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Marquette Men's Lacrosse Big East Preview: vs #5 Denver

Believe it or not, but the Big East regular season title is on the line here.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

We've got two important things going on at Hart Park on Saturday afternoon.  First of all, it's the final home game of the season, so that means it's Senior Day.  Marquette will be honoring the careers of Jordan Greenfield, K.C. Kennedy, Travis Schelhorn, Pat Townsend, and Logan Tousaw.  Kennedy and Schelhorn are both Marquette originals, having joined men's lacrosse at its formation, while Townsend, Tousaw, and Greenfield all transferred to MU at various points of their careers.

The second thing is a repeat occurrence from last season: Marquette needs a win over the Pioneers to secure a share of the Big East regular season title.  It's going to be a stiff test - Denver's not ranked #5 in the country for their health, y'know - but them's the facts.  Marquette enters the game at 3-1 in league play, while Denver is undefeated at 4-0.  A win wouldn't guarantee MU the #1 seed in the Big East tournament, though, as they have that loss to Georgetown floating around.  In a neat twist of fate, we'll definitely know whether or not Georgetown defeated St. John's by the time Marquette & Denver get started, as both games are part of a doubleheader on CBS Sports Network.

On top of all of that, the win here is critical for Marquette's postseason outlook.  In College Crosse's most recent Bracketology effort, the Golden Eagles had the 8th best RPI of the current at large pool.  That's good news, as the NCAA tournament has eight at large bids, but that has two asterisks.  First, Marquette's loss to Duke came after that assemblage of data.  Second, Marquette has that nasty loss to Bellarmine dragging the whole profile down.  A win against Denver would go a long ways towards balancing that out on the ledger.  Plus, you have to think of it this way: Marquette's going to have to beat Denver at least once to get to the NCAA tournament.  Either the win comes on Saturday in Wauwatosa or it comes next weekend in the Big East tournament as Marquette picks up the Big East's automatic bid.

Big East Game #5: vs #5 Denver (10-2, 4-0 Big East)

When: Saturday, April 25, 2015, at 1pm Central
Where: Hart Park in Wauwatosa, WI
Audio/Visual: CBS Sports Network has the TV broadcast, and live stats are here.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax

Yesterday, the Tewaarton Foundation announced their list of 25 nominees for the Tewaarton Award, lacrosse's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.  All told, there are nine players on the list that will face Marquette this season.  I mention this because THREE of those nine play for Denver: Trevor Baptiste, Wes Berg, and Connor Cannizzaro.  Cannizzaro leads the Pioneers in scoring this season with 60 points (36G, 24A) and he got off to a running start with eight points in each of DU's first two games.  Berg is the country's active leader in career goals with 161 markers.  On April 11, he broke both the Denver career record for points and goals after scoring 4 first half goals against St. John's.

Ridiculous, right?  And yet, somehow, Cannizzaro and Berg aren't the two nominees that are going to cause Marquette the most problems on Saturday afternoon.  Baptiste, a freshman from Denville, New Jersey, is winning faceoffs at a 72% clip, which is the best mark in the country.  It's not close, either: Syracuse's Ben Williams is only winning 69% of his faceoffs.  Baptiste's particular talent is of particular worry to Marquette, as the Golden Eagles are only winning 45% of their faceoffs this season.

The Pioneers were the preseason #1 this season, and they've only slipped up twice in 12 games, both with reasonable explanations.  The first loss of the season was at North Carolina, which was ranked #4 in the country at the time.  The second loss is a little harder to explain, because it came against an unranked Ohio State team that scored the final four goals of the game to win 13-11.  However, the game was played at Ohio State, so you can see how a team could end up losing a road game.  That might actually work out in Marquette's favor.  The Golden Eagles already have a win this season over the Buckeyes, and after last weekend at Hart Park, I think it's safe to say that MU will draw more than the 1,637 people that were at Ohio Stadium.