buckets might be easier to recreate, McLaughlin’s are not.
McLaughlin was MU’s only legitimate threat from downtown last season, and quite honestly, that probably limited their offensive output a little bit. If defenders didn’t have to take anyone other than McLaughlin seriously from beyond the arc, then that allowed defenses to collapse into the middle just a bit and thus make it harder for the Golden Eagles to score at the rim. There are possibilities with this year’s roster that could mean that MU has more shooters available. Jordan King actually hit 33% last season after a rough start, but she just did not try to shoot that many. Liza Karlen shot nearly 40% as a freshman but couldn’t buy a bucket last year. Freshmen Emily La Chapell and Nique Mayo were great shooters in high school, but that’s not necessarily enough to get them on the floor this year.
Marquette had only gone to the NCAA tournament in four straight opportunities one previous time in program history. That run wrapped up in 2000. The Golden Eagles would not make it back to the NCAAs until 2004 after that. Let’s cross our fingers that Megan Duffy doesn’t take that long this time around.
Game #1: vs Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (0-0)
This is the first ever meeting between Marquette and Fairleigh Dickinson.
FDU went 19-12 a year ago, including a 15-3 record in the NEC. That earned them a regular season championship by two games over St. Francis Brooklyn and the top seed in the conference tournament.... but they were bounced out by #7 seed Bryant, 44-38, in the semifinals. That sent them along to the WNIT as the best NEC team that didn’t qualify for the NCAA field.... and they got bounced in the first round by eventual runner up Seton Hall, 67-45.
That’s not how you’d like to exit your best season since at least 2010. I’d love to tell you how long it has been since the Knights has at least 17 wins overall, but their website doesn’t seem to have a record book available and Her Hoop Stats only goes back to 2009-10. I’d imagine they’re going to be kind of feisty about the entire situation, and being picked to finish second in the NEC this year probably didn’t help their disposition, even though they did get two first place votes.
Fairleigh Dickinson does have a preseason all-NEC honoree in junior forward Chloe Wilson. She was the only underclassman to earn all-conference honors last year after putting up 12.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. They are going to have to figure out how to operate without Madison Stanley, who won NEC Player of the Year last season in her fifth season in Teaneck. The 6’1” New Jersey native was just a shade better than Wilson, going for 12.4 points and 6.8 rebounds on average. That’s a very strong one-two punch for the Knights, and they have to make up for the loss of Aniya Bell (11.4 points, 5.1 rebounds) as well.
At a glance, it seems like fourth year head coach Angelika Szumilo has been doing a good job at getting the Knights to buckle up on the defensive end of the floor. After finishing #259 per Her Hoop Stats on that end of the floor in her first campaign, they’ve been a top 150 defense each of the past two seasons. There’s not much that I can see that would stand out as a trend for FDU in the past three years, but they did get a lot of milage out of being a good defensive rebounding team last season. Megan Duffy wants MU hauling in misses at a high rate on both ends, so MU’s offensive glass may be where the game is decided.