The #1 Villanova Wildcats (19-1, 6-1) head to Milwaukee this Sunday to take on the Marquette Golden Eagles (13-7, 4-4), a team that upset the then-#1 Wildcats almost exactly a year ago. Villanova is riding a 6 game winning streak, the last three games of which have seen the ‘Cats win by an average margin of 24 points. The Golden Eagles are coming off an absolute drubbing at the hands of the Xavier Muskateers, a school that saw its accreditation revoked by Villanova earlier this month.
Here are three things to watch during this Sunday matinee:
You Actually Have to Spell “Marquette” without ”D”
Marquette appears to view “playing defense” as an inconvenient, but regrettably necessary, element of college basketball. The Golden Eagles are known for their scoring, and rightfully so. They are averaging 81.6 points a game in conference and are ranked 13th in KenPom’s adjusted offense. As is known to anyone that remotely follows the sport, Marquette is heavily reliant on the deep ball with 46.8% of its points coming from threes. However, they rank 140th in AdjD and are giving up 80.6 points a game in conference. In fact, Marquette ranks 307th (?!) in 2-point defense, a weakness that Villanova’s 7th ranked 2-point offense should be able to exploit.
Marquette is led by their two diminutive guards, 5’11 Marcus Howard and 5’10 Andrew Rousey. Howard is averaging 22.1 points per game and shooting a Brunsonian 59.2% from 2-point range. He’s extremely efficient and can get hot from deep. Against Villanova earlier this year, Howard dropped 37 points and dished out 8 assists. He also, fun fact, missed his first two free throws of the year this past week. He’s supported by Rousey, who is averaging his own 20.1 a game and shooting 41% from three. Marquette’s air raid is driven by Howard and Rousey, who combine to throw up over 18 threes a game.
Avoiding the Storm
Last year, Marquette upset the then-#1 Wildcats in a game that saw Villanova blow a 15-point halftime lead. Villanova went ice cold, finishing 6 for 34 from deep, and couldn’t stop the bleeding as Marquette “stormed” back to get its marquee win. That Marquette squad was lead by seniors Luke Fischer and Katin Reinhardt, who have since moved on to greener pastures. I read the equivalent of a longform article written by Marquette fans this week about a conference win a year ago so, clearly, the fanbase is getting some mileage out of this. Sigh, heavy lies the crown. Let’s hope the Booth-less ‘Cats can avoid a second straight upset at the hands of Marquette.