Five Point Play V12: Vanderbilt Edition

Marquette takes on the Vanderbilt Commodores tonight at the Bradley Center as the Golden Eagles close out their non-conference portion of the season.

The Golden Eagles lost at Vanderbilt a year ago, 77-76, as senior forward Andre Walker made a layup 4.1 seconds left to give the Commodores the win.

Marquette is 1-1 against SEC opponents this year, defeating Ole Miss in the Paradise Jam and losing to LSU on Dec. 19.

Click here for Paint Touches’ full preview of tonight’s game.

1. Festus Ezeli is expected to play but not start. If he plays 21 minutes (he averaged 21.5 minutes in two appearances this year) what will his impact be on the game?

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: A major impact. Ezeli will have rested 13 days when he takes the court tonight, meaning he is healthy enough to play and has fresh legs. Also, he is going to have his motor going each moment he is out there, knowing his minutes will be limited. Ezeli is ultra-talented and will take advantage of an undersized Marquette front court.

Matt Trebby, Marquette Radio: I’d say between 25 and 30 minutes. He did not play against Longwood or Lafayette, and that’s probably because this is a game that the Commodores need. With all their non-conference losses, they need a big one. Their last chance is against Marquette. Vanderbilt will do whatever necessary to win, including playing Ezeli more minutes than he’s played all year.

Mike Singer, CBS Sports: I don’t think Ezeli has an enormous impact on the game. It seems like coach Kevin Stallings may be rushing his C back into action a little too early in an effort to gain an advantage on the thin front court of the Golden Eagles.  Ezeli hasn’t played since Vanderbilt lost to Indiana State two weeks ago, and he only averaged 5 rebounds a game in the two games played.  Stallings said he’s only at 75 percent.

Anonymous Eagle: It’ll be big. I mean, Marquette is “what we thought they were” without Chris Otule in the lineup, and what we thought they were is a team that struggles against competent (and sometimes just semi-competent) big men. There’s no shame in that, of course, but to pretend otherwise is to ignore the gaping hole in the center of Marquette’s defense. Plus, Davante Gardner has shown that a taller defender like the 6’11” Ezeli can give him problems.  Then again, Ezeli only played 20 minutes last year because of foul trouble, so maybe a heavy dose of Marquette going to the rim can keep him even lower on this go-round.

Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: If he plays he will have his best game of the season, although that’s not saying much since he’s only played twice this year. There simply isn’t anyone to match up with his physicality down low. If he indeed does get his minutes I expect him to get a double double with 15 points and 11 boards.

2. Who will finish with more points tomorrow: Darius Johnson-Odom or John Jenkins?

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: Johnson-Odom. I expect Marquette to give Jenkins the “Jordan Taylor treatment,” throwing three or four different players on him to always have a “fresh” defender. On the other end, Johnson-Odom is going to be a monster in transition off Vanderbilt turnovers and find his rhythm in half court sets, outscoring Jenkins 23 to 20.

Matt Trebby, Marquette Radio: John Jenkins. Johnson-Odom has, putting it nicely, been inefficient since his suspension for the game against Northern Colorado. He’s looked a shell of the player he was. With that being said, he’ll come back with a very nice game after a week long break against Vanderbilt, but I expect Jenkins to have the Bradley Center crowd saying, “NO!” every time he shoots.

Mike Singer, CBS Sports: John Jenkins. DJO said that LSU defended him differently than other teams had, including staying with him on the perimeter when Cadougan would drive. He had 16 points on 4-of-7 3-pointers, but he also had six turnovers. His last five games, DJO is shooting 39 percent, including games of 33 % (Wisconsin-Milwaukee), 35 % (Washington), and 40 % (Wisconsin). Conversely, Jenkins’ last 5 games have yielded a 52 % shooting
percentage, including a 27-point outburst at Louisville.  Expect Blue and DJO to take turns guarding him.

Anonymous Eagle: First of all, how is John Jenkins only a junior? Doesn’t it feel like he’s been there for like 5 years already? Anyway, this is a tough call. DJO has been in a bit of a (relative) funk lately, but Jenkins is a VOLUME SHOOTER extraordinaire and can certainly pour in the points (See: 27 points against Louisville and 28 against NC State earlier this season). However, when things aren’t going well, Jenkins has been known to put up some first rate clunkers. Everyone remembers his 4 for 21 evening against Marquette last year. He also had a forgettable 3-10 shooting night en route to 11 points in a loss to Indiana St. this year. DJO’s consistency carries the day here.

Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: John Jenkins. DJO has been in a rut as of late and although I don’t expect him to be in it forever, this won’t be his breakout game. Marquette won’t be able to control the glass and get out on the break so even though it will be high tempo game, DJO will be forced to create from the half-court game.

3. Who would you have guard senior forward Jeffery Taylor?

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: Jae Crowder is the best option but his strength in the post means he will be needed on one of Lance Goulbourne or Steve Tchiengang. That could mean Jamil Wilson, Marquette’s most versatile big man, will have the task of shutting down Taylor, who can score from anywhere on the floor. If Taylor has his way offensively, Marquette will be in for a long night.

Matt Trebby, Marquette Radio: Probably Vander Blue and Jamil Wilson. If Ezeli plays at least 25 minutes, and Lance Goulbourne plays his average of 29 minutes a game, that will take Jae Crowder and Davante Gardner away. Marquette will treat Jenkins as they treat most star scorers: by using 3 or 4 different players to guard him. They can only do that to one player, though. If Wilson is in, he will take Taylor. If not, it’ll be Vander.

