Two teams off to so-so stats in Big East play meet in Milwaukee on Sunday morning.
The Marquette Golden Eagles and Xavier Musketeers each lost Big games openers this week. Marquette lost to Shamorie Ponds and St. John’s, while Myles Powell and the Seton Hall Pirates took it to the Musketeers in Cincy. Now, the Golden Eagles and Musketeers prepare for a faceoff at Fiserv Forum that will be rich in desperation.
Marquette is looking to avoid an 0-2 start to conference play, of course. So that will certainly be fueling them as they take the floor against the 1-1 Musketeers. Xavier is the weaker squad in some regards in this upcoming contest. Namely defense. The Musketeers might be susceptible to a barrage from the Golden Eagles if they perform up to expectation. At home this season, Marquette hasn’t taken a loss. They have put up points in numbers, scoring 80 or more points five times and 75+ seven times.
That being said, it may surprise you that despite their struggles, Xavier has been solid enough on the road in PPG allowed. The Musketeers have let up 62, 71 and 65 points in their three road games this season. They went 1-2, which means it’s the offense that really needs to step up in those situations. They scored 47 against the rival Cincinnati Bearcats and 56 against the Missouri Tigers. Especially against a team like Marquette, Xavier’s offense is going to need to come prepared for the task in Milwaukee.
Naji Marshall and Markus Howard will be the ones to watch in this game. Marshall scored 19 points in his last road effort, a win over the DePaul Blue Demons. That was a big step up from the 13 combined points he scored against Cincy and Mizzou in those aforementioned road contests.
He has been a different player on the road though, as he’s averaged almost a full 2.0 points below his home PPG average of 10.3, settling in at 8.5 points per game in 14 career road games. He’s hit double digits in five road games in his career, with his career high being the 21 he dropped against the Georgetown Hoyas back on February 21 last year. If Xavier is to win, Marshall is going to have to produce at a high level and buck the trend he’s set for himself in his previous road outings.
Howard, meanwhile, is going to have to simply go fishing for better luck. He scored just eight points and didn’t make a single 2-point shot against St. John’s on New Year’s Day. That isn’t likely to continue, as he’s one of the most prodigious talents in the entire nation, let alone the Big East. Though funnily enough, that mark he had against St. John’s chopped his average on the road down to 19.1 points per game... the same number that he averages at home. So, in other words, the man has been consistent no matter the environment. Xavier should be well prepared for what Markus could do to them.
Marquette is in a big spot here as an 0-2 hole will make it very tough on them with matchups looming against the Creighton Bluejays and Seton Hall. It’s a wild spurt for them as they’ll have to play these three games in six days. But Xavier’s defensive inefficiencies will likely put them at a tremendous disadvantage here. I think Marquette wins this comfortably.
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 11 a.m. CT
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