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Villanova Basketball Game Preview: Marquette Golden Eagles

Will the Golden Eagles upset another Top 15 team?

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Villanova Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a decisive victory against St. Joe’s, the No. 5 Wildcats (7-1, 2-0 in the Big East) will take on the Marquette Golden Eagles (5-4, 1-2 in the Big East) on Wednesday in Milwaukee. The Golden Eagles have triumphed over two ranked opponents, No. 9 Wisconsin and No. 13 Creighton, already this season. The game is scheduled for tipoff at 7 p.m. ET on FS1.

Leaving The Nest

At only 5-foot-11, Marquette point guard Markus Howard dominated offensively last season, averaging a jaw-dropping 27.8 points and breaking the all-time Big East scoring record. Sacar Anim (13.1 points per game) also scored in double figures but has also graduated.

Without these two star players, senior guard Koby McEwen and sophomore guard D.J. Carton have stepped up. McEwen averages 15.2 PPG and 44% from beyond the arc, while Carton, an Ohio State transfer, has added 12 points per game. Additionally, senior forward Theo John fights hard at the glass with 6.7 rebounds. At 6’9” and 255 pounds, John poses a threat under the basket and will test the Wildcats’ biggest rebounder, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.

Lastly, keep an eye out for freshman Dawson Garcia, who’s playing at a level beyond his years early. He’s averaging 13.1 points and 6.6 rebounds, and is one of the Golden Eagles’ best in both categories.

A Wing and a Prayer

Marquette has been on both sides of a few buzzer beaters already this season. On Dec. 4, the Golden Eagles defeated the No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers, 67-65. Neither team ever led by more than six points, and the lead changed six times in the final 70 seconds. With 0.9 seconds left, with Marquette down by one, DJ Carton missed his second free throw. Golden Eagles’ Forward Justin Lewis miraculously tipped in the rebound, securing Marquette’s first victory against a ranked team.

On Dec. 20th, the Golden Eagles experienced a bit of déjà vu against undefeated Xavier. Although, the buzzer beater didn’t end in their favor this time. There were 13 lead changes in the game, and neither team ever had a double digit lead. McEwen hit a four-point play to tie it up, but then Xavier’s Adam Kunkel grabbed a long offensive rebound and hit a three at the buzzer to give Xavier a 91-88 win. Despite their loss, all of the Golden Eagles’ starters had over 10 points, including Garcia (20 points, 8-of-11 overall), McEwen (20 points, 4-of07 from downtown), John (14 PTS), Jamal Cain (10 PTS), and Carton (10 PTS). Marquette also shot 94% from the line.

Can They Soar?

In the Golden Eagles’ three Big East games, they have allowed opponents to shoot at least 43% from downtown. If Marquette doesn’t clean up their defense, Collin Gillespie (42% from three), Caleb Daniels (45%), and Brandon Slater (80% on limited minutes), should take advantage. Villanova’s slow-paced style will limit the Golden Eagles’ offensive possessions, so they will have to be more efficient and not be as turnover-happy (14 per game) to take advantage of all opportunities given.

Marquette has been battle-tested against very talented teams and will not go down easily. They have some nice wins and some crushing losses, but which Marquette team will show up on Wednesday night?