Providence travels to Wisconsin (2pm, Cox/MSG) to take on a Marquette team (13-4, 4-1) that has always been tough on the Friars in Wisconsin. Here’s what to watch for.
1. Can the Friar muster any offense against this gritty bunch? Gone are stars Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, so Buzz Williams’ group is leaning heavily on their defensive effort to get them wins. It isn’t always pretty, it’s seemingly always close, but the Golden Eagles are 4-1 in conference play.
Connecticut was the last team to shoot over 40% against them, and that came in their Big East opener on New Year’s Day. For all of their defensive success, Marquette hasn’t been able to pull away from anyone in the conference. Three of their five Big East games have gone to overtime (wins over UConn and at Pitt, and most recently a 71-69 loss at Cincinnati which snapped a six game winning streak) and they defeated Georgetown 49-48.
2. Vander Blue leading the way in his junior year. Blue was a prospect from the same recruiting class as former Friar Gerard Coleman and the two shared similar games and rankings coming in. Blue struggled to get much of anything going from beyond the three point arc in his first two seasons, shooting just 16% from deep as a freshman and 25% last year before upping that percentage to a more respectable 34% this year.
He leads Marquette at 14 points per game.
3. Gardner providing a lift. In just 22 minutes per game the massive Davante Gardner is a near 14 ppg scorer, shooting 58% from the field and an impressive 84% at the free throw line. The big man is doing most of his damage at the free throw line, peaking at 15 free throw attempts in the loss to Cincinnati. He hit 13 of those on his way to a 15 point, 11 rebound night. He’s taken at least 10 free throws in three of the five Big East games and shot eight more versus Seton Hall.
Keeping him off of the line will be crucial.
4. New England flair. Key to Marquette’s fortunes will be two players who finished their high school careers playing prep basketball in New England. Providence fans will remember Todd Mayo as Ricardo Ledo’s teammate on a terrific Notre Dame Prep team that also included high major talent in Khem Birch, Sam Cassell Jr, Myles Davis, and Angel Nunez.
The talented Mayo is rounding back into form after missing the first semester. He’s a versatile guard who can play either position effectively. How quickly he reverts back to form will be a big factor for a team that struggles to find offense at times (they’ve twice scored under 20 in a half in Big East play).
Derrick Wilson is an Alaskan product who was a two sport star at Hotchkiss.
5. Where does Providence find their offense? No team has allowed opponents to shoot a better percentage from three point range than Marquette. Conference foes have made 35% of their three pointers against them. That would appear to be a good sign for Bryce Cotton, but Williams will gear his offense towards slowing the league’s leading scorer – and the only consistent threat from three point range on Providence.
Can the Friars make them pay on the offensive glass? Marquette is a fascinating team as they have only one player averaging five rebounds per game, yet they are second in the conference in rebounding margin (BE games only) – a testament to the gang rebounding and general tenacity Williams has instilled in this group.
Providence has excelled on the offensive glass, leading the league at 15.4 a night (BE games). They also lead in offensive rebounding percentage. Louisville is the only other team over 13 (13.7), while PC has doubled both Georgetown and Seton Hall in offensive boards per game.
6. Figuring out a house of horrors. Providence has never won at Marquette (0-6 all time) and the Friars have been scorched by them away from the Dunkin Donuts Center since 2008. How bad has it been? Here are the scores over the past five years versus them away from the Dunk:
- January 3, 2008 – Providence fell 96-67 at Marquette.
- January 17, 2010 – Providence lost 93-63.
- February 27, 2011 – 86-62 Marquette over PC.
- March 8, 2011 – at Madison Square Garden the Keno Davis era ended with an 87-60 loss.
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