When asked to explain her offense, Marquette head coach Carolyn Kieger couldn’t help but smile.
“When people ask me ‘what’s your offense?’ I can’t really tell you,” she said. “It’s not like a five-out motion. It’s four out one in. Then it comes up and we add some pinch, post to stuff to it.”
In short, it’s not one set offense, but rather a concoction of the dribble drive and Princeton offenses.
Kieger developed her scheme one summer, while she was an assistant at the University of Miami, after watching countless hours of John Calipari’s dribble drive offense. When her offense works properly, it makes even the fans watching tired.
“It is very important to be fit when playing with our team,” sophomore guard Allazia Blockton said via email. “We are more run and gun, and even though we play fast on offense we want to play fast on defense, so we press a lot. There is a lot of full court, man to man, so you have to be fit to play fast the whole game.”
So far, Kieger’s offense has shown progression. Marquette’s offense is ranked 17th in the nation and despite two bad back-to-back losses, Marquette still stands at 7-4 in conference play and has a legitimate shot at winning the BIG EAST. However, to the casual observer there seems little chance an offense likes Marquette’s will be able to last until March, especially since Kieger usually uses a short bench. Kieger has already thought of that.
“(The team) has been here all summer with our strength and conditioning coach. We have a plan from day one until the end of March and then we start it back over,” Kieger said. “We want to be peaking in March and we want to be peaking towards the end of the season. That is what they are here to do. They came here to play fast, they came here to play up-tempo and we just got to keep reminding them that the best teams in the country are the fittest teams. I mean that’s what it is. The best players in the country don’t get tired and that I think has helped us in close games.”
The person in charge of that plan is Maggie Smith, the team’s strength and conditioning coach. Smith is small in stature. She moves in a quick athletic way and when she speaks she does so in a way that commands attention, while exuding confidence.
“(Kieger and I) work together to get their bodies prepared properly,” Smith said. “At the same time these girls, they didn’t come in from their high schools in a prepared way, putting it nicely. They were not prepared at all physically, however, their skill level was very very high. I can get people in shape, so the skill level complements each other.”
In order to have each player ready for November, Smith had the team working on injury reduction and maintaining strength and muscle mass. During the workouts and games, each player wears a device on their back called the Catapult system that produces an abstract number representing each player’s workload, so Smith can determine how hard to push each player.
“Right now, I’m already talking to them about, ‘We are here right now. We need to get these wins and hold on through February.’ We need to win, while we’re holding on and then we need to peak at the exact right time,” Smith said.
That peak is scheduled to be March 7, the date of the BIG EAST Championship.