Marquette Wire

What does women’s basketball’s BIG EAST path look like?

Allazia+Blockton+leads+the+Golden+Eagles+with+over+17+points+per+game.
Allazia Blockton leads the Golden Eagles with over 17 points per game.

Allazia Blockton leads the Golden Eagles with over 17 points per game.

Photo by Austin Anderson

Photo by Austin Anderson

Allazia Blockton leads the Golden Eagles with over 17 points per game.

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In the post 2013 BIG EAST, Marquette Women’s basketball has never entered the post-season conference tournament as a favored team in the first round. Now, after a season that turned into one of Marquette sports’ feel good stories of the year, the Golden Eagles enter the single-elimination playoffs as a three seed, skipping a first round play-in game and earning direct access to the quarterfinals.

Will head coach Carolyn Kieger’s squad make a run for the conference title? How could they get there? Who will they have to play, and how have they performed against them in the past? Let’s break down Marquette’s tournament chances, shall we?

First Round:

No. 3 Marquette (22-7, 13-5) vs. No. 6 Georgetown (17-11, 9-9)

When: Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

The Golden Eagles are 2-0 against the Hoyas this year, but that sweep is more deceiving than it seems. Georgetown is a much tougher out than that.

Their previous two match-ups were two of the scrappiest, sloppiest, most unconvincing wins of the regular season.

Sunday’s game marks the second Hoya trip to Milwaukee in just one week’s time. And though the last game ended with a 10 point, 80-70 Marquette victory, it also marked one of the worst shooting performances the Golden Eagles had all year. The Golden Eagles spent much of the second half that game rescuing themselves from a poor shooting night, going 10-for-27 (37 percent) in the first two ten minute frames.

Georgetown’s defense is pesky and long, and they gobble up rebounds with an insatiable appetite nearly on par with Marquette’s virtually league-leading rate.

If they slow the game down enough, Georgetown has a legitimate chance to steal one at Marquette’s home court.

More likely, however, is the Hoyas’ planned heist being stopped before it even begins. Fouling is a major problem for the Hoyas, and extended minutes trapped in bonus limbo allowed a tight game to slip away in their last matchup. Marquette’s offense is also ridiculously more potent than their first round opponent, and, when they lock down, their defense is at the very least on par. Georgetown allows 63.4 points per game, while Marquette allows 70.3. Remember, though, this doesn’t account for Kieger’s blitzing pace, which, as an unfortunate side-effect, bolsters opponent’s offenses, too.

Prediction: Marquette 85, Georgetown 75

Second Round:

No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 2 Creighton

When: Monday at 3 p.m.

The Pride of Omaha swept Milwaukee’s finest this year, and have a 23-point season margin of victory over Marquette, a number on par with their first-round sacrificial lambs.

Creighton’s number two ranked defense in the conference provides the perfect weapons to combat Marquette’s high-octane offense. Allowing just 57.1 points per game, a slight point-and-a-half tick behind league-leading St. Johns, the Bluejays might just be the unbreakable titanium wall that stops Kieger’s freight train dead in it’s tracks.

Despite being legitimate threats to dethrone presumptive favorites in DePaul (Marquette unexpectedly swept the season series), the women’s team rousing season most likely comes to an end against a Creighton squad that simply provides a bad matchup.

…Or maybe not. Sometimes numbers lie. Creighton’s 23-point plus/minus against Marquette is skewed thanks to a 20-point 83-63 blowout early in the season. Of course, this isn’t insignificant, but it was certainly an uncharacteristic loss at the time, and seems even more out of place now.

“I’ve never seen that team before in my life,” Kieger said to the Marquette Wire, regarding her players after the Jan. 2 loss. “I don’t know what we were running on offense. … There was no defense in general.”

Their next matchup, a late January 80-77 coin-flip in Omaha, went much differently. Marquette held an eight point lead headed into the fourth quarter. With 0:56 left in the game, Marquette still had a 77-72 lead. In fact, Marquette held the lead nearly the entire game up until one of the final few possessions. Down three with the ball in the closing seconds, Marquette had a chance to tie it up and send it to overtime. They just failed to convert.

The final score also indicates just who dictated the game. 77 points is just a bucket away from Marquette’s season average, and it’s exactly where they want to be against an opponent who grinds shot clocks into nothing.

Being back on their home court could be the momentum shifter Kieger’s squad needs on Monday. I’m not ready to predict the game either way just yet, but nothing’s out of the question, and the Golden Eagles have certainly grown since their conference home-opening clunker at the turn of the year.

Prediction: Too close to call

Championship Round:

No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 1 DePaul

The two previous matches between these two teams this year were the basketball equivalent of high-powered slot-car racing.

On Jan. 21, Marquette traveled to Chicago and scored a 102-101 victory in an overtime thriller. On Feb. 19, DePaul came up to Milwaukee and was promptly defeated 96-81, in perhaps the best Golden Eagles performance of the year.

DePaul has been the premier run-and-gun team in the BIG-EAST, and the Golden Eagles have given them a bitter taste of their own medicine.

Blue Demon senior Brooke Schulte earning a unanimous BIG-EAST Player of the Year award over Marquette guard and BIG-EAST leading scorer Allazia Blockton adds another intriguing subplot to the ongoing saga (Blockton poured in 17.2 points per game, just barely better than Schulte’s 17.0).

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