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Marquette Basketball Big East Preview Primer: at Georgetown Hoyas

What can we expect as the Golden Eagles look to snap a three game losing streak?

NCAA Basketball: Butler at Georgetown
I feel like Jack should be wearing sunglasses here.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette Golden Eagles (5-5, 1-3 Big East) at Georgetown Hoyas (3-5, 1-3 Big East)

Date: Saturday, January 2, 2020
Time: 6:30pm Central
Location: McDonough Arena, Washington, D.C.

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Koby McEwen, 14.2 points/game
Rebounds: Dawson Garcia, 6.7 rebounds/game
Assists: D.J. Carton, 3.6 assists/game

Georgetown Stats Leaders

Points: Jahvon Blair, 18.9 points/game
Rebounds: Jamorko Pickett, 9.3 rebounds/game
Assists: Jalen Harris, 5.2 assists/game

KenPom.com Rankings

Marquette: #52, down from their season starting position of #36
Georgetown: #106, down from their season starting position of #87
Game Projection: Marquette has a 65% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 77-72.

The Stakes: Oh, great, we’re 10 games into the season and four games into Big East play, and I’ve talked myself into assigning stakes to a basketball game. Super. ANYWAY, Marquette has lost three straight games since knocking off then-#9 Creighton and four of six since beating then-#4 Wisconsin. They have now been gifted an opportunity by way of scheduling to play the team projected as the worst team in the Big East, and perhaps more importantly here, Marquette is fairly heavily favored to win. As such, this is a fairly important game for the Golden Eagles to take the lessons they have learned from the last 120 minutes of basketball and apply them in order to avoid falling to 1-7 in their last eight conference games dating back to last season.

Tempo Free Fun: This game should ultimately be decided while Marquette has the ball. KenPom says that the Golden Eagles have the 17th most efficient offense in the country, as they bolster hitting nearly 40% of their three-pointers with a top 50 offensive rebounding rate to keep possessions alive for a second chance. If you want to take it to only league play, Marquette is the second most efficient offense in the Big East so far at 114.5 points per 100 possessions, and one of only two teams clearing 109 per 100. Opposing MU here is what KenPom judges as the #121 defense in the country and through their four games of league play, the second worst defense in the Big East. While Marquette scores over 114 points per 100 possessions, the Hoyas are giving up over 113.

Georgetown’s biggest problem on defense is quite literally Marquette’s biggest weakness. The Hoyas currently rank #329 in the country in defensive turnover rate, and to give you an idea of how bad that is, they’re worse than Marquette’s defense by more than a full percentage point. MU’s only flaw in their top 20 offense is their inability to keep track of the ball. The Golden Eagles are turning it over on more than 21% of possessions so far this season, although that number is slightly down in Big East action. When you’re scoring with the efficiency that Marquette is, turning it over that much isn’t a gigantic problem. It’s not a good thing, obviously, but you can clearly overcome it. Georgetown appears to be willing to do everything in their power to help D.J. Carton et. al. overcome their turnover problem in this game, and if that’s the case, then that should lead to a lot of points for the Golden Eagles and a pretty easy win.

Marquette’s interest in getting work done in the paint, both in terms of rebounding misses and scoring, is going to have to contend with Qudus Wahab and, to a lesser extent, Jamorko Pickett. A top 170 defensive rebounding rate combined with 85% of minutes played is what’s driving Pickett to nearly average a double-double this season. 8.1 of his 9.3 rebounds per game are coming on the defensive end of the court, so putting a body on him every time a ball leaves a Marquette hand is going to be crucial to MU maintaining their usual standard on the offensive glass. Wahab is no slouch at defensive rebounding, ranking in the top 300 in the country in rate and vacuuming up 5.6 caroms per game while only averaging 27 minutes per outing. That’s not MU’s biggest challenge with him. The 6’11” Nigerian is averaging 2.6 blocks per game. In terms of rates, over 10% of opponent’s shots while Wahab is on the floor get blocked by him. That’s good enough #35 in the country per KenPom.com. If you want some Marquette-related context for Wahab’s shot blocking, Theo John is at 7.9% and ranks #69. Marquette is either going to have to scheme around Wahab’s placement on the floor, or be very careful about how they put shots up inside the three-point line, whether it’s Koby McEwen trying to go to the rim, Jamal Cain stopping and popping at the elbow for a jumper, or Theo John’s jump hooks.

