There have been very few endings as brutal as that loss to Seton Hall. Marquette fought to overcome an 8 point deficit and took a 3 point lead with about two minutes left. Over the next minute and half, Marquette had an open 3 from Howard, a dunk from Luke, and a breakaway layup from Cheatham all rim out instead of extending the lead. Then we all know what happened in the final 35 seconds. As painful as the loss was, Marquette had itself in a position to win, on the road, against a good team who dominated them twice last season. We are seeing progress. Now it is time to put the progress to the ultimate test of playing on the road in a #1’s gym.
1: Jalen Brunson: 6-2 195 lb SO PG: 30.5 mpg, 14.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.9 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.9 tpg, .531 FG%, .872 FT%, .423 3P%
2: Josh Hart: 6-5 215 lb SR SG: 33.5 mpg, 19.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.5 tpg, .545 FG%, .821 FT%, .392 3P%
3: Mikal Bridges: 6-7 210 lb RSSO SF: 29.7 mpg, 9.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.9 tpg, .571 FG%, .870 FT%, .372 3P%
4: Kris Jenkins: 6-6 235 lb SR PF: 31.5 mpg, 13.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.3 tpg, .404 FG%, .938 FT%, .404 3P%
5: Darryl Reynolds: 6-9 240 lb SR PF: 25.3 mpg, 5.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.3 spg, 1.0 bpg, 1.5 tpg, .738 FG%, .688 FT%, .000 3P%
Donte DiVincenzo: 6-5 205 lb RSFR SG: 21.6 minutes per game
Eric Paschall: 6-7 250 lb RSSO SF: 18.7 minutes per game
Tim Delaney: 6-8 235 lb RSFR PF
Dylan Painter: 6-10 240 lb FR C
Tom Leibig: 6-4 195 lb JR SF
Denny Grace: 5-11 175 lb SR PG
Matt Kennedy: 6-2 175 lb JR SG
Phil Booth: 6-3 195 lb JR SG (Likely Injured)
Omari Spellman: 6-9 260 lb (Academically Ineligible)
• Villanova comes into the matchup ranked #1 in the nation. Marquette is 1-9 all time against #1s. Their 1 win was Wade’s domination of Kentucky en route the final four. This game will be the first time that Marquette has played a #1 in two consecutive seasons.
• The Wildcats are a methodical and extremely slow paced team, ranked 331st in adjusted tempo. This doesn’t bode well for Marquette. The two other slow paced teams they have played this season are Wisconsin (341st in Adj. Tempo) and Michigan (348th in Adj. Tempo).
• Don’t expect a lot of free throws in this game. Villanova ranks first in the Big East in fewest personal fouls and second to last in fouls drawn. But if someone does get to the line, expect it to go in. Both teams are in the top 10 in the country for FT%.
• There will be a battle of wills out on the three-point line. Marquette is a top 15 team in the nation in 3P% but Nova will counter with a defense that is ranked 3rd best in the nation at defending the 3P line.
• Josh Hart is the “Hart” and soul of the Wildcats. The All-American and Player of the Year candidate does everything that can be done on the court. He scores inside, he scores outside, he rebounds with unrivaled ferocity, he sets up his teammates, and often draws the opponent’s best player on defense. At 19.8 ppg, Hart is one of the top 50 scorers in the country. He is about as close to a complete player as you can get in college, though he has looked more human since Big East play started. Specifically, his three-point shot has been off as he has gone 3 for 14 (21.4%) in the first three games. However, one of those three made long balls was the one that won the game for the Wildcats against Depaul.
• Kris Jenkins, Mr. Big Shot himself, is back for his senior year and is even deadlier from beyond the arc. Though his total FGs per game are down from last season his 3Ps per game are up to nearly 3 a game with 40% accuracy. Similar to Mr. Hart, Jenkins has struggled a little, though not as much, from three, shooting a high volume but only 33% accuracy.
• The only player to elevate their game since conference play began has been Jalen Brunson. The sophomore been a terror averaging 21 points, 3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1 steal on 64.9% shooting and 46.1% 3P shooting.
At first glance, it might be easy to think that these two teams are similar. They are both lead by stat sheet stuffing wings, they both have young but talented score first point guards, they both feature an insanely accurate stretch 4, and both will utilize the 4 out 1 in offense for the entirety of every game. However, the two teams couldn’t be more different. Villanova is a team defined by efficiency. Marquette is a team defined by assertiveness. On offense, Villanova will use the entire shot clock, passing and probing until they find that perfect shot. Marquette will often throw up the first open look they get because they have the shooters to knock them down. Defensively, the Wildcats are known for sound, lock down on ball defense. They allow a lot of interior buckets due to their lack of size, but the defend the three extremely well. Marquette will gamble on every passing lane and use full, three quarter, and half court pressure to try and speed Villanova up and make them turn the ball over. Villanova is the second best team in the conference at hanging onto the ball, though they were well above their average in sloppy performance against Depaul and Creighton. The key matchup in this game will be Haanif Cheatham vs. Josh Hart. Cheatham has been on a defensive tear to start Big East play. In the first half of the Georgetown game, he shut down LJ Peak holding him to 2 points. In the second half, he switched to Rodney Pryor and slowed him down after he torched Marquette for 13 in the first. Against Seton Hall, Cheatham held Khadeen Carrington to one of his worst performance of the season. Hart is on another level from those two, but if Cheatham can slow him down, Marquette might actually have a shot. In the end, Marquette is not expected to win this game. Villanova is currently favored by 12, as they should be. Marquette is playing with house money and they have a shot to steal one. A good performance in Philadelphia should be considered a win, even if it isn’t one on the scoreboard.