I for one think it continues to be very rude of the Associated Press voters to (mostly) ignore Marquette women’s basketball while rewarding the Gonzaga team that the Golden Eagles beat and the UCLA team that needed overtime to beat Marquette. The fact that St. John’s is being rewarded with a top 25 ranking for starting the year undefeated while playing five sub-190 NET teams is not helping my attitude about the Golden Eagles slipping out of the top 25 for losing on the road to Seton Hall and now struggling to get back in.
I guess the biggest problem for Marquette and their AP top 25 ranking situation is the fact that Texas was Going Through It for a while there. When you beat the #3 team in the country, it’s generally better for you if they keep playing like the #3 team in the country. Instead, they lost their very next game to a #6 ranked Louisville team that had just lost the day before to Gonzaga, and then two games later, Texas lost to South Florida at home. Yeah, so you don’t get to be considered a good basketball team when you’re 3-4 on the year as it turns out, and that means that AP voters get to disregard other teams’ wins over you.
Thankfully for Marquette, the NET is not subject to such whims, and Texas is still a top 25 opponent there. With the Longhorns on a four game winning streak since falling to the Bulls thanks to Rori Harmon getting into the lineup, that should stay in that direction and keep Marquette pointed towards an NCAA tournament bid. But that also means that Marquette has to do their part to make that top 25 NET win stand up, and that means taking care of business at the McGuire Center. So far this season, the Golden Eagles are a perfect 6-0 at home. That has a chance to change on Wednesday afternoon as MU has their only home non-conference game against a high major opponent. It’s a big spot for Marquette in terms of national notice as well as NCAA tournament profile, and since it’ll be just the third game between December 5th and December 27th, it’s kind of important that Marquette secures the win just to keep the good vibes going in the locker room.
PREGAME NOTE: Marquette is doing a Catholic Schools Game event for this one, so if you’re a season ticket holder, you’re being asked to condense yourself to sections 102 through 105 to make space for the kids. Also, Marquette announced that tickets are FREE for this game during Sunday’s contest against Butler, so if you’re available around lunchtime, swing on by.
Game #12: vs Colorado Buffaloes (9-3, 0-1 Pac-12)
Date: Wednesday, December 21, 2022
Time: 12pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloHoops with Bob Brainerd & Michelle Griffin Wenzel calling the action
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette is 1-2 all time against Colorado. The first ever meeting came in the 1994 NCAA tournament, while the second came in the 2008 WNIT. The Buffaloes won the first one, while MU won the second on their way to the WNIT title. CU also won last year, making it three straight encounters in Boulder to start off this series.
After qualifying for the NCAA tournament a year ago (maybe somewhat powered by a win over Marquette), Colorado is kind of flying under the radar as a quality team this season. Their three losses on the season so far are all on the road: in overtime at a Texas Tech team that’s now 10-1, at at then-#23 Tennessee, and at then-#14 Utah to open Pac-12 play. Now, losing by 18 to the Vols and 27 to Utah probably didn’t do CU any favors in terms of national attention. But they are top 40 in the NET as I check in on Tuesday morning, and at this point of the season, that means you’re in the at-large conversation as long as you can keep putting up wins to stay there. This game will be their last non-conference shot at a top 100 win, and they figured out how to beat MU a year ago, so they’ll be fired up to come into the Al looking for another one.
The Buffaloes have a trio of double digit scorers led by Quay Miller. The 6’3” center is averaging 14.0 points per game while also leading her squad in rebounding at 7.7 per contest. If she didn’t sound like a hoot and a half to deal with already, let’s throw this into the mix: The one-time Washington transfer has suddenly turned into a three-point shooting threat this season. She’s always been mostly ready to let it fly, averaging more than an attempt per game in her first three years of college hoops, but now she’s shooting 15-for-30 so far this season, exactly 50%. Thankfully, Marquette has the athletes to chase her around on defense.
Figuring out how to defend all of the Buffaloes will be a challenge for Marquette. Frida Formann (11.4/game) and Aaronette Vonleh (10.3) are both double-digit scorers alongside Miller in the starting lineup, and Vonleh’s going to be the biggest challenge, since she also stands in at 6’3”. Aside: What is is with Colorado pulling in transfers from other P12 teams, as Vonleh was at Arizona last year? Moving on, Jaylyn Sherrod is “only” scoring 9.0 per game, but she’s shooting 58% from beyond the arc. She did miss CU’s most recent outing, an 82-47 shelling of Alcorn State, so we’ll have to wait and see if Sherrod is back in the lineup.
Even with all that three-point shooting turning the Buffs into one of the most accurate teams in the country, they don’t like to shoot threes. Her Hoop Stats has them at #241 in the country in rate, so perhaps that means head coach JR Payne is slightly aware that Miller’s three-point shooting could evaporate on them at any minute and she shouldn’t rely on it. That’s good news for Marquette, who really does not want to get into a game of HORSE with anyone. In fact, this game is going to be decided to a certain extent by which team’s defense is coming out ahead. They’re both top 30 in raw points allowed per 100 possessions and top 40 in effective field goal percentage defense. CU’s defense is a little more pressure related, as they have a top 50 turnover rate powered by ranking 18th in the country in steal rate. Marquette is just going to try to rebound you out of the game. Colorado is a good rebounding squad on both ends of the floor, probably because they start two women at 6’3”, but they’re trailing a little bit behind the Golden Eagles in rate on both ends. If MU can succeed at extending/ending possessions, depending on which end of the floor you’re talking about, they should be able to stack up a quality win.