Marquette Golden Eagles (18-9, 8-7 Big East) vs #13 Seton Hall Pirates (20-7, 12-3 Big East)
Date: Saturday, February 29, 2020
Time: 1:30pm Central
Location: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI
Marquette Stats Leaders
Points: Markus Howard, 27.2 ppg
Rebounds: Brendan Bailey, 5.3 rpg
Assists: Koby McEwen, 3.3 apg
Seton Hall Stats Leaders
Points: Myles Powell, 21.3 ppg
Rebounds: Jared Rhoden, 6.7 rpg
Assists: Quincy McKnight, 5.3 apg
Seton Hall: #20, their lowest ranking since beating Georgetown on January 3rd.
KenPom Projection: Marquette has a 58% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 75-72.
Last Time Out: Seton Hall picked up a 69-55 victory in Newark back in early January. That final score is misleading, as the Golden Eagles led by 11 in the first half, had the game tied with 14 minutes left, and trailed by just five with six minutes left. Okay, maybe the score isn’t that misleading so much as it very clearly outlines how badly Marquette got worked over the final 30 minutes of the game.
Since Last We Met: On one hand, things have only gotten worse for Seton Hall since then. Since that game, they’ve suffered their only three losses in league play. Then again, that January 11th game was merely game #4 in an 8-0 start to conference action for the Pirates, so it’s hard to say that things have actually gotten worse for the Pirates with a straight face. However, they have gone from appearing to be able to cruise to a Big East regular season title to holding a one game lead in the standings as a result of their recent-ish three losses.
The Stakes: It’s Senior Day for Marquette, which means it’s the final home game for Markus Howard, Sacar Anim, and Jayce Johnson. That’s kind of a whole thing, particularly for Howard, who now holds the all time scoring records for both Marquette and the Big East. In fact, Howard needs just 11 points to become the first ever Big East player to score 1,500 points in league games. As Friend Of The Show Joe McCann likes to say on the Scrambled Eggs podcast, just win the game. I don’t care how, just win the game. And also it would be kind of a big deal for Marquette’s overall season arc to beat the Pirates here, but more importantly: Win on Senior Day.
It’s a big game for the Pirates as well. They’re attempting to fend off a charge from Creighton for the regular season title. A loss by the Pirates here or next Wednesday at home against Villanova would potentially set up a winner-take-all game in Omaha on the final day of the regular season between Creighton and Seton Hall for that top spot in the league.
Tempo Free Fun: In the first meeting between these two teams, Sandro Mamukelashvili did not play. He ended up missing 10 games for the Pirates with a fractured wrist, including Seton Hall’s first seven Big East games. The Pirates went 9-1 without him, with the only loss being their first game without him, which was also the game where Myles Powell suffered a concussion after Rutgers had already started kicking their asses all over the RAC. If you include the game where Mamukelashvili suffered the injury (played only five minutes) and the first game where he returned (only played five minutes), then Seton Hall went 11-1 without him being a major contributor.
They’re 5-3 since he returned.
They lost twice at home, one of which was to Creighton, and the Bluejays are obviously very good. That’s fine. They also lost at home to Xavier, which snapped a 10 game winning streak, and they also lost on the road against a very confusing Providence squad. All credit to the Friars there, but that still feels like a game where a top 15 team aiming for a league title like Seton Hall is/was should not lose, especially since that was directly after the Creighton loss.
In any case, they have won two straight since. Both games were in the comfort of The Rock, where they fended off Butler in the final five minutes and then easily dispatched St. John’s in a contest where the 81-65 margin doesn’t tell you how easy they had it.
I run through all of this to ask the question: Have they gotten used to having Mamukelashvili back in the lineup? More importantly, is he actually beneficial to have in the lineup? Drop that 11-1 record from their season, and Seton Hall is just 9-6 with him playing a major part. I know, I know, all six losses are to KenPom top 100 opponents and four of them are away from home, I get it. Only six of the wins are against top 100 opponents, though.
