#4 Villanova Wildcats (16-2) vs. Marquette Golden Eagles (11-8)
When: Saturday, January 25, 2 p.m.
Where: BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Marquette’s Previous Season Record: 26-9, Lost to Syracuse in Elite Eight of NCAA Tournament
Key Players for Marquette: #54 Davante Gardner (6-8, 290) Sr., F; #0 Jamil Wilson (6-7, 230) Sr., F; #42 Chris Otule (6-11, 275) Sr., C
Scouting Report: A lot has changed for Marquette and Villanova since the preseason to this point in time. Marquette was coming off of an Elite Eight appearance and was projected to be at the top of the new Big East. As for Villanova, they were ranked fourth, barely receiving more votes than the likes of St. John’s and Providence. As of right now the roles are reversed, Villanova is hovering around the top, as Marquette lies somewhere in the middle of the pack. They are a much different team than they were last year. However, this does not mean that they should be overlooked or disregarded. This is a team that returns talent and some veterans from that Elite Eight run. They are better than what their record suggests, at least when it comes to defending their homefront.
Out of their seven losses, only one of them was a true home loss (Ohio State, where they lost 52-35). The rest were on the road or at a neutral site. Marquette also suffered from “biting off a little more than they could chew,” as they scheduled multiple ranked teams and programs that are typically NCAA Tournament teams on their non-conference schedule. They are 0-3 against ranked teams and took a tumble during the non-conference part of their schedule. They are 8-1 at home and that’s the alarming figure as they will be hosting the Wildcats.
Davante Gardner and Chris Otule will look to lockdown the paint on both ends and give JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu a hard time. Teams that have the size and strength to boast in the post have shown that if they clog the inside and refrain from fouling they can limit Pinkston (Syracuse). Gardner stands at 6-foot-8 and 290 pounds, he is a bruiser inside and is the top scorer with 14.2 points per game and averages 5.8 rebounds per game. He is rather efficient inside, shooting around 53% on the floor. Otule is more of a defensive force, he has more length than Gardner, but does not produce as much on offense as he does. Otule is currently fourth on the all time list of Marquette shot blockers. Jamil Wilson is another forward that makes his presence known on the offensive side. As the second highest scorer with 11.6 points per game, he is a slasher and they like to run some iso plays through him. He isn’t the greatest at the free throw line (63.8%), this hinders him from being truly effective. He is still dangerous, but it could be a lot worse. Other players to keep an eye for are guards Jake Thomas and Todd Mayo. Thomas is a senior guard who is on his second year at Marquette after transferring from South Dakota. Thomas can quietly chip in a double digit game, but not at a consistent rate. Mayo can provide a spark off the bench, but in the last two games he has been a little quiet. Don’t be surprised if he starts finding his way to the basket again. One of Marquette’s issues as a team, is that they aren’t exactly a long range threat. They do not have any three point shooting threats nor do they have the ability to make those baskets consistently. They shoot 30.4% from beyond the arc as a team, with Thomas (38.5%) and Mayo (32.6%) as their best.
Outlook: Marquette is tough at home, and they can give Villanova a hard time. Jay Wright has been pleased with practice this week and he and his team are excited to come and shake away any chances of dropping another game. Marquette is a team that likes to take it inside, so if Villanova can cut off those backdoor cuts or passes inside, the Golden Eagles will be pushed back on their heels the whole game. Force Marquette to look outside, its a much more favorable situation to have them take the outside shot where they are not as competent. They do not have surefire shooters like Creighton or some of the other fine perimeter shooting teams the Wildcats have faced this season. They are a little one dimensional. Our big men will be tested, and we cannot afford to have Ochefu in foul trouble. We can easily heat up from three point range, and hopefully there will not be the misfortune of shots rimming in and out. Our offense we can do multiple things, we can have different people lead the scoring duties. This game will possibly come down to the play in the paint on both ends of the court, it will be a physical one. Maybe they limit our inside game but if we can get to the line by driving the ball in or our men getting hacked, that will make a difference. We can sink our free throws, them… not so much.