I had a plan to use this space as a generalized preview of Big East play since Marquette kicks that off on Wednesday night. The plan was to use the NCAA’s RPI rankings to make my point, since those debuted last week......
but now they’re no longer on the Nitty Gritty site. I get it, I was surprised when I found it last week, but it’s definitely a little weird that they went up and then rolled it back.
In any case, we’re going to have to twist this a little bit differently. Same general idea, as I point out exactly how seriously Marquette has to take all of Big East play in order to avoid bad losses. I just don’t have the specific RPI numbers to make my point.
I’m just going to walk you through most of the league’s losses to this point of the season. We’re going to skip Creighton because we know we can trust Creighton.
Here’s everyone else, going in current winning percentage order:
- Seton Hall (9-3): Losses to Hofstra at home and to Stony Brook and Princeton on a neutral court.
- Xavier (7-3): Losses to Virginia at home and Lipscomb & Purdue on a neutral court (okay, the Purdue one is fine.)
- St. John’s (9-4): Lost all four in a row to Miami, Weber State and UNLV out in Las Vegas, and then on the road at Fairfield.
- Providence (8-4): Losses at Iona, at UT Arlington, and on a neutral court to Temple and George Washington
- Connecticut (6-5): While their season opening loss to Penn State isn’t an issue, they reeled off four straight to Kansas and Army in an event hosted at West Point, then lost to San Diego and Utah in an event hosted by San Diego
- Butler (6-6): Two separate three match losing streaks, first it was Denver and Portland in an event hosted by the Pioneers and a loss at Boise State; and their current three match losing streak as of this writing is Ohio, Missouri, and Central Michigan all at home.
- DePaul (4-8): Started the year with six straight losses to Stephen F. Austin, SMU, UC Irvine, Western Kentucky, Northern Kentucky, and Bowling Green, and they have since added losses to Northwestern and Illinois-Chicago.
- Villanova (4-8): UMBC and USC out in Los Angeles, Fairfield at home, Missouri State, Dayton, and Illinois in Dayton (okay, those last two are fine), Yale and Sacred Heart in an event hosted by Yale.
- Georgetown (2-9): Do I have to explain this one further? Seven straight losses to start the year in this form: American, New Orleans, and Howard at home; Maryland, USF, and Stony Brook hosted by Stony Brook; and then Rider at home. Since that streak, they’ve added back-to-back sweep losses at UC Santa Barbara.
Marquette’s only loss so far this season? On the road against the reigning national champions who are currently ranked in the top 10 in the country. If Marquette takes losses in league play to someone not named Creighton, they’re attaching whatever losses above you’re seeing to their RPI, not to mention whatever losses these teams take to each other. Y’all get the idea.
Big East Match #1: vs DePaul Blue Demons
Marquette is 35-29 all time against DePaul, but that’s a little misleading. MU went 2-4 against the Blue Demons before officially become a Division 1 program in 1986. So it’s 33-25 in Division 1 since 1986, and even that’s misleading. Marquette is currently on a 22 match winning streak against DePaul dating all the way back to the 2009 season.
I already rattled off DePaul’s losses, particularly that six match losing streak to start the season, so we don’t need to dive too deep into how their season has gone so far. I will say this part, though: DePaul was picked to finish third in the Big East this season because Creighton and Marquette. I’m not saying that they can’t do that because it’s strongly possible that all of these teams beat on each other all season long and maybe the Blue Demons end up in third when it’s all done.... but it is not looking very solid for them, that’s for sure.
Part of DePaul’s problem is an inability to roll out a consistent lineup this season. Kills leader Jill Pressley (3.67 kills/set) has played in all 49 sets so far this season, but no one north of a kill per set has been able to match her there. Aly Kindelberger is just one off, but also she’s averaging only 1.65 per set. Maggie Jones has been setting in every frame so far this season, but she’s splitting time this season at just 5.51 assists per set. Most of the time her partner has been Ashley Cudiamat (4.96/set), but she has missed three sets this year as well.
Rachel Krasowski leads DePaul in digs at a very strong 5.02/set mark, but even she hasn’t played in every set as she’s only at 48 so far this year. The aforementioned Aly Kindelberger makes up for her lack of kills by averaging a team high 1.21 blocks per set. Points are points, so you can’t argue with how she gets there.
Big East Match #2: vs Butler Bulldogs
Marquette is 17-9 all time against Butler. The series started with six straight Butler wins and MU was 1-6 all time against the Bulldogs when Butler joined the Big East. It’s been 16-3 since then. The most recent BU victory was in the 2021 spring season when the Bulldogs took a five set victory in Indianapolis before the Golden Eagles swept them the very next day.
It’s probably not great for the Bulldogs that they’re rolling into Big East play with three straight losses, and not just losses, but home losses. Marquette won’t be their first league match, as they’ll be tangling with DePaul on Friday night in Chicago before wandering north on I-94 to come to Milwaukee. ASIDE: I have logistics questions here. If you’re Butler, do you drive up to Milwaukee after playing DePaul with a 7pm Central time start to spend the night, or do you stay in Chicago, sleep, then wake up, eat breakfast, then drive to Milwaukee? Which one is better for performance the next night: Not going to sleep until nearly midnight in Milwaukee or driving 90 minutes in the middle of the day before playing at 6pm?
Unsurprisingly, Butler and their six losses have had a consistency problem just like DePaul. Mariah Grunze and her 3.52 kills per set lead the team and she’s appeared in all 42 sets this season. #2 attacker Megan Sheridan has missed a set, as has Marisa Guisti at 1.24 kills/set. Amina Shackleford and Autumn Flowers have missed four and 10 sets respectively, and that’s how you end up relying on Grunze for nearly 30% of the team’s attacks even though she’s only hitting .169. With that said, the Bulldogs are only hitting .176 as a team, so in that perspectively, Grunze’s struggles aren’t even that noticeable.
Freshman Cora Taylor appears to be Butler’s option at setter, and she’s averaging nine assists a set. That’s good! She has also missed seven sets along the way, and that’s never a good thing for building a rapport with your hitters. At a glance, it appears that the issue is that Taylor has taken the starting job from Jenna Splitt, so perhaps things are getting better in that setter/hitter dynamic.
Jaymeson Kinley is doing Jaymeson Kinley things as she averages 4.95 digs per set. Things are heavily tilted in her direction in that department, although Grunze is north of two digs in her average, and that’s really good for someone who’s doing so much of the team’s attacking. Marisa Guisti is leading the team in blocks at 1.15 per set, and Amina Shackelford is just barely short of one block a frame. That’s some pretty respectable stuff for a team that’s clearly been struggling a bit this season, so we’ll see how Marquette attacks their front line.