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Deserved hype for under the radar star, new Big East power

In this week’s edition of “The Triple Double”, we’re going to celebrate a first-time regular season champion, and we make a case for the Big Sky to finally have WNBA representation.

Marquette Big East Champions
Courtesy of the Marquette Wire

Good morning, and welcome to the fifth edition of “The Triple Double!”

Last week saw its return after a month-long hiatus, and we talked about the final reveal of the NCAA Top 16 seedings. Some readers took exception to the note that I did not mention that Baylor had won its eighth consecutive Big 12 regular-season championship the night I wrote the article.

To them, I apologize; the intent wasn’t to slight Baylor or their accomplishments. However, at the time the seedings were released...they hadn’t won the championship.

It’s very possible that they may end up with a no. 1 seed in the regionals when Selection Monday comes, but for now Baylor will probably have to win the Big 12 Tournament to earn that seed (author’s note: keep an eye on Swish Appeal in the coming days for conference tournament coverage).

Let’s start off the article with some celebrations!

1) MARQUETTE FINALLY COMES OUT ON TOP

The Marquette Golden Eagles have reason to be pumped going into the Big East Tournament.

For the first time in program history, the Golden Eagles (21-8, 15-3 Big East) have clinched a share of the Big East regular-season title, earning it with a 76-57 whomping of the St. John’s Red Storm on Sunday. Granted, they are sharing the crown with the DePaul Blue Demons, but as Paul Bryant once said, “Winning isn’t everything, but it beats anything that comes in second.”

The roads that Marquette and DePaul took to get to this point were very similar, but it can definitely be argued that Marquette was more dominant when it mattered the most. Both Marquette and DePaul played the same two teams in their final regular season games, and the Golden Eagles were by far the most dominant of the two.

With Marquette needing to win both games to clinch the top spot, they had to go out ON THE ROAD to face both Seton Hall and St. John’s, and won both games with margins of 27 and 19 points.

Facing those same teams, DePaul only won by a combined 17 points.

This brought up an interesting debate from The Anonymous Eagle, as they stated that Marquette should have at least garnered a few votes in the most recent AP Top 25 poll. The Golden Eagles are on a six-game winning streak, their showings against non-conference Top 25 opponents were much stronger (they took then no. 2 Notre Dame to overtime, and only lost by six), and split the season series with DePaul.

The Golden Eagles have the no. 1 seed in the Big East tournament, and there is a good chance that winning the tournament (which they could very well face DePaul) will not only cement their status as the best team in the conference..but will also seal their second consecutive conference championship and berth in the NCAA Tournament.

2) THE CURIOUS CASE OF MARANNE JOHNSON...AND WHY SHE IS THE ANSWER THE BIG SKY IS LOOKING FOR

The Big Sky Conference has sponsored women’s basketball since 1988, absorbing the Mountain West Athletic Conference. And in the 30 years since it has had the sport, there have been a lot of very talented players to come and go.

Would it surprise you that since the WNBA started its operations in 1997, that not ONE player from the conference has ever been drafted or signed to a contract?

If it doesn’t, then allow me to make a case for why 2018 should be the year that drought comes to an end.

Maranne Johnson
The State Hornet

Sacramento State guard Maranne Johnson has been an anchor both offensively and defensively for the Hornets since making the team as a walk-on in 2014. In her freshman and sophomore years, she placed fourth in steals. Then in her junior season (2016-17), the light bulb seemed to start shining brighter.

Last season, not only did she lead her team in points, rebounds, and steals; she led the Big Sky with 3.10 3-pointers a game, and at one point led all of NCAA Division I with 4.0/g. Johnson also became the 13th 1,000-point scorer in school history (and fourth to do it in three seasons) For her efforts, she was named all-Big Sky Third Team.

And now, in her senior year, Johnson has been the primary reason behind Sac State's success. Last week, she tied the Big Sky record for points in a game (41), and earlier in the season set the school record for three-pointers made and attempted, and steals.

As she closes out her collegiate career, Johnson will end up finishing not just as the best pure shooter and defender in Sac State history, but possibly in the entire Big Sky. To give you an idea of just how dominant she was, here is a list of the categories in which she will finish among the top 10 in school or conference history (as of 2/28/18):

Points: 1,580 (3rd - Sac State)

Field goals made: 593 (4th - Sac State)

Field goal attempts: 1,581 (2nd - Sac State; currently 8th in Big Sky)

Three-pointers made: 291 (1st - Sac State; 1st - Big Sky)

Three-pointers attempted: 890 (1st - Sac State; 1st - Big Sky)

Three-pointers per game: 2.36 (1st - Sac State; currently 5th in Big Sky)

Steals: 322 (1st - Sac State; 3rd - Big Sky)

In an era where spacing and "3-and-D" players are important to team success, Johnson would fit right in with at least half of the teams in the WNBA. If she doesn't end up drafted, she should at least be brought in as a training camp invitee and given a chance to prove herself. With the Big Sky as competitive as it has ever been, Johnson's star has shone brighter than the rest.

Thank you for checking out the fifth edition of "The Triple Double", and keep an eye out on Swish Appeal for continuous coverage of the NCAA postseason tournaments.