BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: MARQUETTE @ VILLANOVA
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
Labels: 2007-2008 Game Previews