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Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: #4 Connecticut

Can the Golden Eagles snap a 30 year long streak and pick up their biggest win of the year?

NCAA Womens Basketball: Butler at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Last time we saw Megan Duffy’s Marquette women’s basketball team in action, they were methodically walking past Georgetown for a 66-49 victory on National Marquette Day. Nothing super thrilling about it, no big runs or anything like that, but a performance that the Golden Eagles definitely needed. They got punched in the face in the second quarter against Villanova in their previous game and never got back into that game, and when faced with the Hoyas, a team just steps behind MU in the standings, the Golden Eagles steeled themselves and got the win.

That’s good news, but now it’s time for one of the two remaining games that will give Marquette a chance to definitively punch their ticket for the NCAA tournament.

The Georgetown game didn’t do much in the eyes of ESPN’s Charlie Creme in terms of a bracket projection, nor should it have to be honest. Nothing against the Hoyas, but they aren’t a marquee win that should have moved the needle in a notable manner. Creme still has Marquette as the Last Team In the 68 team NCAA tournament field. Through the conclusion of Monday’s games, Marquette was sitting at #46 in the NET, one spot higher than they were before the Georgetown game but also one spot lower than they were after it. Subtle changes in the math, etc., etc., but the important thing to point out here is that Marquette’s November wins over NET #10 Texas and NET #38 Gonzaga are doing some extremely heavy lifting to keep the Golden Eagles in the conversation for an at-large bid. Marquette is 1-4 against the NET top 25 and 1-2 against NET 26 through 50. MU needs something else to prop up their qualifications for that spot in the field, and what could possibly be better than figuring out a way to beat the #2 team in the NET?

This is where I point out, yet once again, that if the NCAA did the home/neutral/road splits for women’s basketball that they do for men’s basketball, things like “beating #128 Butler in Indianapolis” would be a Quadrant 2 win for Marquette instead of over there in the “whatever, that’s sub-100, it only matters if you lose one of those” column. Feels like we could be doing a better job of evaluating women’s basketball teams here..... and the NCAA just isn’t doing that for some reason.

So you have to use the system that’s in place. That means taking advantage of a home court game against a NET top 25 team. Is it a steep ask? Sure is.... but it’s also the last NET top 25 game left on the schedule right now. Maybe there’s one more, depending on what current #26 Creighton can do with their season.... but that just tells you how important that game is when we get to it in a few weeks. One thing at a time for now.

Big East Game #14: vs #4 Connecticut Huskies (21-3, 13-0 Big East)

Date: Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Television: SNY, if you’re lucky enough to live in the Northeast viewing area
Streaming: Here if you’re in SNY’s home area, or the Fox Sports app if you’re not
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 0-15 all time against Connecticut. This is probably not surprising news to you.

On Sunday, UConn suffered their third loss of the season, falling 81-77 at home to #1 and undefeated South Carolina. These things happen, and in fact, the Huskies played so well in that game, they actually moved from #5 in the AP poll to #4 this week. We’ll circle back to this in a minute.

That was UConn’s first loss since tasting defeat at the hands of Maryland back in mid-December, so they had a 14 game winning streak snapped, including a 13-0 run to start Big East play plus a big non-conference road win over Tennessee back on January 26th. That’s not the important thing here though. The important thing is that UConn lost a game. This is notable not because it is their third loss of the season…. but instead because UConn has not lost back-to-back games since 1993.

Yes, 30 years. Well, almost. The last time they had back-to-back losses was March 7th and 17th, 1993, so it will be 30 years next month. Yes, that was a loss in the Big East tournament and then the NCAA tournament, but don’t get it twisted: UConn’s last back-to-back losses in the regular season was February 20th, 24th, and 27th of 1993. Oh my gods, can you even imagine UConn losing three straight? It happened, 30 years ago this month.

So, yeah, that certainly feels like history is working against the Golden Eagles, but of course, the flip side of that insanely long streak is that UConn is due to take a second straight loss eventually here, right?

Honestly? I’m not sure it’s crazy to think it’s possible.

Let me say this first: If the UConn that went toe-to-toe with South Carolina on Sunday shows up in Milwaukee, the same one that was up 11 on the Gamecocks at the end of the first, the same one that fell behind by double digits with less than two minutes to go but scrapped it out and made South Carolina execute in the final 30 seconds to close the Huskies out, if that one shows up? Yeah, UConn’s streak without back-to-back losses is going to extend.

But the UConn that played Marquette pretty much even at home for 37-ish minutes after the Huskies went up 9-0 out of the gate? That one, that Huskies team, that’s a UConn that Marquette can beat. The UConn team that was up just one point on Georgetown at home at halftime? That’s a UConn team that Marquette can beat. The UConn team that was up just three on Villanova at the XL Center with a minute to play? That’s a UConn team that Marquette can beat. The UConn team that couldn’t put away a barely .500 Providence team in Rhode Island just one week ago, a Providence team that they beat by 45 at home, a Providence team that Marquette beat by 23 in Milwaukee? That’s a UConn team that Marquette can beat.

Now, of course, there’s questions at hand here. It’s not a secret that UConn has been banged up with injuries all over the place this season, and not just Paige Bueckers missing the entire season after a knee injury in the summer. Azzi Fudd is now out for the time being with a knee injury that doesn’t require surgery, and everyone except for Aaliyah Edwards and Lou Lopez Senechal has missed at least one game along the way this season for one reason or another. I haven’t been keeping a chart of who is and is not available for UConn from game to game, so yeah, maybe all of the “well, UConn struggled or at least struggled relative to what you think a top five team should be doing” games I just listed can all just be chalked up to missed time by various players. Maybe none of that matters when they come to Milwaukee on Wednesday night.

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy for Marquette to beat UConn in this one. Most of the previous 16 games against the Huskies have not gone very well for Marquette. But MU did push them in Milwaukee last season, and again in Connecticut earlier this year. Maybe, just maybe, if Marquette gets their best possible 40 minutes of hoops, and the basketball gods smile down on the McGuire Center and say “nearly 30 years is enough”… maybe everything comes together for the Golden Eagles.

One last thing: If the universe could stop ruining my chances to see Paige Bueckers play in person, that would be great. Freshman year: COVID, no attendance. Sophomore Year: Injured for a little while. Junior Year: Injured for the whole season. I’m just saying that there seems to be an escalation of reasons here, and I don’t think it’s cool. Also I would like to see Paige play a basketball game 15 minutes away from my house, I don’t think I’m asking much here.