I don’t think it’s a secret that Marquette men’s lacrosse has to win the Big East tournament to get into the NCAA tournament this season.
Sure, if things had gone differently this year, if MU was 7-1 with only a loss to Notre Dame, yeah, maybe we’re talking about something different. But they’re not, they’re 5-3 — with wins in four of the last five, so that’s good — and as such, pretty much the only way into the field of 17 is by claiming the Big East’s automatic bid by way of winning the conference tournament.
Which means qualifying for the tournament as one of the top four teams in the leagues is kind of crucial to the whole endeavor. The Big East is a six team league for men’s lacrosse, and the Golden Eagles were good enough to sneak into the conference tournament as the #4 seed last season at 2-3 in league play. They did this by beating Providence and St. John’s, but going 0-3 against Denver, Georgetown, and Villanova.
You’ll notice that the top of the page says Marquette is playing Providence this weekend. Providence is under .500 through nine games this season, and they currently sit at #51 in the RPI out of 75 Division 1 programs. St. John’s? 0-9, #59 out of 75 teams.
Villanova, Georgetown, and Denver are #9, #13, and #14 respectively in the RPI right now, #6, #15, and #16 in the Inside Lacrosse Top 20, and have a combined record of 15-8.
You can see how beating Providence might be very important to the chances of Marquette — currently #34 in the RPI, by the way — making the conference tournament.
Could Marquette figure out a way to beat one of the three ranked teams in the league? Sure, absolutely, they beat Penn State, and even after that loss, the Nittany Lions are higher in the RPI than any team in the Big East. Is it going to be easy to pull of one of those three wins? Absolutely not, up to and including the fact that Marquette has never — AND THE ROCK MEANS NEVER — beaten Denver in a regular season game. They also haven’t beaten the Pioneers at all since 2017 (6 straight losses), haven’t beaten the Hoyas since 2019 (4 straight losses), and haven’t beaten the Wildcats since 2016 (6 straight losses).
You get the point here. The pathway to a Big East tournament berth, the most obvious path, includes a win over Providence on Saturday afternoon. Get that win, and worry about anything else after that.
Oh, and by the way? The Big East would really appreciate if Marquette does qualify for the conference tournament, since the Golden Eagles are hosting it at Valley Fields. It would kind of help attendance and so on.
Big East Game #1: at Providence Friars (4-5)
Date: Saturday, April 1, 2023
Time: 11am Central
Location: Chapey Field at Anderson Stadium, Providence, Rhode Island
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax
Marquette is 7-3 all time against Providence. The two sides met for the first time in Marquette’s second season as a program, but their first as a member of the Big East. The Golden Eagles snagged a 7-6 victory there as they would go on to win the first three meetings. The most notable encounter came in May of 2017, as the Golden Eagles snagged a 10-9 victory in the Big East tournament title game. MU has won each of the last two against PC, including 7-6 in four overtimes the last time they played in Rhode Island in 2021.
Credit where credit’s due for the Friars: They have a pair of road losses to ranked teams this season, falling 19-6 to then-#12 Saint Joseph’s and, in their most recent game, a 25-8 loss to #14 North Carolina. They put themselves in a situation to test themselves against a pair of the top teams in the country, and yeah, it didn’t go well in either circumstance, but it was still a quality learning experience for a team in the first year of the tenure of head coach Bobby Benson.
The Friars are 4-3 against all other competition this season, but outside of those ranked opponent losses, there are a pair of losses that probably sting most of all. PC has losses against in-state rivals Bryant and Brown, and that’s probably the most annoying part of their season for them. The Bryant loss was by just one goal, but the Friars cut a 14-9 margin to just two goals with a bit more than four minutes to play and couldn’t get closer until the final 30 seconds. Against crosstown rival Brown, Providence led 4-2 early in the second quarter before giving up a 9-1 run that stretched into the fourth quarter.
Jack Horrigan and Michael Chabra are the two big swingers on the Providence offense. They have 22 and 21 goals respectively, and they’re #2 and #1 respectively in shots on the team as well. The team has taken 320 shots all season long, and 120 of them have come from Horrigan and Chabra. However, the key to disrupting PC’s offensive flow might be limiting touches for Ryan Bell. He’s the only other double digit goal scorer on the team with 16, but that’s not the point. Bell has 21 of Providence’s 58 assists on the season, and that’s 36% of their raw assist total and even more impressive given that he has 16 goals where he couldn’t have recorded an assist by definition.
One thing that Marquette can do to reduce any worries they have about stopping any of those guys? Win face offs. The Golden Eagles might have a significant advantage in this department. First off, there’s the fact that Marquette has won 54% of their draws this season anyway, in part because both Grant Evans and Cole Emmanuel are both north of 54% themselves. Second, there’s the fact that Providence is getting run over on the restarts this season. If you round up to the nearest whole number, PC wins just 38% of their face offs this season. Quinn McConnaughey (50.5% for the season) has been putting up some good numbers for them over the last few games, so maybe they’re turning it around. In any case, face offs can sometimes just come down to individual guy-to-guy matchups, and Marquette can protect themselves from Lacrosse Reference’s #20 offense merely by not letting them have the ball at midfield.
James Corasaniti has played all but about half an hour, maybe more towards 40 minutes of this season in net for Providence. The grad transfer from Fairfield is allowing 13.25 goals per 60 minutes this season, which seems like good news for Marquette, but this seems to be more of a comment about PC’s overall defense than it is about Corasaniti himself. He’s stopping 52.6% of shots on goal, so the fact that Providence is underwater on shots for/against by about 11 per game is not doing Corasaniti any favors.