Tuesday, January 29, 2008


January 29, 2008

South Florida looks to end their futility on the road in the Big East play when they travel to Milwaukee to take on Marquette in the Bradley Center. Expecting a win at one of the toughest venues in the conference might be a tall order, but after seeing Rutgers win at Pittsburgh, hey...you never know!

Here are some local media previews on tonight's game:

Previewing South Florida (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
Eagles Need Help on Boards (Journal-Sentinel)
Most National Pollsters Giving MU Respect (J-S)
No. 17 Marquette Looks Toward Fitzgerald to Man the Middle (CNNSI.com AP Story)
Coaches to Start Friendly Rivalry (Tampa Tribune)
Heath Kicks Bulls out of Locker Room (Tampa Tribune)

Head coaches Tom Crean and Stan Heath are very familiar with each other. They both served on the Michigan State staff that went to the Final Four in 1999 under Tom Izzo. Now, they get their first crack at each other when South Florida makes the long trip north to Milwaukee to take on the Golden Eagles.

The Bulls have yet to win a road game in their Big East conference history. While Stan Heath does nto care too much about what has happened prior to his arrivial, his players certainly are and the weight of road losses continue to build and crush any momentum the Bulls seem to earn.

Winning on the road in the Big East IS tough, but winning at the Bradley Center might be one of the most difficult tasks in the Big East. First, the crowd is very energetic for Marquette basketball and the atmosphere is great. Secondly, Marquette is very good and they are 11-0 at home this year and have a 13-game home win streak to protect.

South Florida will look to explot Marquette's soft middle with Kentrell Gransberry, amog the league leaders in scoring and rebounds. The 6'9, 270 lb Gransberry is a force inside and Marquette might have to let Gransberry get his and shut down the rest of the Bulls attack. With the advantage at every other position and one of the league's best defenders in Jerel McNeal to guard Dominique Jones, the Golden Eagles should be able to accomplish that feat.

The backcourt speed, quickness and depth of Marquette is likely to cause USF fits. Forward Lazar Hayward also has a good match-up as USF gets VERY little from their power forward position. Marquette will use Dan Fitzgerald as their 'C', but he will be used to stretch the defense and draw Gransberry from the paint. Marquette can also rotate Ousmane Barro, Dwight Burke and Lawrence Blackledge as well. Both teams are likely to combat match-up problems by using zone defenses. Marquette's perimter quickness and ability for Fitzgerald and Hayward to spot up for the 3-pt shot should help them attack the zone better than USF can.

Anything can happen in the Big East, but look for things to play out as expected tonight. Marquette is a 16-pt favorite and will likely be in control from start to finish.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Marquette 85 South Florida 66


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Friday, January 25, 2008


January 26, 2008

For the Marquette Golden Eagles, there is no doubt that the Bradley Center will be a very welcomed sight for sore eyes. Marquette, who had been ranked near the top 10 all season in the country, suffered two blowout losses on the road to Louisville and Connecticut just days apart. Now they have had six days to stew on those losses and prepare for former C-USA rival DePaul.

DePaul, along with Cincinnati, is one of the surprise teams of the Big East sitting with a 4-2 conference record. The Blue Demons also have been off a week after surviving a scare against Rutgers at home last Saturday. The Blue Demons are going to have to be ready for a big effort from Marquette this weekend.

Even though the Bradley Center is an NBA arena, it has become a GREAT college basketball atmosphere. The Golden Eagles can ride the wave of the energy produced by the crowd to make it a tough road venue for any opponent. Marquette could use the lift of the crowd as they try to get back into the thick of the Big East after the consecutive road losses.

