Being selected to finish 11th in the Big East in the conference’s preseason coaches poll isn’t exactly flattering for the Marquette women’s basketball team.
It is, however, an excellent source of motivation.
The Golden Eagles will need to prove their critics wrong right away when the regular season begins this Saturday against Butler and will have to play with much better efficiency over the year in order to earn a higher league seeding.
“I think, if you look at us statistically, offense was a big struggle for us,” coach Terri Mitchell said at the team’s media day on Oct. 24. “That’s speaking the truth when you look at your stats. How do we prove people wrong? Consistent. We have to be consistent in our play and consistent for 40 minutes.”
Marquette scored 60 points or fewer in 12 of 16 conference games last season, which played a large role in its 4-12 record and 14th place finish. Sophomore guard Cristina Bigica is confident the team can perform much better than its predicted 11th place finish, and she thinks one way of doing that is continuing to develop chemistry early in the season.
“This year we’ll be higher than 11th because no one graduated,” the guard from Bucharest, Romania, native said. “We’re the same team, and we know each other so much better. I can say 11th place is a motivation for all of us. No one wants to be ranked 11th.”
The players may be well-acquainted with each other, but a slew of injuries last year forced the team to constantly mix and match in the middle of a fierce Big East schedule. Mitchell wants the players to remain healthy and stay in shape, which can be a key to getting out of the conference’s basement.
“We were young and injured, very injured last year,” Mitchell said. “Our rotation kept changing, so we couldn’t do a lot of things we wanted to. We were basically maintaining bodies so we could get through the season and be injury-free. We’re through that, and we understand injuries are part of it.”
Sophomore guard Margeaux Dupuy has been satisfied with how practices have been going and would like to see the team translate its play from practices to games easily.
“We’ve been working really hard in practice, so as long as we show how hard we’ve been working in our games, I think we’ll be fine,” Dupuy said.
On a more personal note, Dupuy wants to improve her ability to execute decisions on the court and become a more reliable backcourt option. Bigica, who may be sharing time with Dupuy in the backcourt, wants to see herself make some individual strides of progress before important Big East games start up.
“I want to improve on handling the ball and have the least amount of turnovers I can make,” Bigica said. “(Make) good passes and just make the best shots for the team.”
Despite the offensive woes for the Golden Eagles last year, Mitchell will place a focal point on defense, an area in which the team is somewhat already comfortable; Marquette held conference opponents to 60 points or fewer in seven games.
“You’re always going to get a defensive emphasis from me one way or the other,” Mitchell said. “Whether it’s zone (or man-to-man), it’s just, ‘How does it change each year?’. I think you’ll find we’ll do a lot more man.”
So over the first 100 days, can Marquette ramp up its offense, develop its chemistry, stay healthy and continue to execute defensively? Time will tell.