In a rare situation this weekend, Marquette women’s basketball will play their final two games of the season just 55 hours apart. With that in mind, we flash back to the old Friday/Sunday previewing schedule of Big East seasons past to preview two games at once, even though these are Saturday afternoon and Monday night instead.
While neither game is a massive headline game for the Golden Eagles, there is an awful lot at stake. As things currently stand entering the weekend, Marquette is tied for fourth place in the Big East with St. John’s at 11-7. Both squads are one game in front of 10-8 Seton Hall in sixth place. Marquette and St. John’s will definitely be somewhere between 4 and 6 in the seeding for the conference tournament, as they can not catch 14-5 Creighton, nor can they be caught by 7th place DePaul at 8-10. Since the #6 seed has to play the #11 seed — which is already locked in place for Xavier — on the first day of the conference tournament, it would be highly advisable for both the Golden Eagles and the Red Storm to avoid falling to that spot over the final two games of the season.
Both teams are on the edge of qualifying for the NCAA tournament. As of Friday morning, ESPN’s Charlie Creme has both Marquette and St. John’s headed to the First Four with both teams clearly benefiting greatly from their recent respective victories over Connecticut. With that in mind, it’s clear that a bad loss — and both of Marquette’s final two games would qualify in that regard — would most likely shove a team from Last Four In to First Four Out quite easily. Marquette is in a little bit better position in regards to the NET, coming into the weekend at #43 as opposed to St. John’s at #55. I don’t think I’m saying anything surprising to anyone when I say that losing to Creighton in a very bad offensive showing earlier this week and thus going from #39 in the NET to #44 was not a great thing to happen to MU’s chances.
Marquette let a big opportunity to effectively clinch their NCAA tournament berth go past them in the home game with Creighton earlier this week. Knocking off a top 20 NET team would have been a huge boon for the Golden Eagles, but the offense didn’t cooperate. All they can do now is win the very winnable games left in front of them, head into the Big East tournament with a full head of steam, and hope for the best from there.
Big East Game #19: at Xavier Musketeers (7-20, 0-18 Big East)
Date: Saturday, February 25, 2023
Time: 1pm Central
Location: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
Streaming: FloSports with Mike Schmaltz and Paul Fritschner calling the action
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette is 20-7 all time against Xavier. The series started back in 1985 and was pretty even through the first nine encounters. The Musketeers won three of the first five meetings between the two teams once XU joined the Big East, but the Golden Eagles have now won 13 straight in the series.
Xavier was picked to finish last this season. At 0-18, that has already been locked in place for the Musketeers, as they can not catch 4-14 Providence any longer. There’s a difference between “this is last place” and “is an active drag on the entire league” though, and at #226 in the NET, the only team outside the top 130, Xavier is more of the latter this season. That’s not a great thing for head coach Melanie Moore in her fourth season, especially when Saturday’s game could guarantee her the worst league record of her tenure.
Last time out against the Musketeers, Marquette crushed Xavier, 64-40, behind a game high 18 points from Kenzie Hare. This is a game that was just 12-10 Marquette at the end of the first quarter and the Golden Eagles led by 26 in the final minute. It would have been a 30 point win if Megan Duffy hadn’t emptied her bench, and Hare’s scoring was actually the inflection point for Marquette exploding past Xavier in the second quarter.
In terms of breaking down the matchup, statistically speaking, there’s not much to say. If I use the Lobo’s Look preview option from Her Hoop Stats, there’s a lot of green numbers (aka “good”) for Marquette’s statistical profile, and a lot of red numbers (aka “bad”) for Xavier’s. About the only thing that Xavier does well is score off the pass (#33 in the country) and they’re pretty good at blocking shots, too. That’s it. If Marquette just plays Marquette Basketball to their season average performance and/or slightly exceeds it, especially when it comes to rebounding, they should be able to pack up a win along with the rest of their gear.
For the purposes of knowing who to watch out for, Mackayla Scarlett is Xavier’s leading scorer, but she’s only tossing in 10.8 points per game this season. Back in late January, Marquette held her to seven points on 1-for-7 shooting from the field. Do that again, and things will probably work out well. Nila Blackford is the team’s leading rebounder at six per outing, and she tied for the team lead with seven in the first meeting. Shelby Calhoun leads the Musketeers in assists at 3.0 per game, and she did miss the game in Milwaukee, which does lend a little bit of a curveball to Marquette’s preparations.
Big East Game #20: vs DePaul Blue Demons (15-14, 8-10 Big East)
Date: Monday, February 27, 2023
Time: 8pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FoxSports.com/live or the Fox Sports app
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB
Marquette is 34-49 all time against DePaul. After winning in Chicago earlier this season, the Golden Eagles have won two straight and four of the last five meetings.
The Blue Demons come into the weekend with three losses in their last five games, and they will host Connecticut on Saturday before driving north for the season finale on Monday. It’s safe to say that this year is stumbling to a close for DePaul after they went to the NCAA tournament a year ago and could easily have been looked at as a team ready to contend for another tournament appearance this season. Instead, it looks like they will be lucky to finish the year above .500. Remember, this team missed the NCAA tournament in 2021 to snap a streak of consecutive tournament dating back to 2002. Now they’re obviously going to miss again for the second time in three years, and that’s a real shame because they have one of the best players in the league if not in the country on their roster in Aneesah Morrow.
The younger sister of former Marquette forward Ed Morrow is handing out 25.7 points and 12.3 rebounds per night this season, and in her free time she dishes just over two assists and comes up with nearly three steals per game. She’s great, no doubt about it. I question how she is being coached, particularly in a season that is going so sideways, as Morrow is second on the team in three-point attempts per game at 6.0…. But she’s only hitting 23.6% of them. I get that the Blue Demons are light on scoring options outside of Morrow and Darrione Rogers, especially behind the three-point line, but man, four or five missed threes a game from such a dangerous interior player seems like such a waste of a possession, even at DePaul’s top 50 in the country pace.
In the first meeting between the two sides, it certainly seems like Marquette was happy to let Morrow shoot it from outside, as she attempted seven of them… but did make three for a 43% conversion rate, and considering that MU held her to 7-for-20 shooting inside the arc, firing off long range shots was a pretty solid plan. But that’s a picture of the entire game, and honestly, since Marquette was up 26-16 at the end of the first quarter and up 14 at the half, it kiiiiind of didn’t matter what Morrow was doing. To put a point on it: Morrow put up 11 points and 11 rebounds of her 24 point and 15 rebound effort in the second half.
One thing to worry about from Marquette’s side of things is that the Golden Eagles did a lot of work behind the three-point line at Wintrust Arena. Jordan King, Emily La Chapell, and Kenzie Hare all teamed up to shoot 7-for-15 from long range in that one. With the way this season has gone, Marquette can not count on that happening again. They should try to get it to happen, as connecting on some long range shots would really help open up the offense in general, but that’s just not what Marquette does well or even tries to do.