#14 Marquette Golden Eagles (17-5, 9-2 Big East) vs Villanova Wildcats (10-11, 4-6 Big East)
Date: Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Time: 7:30pm Central
Location: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Marquette Stats Leaders
Points: Kam Jones, 16.0 ppg
Rebounds: Oso Ighodaro, 6.2 rpg
Assists: Tyler Kolek, 8.0 apg
Marquette Lineup Note: Starting guard Kam Jones and reserve guard Sean Jones are questionable for this game. Olivier-Maxence Prosper is MU’s #2 leading scorer at 14.0 points per game.
Villanova Stats Leaders
Points: Caleb Daniels, 16.3 ppg
Rebounds: Eric Dixon, 6.5 rpg
Assists: Caleb Daniels, 3.0 apg
Villanova Stats Note: Justin Moore made his season debut in Villanova’s most recent game and recorded four assists, so technically, he’s leading the team in that column.
Game Projection: Marquette has an 85% chance of victory with a predicted score of 80-68.
Last Time Out: Back on New Year’s Eve, Marquette picked up a 68-66 victory at Finneran Pavilion to move Shaka Smart to 2-0 on his visits to Villanova’s on-campus arena. Stevie Mitchell was huge for Marquette in that one, scoring early to prop the team up and finishing with a game high 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting to go with two rebounds, two assists, and four steals. It was MU’s defense locking up the Wildcats in the second half that won the Golden Eagles the game, holding them to just 13 points over the final 16 minutes. With that said, it was tied at 66 with 3:42 to go, so it’s not like Marquette’s offense was doing them a lot of favors down the stretch either. Olivier-Maxence Prosper got the game winning bucket on a dunk with 1:42 left, and there was a lot of fouling weirdness from there to the end after that as neither team was in the bonus yet.
Since Last We Met: That loss dropped Villanova to 7-7 on the year and 1-2 in Big East play. It was their second straight loss and just their second loss since star freshman Cam Whitmore made his season debut on December 3rd against Oklahoma. You already saw the top of the page, so you know that Villanova has gone just 3-4 since falling to the Golden Eagles. What you may not be aware of is that their wins are, in order:
- at Georgetown
- home vs Georgetown
- at St. John’s
And home vs St. John’s was their league opener, and they won that one. Villanova is 0-6 in Big East play against teams not named Georgetown or St. John’s. When Marquette won at The Finn on New Year’s Eve, Shaka Smart was 2-0 in that building and MU was the only Big East team to win there since Butler pulled it off in February of 2017. Since the start of 2023, Villanova has surrendered home losses to Xavier and Providence. No one won at The Finn for nearly five years. Now it’s just what happens when NCAA tournament caliber teams come to town.
To put it all another way, an important way because we had reason to believe that Villanova was getting their act together when we last saw them in late December? Since then, if you use the filters on BartTorvik.com, Villanova has been playing like the #109 team in the country. #138 on offense, #110 on defense.
We should note that Justin Moore made his season debut for the Wildcats in their 70-65 home loss to Providence on Sunday. The 6’4” guard blew out his Achilles tendon towards the end of VU’s 50-44 win over Houston in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament and has been rehabbing since getting that repaired. He was a full participant in practice not long after the first game against Marquette and the decision as to when he was ready to play was up to Moore and the doctors. He started, replacing Chris Arcidiacono in the lineup, and played 31 minutes against Providence, contributing five points, four rebounds, and four assists.
Tempo Free Fun: It’s hard to make any definitive statements about Villanova, at least compared to the VU team that we saw on New Year’s Eve. It’s definitely not the same Villanova team, and not just because Justin Moore debuted on Sunday. The Wildcats have also been without Jordan Longino who had his knee lock up against Georgetown in VU’s very next game after facing Marquette, and he hasn’t played since. Want to think about Villanova in those terms? BartTorvik.com says #129 without Longino, #129 on offense, #144 on defense. In other words: They’ve been a team that Marquette should be favored by 12 against, and that’s a very weird thing to say about Villanova.
Here’s what we do know, though: Villanova is not a good offensive rebounding team in general. They rank #325 in the country in that department per KenPom.com at 23.5% of their misses getting gathered up for a second chance, and in Big East action, they’re just ever so barely worse at 23.4%. Why do I bring this up? Because Marquette’s awful defensive rebounding — literally the worst in the Big East — let them grab up 34% of their misses. Functionally, Villanova isn’t trying to get offensive rebounds, but Marquette let them do it over and over and over again, more than a third of the time. Part of this can just be fixed by Marquette not bopping the ball out of bounds when VU misses a shot because “Team” was Nova’s leader in offensive rebounds on NYE, and that just means that a missed shot went off a Marquette player to give the ball back to the Wildcats. Just stop doing that. Boom, fixed.
It’s critical to not give Villanova second chances that they’re not looking to get. They want to play with a glacially slow pace — #336 in the country this year in adjusted tempo per KenPom.com — so they just don’t want to take a lot of shots. If you limit their second chances and force a lot of turnovers, they just start running out of possessions to try and beat you. Marquette prompted 13 turnovers at The Finn, which turns into 21% of the time in a 62 possession game. That’s a little bit low of a turnover rate for Marquette, as they generate a turnover on more than 22% of possessions on average, and they’re a little bit up from their season average in Big East action. Four of Nova’s turnovers were from Cam Whitmore, who was making his first start of the season at the time. If there’s something about Marquette’s defensive stylings that is particularly troubling for Whitmore, the Golden Eagles need to take advantage of that again.
The other part of all of this is that while Villanova is a bit of a mystery for us because of the absence of Longino and the introduction of Moore, Marquette may be a mystery for Villanova as well. Right now, as I type this on Tuesday, Kam Jones is listed as questionable after sustaining a hip injury against DePaul over the weekend, and the same goes for Sean Jones, who missed the DePaul game with a wrist injury altogether. Kam had 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting with three rebounds and three assists the first time around against Villanova, while Sean barely played, getting in for three minutes and missing his only two shots. If those two guys can’t go, how does that change how Marquette wants to, or perhaps even can play against Villanova? Does the mystery about their availability help Marquette more than MU’s inability to have a lot of film on what the Wildcats look like with Moore in the lineup?
Stat Watch: After 10 assists last time out against DePaul, Tyler Kolek has the 5th most assists by a Marquette junior. He is eight away from tying and nine away from passing Junior Cadougan for fourth place.... and that Cadougan number is tied with Lloyd Walton for the 10th most in a single season by any Marquette player.
Stat Watch #2: Oso Ighodaro is tied with Walter Downing for the 8th most blocks by a Marquette junior. He needs three more to tie and four to pass Dwyane Wade for seventh place.
Stat Watch #3: Kam Jones has the 9th most made triples by a Marquette sophomore. He needs seven to catch and nine to pass Robb Logterman and Travis Diener in a tie for seventh. Since he’s questionable for this game, it seems unlikely that he will get there on Wednesday night.
Marquette Last 10 Games: 8-2, with wins in three straight and eight of the last nine.
Villanova Last 10 Games: 4-6, with a loss in their most recent game and four of the last six.
All-Time Series: Villanova leads, 27-15.
Current Streak: Marquette swept the season series last year and won at The Finn earlier this year, so that’s three straight in MU’s favor right now. MU has never won four straight games against Villanova.
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