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#11 Marquette Men’s Basketball Big East Preview Primer: vs #16 Xavier

The Golden Eagles host the Musketeers in a RANKED TEAM BATTLE with Big East supremacy on the line.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 21 Georgetown at Xavier Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

#11 Marquette Golden Eagles (20-6, 12-3 Big East) vs #16 Xavier Musketeers (19-6, 11-3 Big East)

Date: Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Kam Jones, 15.2 ppg
Rebounds: Oso Ighodaro, 5.8 rpg
Assists: Tyler Kolek, 7.7 apg

Xavier Stats Leaders

Points: Souley Boum, 16.1 ppg
Rebounds: Jack Nunge, 7.9 rpg
Assists: Souley Boum, 4.9 apg

Xavier Injury Note: Officially, Zach Freemantle is leading the team in rebounding at 8.1 per game, but the 6’9” senior is out until March with a foot injury. Souley Boum has an ankle injury and has not been practicing, but is expected to play on Wednesday. Rankings

Marquette: #12
Xavier: #26
Game Projection: Marquette has a 71% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 87-81.

The Stakes: First, Marquette attempting to pull off the season split with Xavier to force the tiebreaker for conference tournament standings to something other than head-to-head. Second, first place Marquette (12-3) is a half-game in front of Creighton and Xavier (both 11-3) in the Big East standings right now as I type this on Tuesday afternoon. A win extends Marquette’s advantage over the Musketeers for control of first place in the league, while a loss means that the Golden Eagles are going to need help from the rest of the league to win a regular season championship.

Last Time Out: Xavier got the win in Cincinnati, 80-76, back when they were #12 and Marquette was #25 on January 15th. Both teams threw together big runs in the first half before things leveled out and MU led by four at halftime. Neither side could keep up the pace that led to a 48-44 score at intermission, and neither side could gain much of an advantage in either direction over the final 20 minutes. It came down to the final minute with Souley Boum hitting a midrange jumper to take a two point lead and Marquette getting a drive from Olivier-Maxence Prosper to go for the tie... and his three footer just bounced off the rim.

Since Last We Met: I don’t want to say things have been going poorly for Xavier since mid-January but 4-3 over seven games for a team that was 15-3 after beating Marquette and a perfect 7-0 in Big East play is definitely not great. The things pointing us towards “actually, things are bad” for the Musketeers lay in two simple facts. First, they lost at DePaul, 73-72, and second, they lost at Butler, 69-67. The first is explained by Xavier’s somewhat questionable defense letting the Blue Demons shoot 45% on 20 long range attempts. The second is explained by..... well, nothing actually, other than the Bulldogs used a 14-2 run early to take an 18-6 lead, hold a double digit advantage at halftime, and then use that to hold the Musketeers off down the stretch when some very wild and weird stuff happened. I was going to attribute it to Zach Freemantle’s injury keeping him out of the lineup..... but that was the third game that he missed, not the first.

Tempo Free Fun: So, given that the X-Men are in a bit of a funk lately, we have to take a peek at what may or may not have changed for them. That sends us to so we can filter the season just like CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish taught us to do. Through the conclusion of the first Marquette/Xavier game, the Musketeers were playing like the #20 team in the country. They had the sixth best offense from an efficiency perspective, and the #114 defense. That’s nothing surprising to us, at least from what we remember from preparing to face Xavier the first time around.

Since then? #41 overall, #15 offense, #129 defense.

They’re still an elite offense, they’re just not maxing it out like they did through the first 18 games of the season. They’re also a wee bit worse on the defensive end of the court, which is a problem because 1) they weren’t that great to start with and 2) the offense isn’t able to paper over as many of their inabilities to get a stop when they need one. Now there’s even more of those, and you can see the cascading problem here.

