Hey, yeah, I know, the Marquette men’s basketball Big East schedule is the big news of Friday.
Megan Duffy and the women’s team announced their non-conference schedule on Thursday!
SCHEDULE RELEASE! Looking forward to seeing you at the Al McGuire Center starting on Nov. 6. Our non-league slate includes home games vs. Illinois (Nov. 11) and Memphis (Nov. 29) & a trip to the Ft. Myers Tip-Off. @BIGEAST schedule next week!— Marquette WBB (@MarquetteWBB) September 14, 2023
Now, there’s nine games on there that we haven’t talked about already, so it took a minute to get all of that talking about put together. That’s why you’re seeing this on Friday afternoon, long after the quickie MBB schedule post went up on Friday morning.
It’s a quietly intriguing schedule, in that the difficulty level doesn’t immediately jump off the page. There are, however, five Her Hoop Stats top 150 teams from last year amongst that group of nine squads that were announced on Thursday afternoon, and two of those five land on the schedule as road games for the Golden Eagles. Not just road games, but road games that maaaaaybe you wouldn’t quite expect a perennial NCAA tournament team like Marquette to take on. That’s in addition to the two top 110 teams in the Fort Myers Tip-Off event that we knew was already on the books.
I’m not saying that anyone’s going to guarantee Marquette goes 11-0 against this schedule or anything like that. Given the amount of roster tumult, it’s going to be hard to say anything definitive about the Golden Eagles until we start to see them on the court.... but if Marquette comes away from this schedule with only one or two non-conference losses, then it’s safe to say that they’re on a track to be an NCAA tournament team come March 2024.
We’ve already talked about Marquette’s potential opponents from the Fort Myers Tip-Off, so if you want to know things about Boston College, Arkansas, or Wisconsin, head yourself over thataway. Let’s see what there is to know about the remainder of the non-conference schedule, shall we?
Going in chronological order, then.....
UT Martin Skyhawks
2022-23 Record: 13-17, 9-9 OVC
Postseason: Lost to #8 seed Morehead State in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament
Final Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #222
Head Coach: Kevin McMillan, entering his 15th season. He has a record of 265-177.
All-Time Series: This will be the first ever meeting.
The Skyhawks have some interesting questions coming out of last year. Kenley McCarn was having a great start to her freshman year, averaging 19.8 points and 4.3 rebounds.... but then she suffered a season ending injury after four games. Sharnecce Currie-Jelks ended up as UT-Martin’s leading scorer, but she’s transferred to Indiana after her freshman year. That makes Shae Littleford the true top returning scorer at 13.0 points per game.... and also the only rotation player returning who averaged more than eight points a night. If McCarn is back to 100%, that’s great news, but it’s not entirely unlike adding a transfer to the roster given that she was out of action.
Currie-Jelks was also the top rebounder on the roster, but Anaya Brown returns after finishing second with 5.8 grabs per game. Littleford also led the team in assists average last year at 3.3, but grad student Seygan Robins led in total assists thanks to Littleford missing seven games along the way.
Illinois Fighting Illini
2022-23 Record: 22-10, 11-7 Big Ten
Postseason: Lost to Mississippi State, 56-70, in the First Four of the NCAA tournament
Final Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #57
Head Coach: Shauna Green, entering her second season at Illinois, eighth season as a Division 1 head coach, and 10th season as a collegiate head coach. She has a record of 22-10 with the Illini and 178-85 overall.
All-Time Series: Marquette leads 5-2 since getting a 73-56 victory in December 2010.
Last year was a fantastic rebound season for the Illini after going the last seven years without clearing 11 wins and the last nine years without a winning campaign. I don’t know what it was in particular that led new head coach Shauna Green to prompt such a turnaround, but it’s hard to argue with her results right out of the gate.
It feels like a safe bet that Illinois will be an NCAA tournament caliber team again this coming season. They return their top six scorers, which works out to everyone who averaged at least six points per game. That group also gets your Illinois’ top five rebounders a year ago and the top four women on their assists per game list, too. If you wanted to be nervous about it at all, I do have to point out that Illinois only went seven or eight deep on a regular basis last season. Maybe a year of development helps the rotation get a little bit deeper in Green’s Year Two, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens there. This is a fantastic matchup for Marquette, as Illinois knows who they are after last year, while the Golden Eagles get to play this one at home while figuring themselves out after so many offseason additions.
2022-23 Record: 17-13, 13-7 Horizon League
Postseason: Upset by #6 seed Purdue Fort Wayne in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League conference tournament
Final Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #148
Head Coach: Kate Bruce, entering her second season and eighth as a collegiate head coach. She has a record of 17-13 with IUPUI and 151-56 overall.
All-Time Series: Tied at 1-1 since an IUPUI victory in Milwaukee in 2015.
Remember, this one is a road game for the Golden Eagles, and it comes as just the third game in the first 10 days of the season.
Last year was the first year in charge for Kate Bruce after Butler plucked Austin Parkinson away from his highly successful run in charge of the Jaguars. This will be a bit of a reset year for Bruce, as she returns just one of last year’s top five scorers. The good news is that the one is the leading scorer, as Jazmyn Turner topped the chart with 14.9 points per game and added 5.8 rebounds, too. The next four women on the scoring list averaged somewhere between 14.3 and 7.3 points per game and all of them were pretty good shooters as well. That’s an awful lot of production to try and make up, particularly this early in the season.
Will IUPUI getting a Big East squad in their gym help them come together a bit quicker than Marquette in this case, or will the Golden Eagles be able to burnish their record with a road win?