DePaul is a young team, but since the start of the Big East they have started to settle into their roles much better. They have also learned how to close out games, something that they did not do well at all in their non-league schedule. Jabari Currie and Cliff Clinkscales have become a solid and more consistent duo at point guard. Each brings something different to the table, so coach Jerry Wainwright can mix and match based on the opponent. Draelon Burns has the green light to shoot it whenever he can and his defined role of scorer has been accepted and cherished by the senior guard. He gets a lot of help from exciting freshman Dar Tucker who is an explosive athlete and shows a knack for the big play when it is needed. Antoher senior, Karron Clarke, is another big athlete that can contribute on both ends of the court for the Blue Demons.

Where DePaul could make things tough on Marquette is inside. Mac Koshwal and Wesley Green offer a lot of size, something Marquette does not have. DePaul can also go a little bit smaller to match Marquette's preferred line-up by using Tucker and Clarke with Koshwal on the frontline. This group actually matches up well with Marquette and Will Walker adds a scoring punch to the backcourt off the bench.

Marquette will counter with an athletic and quick group of guards that will look to attack DePaul with pressure on the ball. Dominic James and Jerel McNeal are two of the best on the ball perimter defenders. Look for McNeal to be everywhere on the court that Burns is and for James and Maurice Acker to be all over the DePaul point guards. Wesley Mathews and Lazar Hayward round out the perimeter players in the starting line-up for the Golden Eagles. Mathews is a quality all-around player, but he has been quiet offensivley this season. Hayward has stepped up his game offensively, finding a comfort level that did not exist last season. Dan Fitzgerald and David Cubillan add another perimeter threat to the line-up when they are in.

Where marquette has to be careful is in the paint. Dwight Burke, Ousmane Barro and Lawrence Blackledge get most of the time in the paint and they have to battle DePaul's bigger front line. Against UConn, coach Tom Crean completely abandoned the interior, offensively and defensively, by using Dan Fitzgerald in the starting line-up. The look of three guards and two wings was hoped to spread out UConn, but the Huskies were not phased and with the Marquette perimeter shots not falling, they had nothing else to fall back on while on the road and found themselves down 67-38 miday through the second half.

Back home and in their comfort zone, I look for Marquette to pressure DePaul into early mistakes with an all out defensive blitz. Dominic Jame's bad wrist is worrisome, but he can contribute in other ways and if he can fuel the offense with dribble penetration and kick out to open shooters, they could be better off.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Marquette 78 DePaul 61


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Thursday, January 17, 2008


January 17, 2008

The highlight of tonight's schedule brings together two former rivals from Conference USA as Marquette travels to Freedom Hall to take on the Louisville Cardinals.

After dropping their conference opener at home against Cincinnati, Louisville has won their last two Big East games, beating West Virginia at home and getting the win at Rutgers last weekend.

Marquette is one of the many tied atop the conference at 3-1 and looks to make their break from the pack. The Golden Eagles are coming off a 92-66 thumping of Notre Dame and also owns home wins over Seton Hall and Providence. Their lone conference defeat came at West Virginia.

Here are the local media previews of tonight's game:

Marquette Will Try to Steal One (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Marquette Men's Basketball Preview (post-Crescent)
Eagles Can Make Move in Big East (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
Looking at louisville (Journal-Sentinel)
cards Eyeing 'Big-Time' Win Over Marquette (Kentucky.com)

We are waiting for someone to make a statement in the Big East and show they are serious about winning this conference. Marquette has just that opportunity tonight when they travel to face Louisville in a Big East conference game.

For the Cards, if they hope to compete for the conference crown, these are they games they must win, on their home floor against other good teams. We are still waiting for Louisville to show us how good they are, but with David Padgett and Juan Palacios back in the line-up, the Cards could be hitting their stride soon.

The strength of the Marquette squad is obviously in their guards. With Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews the Marquette guard trio is among the best in the country. It doesn't stop there, Maurice Acker and David Cubillan are very capable back-ups each adding a distinct role to the rotation.

