Marquette Golden Eagles (13-6, 4-3 Big East) vs #1 Villanova Wildcats (19-1, 7-1 Big East)
Marquette Stat Leaders
Points: Jajuan Johnson, 13.0 ppg
Rebounds: Luke Fischer, 5.8 rpg
Assists: Haanif Cheatham, 3.2 apg
Villanova Stat Leaders
Points: Josh Hart, 19.2 ppg
Rebounds: Josh Hart, 6.5 rpg
Assists: Jalen Brunson, 3.5 apg
Current KenPom Rankings
KenPom Projection: Villanova has a 66% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 80-76.
Since We Last Met: Hey, breaking news: Villanova hasn’t lost since decimating the Golden Eagles at the Wells Fargo Center. Shocker, I know. They smashed Xavier by 25, went to St. John’s and won by 13, slapped Seton Hall silly at home by 30, and snuck past Providence by “only” 10 points. Each opponent hasn’t broken 70, which brings me to this interesting fact: Marquette is the only team to hit 80 points against the Wildcats this season, and one of only five squads to get to 70.
Tempo Free Fun: To continue on this point about the Wildcats defense, it’s important to point out that they’re ranked #321 in adjusted tempo according to KenPom. In other words, they’re the 30th slowest team in the country. It’s monumentally easier to keep your opponents under 70 when you don’t even let them get to 66 possessions in the first place.
As you might expect, this game is probably going to be decided when Villanova has the ball. As of Monday afternoon, the Wildcats have KenPom’s #3 offense, while Marquette’s defense is ranked merely #142. As you’ll probably remember, Villanova shot 69% on twos and 61% on threes in Philadelphia on January 7th while smashing the Golden Eagles by 30 in the second half before a late flurry made it just a 12 point game at the horn. They led by 11 at the half before scoring the first 11 points of the second half and pretty much erasing all doubt of how that was going to end.
Quite simply: Marquette’s going to lose if that happens again. Yeah, I know, not really stepping out on a limb here. MU’s offense is great (KenPom #7) and Nova’s defense is really great at well (KenPom #17), but it’s that disparity between VU’s offense and MU’s defense that will be the deciding factor. The most worrying part about the first meeting between the two teams for me is the fact that Marquette forced Villanova to turn the ball over on more than 20% of their possessions across the 40 minutes of the game. While that’s great D by Marquette and an awful performance by Villanova by both teams’ season long standards, it had absolutely no bearing on the game. If Marquette can somehow repeat that and get Nova to miss on their three-point attempts, things could get tight pretty quickly in the Bradley Center.
Marquette Last 10 Games: 6-4, with wins in three of the last four games.
Villanova Last 10 Games: 9-1 and on a five game winning streak.
All Time Series: Villanova leads, 20-9
Current Streak: Villanova has won the last nine meetings between the two teams dating back to 2013. Yes, that means the all time series used to be 11-9 favoring Villanova.
Fun Fact: This is the third straight game between Marquette and Villanova where the Wildcats have been ranked #1 in the country. It’s the first time in program history that MU has faced a team three times while the opponent was ranked #1, and Villanova is the only opponent that has faced Marquette while ranked #1 more than once.
Marquette Vs #1 Teams: The Golden Eagles are 1-10 all time against teams ranked #1 in the country in the AP poll after losing at home to Villanova earlier this season. The lone win came in 2003, when Marquette defeated Kentucky in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. That was fun. MU has a game against a #1 team that technically didn't happen, as it was a 73-66 loss to Syracuse on January 7, 2012, and that SU victory has since been vacated by the Orange due to people doing Fab Melo's homework for him. The other #1 teams that Marquette has faced: Kansas State (1/10/53), San Francisco (12/16/55), North Carolina State (3/25/74, NCAA tournament title game), Indiana (3/20/76, NCAA Tournament Elite Eight), North Carolina (1/19/86), Cincinnati (1/23/2000), and Duke (11/22/2010).
Jajuan Johnson Watch: The senior from Memphis is two steals away from tying Kerry Trotter for the 10th most steals by a senior at 47.
Luke Fischer Watch: After exploding for six blocks against Creighton, Fischer currently ranks 5th on Marquette’s career blocks chart with 126. Chris Otule in 4th place is next up at 135. Fischer also needs five more blocks to tie Otule for the 10th most swats by a senior.
Markus Howard Watch: With 41 made three pointers on the season, Howard is tied with Dominic James for the eighth most made three-pointers by a freshman in Marquette history. Mark Anglavar is next at 43, followed by Brian Wardle at 46. He still needs another 12 or so attempts on top of his current total of 81 to crack the top 10 there.
Sam Hauser Watch: With 40 made threes, Hauser has the 10th most long balls by a freshman, and yes, that includes Howard in front of him. The kid from Stevens Point is a little closer to the attempts top 10 than his Arizona counterpart with 84.
Follow Along On Twitter
@MarquetteMBB - Official Marquette account
@NovaMBB - Official Villanova account
@AnonymousEagle - Hey, that's us!
@VUHoops - SB Nation's Villanova site
@becb_sbn - SB Nation's Big East site
@Matt_Velazquez - The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel MU beat reporter