Marquette Golden Eagles (10-4, 1-1 Big East) vs #1 Villanova Wildcats (14-1, 2-1 Big East)
Marquette Stat Leaders
Points: Jajuan Johnson, 13.4 ppg
Rebounds: Luke Fischer, 6.3 rpg
Assists: Haanif Cheatham, 3.1 apg
Marquette Injury Update: Junior guard Duane Wilson missed Sunday’s game against Seton Hall after leaving the conference opener against Georgetown after just seven minutes of action with a groin injury. At this point, it’s 50/50 (either he is or he isn’t) as to whether or not Wilson will be available against the Wildcats, as a groin injury can be a tricky thing to rehab.
Villanova Stat Leaders
Points: Josh Hart, 19.8 ppg
Rebounds: Josh Hart, 6.9 rpg
Assists: Jalen Brunson, 3.9 apg
Current KenPom Rankings
KenPom Projection: Villanova has an 86% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 82-69.
Tempo Free Fun: This probably doesn’t qualify as surprising news, but this game could turn violently ugly for Marquette.
Here’s what we know: Looking at full season numbers, Marquette’s offense and Villanova’s defense are fairly closely matched. MU has KenPom’s #26 offense and Nova has the #22 defense. Marquette’s advantage in turnover rate (they don’t turn it over, Villanova doesn’t take it away) is negated by VU’s dominance on the defensive glass, where they rank #12 in the country. The other end of the court is a problem for the Golden Eagles, again, while looking at full season numbers. Nova has the third most efficient offense in the country, powered by the fourth best effective field goal percentage. Marquette’s defense is fine (#74), but fine isn’t going to get it done against a ruthlessly efficient engine of destruction.
To put it another way, we turn to our old friend, Rubie Q:
If I'm reading KenPom right, Marquette has played 3 teams with top 25 AdjO offenses this year: Michigan, Pitt, and Wisconsin.— Rubie Q (@Rubie_Q) January 5, 2017
Michigan blitzed Marquette in the 1st half of their game. Pitt strafed MU in the 2nd half, and Wisconsin did too.— Rubie Q (@Rubie_Q) January 5, 2017
This is a long way of saying that Villanova (AdjO: 3) might put up 65 points in the first half on Saturday.— Rubie Q (@Rubie_Q) January 5, 2017
That’s full season stuff. Acknowledging that two Big East games for Marquette and three for Villanova isn’t the biggest of sample sizes, we can see a flicker of hope for the Golden Eagles from the two squads numbers in league play. Marquette’s offense in league games (#6, 103.1) is middle of the 10 team pack, and Nova’s defense (#4, 104.5) is roughly the same. Marquette has been horrible at shooting (#8) and horrible at holding onto the ball (#9), but that’s fine, because Villanova has not been forcing turnovers (#10) in three Big East games.
Meanwhile, MU’s defense has been staggeringly good over the last two games relative to the rest of the season (#2, 98.0) while Villanova’s offense is merely okay (#5, 107.1). The Golden Eagles are struggling to defend Big East teams when they shoot it, but they turn you over a ton and don’t let you get to the line.
ESPN’s John Gasaway pointed out on Thursday that two of Villanova’s Big East opponents - DePaul and Butler - have done a good job limiting the Wildcats’ effectiveness at shooting three pointers, and VU nearly lost to the Blue Demons and actually did lose to the Bulldogs. Defending treys has been a massive problem for Marquette this season (#236 in the country in 3P% defense), but it does give Steve Wojciechowski a road map to keeping things interesting against a #1 ranked team that just lost a 20 game winning streak. If Marquette can hit their own shots like we’ve seen them be able to and not let the Wildcats catch fire from distance, at the very least, the game should be competitive.
One last thing: Josh Hart is ranked #1 in KenPom’s Player of the Year standings with a rating of 1.708. St. Mary’s Jock Landale is #2...... at 1.424. There is a bigger gap between Hart and Landale (0.284) than there is between Landale and #10 Josh Jackson (0.259).
Marquette Last 10 Games: 8-2 after dropping Sunday’s game to Seton Hall.
Villanova Last 10 Games: 9-1 after snapping a 20 game winning streak against Butler on Wednesday night.
All Time Series: Villanova leads 19-9.
Current Streak: Villanova has won the last eight meetings dating back to 2013. Yes, that means this all time series used to 11-9 favoring Villanova. Boo-urns.
Fun Fact: This is Marquette’s second straight game against Villanova with the Wildcats ranked #1 in the country. Villanova will be the first program to be ranked #1 against Marquette in two different games.
Marquette Vs #1 Teams: The Golden Eagles are 1-9 all time against teams ranked #1 in the country in the AP poll after losing at home to Villanova last February. 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).
Sam Hauser Watch: The freshman from Stevens Point is already tied for the 10th most three-pointers made by a freshman in program history with 30. His next make will tie him with Todd Mayo for 9th. He still needs 28 attempts to move into the top 10 in that category.
Markus Howard Watch: Howard trails Hauser by just one made three-pointer this season, so his next one will tie him with Henry Ellenson and Anthony Pieper for the 10th most before this season.
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