Marquette returns to Bradley Center to take on Jacksonville

After last week’s two-point victory over Norfolk St. in the finals of the Paradise Jam tournament, it’s a safe bet that Marquette won’t be taking any team lightly.

The team’s first test since the 59-57 win over the Spartans on Nov. 21 will be a matchup against Jacksonville on Monday at the Bradley Center.

The Dolphins (2-3) will travel to Milwaukee three days after falling to No. 9 Florida 102-67 Friday night in Gainesville, halting a brief two-game winning streak.

A year ago, the Dolphins went 20-12 and finished third in the Atlantic Sun under Cliff Warren. They return four starters, losing just its second leading scorer from a year ago (Travis Cohn, 10.6 ppg), so experience will be plentiful.

Five games into the 2011 season, a balanced offensive attack has been evident for the Dolphins, who tout five players averaging double-digit points.

Leading the way has been sophomore guard Aloys Cabell, who has averaged 12 points in four contests after missing the team’s season opener. Three of his four performances have come off the bench, with his lone start yielding 17 points (4-for-4 3FG) in a win over Samford.

Junior guard Russell Powell (11.6ppg), sophomore guard Keith McDougald (11.0), senior forward Delwan Graham (10.6) and junior forward Glen Powell (10.0) round out the balanced inside-out attack.

McDougald is improving in his second season after averaging 9.1 points as a freshman and being named to the Atlantic Sun all-freshman team. The 6-foot-1 guard is the only true outside threat for the Dolphins, as he has connected on 11 of 27 threes thus far. The rest of the team has a combined 16 3-pointers.

The 6-foot-7 Graham leads the team with 7.6 rebounds per game and is second on the team at 2.6 assists per game. He is the Dolphins’ most complete player in the post and will keep Chris Otule honest inside.

However, no one in the Dolphins’ rotation stands taller than 6-feet-7-inches, which should mean a big game in the paint (and lots of paint touches) for Otule, Jae Crowder and Davante Gardner.

The Dolphins only go eight deep in their rotation and haven’t looked at all competitive against their two BCS opponents Florida State and Florida. Monday’s game will mark the third of five straight road games for the Dolphins. They last played at home on Nov. 18 and won’t play there again until Dec. 15.

If the Golden Eagles, 25th worst in the country in allowing offensive rebounds, are looking to cure their woes, Jacksonville is the team with which to start. The undersized group is grabbing just 10.8 offensive rebounds a night, which ranks in the lower third of the country. Expect plenty of missed shots from the Dolphins, but Marquette’s taller group should overpower Jacksonsville in this one.

Marquette, which ranks near the top of the country in forcing turnovers at 19.6 per game, should have plenty of chances for extra possessions as the Dolphins are turning it over more than 16 times per game.

Three things to watch for

Rotation taking form: Nine players are averaging 13 minutes or more for Buzz Williams as the lack of elite competition has allowed him to mix and match lineups and allow younger players to gain experience. But with the Wisconsin matchup looming, it would seem that Buzz will look to cement the rotation before heading to Madison on Dec. 3. All season the consensus has been that the rotation Buzz uses against Wisconsin is what really matters, but Monday’s rotation could give away serious hints as to what that will be.

Extra mayonnaise?: Freshman guard Todd Mayo has played between 14 and 18 minutes in each of Marquette’s five contests and he is coming off a Paradise Jam where he looked excellent scoring the basketball. He was the talk of the off-season in terms of his ability to score and pick up Buzz’s system, and it’s looking more like Mayo will play a significant role off the bench to pick up the scoring load. Whether that means less playing time for Jamail Jones or Derrick Wilson remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: Mayo is ready to play.

Getting in(to) the zone: It was no secret that Marquette’s offense hit a wall when Norfolk State transitioned to a zone defense, so Buzz’s group should expect some of those same looks against Jacksonville. While the team’s entire zone offense isn’t in place just yet, how Marquette reacts differently to zone looks than it did against Norfolk State will be important. Ball movement will be key, and Marquette certainly has the players to make it happen.

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