What does matter is that through a bit of luck on the ol’ scheduling draw, Marquette is 2-0 in the Big East. On Saturday, they will face the only other undefeated team in the conference with first place in the league on the line. That’s awesome, and I don’t care who the opponent is or the circumstances that brought the two teams to their 2-0 starts in the league. MU is 60 minutes of high quality lacrosse away from being alone in first place in the Big East.
They’re also 60 minutes away from locking themselves into a Big East tournament berth, if my math is correct. With Providence and St. John’s dropping to 0-2 on the year already partially thanks to Marquette beating both of them, the Golden Eagles need just one more win in their final three regular season games to guarantee that they can’t lose more games than either the Friars or the Red Storm. All MU has to do is generate a situation where they can’t do worse than a tie with both of them, and thus the tiebreakers kick in and make Marquette no worse than fourth place.
One win. One victory out of the next three games. That’s it. It’s not going to be fun given that the next three opponents have a combined record of 21-10 on the year and all three are earning votes in the Inside Lacrosse poll. But just one more win this season and we’ll get some postseason lacrosse, and if it’s this Saturday, then it comes with the added bonus of MU being alone in first place.
One thing to watch, though: Mason Woodward didn’t play on Tuesday. Generally speaking, it’s going to be hard to beat a ranked team when you’re missing your All-American caliber defenseman. That kinda got proved against the Irish, and well, they’re a .500 team masquerading as a top 10 team in the country thanks to their strength of schedule. Against a legitimate national title contender like we’re getting on Saturday? Picking up that one more win might be a stretch if Woodward isn’t ready to go.
Big East Game #3: at #2 Georgetown Hoyas (9-1, 2-0 Big East)
Marquette is 5-5 all time against Georgetown. After the Hoyas took the first ever meeting in 2013, the Golden Eagles took five of the next seven, including four straight, all by just one goal and three by a score of 9-8 between 2016 and 2019. After missing 2020 due to the season ending early, the two sides squared off twice last season, and the Hoyas won both encounters, even though it was tied 8-all at the half in D.C. and GU ranked #4 in the country, and Marquette went into the fourth quarter at Valley Fields with an 8-7 lead on the #10 ranked Hoyas.
Here’s the question for Georgetown’s season so far: Why are they not the #1 team in the country? They opened the year at #4 in the country and then won three straight games against ranked teams to start the campaign. After shelling Mount St. Mary’s in Game #4, the Hoyas suffered their only loss of the year so far, falling 10-8 at home to #18 Princeton. They’re undefeated since then, including wins over a good Utah team that beat Marquette as well as road Ws over then-#19 Lehigh and then-#17 Denver in their Big East opener.
The answer on why they’re not #1 is probably just that they lost to Princeton. Maryland started the year at #2 in the Inside Lacrosse poll, they beat Princeton, and they’re still undefeated, 10-0 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten. Rough stuff for Georgetown, but the point of the story is that the only thing holding them back from #1 in the country is probably a 4-1 burst by the Tigers in the middle of that game. Lacrosse Reference rates the Hoyas as the #2 team in the country as well as — and this is the most potentially troubling part for Marquette — the most efficient defensive team in the nation.
For a while there, you could have just said the reason why Georgetown’s defense was great was because Owen McElroy had turned the net into Fort Kickass. Allowing just 8.28 goals per 60 minutes, nearly 63% of shots on goal being turned away... there’s a lot to like there. He started each of Georgetown’s first seven games, and through the first six, the only reason he came off the field was because the Hoyas were up 14-1 at the half on Mount St. Mary’s. That brings us to Game #7, where McElroy subbed out with 6:06 to play and the Hoyas up 16-5 against Utah, which isn’t weird...... but he hasn’t played since. Inside Lacrosse reports that he is injured, although it’s not clear if it happened in the Utah game or not. McElroy subbed off while the Hoyas had the ball on offense in that one according to the play by play.
GU’s defensive efficiency isn’t skating by on McElroy’s work, though. Michael Scharfenberger has played every non-garbage time minute since McElroy left against Utah, and the freshman from New York has been legitimately great. His goals-against is actually lower than McElroy’s on the season at 7.51 per 60 minutes with 200 minutes played, and he’s stopping a more than pleasant 57% of shots on goal. Sure, it’s not McElroy’s 63%, which is second best in the nation, but it would be in the top 10 if Scharfenberger had the minutes played to qualify. Credit where credit is due to the field defenders in front of him to do him some favors, too, of course.
500 words on the Hoyas this season, and I didn’t even mention their offense yet. Nearly 15 goals a game on average and shooting .320 overall is pretty good. The fact that they put over 60% of shots on frame is probably doing an awful lot to help that shooting percentage get into the top 15 in the country.
Dylan Watson is a big reason why, as 37% of his shots have gone in the net to lead the team with 36 goals on the year. He’s averaging a hat trick, but he’s had five games in Georgetown’s 10 where he “only” scored twice. Watson’s also not leading the team in points, as his 39 is one behind Graham Bundy. He’s got 27 goals and 13 assists on the year to make a strong case for Offensive Player of the Year as he and Watson are 1-2 in the focuses of the offense at 93 and 98 shots on the year respectively.
That’s just the shooting that Marquette has to worry about. Georgetown’s passing might be the death of the Golden Eagles, as the Hoyas have 86 assists on 148 goals this year. TJ Haley has a team high 19 assists, although he missed the Providence game last time out for Georgetown, and Alex Trippi’s 15 assists are helping him land at #3 on the squad in total points.