On the other end, it appears to be a battle of who could care less. Georgetown’s combination of coughing it up more than Marquette does, a raging inability to get to the free throw line, and a really poor two-point shooting percentage combine to make them KenPom’s current #95 offense. At this point in Big East play, the Hoyas are the #9 offense in the conference. In a hilarious failure to take advantage of a situation, Georgetown is the most accurate free throw shooting team in the Big East in conference action, but 9th in the rate at which they get to the line.

Marquette is poised to do literally nothing to stop Georgetown. Through four games of action, MU is the worst defense in the Big East by KenPom’s measure. The Golden Eagles are giving up a whopping 122.6 points per 100 possessions, running dead last behind Georgetown’s 113.5 per 100. If you would like to see that in points per possession, that’s the difference between 1.23 and 1.14. It is a monumental gap between Marquette and the next worst defense, and thankfully, that’s the defense trying to stop MU on the other end in this game. Marquette is letting opponents both shoot and hit too many three-pointers, it’s way too easy to find the open man for an assisted bucket against the Golden Eagles, they don’t generate turnovers to a record low level in the Steve Wojciechowski era, and if all of that wasn’t enough, they have the complete misfortune to rank #253 in the country in free throw shooting percentage defense.

The one thing Georgetown does well on offense is shoot threes. They’re hitting 36.5% of them this season, which is #75 in the country. They also tend to like to shoot threes, ranking #120 in terms of rate. That’s a real problem for Marquette’s defense, as I mentioned a moment ago. Jahvon Blair is the most likely culprit in terms of putting up a three, as he leads the team in attempts this season. He’s hitting a perfectly good 35% of them overall, and that number has creeped up to 37% in league action. In theory, because he’s Georgetown’s leading scorer, his tendencies should be at the top of the scouting report. Blair shoots more from outside the arc than he does inside, so just stopping his teammates from finding Blair for open shots is a necessity.

It’s not just Blair, though. Jamorko Pickett is cashing 36% of his threes, and at 6’9”, he’s the second biggest guy in the starting lineup. Chasing him inside and outside the arc may prove to be a challenge for the Golden Eagles. Donald Carey, the senior transfer from Siena, is hitting 45% of his threes this season on five attempts per game. The 6’5” Maryland native does start for the Hoyas, so there won’t have to be any concern about keeping track of when he suddenly subs into the game to start winding up from downtown.

While the names Blair, Pickett, and Wahab should ring familiar to you after Marquette’s destruction of Georgetown down the stretch last season, this isn’t the same Georgetown team even if the Hoyas aren’t playing well again. Those three guys did play a big role in that particular game, but that was a different situation for Patrick Ewing’s team. That team was wildly disrupted by the midseason transfer problem and that wasn’t even the active roster that Ewing wanted to field back in February. Mac McClung and Omer Yurtseven both missed that game due to injuries, and the dysfunction with those guys out was visible pretty much from the get-go. This Hoyas squad, while clearly having their struggles so far this year, is all moving in the direction that Ewing wants. Four of their starters — the trio listed a moment ago and Carey — have started all eight games, with Dante Harris stepping into the starting five to replace Jalen Harris after he took a leave of absence for family related personal reasons. Whether or not the unified direction of the team plays a role this game remains to be seen, but I think we can definitely say that this game won’t be as easy for Marquette as the last time that we saw them face off against Georgetown.

All-Time Series: Marquette leads, 16-13.

Current Streak: After sweeping the season series a year ago, Marquette has now won two straight against the Hoyas as well as seven of the last nine encounters.

Follow Along On Twitter

@AnonymousEagle - Hey, that’s us!
@MarquetteMBB - Official MU account
@GeorgetownHoops - Official Georgetown account
@CasualHoya - our SB Nation friends that follow Georgetown, casually
@becb_sbn - our SB Nation friends that follow the whole Big East
@BenSteeleMJS - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel MU beat writer