Monday, February 25, 2008


February 25, 2008

In a matter of a few short weeks, Villanova has bounced back off rock bottom to put themselves back into the NCAA Tournament mix. After losing 77-55 to city rival St. Joseph's, the Wildcats had a five-game losing streak and were 3-6 in the Big East. Talk of the NCAA Tournament was erased from the minds of Villanova fans in replace of hoping they would make the Big East Tournament. However, four wins in their last five games have given Villanova new hope and their win over UConn Saturday adds to their momentum.

Tonight's guest for Villanova is the Golden Eagles of Marquette. Tom Crean's club has won four in a row, all rather comfortably and have positioned themselves solidly in 5th place in the Big East. They have a tough closing three game stretch in the conference (home game with Georgetown sandwiched between road trips to Villanova and Syracuse), but if someone was to falter among the top four, Marquette could steal a bye.

Here are the local media game stories and previews for tonight's game:

The 'D' returns for Wildcats (Phillyburbs.com)
Marquette Men's Basketball Preview (Appleton Post-Crescent)
Eagles Pecial Reserve (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
UConn Win Bolsters 'Nova (Inquirer)

The oddsmakers have pegged the game as a pick-em, but the line has moved to Marquette's favor as they are now listed as 1.5-pt favorites in tonight's Big East contest.

Each team relies heavily on their backcourts to win basketball games. Much has been written about the trip of Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews for Marquette, but if your not careful, Lazar Hayward is the one that will beat you. The sophomore forwards has really come into his own as a scoring threat this season and holds his own defensively against bigger frontcourts in the Big East. The Golden Eagles have also gotten more consistent production and play from senior Ousmane Barro in the post and the addition of freshman Trevor Mbakwe from injury gives them another physical and athletic post presence that they definitely needed.

However, the game will likely be decided on who comes out on top in the match-up of guards. I like Marquette's chances because of the defensive pressure they will apply to Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher when they have the ball. I expect them to force a lot of challenged shots. Corey Stokes has shown the three-point stroke he came to Villanova with the reputation of having of late, so the secret is out and look for Marquette to extend the defense and be up under him at all times.

Villanova has a capable forward trio in Antonio Pena, Dante Cunningham and Shane Clark and depth in the middle with Casseim Drummond, but often the frontcourt is forgotton about as VU attacks with their guards. The emergence of Dwayne Anderson has also give the Wildcats a lift. Their offense really needs a shooter like Anderson or Stokes to be a threat from the outside to be the most effective as they rely on a lot of one-on-one dribble penetration from the guards and the kick-out safety valve is needed.

Villanova got a huge win over Connecticut on Saturday, but the deeper guard line-up of Marquette will really challenge the Wildcats' strengths tonight. Look for Marquette to set the tone tonight on defense, limiting easy shots on the perimeter. Marquette's offense has been clicking lately with excellent ball movement for easy baskets, I think that will continue against Villanova tonight. Villanova will likely play zone and force Marquette to make perimeter jumpers. Marquette does have a habit of going cold, if they do, Villanova will be in it to the end. I predict Marquette makes enough from the perimeter to stay out in front and hold on for a tough road win.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Marquette 72 Villanova 65


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Wednesday, February 20, 2008


February 20, 2008

Marquette has won two in a row impressively and now they head out on the road to take on St. John's. The Redstorm have followed their three-game winning streak with back-to-back losses where they scored a combined 85 points.

Here are the local media previews and game stories on tonight's contest:

Stepping into the Fray (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
Storm Read for a Rumble (NY Post)

The Golden Eagles are coming off their punishing of Pittsburgh Friday night and now look to finish the Big East schedule strong. It was an up and down first 2/3 of the conference schdule for Tom Crean's club, but wins over Seton Hall and Pitt in impressive fashion look to have righted the MU ship.

