The month of December will begin with a bang as the Marquette Golden Eagles are set to face off with the Maryland Terrapins. The Orlando Invitational Final is a damn good one as two teams in the Top 25 on KenPom are going to collide in a Big East-Big Ten showdown.
The Terps are undefeated thus far, posting a 7-0 record at this juncture. Led by senior Anthony Cowan Jr. and sophomores Jalen Smith and Eric Ayala, the Terps have looked mighty good from the jump in 2019. Their competition has been pretty stiff, as they’ve faced three Top 100 KenPom teams (Temple Owls, Harvard Crimson, Rhode Island Rams) and have beaten them all. Two of them — Temple and Harvard — have come in their last two games in the Orlando Invitational. They beat both by seven points apiece, so they’ve been challenged but have passed each test.
Cowan has been tremendous in Orlando. He dropped 30 against the Owls and then followed that up with a 20-point showing. Smith has scored 27 points in the two games, and Ayala’s put up 26. They pack quite the punch, and they’ll be the ones that Marquette will have to try and neutralize the most.
Marquette, meanwhile, is 5-1 through their first six games of the year. While their lone loss came to the Wisconsin Badgers, the Golden Eagles have bounced back with a three-game winning streak that they’ll be riding into Sunday. In Orlando, they’ve defeated both the Davidson Wildcats and the USC Trojans, whom they dismantled back on Friday night. Markus Howard in particular was chief among the dismantlers, as he dropped 51 points in the victory over the Trojans.
The one trap that MU will have to hope to avoid is an overreliance on Howard. He’s as dynamic as they come and the fact that he’s scored 91 combined points on his own in this tournament is ridiculous. The rest of the team has not done too much though. Greg Elliott got into double figures against USC, and Sacar Anim did so against Davidson. But those are the only other double figure efforts to speak of. Someone is going to have to step up, and that will be key for Marquette on offense.
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 1 p.m. ET
Watch Online: WatchESPN
No odds are out as of writing.