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#19 Marquette Basketball Preview Primer: at Providence

The Golden Eagles head out to Rhode Island with an eye on snapping a two game skid.

Villanova v Providence Photo by Porter Binks/Getty Images

#19 Marquette Golden Eagles (17-8, 7-6 Big East) at Providence Friars (15-12, 8-6 Big East)

Date: Saturday, February 22, 2020
Time: 11am Central
Location: Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Providence, RI

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Markus Howard, 26.7 ppg
Rebounds: Brendan Bailey, 5.5 rpg
Assists: Koby McEwen, 3.5 apg

Providence Stats Leaders

Points: Alpha Diallo, 14.1 ppg
Rebounds: Alpha Diallo, 8.1 rpg
Assists: David Duke, 3.3 apg Rankings

Marquette: #26
Providence: #53
KenPom Projection: Marquette has a 52% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 72-71.
Because I Know You’re Wondering: It was a 78% chance of victory heading into the game against Providence at Fiserv Forum back on January 7th.

Last Time Out: Ah, yes, the game that launched the “WOJO SHOULD ALWAYS FOUL UP THREE” excitement. Fun. Let’s be clear about Marquette’s 81-80 overtime loss to Providence: They did not lose that game because they did not foul up three at the end of regulation. First: Providence was at the time and still is a bad three-point shooting team. Letting them shoot a shot that’s bad for them is not and will not ever be a bad coaching decision. Second: Marquette led by eight with 14 minutes left to play. It shouldn’t have come down to that. Third: Marquette was god awful on offense in the first half, giving PC a five point halftime lead, and it was quite honestly surprising that MU was that close. If the Golden Eagles don’t spend the first 20 minutes stinking worse than a refrigerator full of raw chicken that loses power while you’re away for a week, then they probably don’t need to worry about what happens in the final 10 seconds of regulation.

Since Last We Met: Well, the obvious thing to say about Providence is that they took their 3-0 start to league play following that game in Milwaukee and promptly threw it in the trash. they lost four out of their next five games, but the losses were to Butler, Creighton, Seton Hall, and Villanova, so it’s not like they were surprising losses for a team that was 7-6 heading into league play. That leveled them out at 4-4 in the league..... and since then they’ve been on something of a tear. They now have wins over Butler, Creighton, and Seton Hall while winning four of their last six games to nudge themselves to 8-6 in the league which, yes, is currently a half-game in front of Marquette and good enough for fourth place right now.

Tempo Free Fun: Well, let’s start with what did or did not go well in the first meeting with the Friars. Marquette’s #1 problem in the game was two-point shooting on both ends of the floor, and that’s bad news. We know MU is not great inside the arc, and we know that PC isn’t great outside of it. Marquette connected on just 36% of their twos in the game, which is no good. That’s how they ended up with an effective field goal percentage of under 45% even though they had a right on the season average three-point shooting performance.

On the defensive end, Providence hit half their twos — they average only 45% — and 33% of their threes. The long range shooting is a little above average, but the key here is that they only took 15 attempts outside the arc. The Friars knew what was working and stuck with it against the Golden Eagles. The combination of Alpha Diablo, David Duke, Kalif Young, and Nate Watson shot 53% inside the arc, carving Marquette up. Watson in particular had several particularly memorable or impactful buckets, and it was a very big deal when he fouled out.

These are all uncharacteristic performances for Marquette on the defensive end. The Golden Eagles are currently the #50 defense in the country in’s adjusted metric, and that’s with one of the 10 worst defensive turnover rates in the country. For the length and breadth of the season, MU has been a quality defensive squad. However, that has not been holding true during Big East play, as they rank seventh in the league in defensive efficiency. Part of that is because of performances like the one against Providence earlier this year. Whether it’s an adjustment to that game plan or merely ratcheting up the intensity because it’s a road game, something needs to be better for Marquette inside the arc on both ends.

One thing that worked out well for MU was rebounding. Marquette supplemented their poor shooting by grabbing up a better than average number of offensive rebounds. They also helped out their defensive efforts by holding the Friars to a lower than average offensive rebounds. I know, I know, it’s a little victory in a game that ultimately ended with a loss. But it’s something that was going right for the Golden Eagles, and hopefully it’s something that will work out well again.

No matter what Marquette dials up in the paint, they’re not really going to have to worry about replacing Ed Morrow. The now departed forward played just nine minutes in the earlier meeting, chipping in just two points and one rebound. Jayce Johnson, on the other hand, had nine rebounds and three assists in 21 minutes, which was a huge boon as Theo John fouled out in just 14 minutes. I think it’s safe to say that John’s foul issues had a major impact on Marquette’s defensive structure in the game, so if he can play as well as he did against Creighton — 12 points, 10 rebounds, 31 minutes — that could have a major impact on the result.

Marquette will also need a bigger performance from Koby McEwen. Five rebounds and two assists isn’t that bad, but 2-for-10 shooting and four fouls in 25 minutes isn’t going to work out. McEwen’s shooting struggled earlier in the week against Creighton, but five rebounds and eight assists against the Bluejays were incredibly valuable. Marquette needs supporting performances around Markus Howard in order to succeed, everyone knows that. That’s part of the defensive efforts against the Golden Eagles. Thus, guys like McEwen have to step up their games. That’s an across the board step up, because another 3-for-11 from the field, including misses on all six attempts from long range, is not going to be helpful against the Friars.

We can’t ignore that this looks like it will be a Quadrant 1 game for Marquette in terms of the NCAA tournament selection process. MU’s current 5-7 record in Q1 games is clearly something that is benefiting the Golden Eagles, as they currently sit at #23 in the NET. However, it’s obvious that 6-7 is better than 5-8. A win against Providence also balances out MU’s earlier loss at home to the Friars. That’s notable, as it’s the only non-Q1 loss that Marquette has right now. Forcing the selection committee into a position of “well, sure, but they also beat that team on the road, too” when comparing Marquette’s profile to other similar teams is important. Not crucial, but important.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 6-4 with losses in their last two games

Providence Last 10 Games: 5-5, with wins in four of their last six and each of the last two, including a home win over Seton Hall.

All Time Series: Marquette leads, 19-10.

Current Streak: Marquette has won three of the last five matchups against Providence, and the Golden Eagles have won the last two times that they have visited the Dunk.

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@AnonymousEagle - Hey, that’s us!
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@BenSteeleMJS - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel MU beat writer