Coming off of a 60-55 win at Hinkle Fieldhouse to improve to 14-2 overall and 4-0 in the Big East, the Villanova Wildcats will host the Marquette Golden Eagles at the Pavilion on Wednesday night. Marquette is currently 12-4 and holds a 2-2 conference record. Led by head coach Steve Wojciechowski in his second season, the Golden Eagles have suffered their four defeats to Belmont, Iowa, and Seton Hall at home and to Georgetown on the road.
Marquette's best win of the season came just last week when they went on the road and upset Providence. They have a few other decent wins, besting LSU and Arizona St. to win the Barclays Center Classic and winning at Wisconsin.
The Golden Eagles and Wojo will have their toughest test yet when they visit Villanova, here are three things to watch for:
This Team is Young
After Buzz Williams left Milwaukee for Virginia Tech before the 2014-15 season Marquette brought in Wojciechowski hoping he could have just as much success as Williams did, if not more. In his first season, however, the Golden Eagles struggled going 13-19 and 4-14 in the Big East. That wasn't unexpected due to the graduation of a few good players mixed in with recruits backing out because of a new coach and transfers leaving.
Flash forward to this season and Wojo landed top recruit Henry Ellenson and brought in five additional freshman to start to build the program back up. Along with the six freshman, the team consists of two sophomores and two juniors who get significant minutes. There is only one senior on the roster and he has only played in two games.
Having no older guys can lead to many more mental errors and mistakes because the young guys just don't have much experience yet. That could explain Marquette being the 320th best team had holding onto the ball (per sports-reference.com). For a team like Villanova that thrives off of forcing turnovers, that bodes well for the 'Cats.
Marquette Struggles Offensively
The Golden Eagles have the worst offensive efficiency in the Big East, even behind St. John's (per Kenpom.com). Turning the ball over on 20% of their possessions along with shooting 34.1% from deep and an offensive rebounding percentage worse than 'Nova's, will do that. They do have a few good shooters though, Haanif Cheatham is shooting 57.9% from three but only on 19 attempts, and Sandy Cohen hits 39% of his three's.
Ellenson has struggled from deep, as he is 13-52 from beyond the arc, only 25%. He has also had his fair share of struggles inside the arc, shooting 48.5% from two point range. He's using 26.8% of the team's possessions, and when a freshman does that much, it's expected for there to be some struggles. Against strong defenses in Seton Hall and Georgetown, he shot 2-11 and 3-11 from two, respectively. Villanova, who has a better defensive efficiency than either of those teams, could spell trouble for Ellenson. However...
The Golden Eagles Have Size (at times)
When Henry Ellenson is in, which is often, he plays the 4 most of the time. He is usually next to the 6'11" Luke Fischer. Chef can handle one of them, but for Kris Jenkins or Josh Hart defending 6'11" Ellenson will be very difficult. Since one of them playing on Ellenson might not be the best idea, what will Jay Wright do? He could play zone which we have seen a decent amount thus far through the season, but it has had its fair share of struggles. We could see a lot of Mikal Bridges because despite being 6'7", those long arms could cause trouble for Ellenson.
Another option is playing Darryl Reynolds and Ochefu together, which we have occasionally seen. That combination tends to have poor spacing on the offensive end. Chef has shown increasing ability to step out and hit a jump shot but neither can hit from three and do their best work inside.
When the Golden Eagles don't have a size advantage is when only one of Ellenson or Fischer are in. The 4 is usually 6'6" Sandy Cohen or 6'6" Wally Ellenson next to Henry Ellenson (yes they are brothers) or Fischer, which matches up a lot nicer for Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart.