Marquette's men and women continue race towards hoops history
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks are piloting the hoops revolution in Milwaukee, but the Marquette men's and women's basketball teams are certainly doing their part to elevate the Wisconsin winter sports scene.
On Sunday, the no. 13 Marquette women (23-5, 14-2) captured their second straight Big East regular season championship during their 79-53 Senior Day smackdown on Xavier at the Al McGuire Center. The no. 10 Marquette men (23-4, 12-2) will have a chance to clinch their own conference title Wednesday when they travel to Villanova for another anticipated showdown. Even if Steve Wojciechowski's crew is unable to finish off the stumbling Wildcats this week (Nova has lost three in a row and four of five), MU will still be in the driver's seat to grab at least a share of the Big East crown.
This is the 40th season of Big East basketball, but in the previous 39 years, one school has won both the men's and women's titles in the same year just five times (St. John's in 1983, Connecticut in 1990, 1994, 1995 and 1999). If Marquette finishes alone atop both leagues by the end of the year – the women are currently sitting on a two-game lead and the men can move one and a half games up on Villanova with a win on Wednesday – they will join the 1994, 1995 and 1999 Huskies as the only program to have sole possession of both Big East championships in one year. (The Big East operated under a divisional format from 1996-98 and 2001-03 and did not name a conference champion.)
The Villanova men (four titles) and DePaul women (five titles) have mostly dominated the Big East since the reformation in 2013, but a revitalized Marquette is finally shifting the league's power structure.
The collective 2018-19 MU performance has both Golden Eagle teams on pace to qualify for the NCAA tournament in the same season for just the sixth time ever. Marquette has only won a tourney game in both the men's and women's bracket one time (2011), but that could (and should) change come March. The Marquette men are currently projected to grab a three seed next month, while the women are listed as a four seed in ESPN's most recent bracketology update.
If the MU women are ultimately tabbed as a four seed or better, they will also host the first two rounds of their four-team pod. The Al McGuire Center has come alive each of the past two postseasons when MU hosted (and won) the Big East women's tournament in 2017 and the men played three NIT home games on campus in 2018; NCAA tournament games would send local enthusiasm to the next level.
Unsurprisingly, two of the best MU teams in recent memory are led by a talented cast of characters, but these rosters are loaded with players who will be long remembered in the program record books. Markus Howard's greatness has been well-documented, but he is not alone. Not only could Howard, a junior, set the men's program scoring record this season (currently held by Jerel McNeal with 1,985 points), his running mate Sam Hauser is also on pace to push 1,900 points by the end of his senior season next year. It's certainly possible for both Howard and Hauser to finish their Marquette careers as the program's all-time one-two punch in scoring.
On the women's side, Allazia Blockton has already set the women's scoring mark and is forging a new path with each passing game for all Marquette players – men and women. Howard may top Blockton's MU record in 2019-20, but any program will be hard-pressed to match the diversified scoring success Marquette has flashed under Carolyn Kieger.
Seniors Erika Davenport, Natisha Heideman, Danielle King, Amani Wilborn and Blockton have made up Marquette's core for each of the past four years, and are now all over 1,300 career points. By the end of this season, all five could top 1,400 points and finish inside the top 15 on Marquette women's all-time scoring list. Four of the five, excluding Davenport, will also reside inside the top 10 in assists by season's end (which is coincidentally topped by Kieger herself), and Davenport and Blockton will both be in the top 10 in rebounds by the conclusion of this stretch run as well.
The men and women are setting new statistical records across the board seemingly every game; SB Nation site Anonymous Eagle has done the dirty work and compiled every obscure record chase that you need to know. Check them all out here!
When the 2018-19 campaign wraps up over the coming weeks, Marquette may have more hardware than ever before. The athletics department will need to load up on shelving to present all the titles, records, all-conference honorees, All-American accolades, Player of the Year awards (Howard and Heideman would be the 11th POY pairing in Big East history), Freshman of the Year awards (Joey Hauser just won his sixth freshman of the week award) and whatever else MU can amass in the postseason.
Nothing is guaranteed in the Big East or the NCAA tournament – particularly as the women strive to overcome Davenport's recent season-ending knee injury – but Marquette has never been this relevant in both leagues. 2018-19 has already been magical in Milwaukee, and what's to come could launch this collective campaign into the stratosphere of the 1977 National Championship and 2003 Final Four. Buckle up, because the Golden Eagles look ready to soar to new heights.
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