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College Basketball Pick
Coming into this game, no one thought these teams would be in their current situations. Marquette is tied for first in the Big East while Louisville is suddenly 1.5 games back. After being in the Top 5 for the first half of the season, the Cardinals have taken a bit of a nose dive in recent weeks after losing three straight games.
Their loss against Syracuse was fine because they are a really good team, but their next two losses have people questioning just how good this team is. While both games were on the road, Louisville had trouble all game against Villanova and Georgetown. This is a team that lost one game all season to Duke, then lost three straight in conference play. They got back on track last Monday with a home win over Pittsburgh, but it wasn't the prettiest thing as they let the Panthers stick around.
Marquette wasn't given much respect early in the season, mainly because they had three out of conference losses. The ones against Butler and Florida were understandable, but losing at Green Bay really had people doubting the Golden Eagles season. Now that they are 6-1 in Big East play, everyone is forgetting about what happened to them at Green Bay. One thing you know Marquette can do is give anyone a game. They have already played in three overtime games with their only loss coming at Cincinnati. Three straight wins over Connecticut, Georgetown and Pittsburgh is the main reason they sit on top of the conference. Things are about to get a lot harder for them, however.
Only two of their first seven games were on the road which means they'll have plenty travelling to do to finish out the season. That starts in Louisville where they get a Rick Pitino squad that's been struggling.
Vander Blue will have a lot on his plate, but he's stepped up so far and is the main reason for the Golden Eagles success. He leads Marquette by far in minutes played and will likely reach the 35-minute mark in this game. He's coming off a 30-point game against South Florida where he regularly found holes to the basket for easy deuces. That likely won't be the case against Gorgui Dieng and company. Blue isn't the greatest pull up shooter and that might come into play in this game. Junior Cadougan and Jamil Wilson took a backseat last game and will need to combine for more than two total points against the Cardinals. Davante Gardner and Trent Lockett lead the team in rebounds and will have to limit the offensive boards from Dieng and Chase Behanan. Gardner was thrown out of the USF game due to a Flagrant 2, but he was not suspended.
The Cardinals will be fine on the defensive end, it's their offense that has struggled as of late. Russ Smith has taken up a new role this season as the go-to offensive player and that has caused problems especially when he's having a bad day. Most notably in the Villanova game when he finished 2-for-13 from the field for only eight points. Peyton Siva stepped up in that game with 15 points and 13 assists, but it wasn't enough because Smith's problems were too much. That happened to be Siva's lone positive outing as of late. In three of the last four games, Siva is shooting 2-for-18 with only five points. While he is a better distributor, Louisville will need him to step up when it counts. Chase Behanan has slowed down offensively and hasn't shown much improvement since last year. The one consistent option the Cardinals have is Dieng in the middle who's averaging close to a double-double to go with 2.4 blocks per game. Also of note, Wayne Blackshear is expected to play on Sunday after missing the last game, but Kevin Ware is not.
This should be a very similar game to Louisville's win over Pittsburgh on Monday. The Cardinals are the better team, but Marquette won't go down without a fight.
Predicted Score - Louisville 72 Marquette 52
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