Marquette @ Villanova Preview
Today’s entry will be in regards to the Marquette-Villanova game. Marquette comes into the game after suffering their first Big East road loss to South Florida last Friday. The #12 Golden Eagles (20-3, 9-1) will try to avoid losing two in a row for the first time all season and bounce back against a Villanova team (19-4, 7-3) that has won five straight, including wins over Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Last month Marquette defeated the Wildcats 79-72 at the Bradley Center to open up the Big East season. Marquette stands to face a much tougher test playing at The Pavilion, where Villanova has won 25 straight.
In tonight’s game, I like the Villanova Wildcats to come out firing at the Marquette Golden Eagles. Dante Cunningham will go up against a struggling Lazar Hayward, who has struggled the last few games, and force Marquette to play zone, leaving sharpshooters Scottie Reynolds (36% 3PT) and Corey Stokes (42% 3PT) open for jump shots. Cunningham had a very quiet 16 point, 8 rebound performance in the last meeting and I would look for him to take more advantage of Marquette’s weakness in the post tonight. In Nova’s loss to Marquette, the Wildcats shot just 6-20 from long distance, with Reynolds missing some easy looks in the last couple of minutes. Look for those shots to drop tonight if indeed Marquette has to move to a 2-3 zone look. While the zone may have worked vs. South Florida, Villanova is too quick to go along with the prescense of Cunningham inside.
As for Marquette, their offense begins and ends with Jerel McNeal. When he fouled out of Friday night’s loss to South Florida in the final minute, MU’s offense looked lost and confused, culminating in a wild layup by Wesley Matthews, that looked more like he was trying to draw a foul, and a desparate putback attempt by Lazar Hayward. McNeal is averaging 24 points per game in his last seven contests and will need to be on target if the Golden Eagles want to stay in this game. The veteran leadership of McNeal, Matthews, and James in the backcourt has been talked about all year, but it will be interesting to see how they step up under pressure, coming off their first loss. Unfortuantely, the wins over Notre Dame and Georgetown do not look as impressive as once thought as they are both out of the top 25, but a win tonight over a red hot Villanova team at The Pavillion could give the Golden Eagles their first spotlight win.
Vegas has this game at Villanova -5 which I think is a little too high. With these teams being so similar in their tempo and size, along with Marquette winning the first duel, this one could come down to who has the ball last. I like Villanova in the game but will gladly take the 5 points and Marquette.
Post-Game analysis to come later…
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