After whiffing on the semifinals, let’s try one last time. Here’s a preview of Saturday’s Big East Tournament finals.
No. 1 Marquette (27-6) vs. No. 2 Xavier (25-8)
When: 6:30 p.m. ET
Key players for Marquette: #1 Kam Jones (6-4, 195) So., G; #11 Tyler Kolek (6-3, 190) So., G; #12 Olivier-Maxence Prosper (6-8, 230) So., F; #13 Oso Ighodaro (6-9, 215) So., F; #23 David Joplin (6-7, 220) So., F
Key players for Xavier: #0 Souley Boum (6-3, 175) Sr., G; #3 Colby Jones (6-6, 205) Jr., G; #5 Adam Kunkel (6-4, 185) Sr., G; #24 Jack Nunge (7-0, 245) Sr., F
2022-23 season series: 1-1 series split
- Xavier beat Marquette at home, 80-76, on Jan. 15
- Marquette beat Xavier at home, 69-68, on Feb. 15
For the first time in realignment and the first time since 2004, there will be a No. 1 vs. No. 2 seed finale at the Big East Tournament. It’ll be midwest madness, as the Golden Eagles and Musketeers meet for a third time.
Their two previous meetings were decided by four or fewer points, and both teams were able to win at home, so a neutral site and the buzz of the Garden will make for an intriguing matchup.
Marquette has grinded its way to the finals, with both of its tournament games coming down to the final possession. Meanwhile, Xavier rallied to beat DePaul, before decimating Creighton.
The guard play will be fun to watch on both sides, and so will the defensive versatility of the Golden Eagles, who will need to be prepared for another battle.
There’s not much to add. Both of their games were super close, and there’s nothing like a high-stakes tiebreaker with the Big East Tournament title on the line.
Sure, Marquette’s high-pressure defense is known for being opportunistic and able to feast off turnovers. Meanwhile, Xavier’s frontcourt and strong rebounding is also a difference maker.
Both teams are ranked in the top eight in offensive efficiency according to KenPom, so expect plenty of big plays. Defensively, both teams are no slouch either, but this game won’t be decided on paper.
Will it be the sophomore starting five of Marquette, or the upperclassmen Musketeers who get it done?
Marquette’s statement season after being picked ninth in preseason polls has been fun to watch, as long as you’re not playing against them, so I’ll roll with them to get it done in another thriller. The Golden Eagles have been comfortable with the high-pressure, tight contests, and they’ll be ready for a third time.
KenPom predicts: Marquette wins, 82-81, and is a 52% favorite
Vegas says: Marquette is a 2-point favorite, per DraftKings Sportsbook
My prediction: Marquette over Xavier