With as much space still available under the scholarship limit after Lee Volker announced her transfer to Marquette women’s basketball, it seemed reasonable to think that head coach Megan Duffy wasn’t done reimagining her roster for the 2023-24 season. That thought process came through on Sunday evening as Bridget Utberg announced her commitment to transfer to Marquette.
Utberg, a 5’7” guard from Canton, Georgia, was a freshman at Central Michigan in 2022-23, where she played in 26 of their 29 games, missing three in early February, and started 25 times. However, the Chippewas went 6-23 with a 4-14 record in MAC play in head coach Heather Oesterle’s fourth year in charge. While they won a regular season title in 2020 and a tournament title in 2021, CMU didn’t qualify for the conference tournament in 2022 or 2023, which prompted the athletic director to look in a new direction and in turn prompted Utberg’s transfer.
It’s safe to say that Utberg would have been a cornerstone of the future for CMU if she had stayed in Mount Pleasant. She averaged 12.5 points, 1.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.4 steals as a freshman, and she was #2 on the team in scoring and steals, not to mention tops in assists. She also knocked down nearly 35% of her more than six three-point attempts per game.
That last item might be the most notable part of her season in terms of what Utberg can bring to the Golden Eagles. Last year, Jordan King was the only reliable shooter on the team, connecting on nearly 36% of her attempts. Claire Kaifes was the only other player to hit more than 31% of her shots, but Kaifes played less than 15 minutes a game and didn’t play after January 25th at all for medical reasons. While Marquette might be deep at guard with King taking a starring role, Volker transferring in, and Rose Nkumu, Kenzie Hare, and Emily La Chapell all returning from last year, the fact of the matter is that Marquette needs shooting to stretch the floor. If Utberg can do that and defend the way that Duffy needs everyone to defend, then there’s minutes for her.
Scholarship chart time, and yes, we have one more adjustment than just adding Utberg in with three years of eligibility remaining.
If you’re paying attention from the announcement of Volker’s transfer, you’ll notice that I’ve eliminated the possibility that Nia Clark will return to Marquette for the 2023-24 season. Because of the addition of Utberg as well as the hiring of Khadijah Rushdan as assistant coach, I was poking at the team website, and I discovered that the roster page has been updated to 2023-24. At the time it showed no players, but if I toggled the season to 2022-23 and then back to 23-24, I got the roster to pop up, including the additions of freshmen Skyler Forbes and Halle Vice along with transfer Frannie Hottinger. Not included is Clark, although that’s not particularly surprising after Volker’s MU-made commitment graphic showed her wearing the same #1 jersey that Clark wore in 2022-23.
I was always unsure as to whether or not Clark had a COVID bonus season of eligibility remaining when she transferred to Marquette. She played nine games for Duffy at Miami (OH) in 2018-19 before suffering a season ending injury, then transferred to Xavier where she sat out one year by way of the old transfer rules, then played for two seasons before landing at MU. That’s four seasons of playing, even with one cut short by injury, so it seems like she had a bonus year available to her.... but seeing as Marquette never officially announced Clark’s transfer, it’s hard to say exactly what her eligibility situation was. And yet, it seems to not matter at all any more as MU has eliminated Clark from the roster page with zero fanfare.
Looking forward, Marquette is looking at 12 players for the 2023-24 season, which is still three spots under the NCAA scholarship limit of 15. It certainly seems like Marquette could still add to their roster before next fall rolls around, but things are certainly starting to be limited at this point of the calendar. At a glance, it seems like MU’s best avenue for an addition would be a post presence as I already mentioned the depth at guard. Right now, it seems like Liza Karlen would be Marquette’s starting center again, while Hottinger could step into Chloe Marotta’s role for her final season of collegiate eligibility. That also opens up space for Charia Smith to take a big step forward as a sophomore or for Forbes to grab up playing time as a freshman. That’s a lot of question marks, so if there’s a potential addition in that department, it could pay off for Marquette. With that said, it’s hard to find playing time for 12 women and thus even harder as you expand the roster further. Adding someone else wouldn’t affect the 2024-25 roster too much, as MU projects to have six open spots in that season, which still leaves lots of space for Kaifes, Karlen, and Nkumu to return for their bonus seasons if they wish.
(h/t @MarkKahnWI for the heads up on Utberg’s commitment)