We are having some technical difficulties this weekend, so we are publishing an abbreviated game preview, sans pictures.
The unranked Cats (7-6, 0-1) visit Bradley Center today to take on Marquette (11-2, 0-0) at 1:00 PM EST. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
Marquette is ranked #14 in the AP Poll. The Golden Eagles score 78.5 PPG (2nd in the Big East) while giving up an average of 62.5 PPG (2nd in the Big East).
Villanova has had the tougher schedule so far this season, but Marquette has fared better against quality opponents, with wins against Wisconsin, Ole Miss and Norfolk State. Marquette rolled through the early part of their schedule, winning their first ten games by an average of 20 points and shooting a hair under 50% from the field. Their most impressive early win was a 64-54 victory at then #9 Wisconsin in early December.
With starting center Chris Otule out with a leg injury, Marquette has struggled of late as its offense has shifted to lower-percentage shots. Marquette has lost two of its last three, its first loss coming at LSU on Dec. 19 where they shot only 36.2 percent for the game. They were trounced on Thursday, at home, to a very good Vanderbilt team. Without Otule, Davante Gardner, a 6-8 290 pound sophomore forward, has stepped up as Marquette’s big man. However, against Vanderbilt, Gardner got in early foul trouble leaving Marquette exposed inside. At one point, Vanderbilt led in the game 31-6 on the way to handing the Golden Eagles a 57-74 loss.
Most of Marquette’s offense comes from its senior tandem of 6-2 guard Darius Johnson-Odom and 6-6 pound forward, Jae Crowder. Johnson-Odom, a Big East Preseason First Team selection, played a major role in leading Marquette to the Sweet 16 last season. He is a hard-nosed player who fits in perfectly with Buzz Williams’ style of play. Both Crowder and Johnson-Odom score 17+ points and over 37% from beyond the arc.
The Cats will need to step up their perimeter defense if they are to win this one. Marquette is one of the Big East's best offensive teams and 'Nova quite average defensively, a bad combination for Villanova fans. Worse yet, the Cats have the dubious distinction this season of allowing career scoring high’s by opposing guards. Johson-Odom is the man to watch in that regard. For the record, his previous career high is 29 points.
If will be interesting to see if Coach Jay Wright changes the team’s game plan to take advantage of the Cat's clear advantage in the front court, working the ball in low and driving to the hoop. Yarou and Kennedy are capable scorers and rebounders and offer a clear advantage over the smaller Golden Eagles. The Cats also are one of the nation's best from the free throw line, but don't get there nearly enough. Today would be a fine day to change that.
The Cats have the good fortune to be facing Marquette when they are struggling, but the pundits still favor Marquette in this one by 10.5 points, with Vegas looking for a final score of 68-79.