Jay Wright and the Wildcats welcome Buzz Williams and his Golden Eagles into The Pavilion on Saturday night.
The Villanova Wildcats (17-10, 8-6) will celebrate their Senior Night by hosting the #17 Marquette Golden Eagles (19-6, 10-3) into The Pavilion. Both schools are coming off wins over New Jersey-based schools - Villanova came from behind to win over Rutgers, while Marquette most recently ran Seton Hall out of the building. Saturday night's game will tip-off at 6 pm ET and be shown on either ESPN or ESPN2.
Villanova is still squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble and could use a resume-boosting win over Marquette to help seal their tournament berth. Marquette has reason to fight for the win as well, as they're currently tied for 1st place in the Big East with Syracuse and Georgetown, with a game against the Orange still to come.
Marquette plays the same style of basketball that you're used to seeing in recent years - hard-nosed, tough defense, and with a bevy of guys that can hurt you on the offensive end. The Golden Eagles rank in the Top 40 in FG% (46.6%) and the Top 75 in assists per game (14.5). They're always a well-balanced group that doesn't give away much on either end.
This year's group is headed up by junior guard Vander Blue, who has emerged to nearly double his scoring output from a year ago. He currently averages 15 ppg, 3.3 rpg, and 1.7 apg. The one glaring stat that Villanova's pressure defense may be able to take advantage of his propensity to turn the ball over, which he's currently doing twice per game.
Junior Cadougan is Blue's running mate in the backcourt, and is much more of a true PG. Cadougan averages 4.4 apg, and can score when called upon averaging 8.4 ppg. Like Blue though, Cadougan is turning the ball over over twice per game.
On the inside, Marquette relies primarily on 6th man Davante Gardner. Gardner is a physical specimen, checking in at 6'8" and 290 lbs., but, he's got a bevy of post moves and can be a huge mismatch problem with his combination of quickness and bulk - not unlike Villanova's JayVaughn Pinkston. Gardner is averaging 12 ppg and 5 rpg, and is shooting nearly 87% from the FT line, making him more deadly than most big men.
Senior Night for Mouphtaou Yarou should mean a solid game, continuing his recent run of good play, but the real matchup will likely come in the backcourt with Ryan Arcidiacono matching up with Cadougan, and Darrun Hilliard taking on Vander Blue. Whichever group wins that battle will likely see their teams come away with the W.
Villanova would also be well-served to get good play from JayVaughn Pinkston and James Bell, two players who have not let the Wildcats down recently.
Villanova and Marquette have historically played out great games since the Golden Eagles joined the Big East, with Marquette owning the edge in the last couple of years as Villanova has struggled to find their form.
The Wildcats' story this season has been to play to the level of their competition (and, which was instrumental in wins over Syracuse, Louisville and Connecticut. To defeat a very solid Marquette team, they'll need to bring their A game, and hope that the emotions on Senior Night play a huge role in this crucial game.