Six games to watch during winter break

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Photo by John Leuzzi

Marquette men’s basketball defeated Northern Illinois 80-66 Nov. 27 for its sixth win of the 2021-22 season.

With the calendar turning to December, the arrival of the 2021-22 BIG EAST basketball seasons are just around the corner.

Here are some key Marquette men’s and women’s basketball matchups to make sure to watch during winter break.

Dec. 21 — Men’s basketball vs No. 17 UConn: 

After finishing 15-8 overall and 11-6 in the BIG EAST in their first season back in the league last year, UConn enters this year’s campaign as one of the top teams in the conference.

Despite the Charlotte Hornets drafting former Husky James Bouknight with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft, the Huskies return four starters and roughly 79% of its minutes from last season.

UConn’s deep and talented roster will serve as an early conference test for an inexperienced Marquette team in the BIG EAST lidlifter.

Dec. 29 — Women’s basketball at No. 3 UConn

The rematch of the 2021 BIG EAST title match might be Marquette’s most anticipated game of the regular season.

Huskies sophomore guard Paige Bueckers, who finished with 23 points against Marquette in the BIG EAST championship game last year, is averaging 20.6 points, 6.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game this season and has plenty of help around her.

Senior guard Christyn Williams is averaging 17.3 points per game and redshirt senior guard Evina Westbrook is averaging 12.3 points per game. UConn’s depth is deep as usual, including Class of 2021 No. 1 ranked recruit Azzi Fudd, so Marquette will have a tough early season challenge.

Jan. 1 — Men’s basketball vs Creighton 

The Blue Jays head to Milwaukee to ring in the new year against the Golden Eagles in an early 11 a.m. CST matchup.

After Marcus Zegarowski opted to forgo his final senior year to turn pro, Denzel Mahoney, Damien Jefferson and Mitch Ballock all choosing to not use their COVID-19 extra year of eligibility and Christian Bishop transferring to Texas, Creighton has lost its top five starters from last season.

With both teams projected to finish in the bottom tier of the BIG EAST, it could serve as a key game for seeding in the BIG EAST Tournament.

Jan. 4 — Men’s basketball vs Providence 

Ed Cooley’s Friars travel to Milwaukee looking to avenge the double-digit loss to the Golden Eagles last year at Fiserv Forum.

This year, Providence brings back much of last year’s talent including first-year center Nate Watson, the team’s anchor. The unanimous All-BIG EAST 2021 Preseason Team selection averaged 16.9 points and 6.7 rebounds during last year’s contests.

Jan. 12 — Women’s basketball vs DePaul 

The Blue Demons are second in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches Poll after finishing just 14-10 overall last season. DePaul returns all five starters from last year, including 2021 All-BIG EAST First Team selections senior guards Lexi Held and Sonya Morris.

DePaul finished in the top 10 nationally in three statistical categories last year including No. 8 in scoring offense at 81.5 points per game.

Head coach Megan Duffy is 2-3 all-time, including postseason play, against DePaul head coach Doug Bruno in her three years at Marquette.

Jan. 16 — Women’s basketball vs Villanova 

Marquette’s final game over winter break comes at home against Villanova.

Maddie Siegrist and Brianna Herlihy are among the Wildcats veteran options.

Siegrist finished the regular season by leading the BIG EAST in both scoring at 23.1 points per game and rebounding at 10.1 rebounds per contest, becoming just the third player in league history to lead the conference in both categories.

Herlihy, who tallied 18 double figure scoring games last season, was named to the All-BIG EAST Second Team after averaging 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game last season.

This article was written by John Leuzzi. He can be reached at john.leuzzi@marquette.edu or on Twitter @JohnLeuzziMU.