At the forward spot, Lazar Hayward and Dan Fitzgerald are far from proto-type Big East power forwards. However, they each create match-up problems for most opponents with their inside-out talents. That probably will not be as much of an advantage against a team like Louisville who also has a pair of versatile big forwards in Juan Palacios and Earl Clark to match-up with Hayward and Fitzgerald. The Cardinals are still trying to sort out their rotation with the talent they possess, so they have not been as consistent as they should since the return of Palacios and David Padgett from injuries. Padgett teams up with Derrick Caracter in the post for coach Rick Pitino and Marquette counters with their two-headed center tandem of Dwight Burke and Ousmane Barro. On paper, Louisville should be able to take full advantage in the paint with their depth and talent.

That leaves the Louiville guards. The trio of Edgar Sosa, Jerry Smith and Andre McGee will have their hands full with Marquette. Terrence Williams should do well against Wesley Mathews and find his opportunities to shine, but coach Pitino will need his guards to be at their best in terms of decision making and shot selection. Louisville has some clear advantages in the game and it will be up to their guards to take take advantage of the opportunities.

I expect the Cards to learn from other teams that have played Marquette and use several different defenses, but mostly find themselves in a zone. The zone will cut down on the MU dribble penetration and force them to make perimeter shots on the road, a tough task.

This promises to be a very good game. Marquette will try to steal this one with pressure on the ball from their guards, but Louisville, a 2.5-pt home favorite, knows the importance of winning at home in the conference, especially after letting the game with Cincinnati get away.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Louisville 66 Marquette 64


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Friday, January 11, 2008


January 12, 2008

One of two marquee match-ups in the Big East on Saturday afternoon pits the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame against the Marquette Golden Eagles at the Bradley Center. Notre Dame is one of just two conference unbeatens left, but this is their FIRST true road game of the season. They have played 10 home games and four neutral site games, so venturing to the Bradley Center is a tough first road test for ANY team.

Here are the local media previews on the game:

Small fries Staple of Marquette Diet (Chicago Tribune)
Marquette Basketball Preview (Post-Crescent)
MU Has Sizable Challenge (Journal-Sentinel)
McAlarney, Irish Set for Road Test (South Bend Tribune)

Marquette has won their first two home contests in Big East play, blowing out a short-handed Providence team and escaping a fiesty Seton Hall squad when they might have been looking ahead to this match-up. Marquette also lost in their only conference road game at West Virginia.

In their last two games, the Golden Eagles struggled mightily against zone defenses. West Virginia tripped them up by mixing in a triangle and two defense and Seton Hall used several types of zones that kept Marquette on the perimeter, rather than attacking the basket.

One word of caution, if you decide to pack in the zone, make sure you know where Dan Fitzgerald is, especially if he makes his first shot or two. Fitzgerald hit four three's to account for all 12 of his points against SHU, including a dagger with 10 seconds left to clinch the 61-56 victory.

I expect Notre Dame to definitely follow the defensive script set by SHU and WVU and go zone against MU. Notre Dame really does not have the perimeter depth or speed to match-up man to man for 40 minutes, but they do have the size advantage to rebound effectively out of that defense.

Kyle McAlarney lit up UConn in ND's last win for 32 points. He has also accumulated 14 assists in two conference games, turning it over just once. However, on Saturday, one of the nation's top defensive guards, Jerel McNeal, will be shadowing McAlarney's every move. Do not expect McNeal to give any good looks up easily on his home floor.

In ND's win over West Virginia, the Irish showed they could prevail without a big game from the perimeter as Luke Harangody bulled his way to 29 points and 16 rebounds. He should be able to find success against a small-ish Marquette frontline. Harangody struggled against the size of UConn (5-23), but he shoud find this one a little more to his liking.

This is going to come down to how well Marquette solves the Irish zone. They also need to create a tempo in their favor with pressuring defense on the ball. This will also make it difficult for the Irish guards to easily feed Harangody inside. With a lot of attention focused on Harangody, you can not forget about Rob Kurz either.

