The Providence College Friars (13-9, 3-6 BE), in an attempt to shake off a tough loss to St. John’s this past Wednesday, head out to Milwaukee for a tilt against the Marquette Golden Eagles Saturday at 2pm. The Golden Eagles (14-6, 5-3 BE) come into the contest as the hottest team in the Big East, last week they won at #7 Creighton 102-94 and then rallied from 17 points down to defeat #1 Villanova on their home court. Marquette sports a high octane offense that’s ranked 18th in the country in scoring at 84.1 ppg and are led by senior guard Jajuan Johnson at 12.8 ppg (no not the former Celtic Legend JaJuan Johnson).
You may be asking yourself how Marquette scores 84.1 ppg when the leading scorer gets 12.8 ppg. The answer is simple Marquette has five players scoring 10+ ppg and two others scoring 9+ ppg. Markus Howard is a very impressive freshman for the Golden Eagles, scoring 12.1 ppg on 51.4% from the floor and 94.9% from the charity stripe. Friar fans may remember Katin Reinhardt, a grad transfer from the USC team the Friars beat at the buzzer in last year’s NCAA Tournament, he is one of the key cogs in Marquette’s fleet of three-point bombers. Howard, Reinhardt, Sam Howser, and Andrew Rowsey can all stroke it from deep, shooting as at team at a 41.9% clip, which ranks 5th in the nation. So if all that wasn’t a bad omen for the Friars, consider this. The Friars have never won on Marquette’s home court, the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Friars came close last year to exorcising their demons but fell 96-91 in double OT, the Bradley Center is a house of horrors. On top of all that something weird usually happens when the Friars and the Golden Eagles meet up. Who could forget in a 2009 meeting at the Dunk when Jeff Xavier’s brother, John, came on to the court to argue a hard foul on his brother? Then three years ago in a game at the Bradley Center it was delayed due to a phantom bat flying around the arena causing havoc. Don’t let anything shock you in Saturday’s matchup and with that here are my keys to the game.
Keys to The Game
- Feed Bullock and Holt Early and Often– One of Marquette’s weaknesses is they don’t have many low post players on their team, especially with Henry Ellenson declaring for the draft last year. Luke Fischer is really the Golden Eagle’s only post player and while he is good he is extremely foul prone. Fischer has averages 3.3 fouls per game and has already fouled out in 3 Big East games. If they Friars game make an effort to get the ball in the post and Fischer picks up a few quick fouls it could be very beneficial for the Friars.
- This Time Actually Defend the Three– As discussed earlier Marquette can really knock down the three-point shot so it will be important the Friars rotate well and limit open threes. Typically this season the Friars have played well defensively and we could expect a good defensive effort, then Wednesday happened. The Friars gave up 91 points in the regulation loss and the Red Storm connected on 8 triples in the first half alone. According to Kevin McNamara of Projo the 91 points were the most the Friars have given up in regulation at the Dunk in the Ed Cooley era. Like the Johnnies, Marquette is going to have a lot of guys that can hit the three and the Friars must give a better effort.
- Don’t Play the Entire Game at Their Pace– With their young scoring guards St. Johns wanted to play the entire game at an up-and-down pace and the Friars obliged. I can see why Cooley wanted to do this because he felt he had an advantage in transition, which he did but probably didn’t have to play the entire game that fast. The Friars shot 61% from the floor and lost! That must make Ed Cooley sick to his stomach. Listen down 9 at half I know why they played quick but when the grabbed the lead in the second half they should’ve slowed down and run the flex offense. They chose not to and I think it hurt them defensively, as the Friars only made one stop down the stretch. Marquette is going to try and do the same thing and the Friars can’t let this happen. We aren’t going to win a track meet against Marquette, just like we didn’t vs Creighton and St. Johns. If they can play at a pace we saw at Villanova I think that will help the Friars.
When the Providence College beat #1 Pittsburgh at the Dunk back in 2009 it felt like a season changing victory. The whole campus was so fired up that evening and all the local bars were filled to the brim. The next day was a struggle to say the least. While the Friars didn’t suffer the hangover from beating #1 their very next game, as they beat Rutgers, but the hangover lasted essentially the remainder of the season. They escaped Rutgers with a win but then got blown out by Villanova, snuck out a victory vs DePaul at MSG, then got blown out by Louisville the next day, and dropped a dud at home vs Miami in the NIT (Fun Fact: Jimmy Graham was the center of that Miami team; the more you know). I bring all this up because the only chance I’m giving the Friars in this game is if Marquette has a hangover from their win vs Nova. I thought the Friars were turning the corner and then Wednesday was just so soul crushing. The thing is if they wanted to make a charge to the Dance this was one of the games that we’d pencil a loss given the horrendous history at the Bradley Center. The way the Friars played against high scoring teams Creighton and St. Johns I just can’t sit here and convince myself the result won’t be similar to Marquette. Then again when the Friars and Golden Eagles meet, expect the unexpected.
But I Wont
Marquette 82 Friars 68