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Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: vs Providence & vs Creighton

The Golden Eagles have a pair of home games this weekend, and one is a little more important than the other.

Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational: Providence vs. Florida Photo by Porter Binks/Getty Images

Last time we had Marquette women’s basketball competition to preview, I checked out on talking about big picture season stuff to talk about Jordan King. It was time well spent and it paid off as King went 4-for-9 in MU’s win over St. John’s.

I focused on that then partly because King was on a hot streak but also because I wanted to hammer home the big picture season long stuff heading into this weekend’s pair of home games. As things stand right now for Marquette, the Golden Eagles are 15-5 overall, 8-3 in Big East action, and #55 in the NET. Two of those things are fine, the third one is not particularly great.

As of February 1st, ESPN’s Charlie Creme has the Golden Eagles as the fourth team outside the NCAA tournament. It’s worth noting that this is taking into account the NCAA suddenly expanding the bracket on the fly to 68 teams. Were this last year’s NCAA tournament, MU would be eight spots outside the cut line. College Sports Madness has a bracket projection from January 31st, and they have Marquette playing in a First Four game against Liberty as a #12 seed.

You see the point here.

Here’s why I wanted to save the talk last weekend and bring it on home now: On Sunday, Marquette will play one of three remaining top 50 NET games on their schedule and one of four remaining top 100 games. One of those games is against Connecticut, and while we can all cross our fingers all we want, expecting MU to beat the Huskies is a tall order right now. Two of those games are on the road, one at DePaul and one at Villanova. MU already beat the Blue Demons in Milwaukee this season, but it took overtime, so getting the W at Wintrust Arena isn’t a great opportunity, and the Wildcats beat MU in Milwaukee.

So. Yeah. Things are looking super not great for Marquette in terms of stacking up important wins for the ol’ NCAA tournament profile. Sunday’s game is a crucial game for the Golden Eagles in the Big East standings as well. They’re two games behind their Sunday opponent in the win column and 0.042 points behind them in the winning percentage race. With games getting lost to COVID earlier this year — I don’t think Marquette is ever making up their trip to Storrs — winning percentage is going to be how the conference tournament seedings are decided. Finishing second or third and thus avoiding Connecticut until the title game at the absolute earliest might end up being critically important for Marquette if they need an extra win or two to help push them into the NCAA tournament.

I didn’t even mention the fact that Friday’s game is a massive flashing red light trap game for the Golden Eagles thanks to the importance of Sunday’s game. If Marquette doesn’t get the win against #152 in the NET on Friday, well, it doesn’t really matter what they do on Sunday, now does it?

Big East Game #12: vs Providence Friars (9-11, 4-7 Big East)

Date: Friday, February 4, 2022
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloHoops with Patrick Reed and Meghan McKeown on the call
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 20-6 all time against Providence. After their 68-43 victory in last year’s Big East tournament quarterfinals, the Golden Eagles have now won nine straight games against the Friars.

Even though we’re 11 games into the Big East slate, this is the first time that Marquette is seeing Providence this season. I think the best thing that we can say about the Friars so far this season is that they are completely all over the map? No, wait, I’m sorry, the obvious best thing we can say about PC is that they have already topped their win total from last year (they went 7-14) and matched their Big East win total (they went 4-10).

They have been all over the map, though. They started out splitting a pair of overtime games against Yale and Maine, then lost their next three non-conference game before winning two and opening up league play with a 19 point win over Villanova. Then they lost to Georgetown two days after that, and that was at home, too. Georgetown is 2-7 in the Big East right now.

After wins against Brown (St. John’s couldn’t beat Brown) and Quinnipiac, the Friars lost to Creighton and then took three weeks off because of Christmas and COVID postponements. Their first game back? A 21 point loss at home to DePaul. From there: Win two, lose two, beat the Hoyas in overtime in D.C., lose two. But those last two need special notation. That’s a 24 point loss at Creighton.... followed two days later when they traveled all the way back to the east coast..... and lost to #10 UConn by just eight points.

All. Over. The. Place.

You know what’s probably contributing to that? Providence has just five women who have played in all 20 of their games this season.... and only one of them has started all 20. There’s only one other player who has played and started in 19 games, and then no one else has started in more than 16 games all year. On one hand: Almost no one’s role is guaranteed from night tonight, so everyone needs to keep busting their butts all the time. On the other hand: Almost no one’s role is guaranteed from night to night so it’s hard to get any kind of cohesion going.

