Marquette Golden Eagles (17-11, 8-8 Big East) at Xavier Musketeers (18-11, 8-8 Big East)
Marquette Stats Leaders
Points: Markus Howard, 12.9 ppg
Rebounds: Luke Fischer, 6.0 rpg
Assists: Jajuan Johnson, 2.6 apg
Xavier Stats Leaders
Points: Trevon Bluiett, 17.9 ppg
Rebounds: RaShid Gaston, 6.6 rpg
Assists: Quentin Goodin, 3.2 apg
Xavier Injury Note: Quentin Goodin isn’t officially Xavier’s assist leader. That honor belongs to Edmond Sumner, who was averaging 5.0 helpers per game before blowing his knee out earlier this season. Obviously Sumner will not be playing in this game what with that blown out knee and all. Sumner still has the lead in total assists as well this season, and probably will through the end of the regular season.
Current KenPom Rankings
KenPom Projection: Xavier has a 59% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 81-78.
Since We Last Met: It was only a week and a half ago, but Xavier didn’t win either of their two games in the interim. They lost by seven at Seton Hall, and then followed that up with an 88-79 loss at home to Butler on Sunday. The Musketeers have now lost five straight games. It’s just the second time that a Chris Mack Xavier team (this is his eighth season) has dropped four straight, and it’s the first time that XU has a program has lost five straight since January of 1982. This is literally their worst stretch of games in 35 years. That 1982 run actually extended to six straight, so Marquette will be looking to assist them in tying that mark.
Part of their slump is explainable. Having lost Edmond Sumner to an ACL tear during their game against St. John’s on January 29th, Xavier was already a bit vulnerable when Trevon Bluiett sprained his ankle against Villanova. The Wildcats handed them the first loss of the streak, and Bluiett missed the next two games. Ok, so they lost without their two best backcourt players. No big, right? Bluiett started and played 38 minutes against Seton Hall and played all but one minute against Butler. His return to the lineup has reinvigorated their offense in terms of efficiency, but against Butler, they posted their single worst defensive efficiency performance of the season, allowing the Bulldogs to score 1.30 points per possession.
Tempo Free Fun: As of Tuesday morning, Marquette was sitting as the last at-large team that wasn’t going to Dayton in the NCAA tournament field according to Bracket Matrix. We’re aware of MU’s issues as Marquette fans. However, with that five game losing streak in tow, Xavier is just eight seed lines north of Marquette. The Musketeers are just 3-5 since they knew that Edmond Sumner was out for the season and just 3-3 in games where Trevon Bluiett played since Sumner’s injury. They desperately need to show the NCAA committee that they’re a real tournament team with a win, and Saturday’s season finale against DePaul is not going to help them in that.
There’s more at stake that just NCAA tournament seeding (or possibly even just selection) in this game. Take a look at the Big East standings. Marquette and Xavier are currently tied for sixth place at 8-8. That might not sound like that big of a deal, but what it actually means is that they’re also tied for seventh place. Seventh place is also known as “the best team that has to play in the opening night doubleheader at the Big East tournament.” This particular season, seventh place is also known as “the team that has to play DePaul in their first game of the Big East tournament.” Beating DePaul in that opening doubleheader means absolutely nothing to a squad scuffling against the back end of the NCAA tournament cut line, and losing might be a death sentence to the at-large hopes. Whichever team wins that 7/10 Big East tournament game gets to turn around and play Butler 20 hours later, which probably won’t be a picnic on any level, either.
Right now, Marquette holds the tiebreaker against Xavier thanks to that win earlier this season. The road win locks in that tiebreaker with the season sweep, not to mention creates a momentary separation between sixth and seventh place at 9-8 and 8-9. The Golden Eagles close with Creighton at home, while Xavier wraps up with DePaul on the road. It would be very helpful for MU to be holding a little extra advantage heading into Saturday’s final game day.
Marquette Last 10 Games: 5-5, with the loss to Providence snapping a two game winning streak.
Xavier Last 10 Games: 4-6, with five straight losses.
All Time Series: Marquette leads, 48-22.
Current Streak: With a win in Milwaukee, Marquette snapped a six game losing streak against the Musketeers.
Jajuan Johnson Watch: The senior from Memphis has passed Kerry Trotter for the 10th most steals by a senior with 51. Tony Miller is ninth with 52 swipes. Johnson’s 310 points this season have him sitting on 952 career points, so you’d like to think he’ll become Marquette’s 47th 1,000 point scorer before the end of the season.
Luke Fischer Watch: Fischer is currently tied with Chris Otule for the 4th most swats in program history with 145. I don’t think he’ll catch Faisal Abraham in third place with 172, though. Fischer’s 45 swats on the season has him ranked #4 all time in blocks for seniors, however there’s a big gap until third place and Amal McCaskill with 55. Fischer’s climb to 1,000 points in his Marquette career continues as his 316 points this season have gotten him up to 980. At this pace, he should get to 1,000 before Jajuan Johnson gets there and become Marquette’s 46th 1,000 point scorer. Fischer should probably stop fouling out in 13 minutes if he wants to get there, though.
Markus Howard Watch: The freshman from Arizona extended his freshman record for made three-pointers to 72 with six (!) more buckets against Providence. That’s got him one away from the 9th most in any season in program history, which is currently held by Darius Johnson-Odom and Anthony Pieper. Howard now has 130 three-point attempts on the season, which is the fifth most by a freshman, and Dominic James’ 136 tries is up next. With 116 field goals on the year, he’s just five buckets away from moving into the top 10 for freshmen in that category, with Duane Wilson’s 121 sitting at #10. Howard is up to 348 points on the season, which gives him the eighth most by a Marquette freshman. Up next: Bo Ellis with 378 points.
Sam Hauser Watch: Hey, remember when Hauser was neck and neck with Howard on the freshman three-pointer chart? Good times. With 54 made threes, Hauser is tied with Robb Logterman for the fourth most threes by a freshman. Steve Novak (55) and Travis Diener’s former record (57) are easily within range for this game. Hauser has the 7th most long range attempts by a freshman with 122, which has him seven short of Travis Diener. The Stevens Point native has 17 blocks on the season, which is the 7th most by a MU freshman, and Charles Luter is sitting in sixth place with 19. Hauser has moved into the top six for rebounds by a freshman with 141 this season. It’s going to take him a game or three to catch up to Odartey Blankson in fifth place with 160.
Andrew Rowsey Watch: The transfer from UNC Asheville now has 60 made threes on the season, which has him all alone with the 7th most by a Marquette junior. Next up is Anthony Pieper in sixth place with 62. His 135 attempts this season are the 10th most by any Marquette junior, with John Cliff sitting in ninth place at 143.
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@MarquetteMBB - Official Marquette account
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@AnonymousEagle - Hey! That's us!
@BannersParkway - SB Nation's Xavier site
@becb_sbn - SB Nation's Big East site
@Matt_Velazquez - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel beat reporter