St. John's, well...their young squad has certainly taken their lumps. A three-game winning streak over South Florida, Rutgers and Providence showed the team is capable of gutting out a few wins, but their last two have been more of the same. Their young squad is very prone to horrendous offensive play against solid defensive teams, so the ball pressure that Marquette will apply will make scoring a very difficult chore for the 'storm tonight.

Marquette definitely is not the prettiest team to watch. They extend ball pressyre with physical guards. Not a great shooting team by any means, Marquette likes to attack the basket for their points in transition or in the halfcourt. A team in a zone with long and athletic players could give them fits (Louisville, UConn), but that is not the make-up of St. John's.

Marquette is about an 8-pt favorite, and with how difficult it will be for SJU to score points, I think the Golden Eagles cruise past that number.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Marquette 70 St. John's 58


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Friday, February 15, 2008


February 15, 2008

The Big East gives us a nationally televised Friday Night special as Pittsburgh travels to the Bradley Center in Milwaukee to meet Marquette. The Panthers have a 1/2 game lead on the Golden Eagles for 5th place in the conference standings, so this is an important game in the standings in what has quickly become a very competitive rivalry in the two+ seasons since Marquette has joined the Big East. Marquette has won three of the five meetings with an OT victory at the Pete and two other wins that have come right down to the final minute at the Bradley Center.

Here are the local media previews and stories on tonight's game:

MU Can Keep Progressing by Pushing Past Pitt (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
Pitt's Dixon Far From Satisfied (Tribune Review)
Pitt Begins Grueling Stretch (Tribune-Review)
Final Four Team to be Honored (Journal-Sentinel)
Fields' Return Buoys Pitt's Big East Hopes (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

The Bradley Center should be in a frenzy with Pitt coming to town for a national television audience for a Friday night match-up. As if they needed any additional excitement, Marquette will honor the 2002-2003 NCAA Final Four squad at halftime. That team was led by Dwyane Wade, Steve Novak and Travis Diener.

This is an important judgement game for the Golden Eagles. We are still trying to determine how good this team is. While many teams in the Big East have been battling the injury big and breaking in new players, the Golden Eagles have been pretty healthy since the season began with a line-up that returned pretty much intact from last season. They spent much of the early season ranked around the top 10, but in recent weeks they have fallen down in the polls as they have been beaten badly by the likes of Connecticut, West Virginia and Louisville two times, by an average of 16 points. They were able to snap a two-game losing streak by running Seton Hall out of their own building with a full 40 minute effort that saw them defending and rebounding with renewed energy and effort. They will look to carry-over that effort tonight.

Over the last two seasons, no team has been a tougher match-up for the Panthers than Marquette. The Golden Eagles' attack is centered around their three-guard attack of Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wes Mathews. The trio's quickness and speed gives any backcourt difficulty and Pittsburgh's backcourt has been short-handed for the past seven weeks due to the injury of Levance Fields. The junior point guard Fields is expected to play tonight, his first action since December 29th, but there probably is not a tougher game to get back into action for a guard than this one.

Marquette does struggle shooting the ball and teams have found success playing a variety of zones and forcing Marquette to play at a slower pace and rely on their inconsistent perimeter attack. They have Dan Fitzgerald and David Cubillan off the bench to knock down the three's, but they give up something in other areas with them on the floor (rebounding, defense). Pittsburgh, however, is a tough as nails man-to-man defensive team. That is their identity and Jamie Dixon is not one to often vary from that plan. Playing a zone could allow Pitt to go with a big line-up against Marquette and try to dominate the paint and the boards.

Marquette will be challenged by Pittsburgh's strength inside. DeJuan Blair will look to be physical inside against Ousmane Barro to score around the basket and control the defensive glass. Sam Young and Lazar Hayward might be the key match-up of the night. If Hayward can be similarly production as Young, Marquette's chances are great. If Young gets to the foul line and Hayward is in foul trouble, it could mean big trouble for MU as they do not likely have another forward on their roster to guard Young.