Last time around, Marquette knew they wouldn’t see Mamukelashvili on the court, and their gameplan on both ends had to address what they saw from the Pirates in the six games since he went out. Now they have seven games worth of tape to plan against a SHU team that does have him out there. How much of an impact does that have on what Marquette wants to do? Is that better or worse for the Golden Eagles?
I can make the argument that it’s probably worse, at least based on what we saw in Newark. If you take the full 40 minutes of basketball into account — and remember, Marquette completely controlled the first 10, while it was all Seton Hall in the final 30 — the Golden Eagles had absolutely no idea what to do when it came to stopping Seton Hall at the rim. The Pirates shot 57% on two-pointers in that game, led by a 6-for-11 outing from Myles Powell. Head coach Kevin Willard also had his guys making plentiful use of the back door alleyoop attempt, which is how the 7’2” Romaro Gill ended up with 10 points on 3-for-4 shooting. Mamukelashvili is a bit more of an an inside/outside player, particularly for a guy who is 6’11”. He’s connecting on 37% of his long range attempts this year, although he’s only at 30% in Big East play aka since he returned from his wrist injury. Still, nearly 70% of his shot attempts this year have come on two-point attempts, and for a team that struggled to stop the Pirates, adding another big presence seems like it could be a major problem for the Golden Eagles.
Problem #2 on the day for Marquette is figuring out how to defend Myles Powell. The preseason Big East Player of the Year has, at least in my mind, shot himself out of contention for the postseason version of that award, even if the Pirates with the regular season title. Let’s be honest here people, and take your Marquette and/or Seton Hall tinted glasses off while you address this issue: Can you really call a career 34.6% three-point shooter who is hitting just 30.1% of his attempts this season and just 24.8% of his attempts in conference games “the best player in the Big East?” That’s nine long range attempts per game in conference play on average, and he’s lucky if he hits two. That’s terrible.
And yet, he’s Myles Bleeping Powell. I don’t really care that he’s 8-for-40 — That’s 20%! — from three-point land in Seton Hall’s last four games. I’m certainly not going to encourage head coach Steve Wojciechowski to sag off of Powell and let him hit two before you try to defend him. That would be crazy, because if you give him the space to hit his first two, then you are hosed. MU’s best plan is probably to make him work as hard as humanly possible to get his shots, and thus make him start overthinking his shots. Let’s be honest: Powell is probably already overthinking his shots, so it’s not like this should be that hard to accomplish.
Problem #3 is probably actually problem #1, and that’s Quincy McKnight. If you’re talking about a fully well-rounded up and down the floor game, then McKnight is probably Seton Hall’s best player. He gets to the line a bunch relative to how much he actually shoots it, and knocks down throws with ease. He’s probably the most reliable every game outside shooter for the Pirates, and rebounds his position well enough. However, McKnight’s best attribute is probably his influence on Seton Hall’s offense. That comes in two fashions. First, he has a top 50 assist rate this season, which means McKnight is the guy getting guys the ball where they need it for their best possible shots. Seton Hall’s offense isn’t really the reason why they’re winning, and having a facilitator like McKnight makes a world of difference.
Defense is why the Pirates are good, as they currently rank #11 in the country in KenPom adjusted metric, and they have the best raw defensive efficiency in the Big East in league games. Romaro Gill swatting shots like he needs to do that to breathe helps an awful lot there, but McKnight triggering the Pirates’ offense by creating steals is almost more important. He’s currently top 200 in steal rate this season, and any McKnight steal is just two dribbles and a pass away from a free and easy bucket.
Marquette Last 10 Games: 6-4, with Wednesday’s win over Georgetown snapping a three game losing streak.
Seton Hall Last 10 Games: 7-3, with wins in their last two games.
All Time Series: Marquette leads, 19-10.
Current Streak: Seton Hall has won three straight overall in the series, but Marquette has won the last three games that were played in Milwaukee.
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