Janai Crooms (she’s the 19 for 19 player) has been a big addition for Providence after spending her first three years of college hoops at Ohio State and Michigan State. She’s returned to her home state and is leading the Friars in scoring (13.8) and rebounding (8.7) AND assists (3.8). That’s a lot. She’s even shooting 47% from behind the three-point line, although the 5’10” guard is reluctant to shoot it at less than one attempt per game. 5’9” freshman Kylee Sheppard is second on the team in scoring at 11.3 per game, while Alyssa Geary (she’s the all 20 starts player) is the third and final double digit scorer on the roster at 10.9 points a night.

Providence is decidedly a much more a defensive team than anything else. HerHoopStats.com says they rank #45 in the country in field goal shooting defense, #49 in two-point shooting defense, and #69 in effective field goal percentage defense. That’s all good stuff, and I can’t say anything nice about their offense at all.

With that said, since we know Marquette loves to get their shots off the pass, that has a pretty good chance of happening on Friday night. The Friars allow more than 56% of shots to be assisted this season, and that’s a sub-200 rank. On top of that, Providence has major glaring weaknesses in the rebounding department, which is of course a notable strength for the Golden Eagles. PC is bordering on not really trying to get offensive rebounds with as bad as they are at it, and they’re merely middle of the road nationally in defensive rebounding. When middle of the road DR rate meets elite offensive rebounding rate, the elite team is probably going to come out ahead, and that’s good news for MU.

Big East Game #13: vs Creighton Bluejays (15-6, 10-3 Big East)

Date: Sunday, February 6, 2022
Time: 1pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Television: FS1, with Bob Brainerd and Rex Walters on the call
Streaming: FoxSports.com/live
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 12-15 all time against Creighton. When the Bluejays won in Omaha earlier this season, it snapped MU’s four game winning streak in the series. The Golden Eagles have still won eight of the last 13, though.

Things have been going pretty well for Creighton since the Golden Eagles saw them in Omaha back in early January. They were already going pretty well, and since the Bluejays snagged the 62-45 win, they’ve gone 5-3 with two of the three losses coming against Connecticut. Until the Huskies lose a conference game to literally anyone at all, we’re just going to take losses to them as “a thing that happens to everyone” and not really care too much about the fact that it happened at all. 5-1 other than that? Pretty great, with the loss coming on the road against the same Villanova team that beat Marquette recently.

All of this leaves the Bluejays in third place in the Big East at the moment, a half-game behind DePaul in the standings and two games up in the win column over the Golden Eagles. That’s pretty good work so far, and it has the Bluejays trending towards the NCAA tournament.

As for the first meeting between these teams, a 62-45 CU victory, that game was won because Creighton is good at shooting the basketball and Marquette is not. More specifically, the Bluejays figured out how to be their normal shooting selves for a stretch bridging halftime where they outscored Marquette 23-4. An 8-0 run late in the first half was part of it, and a 13-2 run to open up the third quarter was most of the rest of it. The rest of the game was 41-39 in favor of Marquette, so it’s not out of bounds to say that was the only stretch of the game that truly mattered.

At the end of 40 minutes, Creighton had an effective field goal percentage of 53%, and it’s not even really because they shot well outside the arc (7-for-20, 35%) in the game, but almost more because they shot 53% on two-pointers in the game. Meanwhile, Marquette? 34% eFG% while missing all three long range shots they attempted. Not great at all.

The real bummer with all of this? Creighton’s not a great defensive team. #77 in HerHoopStats.com’s Defensive Rating, but #216 in raw points allowed per possession. You can score on them, usually. Marquette couldn’t, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that the Golden Eagles aren’t a strong multi-dimensional offense. The Golden Eagles are going to have to contend with a great defensive rebounding team in the Bluejays here, as HHS ranks them #41 in the country there. MU’s offense clicks when it’s hauling in nearly 40% of their misses for a second chance, and if Creighton can take that away like they did in Omaha — only 30% for MU on that night — that’s going to be a problem.

If Marquette can force the Jays into bad long range looks — and good luck, because only 12 teams love shooting threes more often than Creighton — and if Marquette can clean up everyone’s misses, then the Golden Eagles are looking good for a win in Milwaukee that they very much need to secure.