Remember the last time a No. 3 seed was only three-point favorites going against a 14-seed in the opening round? Probably not because it never happens. That just shows how much faith the books have in Marquette right now (not much). While they tied for the regular season Big East title, they just don’t bring much excitement to the table and are are coming off a loss to Notre Dame in their Conference Tourney.
Davidson is an upset-minded team on a streak of 17-straight wins. However, all of those wins were against teams in the Southern Conference. The Wildcats had a tough out-of-Conference Schedule, but they lost all of their harder Games. They fell to Gonzaga by 14, Duke by 17 and New Mexico by five. Their best non-Conference win was probably Vanderbilt which isn’t saying much. Davidson has experience, but do they have what it takes to pull the upset? They lost last year as a 13-seed to Louisville in a Game they were playing from behind the entire way.
The reason this line is staying close is because Marquette is not Louisville. The Golden Eagles lost by 19 points earlier in the season to the Cardinals. Marquette has one consistent scorer and the rest are hit-or-miss. That doesn’t really excite people, especially as a three-seed.
Vander Blue is what makes this team run. If this Game ends up being close, he will be the one they look to. He’s averaging 14.3 points per Game on the season, but over 16 in his last three. That scoring form will have to continue if they don’t want become upset victims. Davante Gardner, Big East Sixth Man of the Year, will also be important as his size is the biggest advantage the Golden Eagles have. SCoring help will also be provided by Jamil Wilson who has hit double-digits in 10 of the last 11 Games, yet is still averaging under 10 PPG for the season. Chris Otule should also see extended time against a smaller squad.
While Davidson lacks size and strength down low, they have some scorers. Jake Cohen can post up down low, but that could prove troublesome against Gardner. He still has the ability to hit threes which is why he’s averaging close to 15 PPG on the season. While Cohen is their leading scorer, De’Mon Brooks is the player Marquette has to watch out for. Brooks is super athletic and can drive to the hole when he pleases. In their Championship Game, he filled it up with 24 points and eight boards. Flanking those two, are a slew of abled three-point shooters that you can’t leave open. Nik Cochran, Chris Czerapowicz and Tyler Kalinoski all have made at least 49 three-balls this year. That doesn’t include senior guard JP Kuhlman who can also shoot, but is better known for controlling the pace for the Wildcats.
Looking at those numbers, it’s not hard to see why Davidson is only three-point underdogs. If Marquette doesn’t focus on getting the ball in the paint, they will struggle to extend a lead. The Wildcats don’t have a player that registers above 235 pounds on the scale while Marquette has Gardner and Otule who are both near 300. The advantage is there for them to capitalize on.