The Marquette University Golden Eagles (16-11; 8-6) will return home to the Bradley Center to face Georgetown (16-11; 7-8) Thursday night at 9:00 pm ET. This will be the second time these teams will meet this season, with Marquette eeking out an unlikely overtime victory 80-72 at the Verizon Center on January 20th. Marquette is 11-3 at home this season while Georgetown is 2-6 in away games.
Saturday's dominating win over Xavier breathed life into Georgetown's tenuous NCAA aspirations, and guaranteed that the Hoyas will at least be NIT-eligible come March. With Selection Sunday only 18 days away, this is basically a do-or-die game for both schools' chances at an at-large bid, as both desperately need wins to bolster their resumes. As it stands, Georgetown currently has a more realistic shot at the NCAA tournament than does Marquette, given the Hoyas' stronger RPI rating, but that could all change if Marquette is able to successfully pull off the season sweep. As of Monday, Georgetown is in the ‘Next Four Out' group in Joe Lundari's Bracketology.
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The Big Picture.
In the teams' first meeting earlier in the season- an 80-72 overtime victory for Marquette- Georgetown let Marquette climb back into a game which they led by as much as 17 points in the second half. This eventually led to junior Todd Mayo inexplicably being left wide-open to hit a game tying three-pointer with eight seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime. The Golden Eagles dominated the extra period, and Georgetown added another late-game collapse to a season full of them. Since then, Marquette has gone 5-3, still in search of a statement victory to support the argument that they deserve to be considered for an at-large bid.
Marquette has good experience and a couple of all-league candidates on the roster. Starting in the backcourt for the Golden Eagles will be point guard Derrick Wilson (5.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.3 spg) and guard Jake Thomas (7.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg). Junior Todd Mayo (10.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 79.8 FT%), who plays off the bench for Marquette, might be the best guard on the roster and one of the best 6th men in the conference. Freshmen classmates Deonte Burton (6.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 40.0 3P%) and John Dawson (2.0 ppg, 83.0 FT%) put up solid numbers despite receiving less than 13 minutes of playing time per game apiece.
Of the bigs, senior forward Jamil Wilson (12.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.5 apg) has started every game this season and is arguably the best all-around player on Marquette's roster. Also in that conversation is senior forward Davante Gardner (14.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 52.3 FG%) who, despite playing off the bench and averaging only 26.4 minutes per game, is tops on the team in scoring and is tied for the lead in rebounding. Wilson and Gardner combined for 40 points and 14 rebounds in Marquette's overtime victory over DePaul on Saturday. Joining Wilson in the starting lineup will be forward Juan Anderson (3.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 77.3 FT%) and center Chris Otule (6.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 61.7 FG%). Steve Taylor (2.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg) will also see playing time off the bench; he put up 14-8 against Georgetown earlier in the season.
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What to watch when the Golden Eagles have the ball.
- Golden Eagle: Davante Gardner. The 6'8, 290-pound bulldozer dropped a cool 20-5-4 statline on Georgetown earlier in the season and is coming off a game against DePaul in which he was able to score 22 points on 16 free-throw attempts in just 23 minutes of playing time. Looking further, Gardner is averaging 15.5 points and 10.7 free-throw attempts (shooting them at 84%) in just 22.2 minutes over Marquette's last four games. Considering it took Mikael Hopkins all of 19 minutes to foul out of a blowout win against Xavier, it would not be at all surprising if he (and the rest of the Hoya frontline) finds himself in foul trouble again this game.
- Hoya: Aaron Bowen. Coach Thompson may again elect to go with an aggressive press scheme after the Hoyas employed it to perfection against Xavier's guards, scoring 20 points off of 11 forced turnovers and eventually badgering them into submission. Marquette's guards aren't particularly heralded, so look for Bowen, who is far and away the best athlete on the team, to anchor a ¾-court press attack during the game.
- Number. Bench Points. As mentioned, two of the Golden Eagles' best players- Davante Gardner and Todd Mayo- play off the bench for the team. Gardner plays 26.4 minutes and Mayo plays 22.7 minutes per game on the season, and both are used strategically by Buzz Williams to catch teams off guard by matching them up against tired starters or backups. Davante Gardner is currently second in the Big East in points per 40 minutes, with 22.4.
- Feeling delusional because... The bipolar Hoyas finally showed us their manic side against Xavier and it was awesome. Defensive intensity at its finest.
- Feeling cynical because... Four different players have led the Golden Eagles in scoring in each of their last four games, making them a tough team to plan for defensively. Also, even in a nearly perfect game against Xavier on Saturday, Georgetown's interior defense managed to showcase its flaws, which were masked by Xavier missing easy inside shots.
What to watch when the Hoyas have the ball.
- Hoya: Jabril Trawick. Trawick, finally reinserted back into the starting lineup in place of freshman Reggie Cameron, was an instrumental piece in the thumping Georgetown gave Xavier on Saturday. Normally known for his defensive prowess, Jabril has been coming on strong offensively, and set the tone on offense with a well-rounded 13 point-3 rebound-4 assist game on 5 of 8 shooting from the floor. He facilitated many of the mini-runs Georgetown used to suppress Xavier's energy levels and attacked the basket with a controlled aggression that forced Xavier to stay honest defensively, which in turn led to open shots for a lot of Hoyas.
- Golden Eagle. Derrick Wilson. Wilson will be tasked with guarding DSR or Starks, and he has the ability to really disrupt the rhythm of opposing point guards. Sine January 30th, Wilson has had 4, 5 and 6 steal games, and all were Marquette victories. Neither of Georgetown's guards are overly careless with the ball, but Wilson has the ability to make even the best point guards cough the ball up a bunch.
- Number. Turnovers. After recording a combined 22 turnovers against St. Johns and Seton Hall, Georgetown committed just three turnovers (!) against Xavier on Saturday, in a much needed blowout victory. These three turnovers represented a low for a JTIII-coached Georgetown team.
- Feeling delusional because... D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera shot 1 of 8 from the field and Georgetown was still able to pull out a 22-point victory over Xavier. Coach Thompson seems to have compressed his rotation to seven guys- the starters + Ayebga & Bowen- over trusting guys like John Caprio (who played a career high 22 minutes in the first game against Marquette) and Reggie Cameron to play significant minutes. Totally on board with that.
- Feeling cynical because... The Hoyas' play this season has fluctuated between extremes, especially in recent games, and if they fall behind early I don't know if they have the collective mental strength to will themselves back into the game.
Conclusion. Marquette has the more talented frontcourt; Georgetown has the more talented backcourt. KenPom predicts us to lose in a very close game, which makes sense. Of the two "weak" units in this game (our frontcourt vs. Marquette's backcourt) I would probably give them the slight advantage. Hopefully I'm wrong.