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Five Point Play V13: No. 9 Georgetown, No. 1 Syracuse await

1. Whose success will be more crucial this week: Davante Gardner or Jamil Wilson?

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: Jamil Wilson. Part of what made Wilson’s performance Sunday so good was his ability to trap Villanova defenders in the post, and then have the athleticism to rotate back and get to his man when the ball left the trapped area. He’ll have to excel against both teams this week at the same thing, making his defensive play (and ability to shoot from the middle of the Syracuse zone) of utmost importance. Davante Gardner will be huge, but Wilson’s defense could make or break one of these contests.

Tim Blair and Rob Lowe, Cracked Sidewalks: You can’t separate the two.  In Otule’s absence, lining up against two of the taller more physical teams in the Big East means these guys must play at a high level for MU to win.  Gardner’s inspired effort against Villanova was very encouraging, and to a lesser degree, so was Wilson’s play.

Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: Both will need to have big weeks, but I will go with Davante Gardner. Marquette needs him to REALLY play more intelligently on the defensive end this week and be a rebounding machine. We already know what he can do offensively but Marquette needs a big two-game performance from him defensively and on the glass.

Alex Jesswein, MarquetteHoops.com: Davante Gardner.  Both players will be extremely important due to Marquette’s lack of size/depth in the frontcourt. However, it’s more important that Gardner is able to stay out of foul trouble and log big minutes this week.  Wilson is a nice player but Gardner’s ability to collect rebounds and draw fouls (and make free throws) is much more valuable against the size of Georgetown and Syracuse.

Mike Wottreng, Marquette Radio: Davante Gardner. Georgetown and Syracuse allow double-digit offensive rebounds per game and that is Gardner’s strength. Gardner is averaging more than 3.5 offensive rebounds per game since Chris Otule’s injury. It will be important to get easy baskets and playing against two teams that usually pack it in against Marquette’s perimeter, it will be important for Gardner to provide an inside presence to allow for dribble penetration.

2.  Georgetown and Syracuse tout two of the tallest teams in the nation: Would Marquette be better served conforming to that and playing three forwards or attempt to push the pace and stay with three-guard sets?

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: Marquette can’t afford foul trouble this week and Juan Anderson isn’t ready for big minutes which means Buzz should stay with the three-guard offenses. Vander Blue will simply have to play solid defense in a “small forward” role, most likely on Hollis Thompson, and look to push the ball at every opportunity on the offensive end.

Tim Blair and Rob Lowe, Cracked Sidewalks: Marquette essentially runs three guard sets most of the time.  Regardless of personnel, a key will be ball pressure on the perimeter in hopes of limiting the opponents’ ability to feed the ball easily down low.

Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: Three guards. At the beginning of the season the mentality surrounding the team was to play its own game. Now that it is in Big East season, the mentality should stay the same. Marquette struggles when it tries to play the style of its opposition. It plays its own brand of basketball really well. With the work ethic of this squad, it can overcome the height differential.

Alex Jesswein, MarquetteHoops.com: Three-guard sets.  Marquette needs to play their best players the most minutes they can, and the strength for the Golden Eagles lies in their guards.  With basically three players rotating between two spots (Gardner, Wilson and Jae Crowder at the 4 and the 5) Marquette cannot afford to have all three on the court at the same time.

Mike Wottreng, Marquette Radio: Since Buzz Williams got to Marquette, the Golden Eagles have been undersized. They have more depth inside this year than ever before, but not as much substance as the perimeter boasts. Marquette has to play to their strength against any team they face this year. Spreading out the Hoyas and Orange could cause foul trouble for their inside players and create better opportunities for the Golden Eagles.

3. Who should play more minutes this week: Todd Mayo or Vander Blue?

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: Todd Mayo really impressed me in the Wisconsin win, and I think he’s got another gutsy spotlight road performance up his sleeve this week. Especially against Syracuse, Mayo’s shooting ability against the 2-3 zone will open up the rest of the offense and his ability to finish in transition could loom large against Georgetown. Vander Blue’s season is beginning to look eerily like his freshman year, so it may be time to start shifting minutes Mayo’s way, beginning with this huge week.

Tim Blair and Rob Lowe, Cracked Sidewalks: This is also not an either-or, and besides, stopping the opponent from scoring is at least as important.  Defense remains the pre-eminent concern for this team which has struggled to slow down the three tall teams it has faced this season:  Washington, LSU and Vanderbilt.  If MU can’t figure out a defensive scheme that works against tall players, the offensive rotation won’t matter.

Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: Todd Mayo. Mayo is continually an underrated defender. He has improved as the season has progressed on the defensive end – Vander Blue’s strength – while Blue has regressed on the offensive end. Get Mayo more minutes because good things happen with him out on the floor.