That seems to be a team that can be taken advantage on the defensive end, even more so than they were in mid-January. The flipside of that is the fact that two of Marquette’s worst offensive outings of the entire season have come in the Golden Eagles’ last three games. It certainly looks like Marquette got back on the right offensive track last time out, averaging 1.20 points per possession.... but that was against Georgetown, the dirt worst defensive team in the league. Did MU figure themselves out or did they just play Georgetown? Does it matter if they figured themselves out on Saturday if 1) they get to play their next game at home in front of a crowd ready to will them to a win as well as 2) they get to play the third worst defense in the league in that game? Because that’s Xavier, giving up 106.9 points per 100 possession in league play according to

Perhaps the biggest question of the game is whether or not Souley Boum is 100%. The UTEP transfer is averaging 16.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 1.3 steals for the Musketeers, and he’s shooting 41% behind the three-point line. He picked up an ankle injury at some point against Butler, but did end up playing 32 minutes in the game. He wasn’t very good though, shooting 4-for-14 overall and 2-for-7 from long range, and he committed four turnovers. As noted above, Xavier head coach Sean Miller has been holding him out of practice to let the ankle heal up before Wednesday night’s encounter, but Boum is expected to play. That’s rather important for the Musketeers, as he’s been critical to their offensive success all season long and especially lately since they lost Zach Freemantle for a month.

Let’s take a spin over to Hoop Explorer. Taking the entire season into account, the Musketeers are averaging 124.0 points per 100 possessions, adjusted for competition level, when Boum is on the floor. When he subs off, ignoring garbage time, XU is pumping out just 96.6 points per 100 possessions. Weirdly, the defense gets remarkably better without him — 100.8 vs 85.9 — but that’s not a 28 per 100 change like the offense, so you can see how Miller is willing to let that go and make the tradeoff.

During Freemantle’s absence due to his injury? XU’s offense is scoring 130 adjusted points per 100 possessions while Boum is on the floor..... and just 94.7 when he’s not. Weirdly, the defense is essentially unchanged with or without Boum over the last three games — 103 vs 102.7 — which probably tells you a lot about what Freemantle’s doing for the Musketeers, or rather what they’re missing without him. What do the Musketeers do if Boum can’t play at all on Wednesday? What if they’re only getting 80% of him? Is that enough on the offensive end to cause enough problems for the Golden Eagles.... or is the apparently rapidly improving Marquette defense — up to #66 on KenPom after sitting at #83 heading into the first Xavier game — going to be able to take advantage of a slightly slowed down Boum to get the stops they need to win?

Stat Watch: After eight assists last time out against Georgetown, Tyler Kolek has the 3rd most assists by a Marquette junior. That item is less important now though, as Kolek has jumped into the top 10 in all time assists seasons. Kolek has stacked up enough assists this season to pass himself last year for the 7th most assists in a single season by any Marquette player. He has also posted just the 7th Marquette season ever with 200 assists, and with Tony Miller doing it four times, Kolek is just the fourth person to ever record 200 assists in a single campaign. Kolek is eight assists away from tying Sam Worthen in sixth place, so that’s on deck for Wednesday night. Worthen is also the guy holding down the #2 spot on the junior year list, so Kolek might move up a spot there as well.

Stat Watch #2: Oso Ighodaro has passed Dwyane Wade for the 7th most blocks by a Marquette junior. He needs three more to catch Luke Fischer and Dwayne “Not The Rock” Johnson in a tie for fifth place.

Stat Watch #3: Kam Jones is tied for the 6th most made triples by a Marquette sophomore after hitting four against Georgetown to pull even with Aaron Hutchins. He needs two to tie and three to pass Darius Johnson-Odom and Anthony Pieper in a tie for fourth place.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 8-2, with a win last time out and a win in six of the last seven.

Xavier Last 10 Games: 7-3 with a loss last time out but a win in four of the last six.

All Time Series: Marquette leads, 55-27.

Current Streak: Xavier won the meeting in Cincinnati earlier this season to hold the scant advantage in the series. No one has won two straight in this series since MU swept it in 2020.

Follow Along on Twitter

@AnonymousEagle - Hey, that’s us!
@MarquetteMBB - Official MU account
@XavierMBB - Official Xavier account
@BannersParkway - our SB Nation friends who follow Xavier
@BenSteeleMJS - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel MU beat writer