Preview of potential Marquette Big East Tournament opponents

Thanks to a 14-4 conference record, Marquette will wait until Thursday to play in this week’s Big East Tournament. The Golden Eagles will play the winner of Louisville and either Providence or Seton Hall, which play tomorrow night in the first round.

Here’s a look at all three teams and how Marquette fared against them this year, where they are heading into this week, and which players Marquette will need to target in a potential matchup.

No. 15 Providence vs. No. 10 Seton Hall

The Pirates defeated the Friars 66-57 the first and only time these two teams met in the regular season. Seton Hall moved to 14-2 and was playing the best basketball of the year, and received 24 points, nine rebounds and five steals from small forward Fuquan Edwin. Herb Pope double-doubled and Jordan Theodore chipped in 14 points, nine assists and six steals of his own to help the Pirates pull away late.

Point guard Vincent Council had one of his best games of the season in the loss, finishing with 23 points, six rebounds and nine assists while adding two steals and two blocks. Freshman center LaDontae Henton was a beast defensively, grabbing nine rebounds and blocking four shots. Forward Bilal Dixon had six blocks and made all four of his shots in 21 minutes off the bench.

It was an ugly game, as Seton Hall shot 34.3 percent from the field and Providence had 17 turnovers.

Seton Hall Pirates

Status:The early feel-good story of the Big East season quickly came to a halt when the Pirates lost six straight games from Jan. 13 to Feb. 4. A Feb. 21 win over Georgetown helped their resume, but back-to-back losses to Rutgers at home and at DePaul severely crippled their momentum. They are possibly the coldest team entering the Big East Tournament and likely will need to win at least once in New York to have a chance at dancing in March.

Junior Cadougan played superb defense in the regular season against all three potential opponent's point guards. (Marquette Tribune Photo)

Against Marquette: The Golden Eagles were playing without Davante Gardner for the first time, and looked somewhat lost transitioning to his absence. They had 17 turnovers in the 66-59 win, but received huge performances from Jae Crowder (20 points, 12 rebounds) and Vander Blue (16 points, 8 rebounds). Pope had 16 points and seven rebounds in the loss, but Theodore shot just 3-for-14 from the field while handing out seven assists. Marquette maintained a comfortable lead throughout while adjusting to life without Gardner.

Player focus: The Pirates are a three-headed monster with Pope, Theodore and Edwin. They average almost 44 of the team’s 69 points, 20 of the team’s 35 rebounds, over nine of the team’s 14 assists and six of the team’s nine steals per game. Guard Aaron Cosby is a spark off the bench, and 6-foot-9 forwards Brandon Mobley and Patrick Auda give the Pirates good size inside.

Our coverage from the Jan. 31 game:

Seton Hall preview

Post defense key to victory

Blue ignites second half run

Photo recap from Seton Hall win

Providence Friars

Status: It has been a true rebuilding year for first year head coach Ed Cooley and the Friars. With a stellar recruiting class coming in next year, 2011-’12 has been a struggle. They had possibly the toughest mirror opponents in the conference (Syracuse, Georgetown, South Florida) but did manage to win two of their last three to end the season, with wins over Connecticut and DePaul. They staged a late-game comeback against Notre Dame but came up short to end the season. A 31-point home win over Louisville on Jan. 10 was the team’s best win. Barring a miraculous Big East Tournament title, the Friars will watch all post-season tournaments from their couches.

Against Marquette: The Friars made it difficult on Marquette back on Jan. 21, as the Golden Eagles pulled away late for a 79-72 road win. Shooting guard Bryce Cotton had 26 points but was shut down late by Todd Mayo, Henton had 14 points and seven rebounds and Vincent Council had seven assists despite shooting 2-of-13 from the field. Forward Jamil Wilson had a career night, going for 16 points and seven rebounds while Davante Gardner battled foul trouble. Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder had 18 points apiece.

Player focus: Council is arguably the league’s best point guard and will be playing with a chip on his shoulder in the Big East Tournament. Henton has range beyond the 3-point line but also can battle inside. Cotton can get hot in a a hurry, as Marquette saw, and Dixon and Kadeem Betts act as solid role players. The problem is the Friars have zero depth. Cooley gets 19 percent of the team’s minutes from the bench, sixth lowest in the country.

Our coverage from the Jan. 21 game:

Providence preview

Five Point Play

Louisville Cardinals

Status: The Cardinals come to New York having lost four of six games. Granted, two of those losses were to Syracuse, but Rick Pitino’s squad is still backing their way into the Big East Tournament. Their two wins in that stretch were an overtime win at DePaul and a three-point win over Pittsburgh. The talent is there, but it doesn’t look as though the Cardinals will be playing late into the week. They are a lock for the NCAA Tournament.

Jae Crowder has been a force on both ends of the floor this year. (Marquette Tribune Photo)

Against Marquette: Davante Gardner was the main attraction in Marquette’s 74-63 win over Louisville on Jan. 16 at the Bradley Center. The 6-foot-8 sophomore finished with 17 points and six rebounds and limited Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng to nine points and six rebounds in 32 foul-plagued minutes. Darius Johnson-Odom had 19 points, Jae Crowder had 17 and Todd Mayo had 11 as Marquette overcame an 18-2 deficit to win handily. Russ Smith had 20 points, Chris Smith added 19 and Peyton Siva added eight assists for the Cardinals.

Player focus: Reserve guard Russ Smith is one of the more exciting scorers in the league, and Chris Smith has great size and can get hot from outside. Kyle Kuric is finally healthy and is one of Siva’s favorite targets on the perimeter. He has underrated athleticism and is a tough cover 40 minutes. Inside, freshman Chase Behanan and Dieng are tough, and Siva plays excellent defense at the point guard spot. Former Marquette target Wayne Blackshear was injured for the Jan. 16 game, but will add size and depth off the bench for the Cardinals.

Our coverage of the Jan. 16 game:

Louisville scouting report

Golden Eagles overcome slow start to beat Cardinals

Photo recap from the Louisville win

Golden Eagles right the ship after slow starts

Gardner fills the void in the paint

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