The Marquette Golden Eagles have racked up two in a row and three wins in their last four games. That lone loss came to the Kansas Jayhawks in Brooklyn last Wednesday. And sure enough, they’ll now face off with one of Kansas’ biggest rivals.
The Kansas State Wildcats come to Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee for a Saturday afternoon encounter. The Wildcats come into this matchup ranked 12th in the nation, are ranked 20th on KenPom and are 6-0 on the young season. Their defeats include the Kennesaw State Owls, Denver Pioneers, Eastern Kentucky Colonels, Penn Quakers, Missouri Tigers and the Lehigh Mountain Hawks.
The Wildcats have won primarily with defense this season. Their Adjusted Defensive Efficiency ranks 5th in the country so far, and they’ve allowed just 56.3 points per game, with four games where they’ve let up less than 60 points. They rank in the Top 20 in eFG% allowed, TO% and Defensive Rebounding%. They stand 69th in 3PT defense and 32nd in 2PT defense, as well, and their Steal% ranks highly too, sitting 26th.
It’s possible that Marquette doesn’t face a better defensive team this season. So they will need that struggling offense to start cooking something up.
K-State has three players averaging double figures this season, starting with senior Dean Wade. Wade has put up 16.2 points this season, 0.5 better than fellow senior Barry Brown Jr., who obviously has 15.7 points if you can do that math. The third scorer in double figures for them is junior forward Xavier Sneed, who’s put up 11.8 points per game. Meanwhile, senior Kamau Stokes is just on the outside looking in, averaging 9.0 points per game.
Kansas State’s offense is not quite as elite as their defense is. It’s probably more passable than anything. They are 121st in the nation in 2PT FG%. They keep good care of the basketball and are solid enough on the offensive glass. But elsewhere? It’s been a struggle. Their eFG% is just a shade under 50 percent. They haven’t gotten to the free throw line much at all this season, with only 114 free throw attempts, which ranks 277th in the nation. They don’t take many 3-pointers (108, 327th in the country) and haven’t made many 3-pointers either (28.7 percent from 3, 314th in the nation).
While they have three double-figure scorers and while Wade has pretty high efficiency numbers, he’s the exception, not the rule. Sneed, Brown, Stokes, and Cartier Diarra all have eFG% under 50 percent. Stokes, Sneed and Diarra all have TS% under 50 percent as well. Shaun Neal-Williams, a freshman who’s accounted for a lot of possessions, has woeful marks from the field. There are others, like Makol Mawien, Austin Trice, Mike McGuirl and Levi Stockard who have ‘high’ numbers, but not enough to be qualified for any leaderboards.
So the best Marquette can hope for here is that their offense is able to strike through K-State’s stingy defense. Because if they do, and if the 3-ball is working for them, they have a chance to knock off the 12th-ranked Wildcats. They can’t quite keep up offensively and haven’t shown any ability to do so this season, especially so from the perimeter. It’s easier said than done of course, but we know that Markus Howard in particular can shoot the ball very well from deep. Sam Hauser can light it up too, and in limited attempts, Sacar Anim and Joseph Chartouny have been deft from 3-point land, as well.
And the 3-point offense has been coming together. After a bit of a dip in the middle of this early stretch, Marquette shot 45.2 percent agains Kansas, 38.9 percent against the Louisville Cardinals and 40.6 percent against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers. They’ve got their season average at 37.2 percent, and with three games above that average, time will tell to see if that trend can continue against the visiting Wildcats.
MU is a slight 2-point favorite in this game. They are 3-4 in the early goings ATS while Kansas State is 4-2. I can’t quite make heads or tails of this matchup. K-State has the lockdown defense, but their offense is so stagnant and they haven’t faced offense this season that’s quite as capable as MU’s. They held the great Nick Mayo of EKU to 11 points in their earlier meeting, but the Colonels don’t have the depth that Marquette has.
So... eh, I’ll be bold.
Prediction: Marquette 75, Kansas State 73
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 1:30 p.m. CT
Watch Online: Fox Sports Go