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Marquette Basketball Preview Primer: at #3 Villanova Wildcats

As always, there are no off days in the Big East.

NCAA Basketball: Butler at Villanova Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette Golden Eagles (11-4, 2-1) at #3 Villanova Wildcats (13-1, 1-1)

Date: Saturday, January 6, 2018
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Markus Howard, 22.6 ppg
Rebounds: Sam Hauser, 5.5 rpg
Assists: Andrew Rowsey, 4.1 apg

Villanova Stats Leaders

Points: Jalen Brunson, 18.9 ppg
Rebounds: Omari Spellman, 8.1 rpg
Assists: Jalen Brunson, 5.0 apg

Current KenPom Rankings

Marquette: #49
Villanova: #2
KenPom Projection: Villanova has a 91% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 89-74.

Tempo Free Fun: Ok, so where do you want to start with the roving deathsphere that Jay Wright calls a basketball team?

They have five players averaging in double digits in scoring, and Eric Paschall is trailing along behind that group at 9.3 per game shouting “wait for me, guys!” All six of those guys average at least three rebounds per game, and five of them average more than two assists per game. Five of them connect on better than 40% of their three-pointers, with only Paschall on the outside at just 2-for-27 on the year. I’m not quite sure why Jay Wright lets him hoist two long range bombs per game, as he’s only a career 27% shooter from out there, but hey, it seems to be working for the Wildcats, so why mess with it?

Let’s dive a little deeper. If I made you guess, who would you say is Villanova’s most valuable player? Odds are that you’d say Jalen Brunson, and that is a very solid answer. However, the KenPom Player of the Year calculator disagrees with you and gives the efficiency trophy to Mikal Bridges, ranking him #6 in the country. Don’t feel bad about being wrong, the difference between Bridges and Brunson in 7th place is literally 0.001, 1.307 to 1.306, so this could completely flip over by the time Saturday night has wrapped up.

From a fancy stats perspective, they’re using two different paths to the same spot. Roughly the same amount of minutes, possessions used, and shots taken. Brunson is the more accurate shooter, connecting on a higher percentage both inside and outside the arc. Bridges holds the advantage in total number of shots taken, though, and he beats out Brunson at the charity stripe as well. These are all close contests though, and where the two men differ, they really differ. Brunson is a top 100 passer, while Bridges makes up for that differential by contributing on the glass and ranking in the top 250 in block rate and top 100 in steal rate. To put it in a Marquette context, imagine if Greg Elliott’s defense came along with an offensive output that was good enough to vault him into a Big East Player of the Year discussion. That’s Mikal Bridges.

With all of that said, it should not be a surprise to you that Marquette will not hold a significant advantage anywhere in the Four Factors. If you want to argue about Marquette’s shooting (#16 effective field goal percentage) against Villanova’s defense there (#127), well, fine, I guess. It’s the one spot where MU can take advantage of something from the Wildcats, but that is kind of balanced out by Nova assembling the #28 overall adjusted defense according to KenPom. Butler proved this to be the case: If the shots are falling like crazy, you can beat Villanova. Expecting MU to shoot 15-of-22 (68%) like the Bulldogs did is not a great plan, though.

Even if MU does rain hellfire from all angles on Villanova, all the Wildcats are going to do is turn around and do the same thing to Marquette on the other end. VU is actually a better shooting team than Marquette, assembling an eFG% of 60.1%, good enough for #3 in the country. If you are uncomfortable with that, well, let’s just say that MU’s eFG% defense (#229) isn’t going to do a lot to make you feel better about it.

Marquette’s one true advantage on the Wildcats is their depth. Remember earlier when I was talking about how Nova has six dudes who essentially are interchangeable in terms of the stats they provide to the team? Yeah. That’s essentially their entire team right now, although you can mix in a little bit of Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, too. That’s it. Six and a half guys, with Jermaine Samuels and Collin Gillespie sidelined with hand injuries. The top six guys average somewhere between 26 and 31 minutes per game, Cosby-Roundtree is good for 12 per game, and that is all you’re getting from Nova right now. No one else has played in every game, and no one else averages more than three minutes per game anyway. I know it’s weird for Marquette’s nine man roster to have an advantage in this department, but they do. It also means that they have to take advantage of it. A repeat of Wednesday’s foul party against Providence will eradicate that advantage, and if Marquette wants to pull the stunner and hand Villanova their first loss at the Wells Fargo Center since January 24, 2016, they will need all the help they can get.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 8-2, with wins in six of the last seven.

Villanova Last 10 Games: 9-1, with their most recent game snapping a 13 game winning streak to open the season.

All Time Series: Villanova leads, 20-10.

Current Streak: Marquette snapped a nine game Villanova winning streak in last year’s 74-72 victory over the #1 ranked Wildcats at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

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
@BenSteeleMJS - The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel MU beat reporter