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College Basketball Pick
According to the AP Poll, there isn't much that separates these teams. Notre Dame is No. 21 and Marquette is No. 22. The interesting thing about those rankings is that Marquette is actually 14th in the RPI while Notre Dame is 40th. What the heck are we supposed to believe here?
The Fighting Irish are playing some of the best basketball in the Big East at the moment with two straight big wins. They handled a hot Pittsburgh team on the road and then destroyed Cincinnati by 21 points last Sunday to give the Bearcats their worst loss of the season. Can they pull off another road upset in Milwaukee?
It's going to be a tough task, put it at that. The Golden Eagles have not lost at home yet this year if that says anything about how hard it will be. They are coming off a big comeback win over Syracuse on Monday that showed you have to bring your 'A' game for 40 minutes to win there.
That win showed the strength of Marquette, not because they won, but because how they did it. Their best and most consistent player, Vander Blue, had one of his worst games of the year. While he's averaging over 32 minutes per game, he only played 23 minutes in that game. To go along with that, Blue finished with just six points, the least amount he's had in conference play this year. The difference maker ended up being the big man off the bench, Davante Gardner, who had 26 points and eight rebounds. He only had two points and one rebound in their loss at Villanova two days earlier.
If Gardner has another game like that, you can say good night to the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame had a similar rendition of Gardner's performance just a week earlier against Providence when their big man went for 20 points against the ND zone defense. The opportunities will be there for Gardner, but help from Blue will be needed. Marquette doesn't have great shooters and although that didn't matter against Syracuse, you can't win every game by shooting 5-of-21 from three-point land. They'll need a better performance in this game and will require help from Junior Cadougan and Jamil Wilson. Wilson distributed the ball well against the Orange, leading the team with seven assists.
The Irish defense has been hot lately, not allowing more than 42 points in two straight games. It'll be unlikely for them to do that a third time which is why their offense needs to step up. Jack Cooley doesn't have much of a size advantage, but he's been able to run his game pretty much all year which is why he's averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds. Guards Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins will be big pieces as they go against a deep backcourt of the Golden Eagles. Both Grant and Atkins are averaging double-digits in points and about six assists per game.
Throughout Big East play, Notre Dame has had times were they slip up bad and are never in the game from the start. As we're getting later in the season, they'll need to control that and this will be a test to see where they're at. As for Marquette, they are right in the thick of things for the regular season conference title and a win here will put them in a very good situation, especially with Rutgers coming up next.
Predicted Score - Marquette 65 Notre Dame 62
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