Game Preview: Villanova vs. Marquette

Mitchell Leff

The Villanova Wildcats will look to bounce back after a tough loss against Creighton on Monday night, as they travel to Milwaukee to take on a Marquette Golden Eagles team that is hungry for its first two-game conference winning streak of the season.

The Teams: Villanova (16-2, 5-1 Big East) 1 Game Losing Streak vs.

Marquette (11-8, 3-3 Big East) 1 Game Winning Streak

The Date: Saturday, January 25

The Time: 2:00pm ET

The Location: BMO Harris Bradley Center; Milwaukee, WI.

TV: Fox Sports 1

Radio: 1210 WPHT (Villanova) or 540 ESPN Radio (Marquette)

The Story of the Season (Villanova)

The Villanova Wildcats were rolling and seemed to be back on the road to establishing themselves as the Beasts of The Big East. Key word there is "seemed," because whatever groove they were in was disrupted by the Creighton Bluejays on Monday night.

Villanova gave up a season high in points Creighton en route to a 96-68 loss. The Wildcats defensive rotation was slow on seemingly every possession and the Bluejays took advantage, as Nova allowed a Big East record 21 3-pointers. The loss snapped the Wildcats five game winning streak and bumped Nova out of the top spot in the Big East. The team now has a chance to get back to its winning ways with a tough road test against the Marquette Golden Eagles.

The main key for the Cats in this upcoming contest will be getting back to their bread and butter, which is pounding the ball inside with forward JayVaughn Pinkston. Against Creighton, he had great success getting and converting at the free throw line (5-6). The problem was that he wasn’t getting enough shot attempts. As the Bluejays began to build a large lead early in the game, Nova began to get away from Pinkston and began to settle for three pointers to attempt a rapid comeback. This resulted in the squad’s third lowest offensive output of the season. In order to stay competitive against a talented Marquette team, Nova needs to establish Pinkston offensive early and often to get back some type of offensive groove.

The Story of the Season (Marquette)

If you want to talk about some of the most disappointing team’s in 2013, Marquette should be one of the first to come to mind.

The Golden Eagles were picked to finish first in the conference in the preseason coaches poll, tallying up five first place votes, three more than any other team. They were also returning two of their three leading scorers from last year’s team that went to the Elite 8. All signs were pointing for a dominant showing in the first year of a redesigned conference.

19 games later though, and this team is trying to right a sinking ship. The team is 11-8 only one year after finishing 26-9 only a season ago. Some of it has to do with a tough schedule, such as non-conference games against San Diego State, Ohio State, and New Mexico. There are also some mind baffling losses, for example an overtime loss to Butler who is 1-6 in conference play.

The main issue for Marquette has been an obvious one, the inability to score. This season, the Golden Eagle rank last in the Big East in scoring at 70.8 ppg., more than 2 points per game less than second last. This is coming from a program that hasn’t been in the bottom half of the conference in scoring since the 2009-10 season.

It’s obvious that the Golden Eagles need to get their act together on offense, and it all starts with their leading scorer, forward Davante Gardner. This season, Gardner is averaging 14.2 ppg., but he has really struggled from the field. He is averaging career lows in both field goal shooting percentage (52.9%) and free throw percentage (74.5%). Now these may seem efficient for other players, but considering how well he has shot in the past the numbers won’t cut it. Gardner needs to step up his offensive efficiency back to his past levels to get a sputtering Golden Eagles offense back on track.

The Players to Keep Your Eyes On:

Villanova: One of the emerging stars for the Wildcats is senior guard James Bell. Over the past two games, in which Pinkston hasn’t been scoring at his usual rate, Bell has led the team with 18 ppg. He has shown the ability to explode offensively and provide the team with an outside spark. Three of Bell’s best games (vs. Saint Joseph’s, Syracuse, and Creighton) have occurred when he’s been on from 3-point range. He has scored at least 19 points in all three games that he has attempted double-digit 3-point attempts. He is second on the team in scoring with 14.2 ppg., and leads Villanova in both 3-pointers made (43) and 3-pointers attempted (118). If the Cats fall down early, look for them to turn to Bell to dig them out of any early holes.

Marquette: Senior Jamil Wilson is a player who is sometimes overshadowed by his teammate Gardner, but who plays just as vital of a role. He is second on the team with 11.6 ppg., as well as rebounds with 5.3 rpg. He is a dynamic player who is matchup nightmare because of his ability to play both outside and inside. He has been on a role recently, averaging 13 ppg. in his last three outings. One of the main issues for Wilson is his tendency to turn the ball over, as he leads the team with 2.1 tpg. This comes from his tendency of wanting to be the big man that plays more along the ark, opening himself up for more chances to lose the ball. Marquette’s offense is already struggling to score, and Wilson needs to do all he can to help by hanging onto the ball along with improving his often-questionable shot selection.

The Prediction: This is a matchup of two of the most talented teams in the Big East right now. Marquette has been extremely good at home, posting an 8-1 home record so far. While the always-raucous Harris Bradley Center will definitely be a factor, I just don’t see Marquette being able to keep up with Villanova’s high-powered offense that averages over 80 ppg. I expect the Cats to come back after Monday’s and earn a much needed bounce-back win over the Golden Eagle.

Villanova 74 Marquette 62

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