Playing their first true road game is a tough task to ask a team to pull out a win in the Bradley Center. I think it will be a very good game, especially once Notre Dame finds their footing in the different environment, but the adjustment will leave them with too tall of a defecit to climb. The Marquette ball pressure from Dominic James, McNeal and a very deep stable of guards will limit ND's effective perimeter attack.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Marquette 73 Notre Dame 66


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Monday, January 07, 2008


January 8, 2008

Tom Crean was not a hapy basketball coach following his team's 79-64 loss on Sunday at West Virginia. The Marquette coach was upset with his player's effort, when a coach calls out his team's effort, you expect to see a big improvement in that area in their next game.

Seton Hall lost thier conference opener a week ago, 98-86, at home to Connecticut. Over the weekend, the Pirates picked up a non-conference victory over Morgan State, 89-81, ridig the hot hand of senior Jamar Nutter, who scored 29 points.

Both teams like to play fast and are very perimeter oriented. Marquette, of course, is led by the dynamic guard trio of Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews. The trio plays both ends of the court, excelling offensively and defensively. They will put pressure on the defense all game long by attacking off the dribble. In two conference games, James has not committed a turnover while dishing out 11 assists to go with the 31 points he has scored.

The Marquette interior game is not one that is feared by too many teams. Ousmane Barro and Dwight Burke split time at center. They combined for 16 pts and 11 rebounds against Providence and nine points and 10 rebounds against WVU.

The forward position is manned by Lazar Hayward with veteran Dan Fitzgerald providing depth behind him. Hayward is one of the most improved players in the league and his 15 PPG in two conference games has shown how much more of a part of the offense he is this season. He was limited by foul trouble in Sunday's loss, playing just 17 minutes (scoring 13 points), and that was a key factor in their loss.

Sometimes Marquette even goes with a 4-guard look with David Cubillan or Maurice Acker on the floor as well. Their backcourt is strong and deep, but they are vulnerable in the paint and on the boards (they had just 5 rebounds in the 2nd half as a team against WVU).

Seton Hall is not likely a team to take advantage of the Marquette shortcomings. Seton Hall will have no interest in slowing the game down to play halfcourt because the Pirates want to be playing fast and furious. The pace could bother some teams, but I do not expect it to unnerve the Golden Eagles in any way.

Seton Hall will try to press often, but without their top defensive guard, Paul Gause, their press will lose a big part of its effectiveness. Once the press is broken, Seton Hall generally lacks a defensive stopper waiting at the basket. Augustine Okosun, Mike Davis and John Garcia form a three-headed monster at the center position with Garcia seeing most of the time. Garcia is a solid big man that knows his limitations, but the uptempo game might not be the best fit for him and he is definitely not the intimidating factor waiting for opponents at the rim. Okosun and Davis add more in the way of shot-blocking, but less in terms of defense, rebounding and offense.

Brian Laing and Eugene Harvey continue to lead the Pirates and they will be face a team that can match their quickness equally. They have help on the perimter with Jamar Nutter and Jeremy Hazell, both capable of scoring in a hurry from the arc, but Seton Hall is far from a strong team on the defensive end of the court.

Seton Hall is going to have their hands full at the Bradley Center facing a Marquette squad that will be playing with quite a chip on their shoulder after Sunday's effort, or lack thereof. Seton Hall plays a style that works really well for Marquette and should let the Golden Eagles score a lot of points.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Marquette 93 Seton Hall 73


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Friday, January 04, 2008


January 6, 2008

The air out of the West Virginia balloon was let out a bit when Notre Dame dominated them inside and shut down their perimeter offense. While Marquette might not have the same interior strength, their perimter defense will be much tougher than what WVU saw on Thursday.

Marquette sent a message to the rest of the Big East with Thursday's drubbing of Providence, now they will try to do the same on the road and cement their status as a conference favorite, and impressive win here, and maybe they are THE favorite.

Neither team has much inside, but Marquette's Ousmane Barro showed some signs against Providence that he is ready to step up his game. West Virginia really does not even have anyone as good as him inside, so they Golden Eagles are not at a disadvantage inside as they are against many conference foes.