Keys for Pitt include Blair staying out of foul trouble and getting some perimeter scoring from senior gaurds Ronald Ramon and Keith Benjamin. Both players have played well in the 12 games since Fields have been injured, as they have persevered through their own ailments. Ramon has a bad shoulder and Benjamin cut his shooting hand a few weeks ago and his perimeter shot has not been the same. If he can regain that touch, and with the return of Fields, the Pitt backcourt suddenly becomes one to fear as well.

Marquette is a 4.5-pt favorite tonight and the history of these two teams indicates a game played relatively close to that number. The return of Fields is likely to give the Panthers a bit of an emotional lift and he is their leader on the court with his play and his fire. Marquette is eager to prove that they are a team that will contend for a Big East title down the stretch and closer to a top-10 calibre team. They know they need to beat some big players in the game and this would definitely qualify.

With the Friday night crowd howling behind them, look for the Golden Eagles to get a tough and important conference win.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Marquette 72 Pittsburgh 66


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Tuesday, February 12, 2008


February 12, 2008

Only one game separates Marquette and Seton Hall in the Big East standings as they two teams prepare for a rematch of a very close contest from earlier in the season. Seton Hall led for much of th egame at the Bradley Center back in January and took Marquette to the wire in a heated and intense contest that had the coaching exchanging barbs during the game and a hard foul by Jamar Nutter on Dominic James.

As they prepare for the rematch, here are the local media previews and stories on the game:

Marquette Basketball Preview (Appleton Crescent)
Seton Hall Keeps its Focus on Big East Tourney (Star Ledger)
A Quick Looks at Seton Hall (Providence Journal)
Hayward Makes Big Gains in Sophomore Season (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Seton Hall-Marquette Scouting Report (Courier News)

A couple teams trying to end losing skids meet at the Pridential Center in Newark (NJ) tonight. Seton Hall has lost three in a row and Marquette has dropped a pair. The Pirates pushed Tom Crean's club to the limit in an earlier meeting this season, before losing 61-56 when Dan Fitzgerald iced the contest with a three-pointer as the shot clock expired in the games' final moments. Marquette overcame a 32.8% shooting performance as a series of zones used by Bobby Gonzalez and his Pirates slowed the Marquette attack and forced them to become a jump-shooting team. The Pirates will look to do the same tonight and hope that Jeremy Hazell heats up in his home building and improves on his 1-5 showing in the first meeting.

These teams are pretty similar in terms of personnell. Each team uses three guards and a wing at the power forward slot. They both also cover the post position by committee and would not hesitate to go smaller if they need to.

Marquette has the edge in experience and big-game success, while the Pirates are still trying to create their identity in the Big East. Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews can play both ends of the floor as well as anyone, but look for Eugene Harvey, Jamar Nutter and Hazell to be pumped up for the match-up. Brian Laing is Seton Hall's go-to guy on offense and will be matched with the rapidly improving Lazar Hayward at the forward spot. This is an excellent match-up as both players like to face up and shoot the ball or take it to the basket. In the post, neither really has a player to consistently rely on, but Ousmane Barro has been showing signs of stepping his game up. John Garcia is definitely a load inside, but a gimpy knee and his conditioning will hold him back.

Marquette is a sligh 2.5-pt favorite and both teams should play with plenty of intensity and emotion. If one team doesn't bring that energy level, they will not be able to win tonight. Assuming both teams are ready to play, I think Marquette is the better team overall. Barring Jeremy Hazell going completely off down the stretch of a close game, I think Marquette does enough on the defensive end to come up with another tough win in this match-up.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Marquette 72 Seton Hall 66


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Friday, February 08, 2008


February 9, 2008

The Notre Dame home winning streak gets one of its toughest tests yet as the Irish host Tom Crean's Marquette Golden Eagles on Saturday afternoon. With the Irish coming off one of their best performances of the season, a 95-69 win over Seton Hall, and Marquette coming off one of their worst, a 71-57 loss at home to Louisville, it will be interesting to see how each team responds from very different experiences.

