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Conference play begins! #6 Xavier at Marquette 2017 Preview

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The Musketeers and Golden Eagles’ high-powered offenses face off in Milwaukee.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Northern Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

TALE OF THE TAPE

12-1 (10-3 ATS) Records 9-3 (5-6 ATS)
#6 AP, #5 Coaches, #16 KenPom Rankings #49 KenPom
Trevon Bluiett (19.8 PPG) Leading Scorer Markus Howard (21.8 PPG)
Quentin Goodin (6.1 APG) Leading Assister Andrew Rowsey (4.5 APG)
Tyrique Jones (6.0 RPG) Leading Rebounder Sam Hauser (5.3 RPG)
59.1% (Off.) | 45.2% (Def.) eFG% 58.0% (Off.) | 52.1% (Def.)
17.6% (Off.) | 15.8% (Def.) Turnover% 16.7% (Off.) | 19.9% (Def.)
31.7% (Off.) | 25.3% (Def.) Rebounding% 28.9% (Off.) | 29.6% (Def.)
43.4% (Off.) | 28.1% (Def.) Free Throw Rate 32.9% (Off.) | 35.9% (Def.)
59.3% (Off.) | 43.6% (Def.) 2PT FG% 56.1% (Off.) | 53.2% (Def.)
39.2% (Off.) | 31.7% (Def.) 3PT FG% 40.1% (Off) | 33.3% (Def.)
79.8% FT% 78.4%

VIEWING TIDBITS

Where: BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

When: 8:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. CT

TV: Fox Sports 1

Watch Online: Fox Sports Go

Line: Xavier -3

All-Time Record: Marquette 49-22


Conference play is finally upon us. And without further ado, here come the Xavier Musketeers, who have amassed a 12-1 record: The best start for a Musketeers team in program history.

Now that nonconference play has concluded, the level of difficulty will undoubtedly be revved up. They open Big East play against the Marquette Golden Eagles. The Musketeers will be away from home for just the third time this season.

This Marquette’s third matchup of the season versus a Top 25 opponent. In their two previous top 25 tilts, the Golden Eagles fell to the then-19th ranked Purdue Boilermakers and then sixth-ranked Wichita State Shockers.

Xavier, on the other hand, has yet to lose a game against a Top 25 team. Earlier this season, they captured back-to-back home victories against the Baylor Bears and then the Cincinnati Bearcats in the fabled Crosstown Shootout. The Bears and Bearcats were ranked 16th and 11th at the time.

The Musketeers will have no small task ahead of them tonight when they face the Golden Eagles, especially after having to mount comebacks in two of their last three games.

Marquette boasts the conference’s two top scorers. Markus Howard leads the Big East in scoring at 21.8 points per game. Not far behind him is Andrew Rowsey, another scoring threat, who averages 20.7 points per game. The only other Marquette player to average double figures is Sam Hauser. Hauser has the ability to step beyond the 3-point arc and shoot with precision. This makes him another dangerous offensive player for the Golden Eagles.

In this same home-and-home matchup a year ago, the Golden Eagles claimed victories in both games. It was largely thanks in part to the play of who else but Howard and Rowsey. In the first meeting in Milwaukee, Howard dropped 34 points against the Musketeers and Rowsey added 18 of his own. At Cintas Center, the tandem shined again, this time with Rowsey leading the pack with 20 points and Howard scoring 15. Hauser added fuel to the fire when he tacked on 12 points in another decisive win.

Chris Mack commented on the landscape of the Big East saying, “It’s a really good league that we are in. We're going to have wars every single night.”

Mack also spoke about the environment at Marquette saying, “It’s going to be a great environment. Marquette, their fans, their program, has a great tradition. They have a lot of pride in what they do.”

“They [Marquette] have two of the best shooters in the entire country. So much attention is paid to the two little guys because they do such a phenomenal job of opening up things for their teammates,” Mack said. “They are a threat anywhere on the floor. I love the way they push the ball in transition. Sam Hauser is having a special year, so we got our work cut out for us.”


What To Watch For

Smaller guards vs. Xavier’s guards

One of the biggest defensive weaknesses for the Musketeers has been the ability to defend smaller, shiftier guards. That’s mainly because the two starters at the 1 and 2 position are 6-foot-4 Quentin Goodin and 6-foot-5 J.P. Macura.

This weakness was made apparent in the team’s only loss this season. against a sizzling Arizona State squad. It showed up again in the miraculous comeback victory against ETSU. Marquette is no exception to this, as its two starting guards, Howard and Rowsey, both measure up at 5-foot-11. Not only will Xavier have to defend two smaller guards, but it must also shut down these two scoring threats if they want to win this game.

A slow start and a surging second half

These teams face off against one another twice each year. But, since this is the first Big East Conference game, I’m expecting both teams to struggle to find the zone early and then pick up steam. Xavier has had this trend over the last few games, where they fell behind early and came back late. They haven’t played a game in five days, and Marquette hasn’t in six. So both teams may come out of the gates a bit sluggish to start this one.

Lots of 3-point shots

Both of these teams feature players that can shoot from beyond the arc and they do it well. For Xavier, these players are Macura, Kaiser Gates Trevon Bluiett. For Marquette, these players are Howard, Rowsey and Hauser. Low and behold, both of these trios are the top three scorers on their respective teams.

In the 3-point category, these teams match up fairly evenly with the Golden Eagles barely edging out the advantage in 3-point field goal percentage at 40.1 percent compared to the Musketeers’ 39.2.


While Wednesday might not be the best indication of how either of these teams will fair in the perilous Big East Conference, one thing is for certain. Any given team could beat another on almost any given day. That’s what makes this conference not only one of the best in the nation, but also really exciting to watch.