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Marquette Basketball Big East Preview Primer: at #5 Villanova Wildcats

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sure, why not

DePaul v Villanova Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Marquette Golden Eagles (9-10, 5-8 Big East) at #5 Villanova Wildcats (12-2, 7-1 Big East)

Yes, You Noticed That, Didn’t You: Villanova has played eight Big East games, Marquette has played 13. Welcome to the 2020-21 season.

Date: Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Time: 8pm Central
Location: Finneran Pavilion, Villanova, PA

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: D.J. Carton, 12.7/game
Rebounds: Dawson Garcia, 6.7/game
Assists: D.J. Carton, 3.5/game

Villanova Stats Leaders

Points: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, 15.3/game
Rebounds: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, 7.3/game
Assists: Collin Gillespie, 4.8/game

KenPom.com Rankings

Marquette: #77
Villanova: #10
Game Projection: Villanova has an 84% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 75-64.

Scheduling Notes: This game was originally scheduled for January 8th, but was postponed due to COVID issues in the Villanova program. It was set for today back on February 1st, when the Big East told Villanova “nope, you’re not going to play DePaul on the 9th, you’re going to play Marquette on the 10th.” No issues with the Blue Demons, just the league readjusting the schedule to give the Wildcats a game against a NET ranking of #101 instead of #168, which is where DePaul is through games played on February 9th. That’s last in the Big East, by the way. That DePaul game has not been put back on Villanova’s schedule yet, and I don’t expect it to be, either.

Isn’t being a sacrificial lamb fun?

Last Time Out: Just before Christmas, Marquette fell apart almost as soon as the second half started and lost at home by 17, 85-68. The Golden Eagles shot 50% from behind the three-point line, but also turned the ball over more than 25% of the time.

Since Last We Met: The win over Marquette was, at the time, the sixth straight victory for Villanova. They then won the next three games they played, even though they wouldn’t play again after the MU game until January 19th. They suffered a loss on the road against St. John’s two games ago to snap the winning streak, and that one was not close by the time the final horn sounded. Back on Sunday, Jay Wright’s guys got right (see what I did there) by beating Georgetown by 10 at home. The Hoyas actually led that game 67-66 with a little less than six minutes left, but the Wildcats closed the game out on an 18-7 run.

Tempo Free Fun: In theory, this part of the preview is me attempting to present to you, the reader, what would be Marquette’s angle to winning the game in question. Strengths, weaknesses, potential problems, etc., etc., you get the idea.

I got nothing for this one.

Villanova is a ridiculously great offensive team, currently ranking #5 in the country in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency math, and first in the Big East this season by more than five points per 100 possessions over Creighton. You guys remember Creighton, the team that just beat Marquette? Villanova’s offense is better.

Villanova loves shooting threes, Marquette can’t stop letting other teams shoot as many as possible. Villanova makes a ton of threes, Marquette lets that happen like the Riddler watching Penguin execute a well planned heist while Batman is out of town. Villanova almost never makes mistakes on offense, ranking #3 in the country in turnover rate, and that’s just fine by Marquette because they weren’t interested in taking the ball away from you anyway, at least not until it hits the rim first.

That’s when the Wildcats have the ball. When Marquette has the ball, well, things are a little bit better because Villanova is merely good on that end. The thing that should terrify you, though, is that Villanova ranks #1 in the Big East in defensive turnover rate. Yes, Marquette’s biggest flaw (#251 in the country, #10 in the league) as an offense — remembering where the ball is at all times — is Villanova’s biggest strength in this game.

As if that wasn’t enough, Marquette’s dependency on firing the ball into the paint, whether that by by drive by D.J. Carton or post up by Theo John, isn’t exactly particularly useful against Villanova. The primary goal of scoring inside is points, obviously. The secondary goal is creating contact that generates fouls against the opposing team. Villanova hates committing fouls, ranking #17 in the country in defensive free throw rate. Not shooting percentage, free throw rate, as in the ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts.

In short, Marquette is not a good basketball team in the first place this season, and Villanova, a very good basketball team with eyes on their third national championship in six years, seems uniquely designed to expressly attack the weakest and fleshiest parts of MU’s underbelly.

No, I don’t have a lot of hope that Marquette is going to go into The Finn and win for the first time in program history. Why do you ask?

Marquette Last 10 Games: 4-6, with losses in four of the last five games.

Villanova Last 10 Games: 9-1, with the loss coming two games ago on February 3rd on the road against St. John’s.

All-Time Series: Villanova leads, 26-12

Current Streak: The Wildcats have won each of the last two meetings, three of the last four, and six of the last eight. Marquette has not won a road game against Villanova since January 28, 2012, aka The James Breeding Show Starring James Breeding As James Breeding.

Follow Along On Twitter

@AnonymousEagle - hey, that’s us!
@MarquetteMBB - The official Marquette team account
@NovaMBB - The official Villanova team account
@BenSteeleMJS - The Journal Sentinel’s beat reporter
@VUHoops - our SB Nation friends that cover Villanova
@becb_sbn - our SB Nation friends that cover the entire Big East