Mike Singer, CBS Sports: I’d have a combination of PF Jae Crowder, who is basically a mirror image of Taylor (minus the dreads), and F Jamil Wilson guard Taylor. Crowder and Wilson are both extremely versatile as well as athletic and can bang down low while also guarding on the perimeter.  I think this matchup is more important than the Blue/DJO combo on John Jenkins because Taylor can rebound.

Anonymous Eagle: Taylor is probably the Commodores’ best player, therefore he draws MU’s best defender: Vander Blue. Vander Blue has an inner shutdown defender inside him, and I think tomorrow might be the time to say: “Van, you see that guy? He gets six points today. Go to work.” Because Jenkins doesn’t care about rebounding (or doing anything other than shooting, really), using Van on him would be a waste of Blue’s ability on the glass. Though the assignment will probably vary some depending on the players on the floor, I suspect Mr. Blue and Mr. Taylor will be getting very well acquainted with one another over the course of this game.  Jae Crowder is another option, but given Marquette’s lack of size, I think he’ll spend most of his time guarding one of Vandy’s big guys (Ezeli, Steve Tchiengang, Lance Goulbourne, etc.)

Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: Crowder. Taylor may win the quickness battle but Crowder has the physicality to match up with him. Jae has gone hot and cold from the offensive end but his defense has been fairly consistent. That’s why it’s imperative that he stay out of foul trouble because neither Juan Anderson nor Jamail Jones will be up to the task.

4. If Marquette ______ and _______ better than Vanderbilt tomorrow, it will win the game.

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: Scores fast break points and guards the perimeter. Vanderbilt is turning the ball over at an alarming rate and averages 17.2 giveaways in its losses. Marquette has lived off fast break points and will have the opportunity to do it again tonight. Guarding the perimeter is as simple as limiting Jenkins’ and Taylor’s opportunities from the outside. Marquette’s offense also needs to get going, so if the Golden Eagles can find open looks it could help wake up the recently stagnant offense.

Matt Trebby, Marquette Radio: Rebound and penetrate. Rebounding goes without saying, but Marquette needs to get going on offense early, and keep it going. They will do that by getting into the lane. Junior Cadougan and Johnson-Odom need to be quick and hit the lane hard, something that Cadougan did against Milwaukee. They’ve taken far too many contested shots the last two games, and I expect that to change with a lot of open looks.

Mike Singer, CBS Sports:  If Marquette can rebound and distribute the ball as efficiently as it has been, Marquette will win the game. It starts with Junior Cadougan. While I don’t think his offensive game is anywhere near polished, he is distributing the ball effectively. Marquette is 10th in the nation at 17.8 assists per game and that directly translates to the 80.3 (15th) points the Golden Eagles are putting up.  The rebounding part is obvious. Taylor can rebound. So can Goulbourne (7.3 rpg). As can Tchiengang (5.2 rpg) and even point guard Brad Tinsley snags 3.2 a game.

Anonymous Eagle: You took away the most important of the Four Factors (eFG%) by saying we can’t use “score more points”, so let’s go to #2 (Turnover %) and #3 (Offensive Rebounding %). If Marquette forces turnovers and limits second chance points, they will win this game.  Vanderbilt will turn the ball over (ranked #196 in Offensive TO% on KenPom.com), so it’s much easier to be optimistic about the first one than the second.

Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: Limits Ezeli and co. on the offensive glass and Todd Mayo finds his scoring touch. I’m scared to death of the damage Vandy can do on the glass and I have visions of 70 second possessions over and over again. Mayo also needs to put the biscuit in the basket. He has hit his freshman wall, or defenses have keyed in on him more likely, but he has the skills to find his scoring touch. If those two things happen, Marquette will be 12-1 heading into the break.

5. Final prediction and the X-factor in the game.

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: Marquette playing at home is too much for Vanderbilt to overcome. The Golden Eagles win 83-76. The Commodores are a different team away from Nashville and Marquette will notch an impressive victory to close out an impressive non-conference season. The X factor will be Todd Mayo, who provides a third scorer for Marquette and forces Vanderbilt to play smaller than the want.

Matt Trebby, Marquette Radio: Vanderbilt wins 72-70. Darius Johnson-Odom is the X factor. He has had two bad games this year. One was a loss, and the other was against UWM, where Marquette was lucky that if I would have played for the Panthers, I would have been a more efficient shooter. He needed this break more than anyone. When he plays well, Marquette generally cruises. When he doesn’t, it’s not so pretty.

Mike Singer, CBS Sports: Marquette wins 72-69. The X factor will be Jamil Wilson.  Not on the offensive end but he’ll be needed for boxing out and snaring defensive rebounds.  I think how he defends Jeff Taylor when Crowder is resting will determine the game.  John Jenkins will miss a 3-pointer as time expires.

Anonymous Eagle: The X factor for both squads could be their point guard play.  Junior Cadougan has been playing with an assertiveness lately that we didn’t see earlier this year.  Brad Tinsley was a thorn in Marquette’s side in last year’s meeting.  Whoever gets the better end of that match-up could have the edge in the game.  Of course I think MU wins, let’s say 79-70.

Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: I hate to be a negative nancy but I think the Commodores steal one at the Bradley Center. This win would help them more than it would hurt Marquette so they will come out like gangbusters. The key will be Ezeli though. If his knee injury limits his time on the court and mobility, Vanderbilt won’t have the firepower to keep up with the rejuvenated Marquette attack.

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