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Marquette Basketball Big East Preview Primer: at #11 Villanova Wildcats

The Golden Eagles look to get their fifth win in a row against a Nova team going for their seventh straight

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 23 Div I Men’s Championship - Second Round - Villanova v Purdue Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Marquette Golden Eagles (12-6, 4-3 Big East) at #11 Villanova Wildcats (13-4, 6-1 Big East)

Date: Wednesday, January 19th, 2022
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Finneran Pavilion, Villanova, Pennsylvania

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Justin Lewis, 15.3 ppg
Rebounds: Justin Lewis, 7.7 rpg
Assists: Tyler Kolek, 6.4 apg

Villanova Stats Leaders

Points: Collin Gillespie, 17.1 ppg
Rebounds: Jermaine Samuels, 6.3 rpg
Assists: Collin Gillespie, 3.3 apg

KenPom.com Rankings:

Marquette: #47
Villanova: #3
Game Projection: Villanova has an 87% chance of victory, with a projected score of 75-62.

So Far This Season: Just Villanova doing Villanova things.

Nova has played one of the toughest schedules in the NCAA. They’ve played the second hardest schedule in all of men’s college basketball according to KenPom.com. They’ve played 7 (!!!) games against ranked teams, going 4-3 in those games.

Three of those teams were ranked inside the top six when the Wildcats faced off with them. All of those matchups ended up with a Nova loss: they took then #2 UCLA to overtime, lost by just 6 points to then #6 Purdue, and got blown out of the water by then #2 Baylor.

Outside of those three somewhat expected or at the very least understandable losses, Villanova has only lost one other game, and it took the Wildcats shooting under 20% on three-pointers for Creighton to come out on top there. Collin Gillespie returned to the Wildcats for his COVID bonus year and continues to be one of the best players in all of college basketball. Villanova continues to take really good care of the ball, having the 16th best turnover percentage in D-I men’s basketball.

Villanova does a bunch of things really, really well, but what they do best is shoot free throws and threes. Nova’s shooting splits are CRAZY: as a TEAM they shoot 81.5% from the line and 36.2% from three. For context, the D-I averages are 71.0% on free throws and 33.4% on threes.

Threes: They shoot a lot of threes. A LOT a lot. 46% of their shots are threes, good for #29 in the country. That said, Marquette is really good at contesting and not allowing other teams to shoot threes. MU’s three-point defense only gives up a three on about a third of shots against them and opponents only get about 28% of their points on threes. Both of those numbers are really good.

On defense, Villanova likes to disrupt opposing offenses by filling passing lanes and stopping normal ball movement. They do this at the expense of allowing opposing offenses to shoot threes. About 43% of opponents’ shots are threes, that’s a pretty large proportion of shots.

The more that Marquette can take advantage of their opportunities from behind the arc and take away the three on defense, the better chance that they have of getting their first ever win over Villanova at the Pavilion.

Frees and Oldies: As for free throws, Marquette doesn’t foul all that much and Nova doesn’t really draw fouls all that much, which makes sense for a team that spends so much time shooting jumpers. When they do get to the line, they just tend to make it. Some of the good free throw shooting could be due to Nova being a really experienced team. They’re the 55th oldest team in D-I and each player has, on average, about 1.5 more years of experience than each Marquette player.

Nova’s starting lineup (for every game except for one) has two fifth-year seniors (Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels), one four year senior (Brandon Slater), one junior (Justin Moore), and one sophomore (Eric Dixon). Their sixth man, Caleb Daniels, is also a senior.

For another interesting lineup contrast between the two teams, Villanova has just six players playing 30% or more of their minutes. Marquette has nine. Shaka Smart goes deep down this bench to play the players most likely to succeed, while Jay Wright trusts his experienced players to get the job done.

You know where experience and free throw shooting matter: Close games. Nova is a team built to handle close games with an experienced lineup that knows what to do in various late-game situations and can hit free throws. If Marquette can keep it close until the end, it’ll be an uphill battle to eke out a win.

Speeds (or lack thereof): I wonder what king of the slow it down game Bo Ryan would say about this Villanova team. KenPom.com has their adjusted tempo at 62.0, the fourth slowest team in D-I. Their offense averages 19.8 seconds per play which is the 11th slowest. The Wildcats want to slow the ball down and generate a really good look, something they do consistently. That works well for Marquette, the MU defense likes to force its opponents into long possessions.

When MU has the ball, it’s a different story. Marquette runs the 6th quickest offense and looks to catch the defense off guard with ball movement generated through pick and rolls. Villanova’s defense isn’t quite as stingy as Marquette’s is in terms of possession time, but they’re still good at forcing opponents to take the time to work for a shot.

Stat Watch: Kur Kuath has blocked 53 shots so far this season, already good enough to be tied for the #4 greatest shot blocking season by a Marquette senior with Luke Fischer. He’s just 2 blocks away from being in a tie for 3rd amongst the seniors and tied for the 10th best shot blocking season overall.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 5-5 overall, but 2-3 against ranked teams and winners of four straight overall.

Villanova Last 10 Games: 8-2, with their losses coming to then-#2 Baylor and Creighton

All Time Series: Villanova leads, 27-12

Current Streak: Villanova is on a three game win streak against MU, with the last MU win coming on January 4th, 2020, a night where Markus Howard scored 38 points.

Follow Along on Twitter:

@AnonymousEagle - Hey, that’s us!
@GunvilleJohn - Your #1 source on MU’s ‘crazy freak lineup’ also the author of this preview
@MarquetteMBB - Official MU account
@VUhoops - our SB Nation friends who follow Villanova
@becb_sbn - our SB Nation friends that follow the whole Big East
@BenSteeleMJS - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel MU beat writer