In year’s past Marquette playing an opponent looking to slow the game down would have been considered a disadvantage, but this Golden Eagles group is learning to play its own pace and will look to continue that tonight at home against South Florida (1-6).
It’s been rough sledding for the Bulls, which have opened the Big East season losing six of seven and have little depth to show for an offensively challenged group that has won just twice on the road — one of those wins was a nine-point win at Stetson; the other was a nine-point win at Central Florida.
And while Stan Heath’s group has shown little fight in 2012-’13, point guard Anthony Collins hasn’t been a reason why. The 6-foot-1 sophomore is second in the country with a 46.4 assist rate and his 7.1 assists per game leads the team. Turnovers are a concern (2.4 per game) given the Bulls’ slow pace, but make no mistake: Collins is a premier point guard in the Big East.
The two bigs inside, 6-foot-9 junior Victor Rudd and 6-foot-8 senior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, both average more than 32 minutes per game and will provide serious resistance inside against Davante Gardner. Surprisingly enough, those two are the Bulls’ best 3-point shooters, so expect Marquette to be using their switchables early and often.
Junior forward Victor Rudd hasn’t really made the offensive jump some expected him to make, but his 7.0 rebounds per game lead the team and his defense has improved. His percentages leave plenty to be desired but his size makes him one to know on this roster.
Rounding out the starting five is redshirt junior Martino Brock. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard transferred to South Florida after two successful seasons at South Alabama. He has solid size which helps the defensive-oriented Bulls, but his offensive numbers are putrid (39.4% FG, 27.3% 3FG, 62.2% FT).
Reserves to know include 6-foot-8 senior Kore White, 6-foot-5 freshman Javontae Hawkins and 6-foot-7 freshman Zach LeDay. Also of note, the Bulls have a 7-foot-3 center, Jordan Omogbehin, who averages 6.6 minutes but has played in just 13 games.
Where the Bulls are good
— Like any team that wants to slow the game down, the Bulls have succeeded in forcing teams into their own pace. Only one of their Big East games have gone more than 61 possessions (65 – at Louisville) and teams simply must stay patient playing slow and knowing a game in the high 50s is going to be the result.
— The Bulls are playing at 60.7 possessions per game, ranking in the top-10 slowest paces in the country. Because of that, their turnover rate (16.7 percent) is 16th best in the NCAA. Teams are not turning the ball over, and it’s even more rare for teams to produce steals and get out and run.
— Marquette likely won’t care, but South Florida is holding opponents to 30.1 percent from beyond the arc, the 37th best mark in the country. Long guards and extended zones have worked well for the Bulls, so the Golden Eagles will need to get into the paint to score the majority of their points (as they usually do).
Where the Bulls can be beat
— For as tall and big as their forwards are, the Bulls are a below-average rebounding team. Teams are grabbing 36 percent of their misses and South Florida is only grabbing 28 percent of their own misses, a low mark for a team shooting just 41 percent from the field. Marquette should have a huge advantage on the glass.
— The Bulls are averaging 21.8 field goals made per game, yet only one player (Collins) has more than 1.1 assists per game. Their funky style hasn’t resulted in many scoring opportunities, so Marquette limiting Collins could be as important as shutting down any one player in the Big East on any team.
Three keys to the game
1. Limit Collins
Junior Cadougan and Derrick Wilson have seen their fair share of talented point guards this year, but none have been as complete a player as Collins. He’s got a quick first step to get to the basket and his assist numbers speak for themselves. Wilson may be used in spurts, but Cadougan is the one who needs to win the point guard matchup tonight.
2. Davante on the glass
Gardner has had his way in the paint this year, and South Florida’s atrocious defensive rebounding should pave the way for a big night on the glass for the junior forward. Last year Gardner had 15 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes. Those number should both increase tonight.
3. Avoid the trap game
Realistically this is a game Marquette will have to grind out because of the pace, but they should never be any real doubt of them coming out on top. South Florida simply doesn’t have the talent to compete on the road for 40 minutes. But with a Saturday matchup at Louisville looming, they’ll need to avoid a letdown tonight.