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Staff Predictions: Women’s basketball NCAA Tournament vs. Quinnipiac

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

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John Hand, sports reporter and women’s basketball beat writer — Marquette 79, Quinnipiac 60

The Marquette Golden Eagles women’s basketball team will beat Quinnipiac when they face off Saturday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and after the first five minutes, you will see why.

The Golden Eagles like to play a fast-paced offense that wears down their opponents, while the Bobcats have struggled to get off to strong starts.

Quinnipiac guard Adily Martucci said on Friday, “We need to really change that and start very hot on offense.

Even if Marquette does falter, their experience this season will carry them.

When it was announced Marquette was set to play Quinnipiac, Marquette guard Natisha Hiedeman said she had never heard of the school. The most likely reason for that is Quinnipiac is a small-town hockey school in Connecticut and they have only played one top-25 team this season, Oregon State, and lost 75-60. The Golden Eagles went 6-0 versus top-25 opponents and beat Oregon State 74-73.

Quinnipiac has the edge in tournament experience, but with Marquette’s experience versus better opponents and style of play, it is hard to see the Bobcats coming out on top.

Brian Boyle, sports reporter and women’s basketball beat writer — Marquette 78, Quinnipiac 65

Fresh off a massive conference-clinching, confidence-boosting, program-defining win over DePaul in the BIG EAST tournament championship game, Marquette is riding high to the big dance as an unexpected No. 5 seed. Now, in the first round, the Golden Eagles will be squaring up against Quinnipiac.

Staunch defenders and expert rebounders, however, make the Bobcats from Connecticut an intriguing candidate to deliver those infamous No. 5 seed shakes Marquette’s way.

Inexperience hasn’t caught up to head coach Carolyn Kieger’s young Marquette squad yet, though home court advantage throughout the BIG EAST tournament certainly stymied some of the stage fright that may have plagued them otherwise. Quinnipiac might just be the team to capitalize on their relative youthfulness. A Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship capped off an impressive 10-game win streak and clinched the Bobcats a third trip to the tournament in just five years. This team has been here before, and they’re certainly hungry to win the first tournament game in program history.

With a 25th nationally-ranked defense, Quinnipiac allows only 56.6 points per game. Marquette is coming into the game scoring a white-hot, 14th-ranked 79.3 points per game. Clearly, something has got to give.

In the end though, it’s Marquette’s newfound maturity that’s allowed them to play through these stylistic mishmashes. While earlier in the season battles of pace often sunk the Golden Eagles, a more confident and balanced half-court offense developed as the season went on, helping transform the team from one-dimensional plucky upstarts to the conference-winning No. 5 seed that are today. And when they grab hold of the game and really get going, their incredibly difficult to stop — let alone slow down.

Marquette’s offense is just too good right now for a first round upset. Any one of Allazia Blockton, Natisha Hiedeman, Erika Davenport, Danielle King or Amani Wilborn is capable of taking the game over for prolonged stretches. With just two players averaging in double-digits (Adilly Martucci and Jen Fay, at each just over ten points a game), there’s little chance Quinnipiac will be able to keep up.

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