One thing on the mind of the Notre Dame players to keep them from relaxing going in this game is the memory of Marquette's 92-66 drubbling of the Irish back in January at the Bradley Center. Marquette was all over the court that afternoon, forcing Notre Dame into 24 turnovers and shooting 50% from beyond the arc with 12 made three's. Was that really the same Marquette team that struggles so much shooting from the perimter?

Even in their defeat in the last meeting, Luke Harangody was dominate inside, scoring 29 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Against Marquette's soft interior, look for similar success inside again on Saturday.

What Notre Dame has to do a better job in is defending Jerel McNeal and Lazar Hayward as the Irish had little luck defending the pair in the first meeting. McNeal and hayward combined for 35 points while forcing Kyle McAlarney and Rob Kurz to shoot 6-16 from the floor and commit a combined 10 turnovers, clearly winning that match-up.

Notre Dame will almost certainly settle into a zone defense and dare Marquette to shoot the ball that well again. The Irish do not have the lenght and athleticism that UConn and Louisville have that have given the Golden Eagles so much trouble this season. However, they can provide a similar challenge to what West Virginia did when MU lost in Morgantown.

Both teams should have plenty of motivation in this one. If Kyle McAlarney provides the outside threat to Luke Harangody's inside dominance, Notre Dame should continue their home win streak. It will not be easy as Marquette provides a challenge to the Notre Dame guards that they could be vulnerable to.

I expect a back and forth game, but when it settles into crunch time, Marquette will not have the answer to keep Harangody from scoring.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Notre Dame 74 Marquette 70


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Monday, February 04, 2008


February 4, 2008

Conference positioning is at stake as Louisville and Marquette both look to break from the masses in the middle of the conference and solidify position for one of the four Big East Tournament byes. The Cardinals beat Marquette in Freedom Hall back in January, 71-51, and the Golden Eagles will look for revenge tonight.

Here are the local media previews on tonight's Big Monday match-up:

Cards on their Mark, Set to Go to Marquette (Louisville Courier-Journal)
MU Rivalry With Louisville Has Developed into a Classic (Journal-Sentinel)
Cards Start Big Week at Marquette (Kentucky.com)
cards Better Be Ready for Primetime (Courier-Journal)

It is a VERY big week for the Louisville Cardinals, beginning tonight as part of Big Monday on ESPN when they travel to meet Marquette and ending late Saturday night with a ESPN Primetime showdown with league-leading Georgetown. The Cards enter tonight's contest at 6-3 in the conference and the second half of their conference schedule is definitely among the toughest in the league.

Marquette played strong and came up with a conference road win, dispatching Cincinnati 75-60 on Saturday. Marquette has now won three in a row in the Big East and got the monkey off their back by winning a Big East game on the road. Like the Louisville schedule, things do not get any easier for Marquette as the Big East heads towards March.

In their prior meeting, Marquette put forth a dismal offensive display, shooting 30% overall from the field, which included an o-fer (0-12) from beyond the arc. The Cards also battered Marquette on the boards, outrebounding Tom Crean's squad 49-34. Terrence Williams (20 pts) and David Padgett (17 pts, 10 rebounds) led the way for the Cards. The Marquette offense was so bad they registered just two assists in the entire game against 13 turnovers, seven of which were committed by Jerel McNeal (16 pts).

Marquette is coming off what is likely their best performance of the season, a 75-60 win at Cincinnati. Ousmane Barro, who has largely been invisible this season, stepped up and scored a season-high 19 pts and added 10 rebounds as the Golden Eagles won the battle of the boards as well. Lazar Hayward also scored 19 in the win. Jerel McNeal scored 13 points, added 7 assists and did not commit a single turnover.

