Marquette (1-1) vs Virginia Commonwealth University (2-1)
Where: Lahaina Civic Center, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
When: 1:30 PM CST
TV Channel: ESPN2 (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas)
Marquette comes in to this game off the back of a home defeat to the Purdue Boilermakers, 86-71. Marquette found themselves outmatched by the Boilermakers’ wealth of size and experience.
They won’t find the same problem in VCU, at least not in the size department. With their tallest player standing 6’9”, there won’t be as much of a mismatch as with Purdue.
Marquette should thrive offensively against the Rams. VCU allows opponents to shoot 38.2% from 3 (good for 249th best in the country, or, NOT GREAT), which should lead to one of Sam Hauser, Andrew Rowsey, and Markus Howard coming alive from beyond the arc. However, all of VCU’s guards stand 6’1” or taller, which might create problems on the defensive end for the Golden Eagles when the combination of Rowsey and Howard are on the floor together.
Marquette’s defense is going to have to come to play. VCU has 4 players averaging 13 points or more a game (Justin Tillman, Issac Vann, Khris Lane, and Johnathan Williams) across all positions (Tillman being the starting center, Williams being a point guard, and the other two playing on the wing). Look for Sacar Anim and Sam Hauser to have to outwork Vann and Lane and expect freshman Greg Elliott to be asked to play good minutes against Williams, as Elliott matches up better defensively than both Rowsey and Howard on the quick playmaker.
Speaking of Sam Hauser, he hasn’t started as quickly as he probably would have wanted, but he’s been invaluable even when his shots are not falling. He’s defending everyone from quick wings all the way up to Issac Haas, a 7’3” center, and held his own, as well as being invaluable on the glass. Hopefully he gets more shots to fall going forward (especially from 3), but he is still the most versatile player on the roster. As long as he doesn’t try too hard to be a volume scoring threat, he should be fine going forward, and I expect Wojo to utilize him more as a stretch four or small ball five against VCU (who’s tallest player is 6’9”) than as a true wing.
Whereas Hauser hasn’t exactly started on the right foot offensively, Andrew Rowsey most certainly has. As he goes, so the Golden Eagles go. He’s become the primary ballhandler for the starting lineup, he’s shooting 41% from three early in the season, and he’s looked by far and away like Marquette’s most dynamic offensive threat, utilizing his pump fake (and #TheThing) to create space or create free throws. He’s never afraid to take contact in the lane, either. He doesn’t really have Markus Howard’s newly-found floater shot when he gets into space in between the free throw line and the hoop, but his pull-up jumper off the pump fake or off the screen has looked good. Expect him to continue to bear the offensive burden (along with Markus Howard) until players like Hauser get going (and Harry Froling becomes eligible).
The Don’t @ Me Prediction
I, for one, took away some positives from Marquette’s game against Purdue, even if it ended up being such a lop-sided affair. VCU doesn’t boast the experience this year that normally propels mid-major teams to big wins against “Power Six” schools (shudders at using that term) and I truly believe that Marquette matches up incredibly well with the Rams. Rowsey or Howard will get hot and open up the floor for other players and I’ll take Marquette beating VCU 82-74.