LEUZZI: Women’s basketball has silenced the haters as it has exceeded preseason expectations

Marquette+womens+basketball+received+30+votes+in+the+Associated+Press+Top2+5+Poll+for+the+week+of+Nov.+29+through+Dec.+5.+

Photo by Isabel Bonebrake

Marquette women’s basketball received 30 votes in the Associated Press Top2 5 Poll for the week of Nov. 29 through Dec. 5.

Let’s get this out of the way: This year’s Marquette women’s basketball team is certainly exceeding preseason expectations. But that should come to no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to these last three seasons. 

At 7-2, Marquette is off to its best start since the 2008-09 season. The Golden Eagles were in just their second season competing in the Big East back then.

Now in year four of the Megan Duffy Era, the Golden Eagles have looked the best they have in that span.

But again, that style of play and team mentality is not something that should be looked at as “new” about the Golden Eagles per say. Instead there are three things that have factored into this, two of which have been consistent factors since Duffy took over the program.

From day one in 2019, a big pillar in the Golden Eagles’ culture and DNA has been the blue-collar mentality Duffy’s teams embody. This is pretty evident through Marquette’s style of play when one sees the Golden Eagles fight for a rebound or dive for a loose ball.

After all, when it comes to Marquette, its defense has always led to its offense under Duffy.

Consistency from the point guard position is another factor in this equation. This past Friday at Georgetown, senior guard Jordan King continued her longtime streak by starting in her 100th career game.

King, who was the Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year in 2019, has always been a vital part in the Golden Eagles success. The 5-foot-11 guard built off her breakout season last year for Marquette this season as she is averaging 14.0 points, 4.3 assists and 2.2 per game.

Together, Duffy and King have combined for a 73-28 overall record. With a winning percentage of over .700, the two have become one of the winningest player-coach duos in program history.

Over the last three seasons, Duffy has been building on the program’s mantra of  “The Marquette Way.” Now, these years later, we’re starting to see the real tangible results  those five pillars: driven, relentless growth, sacrifice, humble beginnings and unity.

Then there is the outlier in this equation.

It’s not like what the Golden Eagles have developed is a secret or a groundbreaking scientific discovery but instead is a missing piece that has been found and glued back into the puzzle.

But what is that missing piece? It’s using the depth and strength of its numbers to its advantage. 

For the first time in the Duffy Era, I haven’t seen each of the 12 players showcased, utilized and performed in their roles as well as this year’s squad. But perhaps the biggest showing of this has come from its bench play. 

Whether it is on the men’s or women’s side, bench production is everything in college basketball. The Golden Eagles are no different as 31% of the team’s points this season have come off the bench. 

In the world of college basketball, earning wins in the month of November is part of the recipe for a strong postseason resume. And if you look at Marquette’s seven wins, the Golden Eagles have several quality wins — Texas and Gonzaga — already on that.

The Golden Eagles are now starting to receive national attention in both the Associated Press and the Coaches Top 25 Polls for the first time under Duffy and the first time since the 2018-2019 season.

It is not like Marquette has earned votes over the last three seasons in the polls because they have, but to get over that hump is a significant move in the right direction for this program.

There is no question that the Big East runs through Storrs, Connecticut and the UConn Huskies once again. That isn’t what I am here to do, nor am I saying Marquette’s early season success means it will win the Big East Tournament.

Instead, I’m here to reiterate that Marquette deserves a seat at the Christmas table as one of the top four teams in the conference.

Aside from Marquette, there are five teams in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll either ranked or receiving votes, UConn (No. 8), Creighton (No. 18), Villanova (No. 25), St. John’s (RV) and Seton Hall (RV). Last week was the first time since the conference’s realignment in 2013 that four teams were ranked at the same time.

So as the road to the Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, has begun, it’s time to once again buy into the fact the Golden Eagles have arrived. 

This article was written by John Leuzzi. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JohnLeuzziMU.