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Marquette Basketball Big East Preview Primer: at Providence Friars

The Golden Eagles head to Rhode Island looking to bounce back from their worst loss of the year.

USC v Providence
Hello darkness my old friend
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Marquette Golden Eagles (8-7, 4-5 Big East) at Providence Friars (8-7, 4-5 Big East)

Date: Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Alumni Hall, Providence, Rhode Island

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Dawson Garcia, 12.7/game
Rebounds: Dawson Garcia, 7.2/game
Assists: D.J. Carton, 3.5/game

Providence Stats Leaders

Points: David Duke, 18.7/game
Rebounds: Nate Watson, 6.8/game
Assists: David Duke, 4.7/game

KenPom.com Rankings

Marquette: #65
Providence: #62
Game Projection: Providence has a 60% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 71-68.

Last Time Out: Marquette picked up a 79-69 victory in Milwaukee back on January 12th. Dawson Garcia went for 20 points and six rebounds to lead the way as Marquette built a 16 point lead late in the first half.... and gave 15 points of it back with just under eight minutes to play. Marquette didn’t really seal the win until very late, helped by Garcia coming up with two offensive rebounds to extend possessions long enough for the Golden Eagles to put points on the board.

Since Last We Met: Marquette has gone 1-1 since defeating the Friars. They went out to New York, built a double-digit lead against St. John’s, gave it all away and then some, but pulled out a win thanks to a late layup by Koby McEwen. They then followed that up by completely crapping the bed against DePaul, which is largely the cause of that sensation of fatigue you’re feeling while you’re reading this.

Providence is also 1-1 since losing to Marquette for what was at the time their third straight loss. However, PC’s 1-1 is much more attractive that MU’s. They went out to Omaha and dumped Creighton, but then got zapped by Villanova this past Saturday. The Wildcats turned the game in their favor for good there with a 15-2 run in the middle of the second half. No real shame in losing to Nova, even with a margin of 15 or only scoring 56 points.

Tempo Free Fun: Marquette beat Providence earlier this season by being offensively overpowering. The Golden Eagles scored 1.22 points per possession in that one, easily outstripping PC’s 1.06 per trip. Impressively, MU did this while being absolutely crap at shooting the ball. Only seven of their 24 long range attempts went through the net, largely because Koby McEwen (2-7) and D.J. Carton (1-6) just could not get it going all night. As you can guess, Marquette had a significant advantage taking the ball to the rim, as Dawson Garcia’s 6-for-8 shooting on two-pointers helped lead the way to a 58% shooting performance inside the arc.

This is upside down from what you would normally expect from Marquette’s offense. On the whole this year, the Golden Eagles are hitting nearly 36% of their threes (76th best in the country) and less than 50% of their twos (a very mediocre #183 in the country per KenPom.com). While that’s not what you would expect from MU, it is what you would expect from a team playing against Providence’s defense. The Friars are stingy in the three-point department, both in terms of shooting percentage and rate, but they can’t do a damn thing the closer you get to the rim. In the earlier meeting this season, Garcia, Justin Lewis, and Theo John combined for 20 of Marquette’s 34 two-point attempts, and they sank 12 of them. Obviously, PC head coach Ed Cooley and his staff are well aware of what happened in this game and will be working to plug the hole, but it definitely looks like the Golden Eagles have a winning strategy in this one.

Marquette’s biggest problem on defense was, unsurprisingly, Providence’s three-point shooting. On the season, the Friars are only hitting 32% of their attempts. However, in Big East action, that number is up to 37%, and the MU game earlier this year might be part of the reason. PC shot 9-for-19 in that one, and that works out to 47%. Jimmy Nichols was 3-for-3 against the Golden Eagles, and he’s 5-for-17 (29%) against everyone else. A.J. Reeves was 3-for-7, which means he’s 16-for-47 (34%) against the rest of the Big East so far and 21-for-75 (28%) in Providence’s other 14 contests.

That’s all not particularly great, but it might just be a lucky night. Marquette kept Providence within shouting distance of their average rate of three-pointers attempted this season, 31.7% on average vs 32.2% in that game. So that’s not bad defense by Marquette in terms of giving PC looks, just dudes making shots that maaaaaaaybe they don’t normally make. With a little bit of luck, Marquette’s defense will continue along the same trend line that it’s been on over the past five games, and the Golden Eagles will still defend well at Alumni Hall.

Marquette also dined out on Providence’s terrible defensive rebounding last time around. Jamal Cain, Dawson Garcia, Theo John, and Justin Lewis all had at least two offensive rebounds in that game as MU got a second chance on nearly 40% of their misses. The Golden Eagles are a pretty good offensive rebounding team in the first place, but mix that with PC’s bad defensive job, and that leads to a lot of great opportunities. Marquette is going to have to capitalize on those chances as well as work hard to make sure they get them. If I can see it was a problem for the Friars, then so can the Friars, and you know they think they weren’t that far away from winning the previous game. A tweak here and a minor improvement there, and maybe things go differently.

Speaking of things being different, we’re left wondering if Jared Bynum will be available for Providence. The sophomore transfer from Saint Joseph’s was averaging 5.8 points and 4.5 assists per game in PC’s first 11 games, but he hasn’t played since suffering an injury nine minutes into a home game against Creighton back on January 2nd. He’s been dressing and warming up for games lately, but it doesn’t seem like he’s anywhere close to returning to the court. That doesn’t mean that he won’t pop back up against Marquette, and heck, since it’s Marquette/Providence and something weird has to happen, it almost raises the odds of Bynum getting back into the starting lineup. His high assist rate and low turnover rate make the Maryland native look like the talented point guard that Cooley’s best Friars teams have had. It’s not terribly surprising that PC is 1-4 without him.

Last note: Whatever Marquette did to David Duke last time, it worked. The 6’5” junior was just 5-for-19 from the field in Milwaukee, and that kind of performance from Duke is probably going to lead to a lot of wins for the other team more often than not. He can do more than shoot, though, as he chipped in three rebounds and a game high nine assists in the losing effort on January 12th. Duke’s distribution is a pretty big reason why Providence made the previous contest interesting, so Marquette has to find a way to neutralize that threat from the Providence native as well. Still, I think I would prefer 5-for-19 with nine assists to say, 10-for-19 with two assists. The Friars don’t have a lot of scoring threats with only Duke and Nate Watson averaging in double digits. Forcing the other guys to beat you is a pretty solid way to go about things for Marquette, so I wouldn’t be opposed to running out pretty much the exact same defensive game plan.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 4-6, with the loss to DePaul ending a two game winning spurt.

Providence Last 10 Games: 5-5, with losses in four of their last five games.

All-Time Series: Marquette leads, 20-11.

Current Streak: MU’s win earlier this season snapped a two-game spurt by the Friars. That gives the Golden Eagles a 4-3 advantage in the last seven meetings.

Follow Along On Twitter

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