Marquette will need another strong effort from Barro against the big and deep Louisville frontcourt. The Cards have a senior duo of Padgett and Juan Palacios along with a sophomore pair of Derrick Caracter and Earl Clark to face Barro, Dwight Burke and the small forward pair of Lazar Hayward and Dan Fitzgerald that masquerade as power forwards in the Marquette attack. Their lack of size in many instances is covered up by their deep and talented group of guards led by McNeal, Dominic James and Wesley Mathews, who all have help from Maurice Acker and David Cubillan off the bench.

Louisville's backcourt is manned by Jerry Smith, a Wisconsin native who was Louisville's hero in last season's thrilling win in the Bradley Center, Edgar Sosa and Andre McGee. This group, along with super-athletic junior wing Terrence Williams demolished Rutgers, forcing them into 24 turnovers, 87-50 over the weekend as the Cards looked like a classic Rick Pitino club flying all over the court.

If Louisville is going to take their place as the challenger to Georgetown that everyone expected in the preseason, this is the week to do it. Marquette will definitely have something to say about that as the Golden Eagles were also expected to challenge. Marquette is a 3.5-pt favorite tonight on their home floor and the Bradley Center crowd should have Marquette amped. The energy buzz that the crowd should provide the home team should allow the defensive clamps to be put down on the perimeter, making it tough for Louisville to take advantage of their front court advantage. If Marquette can make just enough from the perimeter, they should fend off Louisville in a spirited match-up.

NBE Blogger's Prediction: Marquette 69 Louisville 66


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Friday, February 01, 2008


February 2, 2008

Saturday's action with an extremely interesting game to dissect. Marquette hits the road to meet the Bearcats of Cincinnati in a Big East battle that was a heated C-USA rivalry previously. Marquette is coming off an uninspiring 62-54 win over South Florida. Marquette has not been shooting the ball well lately and they have virtually given up any hope of an inside game.

Cincinnati is coming off a stunning 62-39 win at West Virginia. The victory was definitely a surprise, but the complete offensive meltdown by the Mountaineers was historical in nature. Cincinnati limited WVU to 10-50 shooting from the field and 1-20 from the 3-pt arc.

Marquette has yet to win on the road in Big East play. They have lost at West Virginia, Louisville and Connecticut and none of the games have been really close. The loss at WVU was close throughout until a late run by WVU made it look worse than it was, but by the same token, the 16-pt loss to UConn was not nearly that close.

What has made Cincinnati so tough is that they have embraced the defensive-first mentality that Mick Cronin has gotten them to use to win games. This is not an extremely talented group offensively, but they are athletic and strong at most positions. They have some experience and a lot of youth, but they have found a style that works to win games and have used it well.

Their big threat offensively is Deonta Vaughn who can put up some relly big scoring numbers. He will be matched against the tough Marquette backcourt and this could slow him down. When Vaughn is struggling to score points, Cincinnati also struggles. The Bearcats have continued to win, however, because they have brought forth the effort defensively and on the boards more consistently than last season.

Rebounding is a big area of concern for Tom Crean when it comes to his club. In fact, it looks like he has just given up, for the most part, in trying to find a big man that will defend the post and rebound and is now using a line-up of his three stud guards and a couple wing forwards, Lazar Hayward and Dan Fitzgerald, in the frontcourt to fill most of the minutes. The backcourt is deep with Maurice Acker and David Cubillan behind Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews and they will look to hound Vaughn on the perimeter and make life difficult for Jamual Warren handling the ball. UC will try and make this group beat them from shooting outside and will likely to go zone to stop the dribble penetration of the MU guards. The Golden Eagles will have to prove to teams they can make the shots to defeat a zone.

I see this game being played right into the hands of Cincinnait. Low pace, low scoring with the Bearcats and Golden Eagles in a race to get to 60. Cincinnati won at Louisville playing this style and beat Pittsburgh at home in this manner.

Marquette is going to come motivated for a road win. Being 0-3 on the road in the Big East has many questioning the quality of the team. I think they will produce enough offense from their defense to pull the game out, but it will be the proverbial Big East 'rock fight', I am sure.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Marquette 61 Cincinnati 58


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