Alex Jesswein, MarquetteHoops.com: Both should play more minutes–at the expense of Derrick Wilson and Junior Cadougan.  We saw increased possessions against Villanova where Mayo, Blue and Johnson-Odom were all on the court together and I feel it gives Marquette its most potent lineup combination on both ends of the court.  While Cadougan is an excellent game manager, he struggles to stay in front of his man defensively and keep the defense honest with his shot.

Mike Wottreng, Marquette Radio: Neither has been very good offensively over the last four games. Todd Mayo has shot 7-26 (27%) since his career high 22 points against Northern Colorado. Vander Blue has been worse, shooting only 4-22 (18%). I think Vander deserves more minutes. He does more on the floor and his defense can affect the top guard on any team. In the last four games Blue has 11 assists and 19 rebounds, while Mayo only has 1 assist and 8 rebounds in roughly the same amount of minutes. Whoever plays, they will need to play much better for Marquette to pull off an upset.

4.Prediction for the Georgetown game and an X-factor.

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: Georgetown wins 74-68. Marquette is a top-25 team even without Chris Otule, but that doesn’t make winning on the road against the No. 9 team in the country any easier. Otto Porter is going to have a field day on the glass and Henry Sims will have his way in the paint. Darius Johnson-Odom and Todd Mayo will have solid games but Georgetown’s size will help it pull away late.

Tim Blair and Rob Lowe, Cracked Sidewalks: Georgetown wins 71-67.  There is no x-factor per se, but the Warriors will struggle to score on the road against a better defensive team with a roster like the Hoyas.

Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: 72-68 Marquette. Davante Gardner. This will be a big week for Gardner. Marquette needs him to be an all around force: on the glass, defensively, and contributing offense in the paint. Georgetown has four players 6-feet-8-inches or taller who average 24-plus minutes per game. Get ready, Davante. This is your time to shine. This is the time to do your best Chris Otule impression.

Alex Jesswein, MarquetteHoops.com: Georgetown 68-61.  The Hoyas’ size will give Marquette trouble defensively, much like LSU and Vanderbilt did.  The Golden Eagles will be held below 40 percent shooting but will hit just enough shots from downtown to keep the game competitive.  However, the rebounding ability of Georgetown, particularly freshman Otto Porter, will be the difference in the game.

Mike Wottreng, Marquette Radio: Marquette 62 Georgetown 59. The Golden Eagles have had a tough time winning on the road in Buzz Williams’ tenure as head coach.  They are only 16-17 since he took over.  A lot of that has to do with their inability to execute late in close games.  I think the holiday hangover is over and Marquette plays the way it did against Wisconsin.  The Hoyas are number one in the Big East in scoring defense, with Marquette ranked second in scoring offense.  Marquette has shown they can win low-scoring games and a late run will give them a huge road win.  Jae Crowder has to become more consistent for this team to beat top opponents.  He has good sequences, but has not had a complete game in a while.  If he plays well for 40 minutes, DJO and Gardner will add the rest.

5. Prediction for the Syracuse game and an X-factor.

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: Syracuse is way too good inside and has guards to match up on the perimeter for Marquette to hang with the Orange. Syracuse wins it 84-71. Again, centers Fab Melo and Rakeem Christmas go off for dominating performances inside. Georgetown and Syracuse are the two biggest teams Marquette will face all year, and Buzz’s group will struggle against both.

Tim Blair and Rob Lowe, Cracked Sidewalks: Syracuse wins 82-69.  The outcome will never be in doubt after the first ten minutes of gametime.

Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: 85-75 Syracuse. Syracuse will do what it does best and zone up a Marquette squad that has struggled to create offense against the zone this season. DJO and Jae Crowder will be expected to be major contributors in every Big East game, but if Mayo can get hot shooting that can loosen up the zone and create more opportunities for others.

Alex Jesswein, MarquetteHoops.com: Syracuse 84-73. This game is all about revenge for Syracuse. After all, it was Marquette that sent the Orange home and the Golden Eagles to the Sweet 16 last season.  Syracuse will use their depth to wear out a depleted Marquette roster.  The zone of Syracuse will cause problems for a streaky-shooting Marquette team and this time it will be the Golden Eagles who are sent packing.

Mike Wottreng, Marquette Radio: Syracuse 81 Marquette 73.  Syracuse is number one in the conference in scoring and Marquette is right behind them.  Syracuse has played more consistently and utilize several different players for their offense.  Syracuse averages 11.5 steals per game, which is number one in the country.  I think Marquette makes too many mistakes leading to easy points for the Orange that they will not be able to overcome it.  Normally an X factor isn’t the best player on the team, but DJO needs to go off against Syracuse for Marquette to win.  DJO’s problem throughout his career has been consistency.  He went off against Villanova then fizzled as the game went on.  If he plays the game he is capable of having, he can lead the charge for a huge upset.

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