West Virginia's best player is at the forward spot, Joe Alexander. He is very athletic and WVU likes to lean on him often. However, the improvement of Lazar Hayward at Marquette from his freshman to sophomore season has been impressive and I think he will relish in the assignment of slowing down Alexander, who was largely invisible against Notre Dame.

Then there is the backcourt trios. Darris Nichols, Alex Ruoff and DaSean Butler is a very underrated and under-appreicated group. Joe Mazzulla provides solid depth. However, that group will have their hands full, and then some, with Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews on both ends of the floor.

Marquette is deeper in the backcourt with Maurice Acker and David Cubillan, they also have role players in Dwight Burke and Dan Fitzgerald in the mix. West Virginia can also bring Wellington Smith and John Flowers off the bench to add some length and athletic ability.

After their loss to Notre Dame, Marquette might be the last team WVU wants to see. Their perimeter orientated attack now has to go up against the best perimeter defensive team that will pressure the ball and defend the arc. Having not much to worry about inside plays right into Marquette's hands and WVU is not a strong rebounding team either.

After this weekend, Marquette establishes themselves as the team to beat early on.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Marquette 73 West Virginia 65


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Thursday, January 03, 2008


January 3, 2008

For the second year in a row, Marquette and Providence open up Big East play facing each other. Here are the local updates on the game found on the internet:

Friars Counting on Efejuku to Take it to the Limit (Providence Journal)
Marquette Game Preview (Post-Crescent)
Eagles Have Pieces to Fly High in Big East (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
PC at Marquette (Providence Journal)

And, for the second consecutive season, Providence enters the game without Sharaud Curry. Last season the Friars upset Marquette (who was without Jerel McNeal) as Curry sat out for disciplinary reasons, this year PC goes to Milwaukke to open the Big East and Curry remains out with a foot injury suffered in the preseason.

Providence has been using a guard-heavy line-up often in their out of conference schedule, but tonight those guards will be tested by one of the nation's best trio of guards and deepest guard groups. Juniors Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews are as good as any guard group and sophomores Maurice Acker and David Cubillan add quality depth behind the first wave.

The player who might be taking Marquette to another level is sophomore Lazar Hayward, a 6'6 forward, who is averaging 13 PPG and gives Tom Crean's club another offensive option who can score in a variety of ways to compliment the guards. They still do not have much of a post scoring threat, where Dwight Burke and Ousmane Barro are mainly used for defense and rebounding. Also coming back from injury and off the bench is Dan Fitzgerald, a 3-pt threat at the forward position.

Burke and Barro will be taking turns guarding Randall Hanke, the redshirt junior who has gone from hardly playing at all the first half of the OOC schedule to starting and playing well, offensively at least, in the last several games. Hanke is shooting 73% from the floor, but the Big East will call for more physical tests so we will see how Hanke fares right away. Jonathan Kale and Ray Hall also split time in the post, but neither have shown any consistency since the real games have begun, Kale was expected to take a big step forward this season, but it has not translated in game action.

The Friars rely on their guards, with Curry out, Dwain Williams has assumed the PG duties and he has been solid. He came to PC last year with the rep of a scorer, but he has improved his distribution skills. Three-point threats Brian McKenzie and Manhattan-transfer Jeff Xavier can really stroke the three-ball and will be watched closely by the Marquette guards. Weyinmi Efejuku has been giving the Friars a spark off the bench and they will need him to play a very good game on offense and defense against the Marquette guards. Geoff McDermott is a forward that is a tough match-up for anyone, but Marquette uses a similar line-up as the Friars and can negate some of his match-up problems he usually creates.

With a crowd of 18,000+, look for MU to be raring to go tonight. The on the ball pressure applied by James and McNeal and the athletic and strong play of Mathews and Hayward should cause the PC offense to struggle. Without Curry to handle the ball and break down the defense, it might be a long night for PC as 12-pt underdogs.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Marquette 85 Providence 70


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