Game Preview: Marquette vs. No. 8 Villanova

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Following a victory against the Georgetown Hoyas, the Marquette Golden Eagles travel to Philadelphia as they look to knock off the No. 8 Villanova Wildcats.

When: March 3, 2014

Time: 2:00 p.m. ET

Where: Wells Fargo Center; Philadelphia, Pa.

How to Watch: CBS

After a close meeting in Milwaukee just a few weeks ago, Marquette (17-11, 9-6 Big East) will travel to Villanova to play the Wildcats as the Golden Eagles try to get the big win they have been looking for all season long.

Marquette took down Georgetown on Thursday, but is still in need of a signature victory to improve its NCAA tournament chances as the Golden Eagles are 0-4 against ranked opponents this season.

Villanova (25-3, 13-2 Big East) also has a lot to play for, as the No. 8 Wildcats are locked in a tight race with Creighton for the top seed in the Big East Tournament.  Creighton lost to Xavier on Saturday to even up the standings at the top with both teams at 13-2 in the conference.

The previous matchup saw Marquette climb back into the game late to send the game to overtime with the then No. 4 ranked Wildcats.

Marquette trailed by as much as 11 late in the second half and six with 49 seconds remaining, but Todd Mayo scored 10 points in the last 35 seconds to tie the game at 77 with five seconds left.  Villanova made a run at the basket but a questionable charge call would wipe off a Wildcat basket and send the game to overtime.

The overtime period was dominated by Nova guards Ryan Arcidiacono and James Bell, as was most of the game. Arcidiacono scored 20 and Bell had a season-high 30 points on 50.0 percent (9-18 FG) from the field.

Marquette relied on Davante Gardner in that game much like they have all year long, as the senior big man had 29 with 11 makes from the free throw line.

Things are a bit different now though as Marquette has won five of its last six games and the emergence of guard Jake Thomas from outside has helped the Golden Eagles gain some momentum heading towards the end of the season.

For Marquette:

Davante Gardner had a strong showing in the last matchup and has played well all year long so look for the Golden Eagles to work it inside to him early and often. However, the big man is an excellent passer from the post, and with Jake Thomas playing extremely well of late, he will be looking to dish too. Offensive rebounds and transition offense will be important to see if Marquette can get Thomas some open looks.

For Villanova:

The Wildcats are coming off of a poor shooting performance against the Butler where they shot only 39.7 percent from the field.  I wouldn’t expect that to happen again. James Bell went off in the last contest between the teams, and much like the Georgetown guards did to Marquette, expect Bell and the Nova guards to do much of the same.

X-Factor:

Jamil Wilson has not played well all year long, but the 6’7’’ swingman can really do it all when he’s on.  Wilson is a rebounding machine and can be a deadly three-point shooter, just watch the NCAA tournament game vs. Davidson last year.  If he can get it going and provide some extra rebounding and some much needed outside shooting, Marquette’s ability to win this game increases dramatically.  I would put the magic number at 15 points for Wilson, as the Golden Eagles are 7-3 this season when he scores 15 points or more.

Prediction:

Marquette really needs this win, which tells me they are going to play hard, especially on the defensive end.  And in the recent close games that Villanova has played, they have been struggling to score against hard-nosed defensive teams and thus have struggled from the field. In games against St. John's, Providence and Georgetown they shot below 46 percent from the field and won by a combined 11 points in those three games. But, the game is at Villanova where the Wildcats have only one loss on the season.

I think Villanova wins as they try to possibly snag a No. 1 seed come the NCAA tournament.

Marquette 71 Villanova 78

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