Marquette Running the Big East Gauntlet

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By David K.

It is very rewarding to witness a team’s full potential be reached.  To this point, an amazing season for Marquette has garnered them not only national attention, but national respect.  At 22-4, they are ranked tenth nationally and are tied with Pitt, a half-game behind first place UConn in the Big East.

Since the season started, the final five games of the season have been dubbed as the true determining factor as to just how deep a run the Golden Eagles can make in the NCAA Tournament- time to face the gauntlet.

Plenty is at stake in these final five regular season games; most notably, a two-game bye directly into the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament.  This will be the first time that the conference has expanded their post-season tourney from 12 teams to all 16 Big East teams.  The top four finishers won’t have to play until the quarterfinals while the 5th-8th place teams will get an opening round bye.  As it sits right now, Marquette would get that much needed bye into the quarterfinals and more importantly, an extra day of rest for a team that usually only goes seven deep.

Thanks to recent struggles by Georgetown at Syracuse, and an injury to a key UConn starter, this stretch is not as daunting as it appeared it was going to be a month ago when all five up-coming opponents were ranked in the top 12.  Still, the Golden Eagles face their toughest task to date, and it comes at a very critical time when gaining momentum heading into the post-season can be a valuable jump-off into the tourney.

At the end of the stretch, my reactions to the following outcomes would be:
0-5: I would start rooting for the Badgers
1-4: Expect not getting past the first weekend of another NCAA Tournament
2-3: Probably a very reasonable result
3-2: Very pleased if we could steal one on the road
4-1: Elite 8 bound
5-0: Book your tickets for the Final Four in Detroit

Here are the keys to the final five games and my completely un-biased predictions:

At Georgetown, Saturday Feb. 21

Key for a MU win:
The Hoyas shot lights out (56% from the field, 10-20 from three) in their first match-up this season and still lost by twelve.  The two keys that game were MU forcing 17 G-Town turnovers and getting to the free throw line 38 times.  Expect big games from McNeal and Matthews as they are tough match-ups for the slower Hoya guards.  I’ll go with a re-peat overtime thriller like last year’s meeting.

My Prediction:
Marquette 87, Georgetown 82 (OT)

Vs. UConn, Wednesday Feb. 25
Key for a MU win:
If Marquette can somehow get Hasheem Thabeet in foul trouble, they win this game.  Thabeet has been a terror inside blocking and altering shots and it is well known that MU has zero height, so they will need to get out in transition at every possible opportunity and hope Thabeet is slow getting back on the defensive end.  With Huskies’ guard Jerome Dyson done for the season, Marquette will need to take advantage of a very thin UConn backcourt.

My Prediction:
Marquette 66, UConn 62

At Louisville, Sunday March 1
Key for a MU win:
I think Louisville is a very vulnerable team at times.  If they aren’t shooting lights out from the perimeter, they are definitely beatable.  Marquette lost their two meeting last season by a combined 34 points, and had a lot of trouble breaking the Cards’ pressure defense.  Louisville has a lot of length and athleticism up front and their guards will pester the hell out of you.  MU has handled pressure pretty well for the most part, but really seems to struggle against bigger, more athletic teams like L-Ville (see Dayton and Tennessee.)

My Prediction:
Louisville 72, Marquette 61

At Pitt, Wednesday March 4

Key for a MU win:
Pitt’s practically unbeatable at home, posting a perfect 16-0 record at the Zoo this season.  DeJuan Blair owned Thabeet on Monday putting up 22 points and 23 boards, so just imagine what he is going to do to Dwight Burke, who very well could have more fouls than minutes played in this game.  Outside of Blair, Pitt does not have a lot of size on their roster.  So if Blair gets into foul trouble which he has had a tendency of doing this season, that is Marquette’s best chance in this one.  Sam Young will be a tough match-up for Wesley Matthews and I would not be surprised to see Welsey get in early foul trouble.  This one could get out of hand in the second half, but I think MU keeps it close.

My Prediction:
Pitt 80, Marquette 75

Vs. Syracuse, Saturday March 7

Key for a MU win:
Jim Boeheim’s teams have always played a lot of 2-3 zone, though this year the Orange have used a fair amount of man-to-man.  If Cuse comes in out in zone, Marquette will have to be on from the outside and attack the holes in the zone (I sound like Jay Bilas there.)  The Orange will try to run at every opportunity possible so MU will have to get back on defense.  If James can lock down on Johnny Flynn on the perimeter and not let him go off, I really like Marquette’s chances.

My Prediction:

Marquette 87, Syracuse 74

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Comments

  1. Ghost in the Machine says

    Just get a top 4 seed in the conference tourney!

  2. Nicely done, David. I think the GTown game determines how successful MU is in the last 5. A win there and 3-2 seems like the worst they should do.

  3. 1 down, 4 to go…

  4. G Town sucks this yr!

  5. If the Badgers would’ve beaten Mich. St. yesterday, then I may have had renewed interest in my team. But nope. I’m throwing my support behind Marquette and feeding mine to the wolves unless they can up their level of play and play with more consistency each and every game up to the Big 10 Ten Tourney. I still want a Hayward jersey, too. That may be on my to-do list when I hit up Milw. this weekend.

  6. Peter Christian says

    brutal game tonight… UConn just wouldn’t let MU get a good run together, they always had an answer. Either way, both teams are going to be tough to beat in a couple of weeks.

    I won’t even mention Dom James.

  7. I don’t think we r totally screwed losing James… he’s our fourth most important player… but still stings a bit and I feel TERRIBLE for him… just like when Diener broke his wrist in practice with a few games left in his senior year when he was on pace to break MU’s all-time scoring record…

    says a lot that we were able to contend with UConn on the fly without James for 38 minutes… at least it happened now and not next week…

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