Marquette is back at the Bradley Center as it hosts Ball State in the unofficial Mo Acker Classic. Humor me here, as Acker played one season at Ball State before transferring to Marquette to play with former high school teammate Jerel McNeal. Though he made his mark as a senior with the Golden Eagles, we’re looking for fun story lines in the dog days of the non-conference schedule, especially now that Buzz Williams’ group seems to be hitting its stride.
Things have not gone well for the Cardinals in 2013, as they have stumbled out of the gate to a 2-5 record. While they have played decent competition in Indiana State, Butler and Utah, they also have bad losses to Cleveland State and Valparaiso. Their lone Division I win came against Southeast Missouri State.
And in classic Mo Acker form (story lines, people), Ball State is led by diminutive freshman Zavier Turner. At 5-foot-9, Turner has averaged a team-high 13.4 points and 3.9 assists. He is shooting an outstanding 49 percent from beyond the arc (16-for-33) and has made 24 of 25 free throws to begin the season (96 percent). It’s not surprising that he’s shooting just 11-for-38 on two-point attempts.
Senior guard Jesse Berry has taken a bit of a step back in his final season. He’s averaging 13.0 points but has grabbed just five rebounds and handed out eight assists in seven games. Still, don’t lose track of him, as he’s made a 3-pointer in each game and went for 23 points in an opening-night loss to Indiana State.
Former Marquette target Majok Majok (all-name first team shoo-in) is again providing consistency in the Ball State frontcourt. The 6-foot-9 senior is averaging 9.1 points and 10.1 rebounds, including three double-doubles and five games of double-digit rebounds. He’s also shooting a team best 53 percent from the field.
Chris Bond is the last name to know. The senior guard is averaging 10.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in 29.1 minutes and will need to be on his game for the Cardinals to stay in Tuesday’s contest.
WHAT THE CARDINALS DO WELL
— Shooting just 40 percent as a team means lots of offensive rebounds, and the Cardinals do it pretty well. Their offensive rebound rate of 33.3 percent is 123rd in the country, led by Majok and freshman Franko House (another stellar name). It’s also worth noting that Majok’s defensive rebound rate (27.4 percent) is 26th in the country. This will be a nice test on the glass for the Golden Eagles.
— Led by Turner, the Cardinals are assisting on nearly 57 percent of their made baskets. That mark is 66th highest in the country. The Cardinals also receive 32 percent of their points from 3-pointers, a top-60 mark in the country. Mid-majors need to hit from beyond the arc, and the Cardinals may do that (their 35.6 percent mark from beyond the arc is 115th best in the nation).
WHERE THE CARDINALS STRUGGLE
— It’s been a rough start for the Cardinals, and it begins with a dreadful offense. Their 22.1 turnover rate is one of the worst in the country and they make just 43 percent of their two-point field goals, also among the nation’s lowest. They have played a tough schedule to date (No. 44 SOS, per KenPom), but it’s been a real struggle.
THREE KEYS TO THE GAME
1. DeDe vs. Majok Majok
Marquette should pick up a win in pretty easy fashion tonight. What’s more important is how Gardner fares against a formidable opponent in Majok. The rebound numbers speak volumes as to how well Majok plays inside, and Gardner is looking to continue his stellar play inside — 36 points on 17-for-27 shooting the last two games.
Deonte Burton is absolutely killing it right now. In his past three games, #BANE is averaging 9.6 points on 58 percent shooting, 2.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in just 16.3 minutes per game. Against a lesser opponent, it will be interesting to watch how well he can build on that momentum and put in another solid performance. It’s very clear that Burton is going to be a significant part of the rotation.
3. Duane Wilson, anyone?
With no insight as to how close Wilson is to returning, Tuesday could be the day that Marquette’s intriguing freshman sees his first action. He’s getting closer to a return each day and has been healthy enough to go through lay-up lines and practice, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get some run in. Just something to keep an eye on in a game that should be pretty much over by the second half.