Big East Tournament Game Preview: (6) Marquette vs. (3) Xavier

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette and Xavier meet in what could be an elimination game for the NCAA Tournament.

When: March 13, 2014

Time: 9:30 p.m. ET

Where: Madison Square Garden

How to Watch: Fox Sports 1

In the first year of the new big east, Marquette will take on newcomers to the Big East, Xavier, as the Musketeers look to win their way off of the bubble come Selection Sunday.

Both teams have been struggling lately as Marquette (17-14, 9-9 Big East) has lost three-in-a-row while Xavier (20-11, 10-8 Big East) is coming off of back-to-back losses.

It’s been hard for the Golden Eagles of late losing back-to-back double overtime contests, but now Marquette is looking for a Big East Championship to extend their NCAA tournament streak to nine seasons.

MU has been shooting the ball better of late, but only if they can get high quality shots that is.

The Marquette half-court offense has lacked all year long and with Jamil Wilson shooting only 32.3% from long range, and Todd Mayo struggling from outside as well, the Golden Eagles have no way to spread the floor.

Davante Gardner has been everything you can ask offensively in the paint, but teams are now doubling him and forcing Marquette to shoot outside jumpers.

Unfortunately for the Musketeers though, they will be without junior center Matt Stainbrook. Stainbrook strained his MCL in his left knee against Seton Hall on March 3 and will be unavailable for the game against Marquette, but might be able to return Saturday should Xavier advance.

This will be difficult for Xavier as they go up against the Big East Sixth Man of the Year, 6-foot-8, 290-pound Gardner. Gardner averaged 17.5 points in the two games against Xavier with Stainbrook in the lineup, and slowing him down will be much harder with the Musketeer big man sidelined.

Also, Stainbrook was the team’s leading rebounder averaging 7.8 per game while also contributing 10.6 points per contest.

One thing that won’t change is Xavier’s ability to shoot the outside shot.

Xavier’s leading scorer, Semaj Christon, is shooting 40.5% from deep, and junior guard Dee Davis is also shooting a stellar 39.3% from beyond the arc. And in their upset victory over Creighton, these two Musketeers shot a combined 6-9 from three-point range.

Player to Watch:

With the absence of their center, Xavier will be looking for some presence in the paint and I think Justin Martin might be that guy. At 6-foot-6 Martin isn’t your prototypical big man. In fact, he’s more of a swingman that can score. Martin has had four 20-point games this season and is shooting 38.1% from deep. The most important thing for this game though, is that Martin can really rebound the basketball. He is averaging 5.2 boards per game, and in the game against Creighton, be brought down 16 rebounds and added 19 points. If he can assert himself on the glass, he could be problematic for Marquette.

Prediction:

Marquette: 76 Xavier: 72

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