UPDATE (5:20 PM): Marquette big man Davante Gardner will NOT suit up tonight due to a left knee sprain.
And so it comes to this.
This game represents the only "sure thing" in terms of opportunities for a quality road win that is left in Seton Hall's season. UConn has slid out of the polls for the time being, and Cincinnati isn't getting any love from the Committee right now. It's the number 15 team in the nation, at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, with a 4-game losing streak that has seen the offense MIA the entire time.
Just another day in the Big East. Here's the low-down on Marquette:
2011-12 record: 18-4 (7-2 Big East)
All-time series record: 2-8
Last meeting: 3/5/11 (85-72 SHU W)
This is going to be a whale of a task for Seton Hall- knock off the #15 team in the AP Poll, on the road, in one of the toughest environments in the nation, with a sputtering offense and a 4-game losing streak that has sapped the confidence of the young Pirates. Oh, and Buzz Williams' team is consistently one of the hardest-playing teams in the country. Best of luck!
Marquette's offensive numbers are impressive- they're 2nd in the Big East in scoring, 2nd in free throw percentage, 3rd in three-point percentage and 1st in assists. Their defensive numbers? Almost as good- 4th in field goal percentage defense, 3rd in steals, 3rd in turnover margin, and a respectable 8th in rebounding. Yeah, the Golden Eagles are damn good, and every bit deserving of their ranking so far.
Reigning Big East Player of the Week Darius Johnson-Odom has been unbelievable this season, ranking 2nd in the Big East in scoring and making nearly 40% of his shots from beyond the arc. He's a serious candidate for Big East Player of the Year, as he's not just a one-dimensional scorer, but a guy who can do everything you need him to on the court.
The other big name for Marquette is Jae Crowder, who's having a phenomenal year- 16.4 PTS, 7.4 REB, 2 AST, 2.3 STL (3rd in the Big East) and 1 BLK with 50% shooting from the field, 40% from deep and 70% from the free throw line. He's probably the most underrated player in the nation if I had to venture a guess, and he always plays hard. With Chris Otule out for the year and Jimmy Butler gone to the NBA, Crowder has stepped his game up in a BIG way.
Other consistent weapons for the Golden Eagles include Junior Cadougan (who makes sure the offense runs smoothly as a true point guard), Davante Gardner (a remarkably skilled big for his considerable girth who's stepped in to fill Otule's shoes), Todd Mayo (a frosh who reminds you of his brother, O.J.- instant offense off the bench), Vander Blue (an athletic guard who can run and fill in the gaps who's also recovered from a horrid year last season), and Jamil Wilson (an Oregon transfer who's been very good off the bench backing up Crowder and Gardner as an athletic big man).
They play hard, they have a huge home crowd for every game, their coach coaches so hard his dry cleaning bill has to be through the roof, and they're just plain damn good. No one said this would be easy, but if you want this writer's opinion, beating Marquette is necessary for the Pirates' resume.
Seton Hall will win if:
- They make threes. The Pirates hit 11 threes in the first half in their last meeting with the Golden Eagles on Senior Day at Prudential Center last year. Seton Hall's three-point shooting is key to their success, especially because since they started struggling (and since teams started zoning them up to force them to make the shots), they haven't been the same. Fuquan Edwin and Aaron Cosby, as well as Haralds Karlis, have to be ready to hunt for openings to shoot, and from that, be ready to shoot when open. The confidence will go up when they see some shots from range drop through the net. The "shooters' mentality" is characterized by the confidence that even despite misses, you think the next one will go in. The Pirates' wings need some of that right now.
- They match Marquette's intensity. Pretty self-explanatory. Even though they're coming off an ugly win against Villanova, if you think Marquette will overlook Seton Hall in this game, you're fooling yourself. The Pirates first and foremost have to match Marquette's internal, inherent hustle and toughness. Otherwise, they have no shot.
Marquette will win if:
- Crowder and DJO make their shots. They've been efficient all year long, and the offense revolves around their scoring. If they can keep their respective paces up in their shot-making, that will be key for the Golden Eagles against a defense that rarely leaves an opponent completely comfortable.
- Davante Gardner has his way. Last season, when the Pirates ventured out to Milwaukee, Gardner came off the Marquette bench and surprised everyone with 7 PTS and 6 REB in just 11 minutes. Seton Hall has no real answer for that kind of size, so if Gardner has his way, he'll weed out the less-bulky Pirates in his way.