Saint Peter’s Peacocks
2022-23 Record: 0-30, 0-20 MAAC
Postseason: Suffered a 59-56 loss to Manhattan in the first round of the MAAC tournament
Final Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #357
Head Coach: Jennifer Leedham, entering her second season at SPU and sixth as a collegiate head coach. She has an overall record of 67-77.
All-Time Series: Saint Peter’s leads, 1-0, after a 73-49 decision in December 1989.
Can I provide you a line from Leedham’s official bio on the SPU website?
Leedham will be taking over a Peacock program that has soared to new heights in recent seasons.
Well, so much for that momentum.
The Peacocks return their top three scorers from last season, but we have to ask the important question here: Does that matter when Her Hoop Stats had Saint Peter’s as the third worst offensive team in the country last year?
2022-23 Record: 22-11, 11-4 AAC
Postseason: Lost to Bowling Green, 73-60, in the Super 16 of the WNIT
Final Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #63
Head Coach: Alex Simmons, entering her first season in Memphis after five years at Gardner-Webb. She has a record of 89-58.
All-Time Series: Marquette leads 16-8, since a Memphis victory in February 2005.
While the Tigers underwent a coaching change in the offseason, they still retained five of the 10 women who were rotation players for them a year ago. That’s not a terrible starting point for new head coach Alex Simmons.
Madison Griggs is the leading returning scorer at 12.3 per game last year made her the #2 overall scorer. 6’1” Canadian Hannah Riddick was the leading rebounder at 6.6 per game, and she’s back for next season as well. Griggs and Destyne Jackson qualify as the co-returning leaders in the assists department, but at 1.4 per game, that’s not saying that much. With that said, the two women in front of them who are now gone only averaged 2.2 and 2.2 per game, so this isn’t a huge gap in the production.
2022-23 Record: 17-12, 9-5 Ivy League
Postseason: Lost to Richmond, 75-52, in the first round of the WNIT
Final Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #149
Head Coach: Mike McLaughlin, entering his 15th season. He has a record of 226-147.
All-Time Series: This will be the first ever meeting.
The Quakers return two of the women who averaged more than nine points a game last season. Given that they averaged just 62 points per game as one of the 70 slowest teams in the country, it feels like a big deal that they lost their 18 point per game scorer. Jordan Obi returns to lead the way after throwing in 12.6 per game last season and leading the squad in rebounding at 7.6 per game as well. 6’4” forward Floor Toonders also returns after just barely missing out on beating Obi for the rebounding lead at 7.4 per game. Even with Obi and Toonders cleaning the glass like that, Penn wasn’t a particularly great rebounding team last year, so that might be an area that Marquette focuses on gaining an advantage.
Illinois State Redbirds
2022-23 Record: 24-9, 17-3 Missouri Valley
Postseason: Lost to Missouri, 61-51, in the first round of the WNIT after falling in the MVC semifinals as co-regular season champs
Final Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #76
Head Coach: Kristen Gillespie, entering her seventh season at ISU and 13th as a collegiate head coach. She has a record of 111-70 at Illinois State and 216-135 overall.
All-Time Series: Tied at 2-2 since a Marquette win in November 2019.
This is Marquette’s other slightly surprising road game, as you don’t really expect a Big East squad to go on the road, much less against a mid-major squad that was a top 100 team last year. I suspect that this game was scheduled because the athletic department was keeping the McGuire Center open on the off chance that the volleyball team pulled off the wins needed to have a chance to host the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament. The timing matches up, that’s for sure.
The Redbirds return three of their top five scorers, but that does mean they’re replacing top scorer Paige Robinson, who gave them 18.2 a night on 38% long range shooting. Deanna Wilson’s 13.0 per night is the only returning double digit scoring effort, but she’s also the leading returning rebounder at 7.2 per game, and fellow returnee Kate Bullman chipped in 6.2 off the glass last season as well.
Appalachian State Mountaineers
2022-23 Record: 11-20, 6-12 Sun Belt
Postseason: Lost to Texas State, 56-47, in the Sun Belt quarterfinals
Final Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #215
Head Coach: Angel Elderkin, entering her 10th season at App State. She has a record of 118-154.
All-Time Series: This will be the first ever meeting.
Things that may interest only me: App State doesn’t have anyone on their roster with a last name that starts with a letter after P in the alphabet.
That means they have lost top scorer Janay Sanders (13.6/game) from last year, but it does mean that they return Emily Carver and Faith Alston, both of whom averaged double digit scoring a year ago. Alston was also the team’s assists leader, and both women averaged north of four rebounds per game to end up as the top two in that department.
This could be an interesting style game for Marquette, as Megan Duffy hasn’t shown much interest in hurrying with the ball in the last few years.... but Elderkin has had the Mountaineers in the top 70 in possessions per 40 minutes in each of the last three campaigns.
2022-23 Record: 13-17, 9-9 Patriot League
Postseason: Lost to Lehigh, 63-55, in the Patriot League quarterfinals
Final Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #203
Head Coach: Trevor Woodruff, entering his fifth season at Bucknell and 20th as a collegiate head coach. He is 70-34 with the Bison and 342-179 overall including 11 years as a men’s head coach in Division 3.
All-Time Series: This will the first ever meeting.
Either Isabella King or Emma Theodorsson is Bucknell’s best returning player. King averaged 7.3 points and 3.0 rebounds last season, Theodorsson was good for 7.2 points and 3.8 rebounds. Feel free to make a call as to which you prefer. This means that the Bison have lost their top three scorers who also covered the top two spots on the rebounding chart and the top three spots on the assists chart.
That’s not an ideal way to go about improving on last year’s .500 record in Patriot League play, but those are the cards that Trevor Woodruff has been dealt.