Last time these two teams got together, the unfettered arrogance of the Ellenson brothers brought out angry/mouthy Tre, who dropped 24 on a sterling 9-14 shooting and made sure the Golden Eagles knew who was doing it to them. Flip forward 11 pages on you calendar (assuming it’s a monthly one and you’re not counting the page you started on) and there are no more Ellensons and Tre is a game-time decision with an ankle problem. Hooray for progress!
You’re probably aware of how this season has gone for X, but know that things haven’t been all beer and skittles for Coach Woojahooski’s boys either. They were 10-3 at the turn of the new year, but they’ve gone 5-7 since then. They haven’t dumped any really bad games (depending on what you think of losing to St. John’s on the road), but they’re not up to their armpits in good wins, either.
For those of you worried about Xavier’s tournament status, just know that 15-10 Marquette would almost surely be in if today were Selection Sunday.
What does Marquette do better than any other team in the nation? Shoot threes. They lead the county in 3P% and take more that 40% of their shots from behind the arc. They’re also really good from inside the arc and at the free throw line. About the only thing they do badly on offense is hit the glass, which is why they’re 11th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency.
You don’t get to 15-10 with a great offense without having some problems on the other end, and Marquette has them. They’re exceedingly permissive from deep, mediocre inside the arc, and average or just below in forcing turnovers, keeping teams off the line, and defending the glass. Throw it all together and you have the 170th-best defense in the nation.
|This guy can fill it up very quickly given the chance, bringing in the Big East's second best three point percentage at 52%. He does a lot of work inside the arc for his size, which is to say any at all, but doesn't pass or take care of the ball as well as a typical point guard. He is 15-28 from deep over the past 5 games, so X definitely needs to check him on the perimeter.
|Cheatham is taking the Stanley Burrell route through his career, seeing his shooting rate in conference dip seven percentage points from last season's 20.6% mark. It might be less reinvention and more acknowledgement of the fact that he is shooting pretty poorly this season, especially in the Big East. He still goes to the line a lot, although he is only shooting 68% in conference play, and is a defensive workman for Marquette.
|This year's front runner for the Roosevelt Jones: How Are You Still In College? Award, Johnson is still giving opponents headaches with his vigil over the passing lanes. He picks up a couple of steals a game, which is probably why or because he has the best steal rate in the Big East (chicken/egg situation), and has done a little bit of everything else to help Marquette compete. He might not be the first guy teams game plan for when Marquette runs a half-court offense, but he is aggressive going to the rim, executes from the line, and can knock down a jumper when he is hot.
|This guy is going to be an issue in years to come. Hauser is a face up 4 who is deadly from deep and a warrior on the boards at both ends. He doesn't have a very well developed interior game on offense, but he shoots the lights out from three and avoids turning the ball over pretty well for a big.
|Fischer has looked irrepessable at times this season, notably when he took apart Justin Patton at Creighton. Of course, he missed a shot against Justin Patton at Creighton, which means he SUCKS compared to Tyrique (I think). Fischer gets back 15% of his team's misses, is a formidable shot blocker, and a dependable low post scorer, his 3-9 against Georgetown notwithstanding. The post will probably be where this game is won and lost, and Fischer is a major challenge to keep off the glass.
Marquette’s bench does not go deep in terms of bodies, but they are one of the more productive groups in the conference. USC transfer Katin Reinhardt leads the way, playing about 25 minutes a game. He is known mostly as a defensive glue guy with a solid outside shot, but has added an ability to set his teammates up that he did not display at SC. Probably partly down to it being too dang nice outside to concentrate on basketball there. UNC Asheville transfer Andrew Rowsey is not a female MMA fighter. I looked it up. He comes off the bench in place of Howard and brings similar strengths to the table. Namely, he also shoots over 50% from three and is short. He distributes the ball better, and has been playing more than Howard as the season has progressed.
Duane Wilson is a junior now and comes off the bench, having started more games his freshman year than his sophomore and junior years combined. Go figure. Wilson has not done anything particularly poorly this year, it is just he hasn’t done a ton all that well, either, and this is a crowded back court. Last and I am reasonably comfortable saying least likely to swing the outcome of a game from this crew is 6’10” Matt Heldt, who has accumulated 17 Big East points this season. He plays 10 minutes a game and carries a 9.1% usage rate, so there is a chance you won’t notice him during the game as his teammates seem not to.
-Does Tre play? I hope so, and I also hope not. Wins are more fun than losses, but risking Trevon’s ankle if it’s less than healthy is a big gamble. If he goes down for the year, it’s an ugly ride home. Xavier’s going to have to do something special to win without him though.
-How does Xavier defend? Marquette has four legitimate threats from deep and a couple of other guys who can get hot, so the 1-3-1 might not be the answer. On the other hand, Xavier has about 2 people I’d trust to contain on the perimeter right now, and a man defense that keeps getting put into rotation isn’t going to contest a ton of looks, either. Hopefully Coach Mack figures out a way to sneak a sixth dude out there or something; that’s why he gets the big bucks.
-Who steps up? Quentin Goodin certainly isn’t shy of the moment, but he also has just a teeny bit of trouble actually scoring the ball. Kaiser Gates occasionally has the opposite problem. If it comes down the JP and RaShid having to carry the load again, I feel a lot less confident about this game.
-Kill stops with defensive rebounds. Marquette doesn’t have a lot of offensive rebounders, which is awesome for Xavier. If the Golden Eagles can get extra looks at the rim, they’ll make their opponents pay. X can’t afford to pay that.
-Get out off of misses. One of the reasons Marquette doesn’t board well is because they send 3-4 guys back to defend as soon as the shot goes up. Xavier hasn’t been awesome in the half court lately, and I could go the rest of my life without seeing another 25-second possession end with a left-handed scoop shot from JP. If the Muskies have something resembling numbers, they may be served to press the advantage.
-Hang. Xavier has been falling out of second halves this year, especially with Ed and now Tre gone. They’re not quitting on each other, but execution hasn’t been strong down the stretch. I don’t know what the magical cure is, but X has to find a way to finish a game on the road. Easy as that, right?