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#12 Marquette Basketball Preview Primer: at Xavier Musketeers

It’s the first repeat opponent of the season for the Golden Eagles.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

#12 Marquette Golden Eagles (17-3, 6-1 Big East) at Xavier Musketeers (11-9, 3-4 Big East)

Date: Saturday, January 26, 2019
Time: 1pm Central
Location: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, OH

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Markus Howard, 24.3 ppg
Rebounds: Sam Hauser, 6.9 rpg
Assists: Markus Howard, 4.4 apg

Xavier Stats Leaders

Points: Naji Marshall, 13.1 ppg
Rebounds: Tyrique Jones, 7.4 rpg
Assists: Quentin Goodin, 5.0 apg

Xavier Injury Note: On Friday afternoon, Xavier head coach Travis Steele announced that Naji Marshall was being held out of the competitive aspects of practice on Friday and would be a game time decision for Saturday’s game. Marshall played 26 minutes against Providence on Wednesday in XU’s loss to the Friars, but dealt with foul trouble and appeared to suffer some sort of injury with 20 seconds left in the game.. A bit of context here: Marshall had played every minute of Xavier’s previous four games, including their trip to Milwaukee earlier this season.

Current Rankings

Marquette: #33
Xavier: #85
KenPom Projection: Marquette has a 59% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 73-70.

Since Last We Met: Xavier has played four games since departing Fiserv Forum with an 18 point loss, three of which were at home. They won the first two, rallying from down 17 in the first half to beat Georgetown and swiping back a 70-69 victory from Butler after trailing by 10 with five minutes left. The next two, the most recent two, were losses. First a 10 point defeat to Villanova at Wells Fargo Center last Friday, then a 64-62 loss back in Cincy on Wednesday against Providence. XU nearly rallied to snag that one after PC went up by 10 with four minutes left, but they fell short.

Tempo Free Fun: Before we do any poking around at how the two sides match up against each other, let’s attack how Marquette went about beating Xavier in the first meeting this season. Obviously, the keys to that game would be important the second time around, even with both coaching staffs getting a chance to review the tape and adjust further from there.

ITEM THE FIRST: Marquette crushed Xavier when it comes to shooting the ball. The Golden Eagles assembled an effective field goal percentage of 50.8% against just 32.4% for the Musketeers. This is definitely a situation where Xavier being bad/Marquette holding Xavier down is what happened as opposed to the Golden Eagles raining shots in the net. Xavier went just 1-for-14 from behind the three-point line, with the lone three coming from Ryan Welage with under seven minutes left to go and was relatively pointless in the grand scheme of things. I think it’s safe to say that Xavier won’t shoot 7% from long range a second time, so MU will have to perhaps do a little bit better than their 10-for-29 (35%) from behind the arc to balance things out.

ITEM THE SECOND: Marquette jumped all over Xavier at the start of both halves. If you combine the first 10 minutes of the first half and the first 10 minutes of the second half, Marquette outscored Xavier 34-17. The other 20 minutes was essentially even. That feels like something that is more like to happen at home than it is to happen on the road, so the goal for MU should be to try to play a much more even 40 minutes. Easier said than done, of course.

In terms of the matchup between the two sides, Marquette’s offense will have the notable advantage. Marquette ranks #37 in the country in KenPom’s offensive efficiency metric, while Xavier’s defense is just #151 in efficiency. That’s... a bit of a gap. Xavier’s biggest defensive lapse is a notably great thing for Marquette: They’re allowing teams to shoot 36% from long range AND they rank in the bottom 60 in the country in terms of volume of triples allowed. If the Golden Eagles can get it going from long range early, we might be able to see MU get control of the game early and go from there.

Things are a bit more even on the other end of the court, even with Marquette ranking in the top 40 in defensive efficiency nationally and holding onto the best defensive efficiency in the Big East when you look at only conference games. Remember when I said Xavier probably wasn’t going to shoot 1-for-14 from behind the arc again? While that specific number is unlikely, Xavier’s probably not going to fill it up all that well. They’re shooting just 32% from three-point land this season, which ranks #272 in the country. In Big East play — and this is not a joke — Xavier is shooting just 28% on threes. They know that they shouldn’t be shooting triples, as they’re in the bottom third in the country in terms of volume, so there is a certain amount of sense in Marquette feeling free to let Xavier have whatever they want behind the arc. DISCLAIMER: Paul Scruggs (45%) is not allowed to shoot threes at all ever.

This is the risk to Marquette letting Xavier fire away: Marquette has been bad at defense on the road this season. Their effective field goal percentages allowed in their Big East road games: 63.4%, 63.9%, 51.9%. At home, MU has been completely different, holding teams under 47%. Maybe we can just strike a happy medium where Xavier is better than they usually are but still bad enough to let Marquette knock down a few shots and grab their best start in Big East play since 2008-09 when they ripped off nine straight to start things off.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 9-1, thanks to those jerks at St. John’s.

Xavier Last 10 Games: 5-5 after consecutive losses to Villanova and Providence in their last two games.

All Time Series: Marquette leads, 50-24. Xavier is Marquette’s third-most played opponent since 1949-50, behind only DePaul and Wisconsin.

Current Streak: With the win at Fiserv Forum earlier this season, Marquette has now won three of the last five against Xavier.

Follow Along On Twitter

@AnonymousEagle - Hey, that’s us!
@MarquetteMBB - Official MU account
@XavierMBB - Official Xavier account
@becb_sbn - our SB Nation friends that follow the whole Big East
@BannersParkway - our SB Nation friends that follow Xavier
@BenSteeleMJS - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel MU beat writer
@cf_gardner - The Athletic MU beat writer