The Hurricanes finished with one of the last Games of the Round of 32 and will get the first Game of the Sweet 16. Marquette is getting a full day more of rest as their Game against Butler took place Saturday afternoon. While that doesn’t always make a huge difference, it’s something to look at when considering Miami (FL) is -5.5 point favorites. (5 Dimes Sportsbook)
Shane LArkin didn’t have a great Game for the Canes against Illinois, but he came through in the end draining a step back three-pointer which all but sealed it for them. A late questionable out-of-bounds call has some Illini faithful bashing the officiating, but that’s now in the past. Miami was given their first true test of the Tournament and they passed. They’ll get Marquette in the Sweet 16, a team that was arguably the worst No. 3 seed entering play.
While the Golden Eagles haven’t been outstanding, they are finding ways to win which is exactly what they did during the regular season. They needed an improbable win over Davidson in the second-round and then caught a couple breaks against the Bulldogs. Point guard Vander Blue should be in the conversation for Player of the Tournament so far even though he isn’t being talked about all that much. He had late go-ahead baskets in each of Marquette’s first two Games while also tallying a combined 45 points. As Blue goes, Marquette goes. That’s how it’s been all season.
Blue probably won’t get matched up with LArkin, but the talk heading into this Game will be LArkin vs. Blue. Many think LArkin is one of the best guards in the nation while Blue isn’t even in those talks. With a better supporting cast for LArkin, that’s what tends to happen. But will that be the case in this Game? Kenny Kadji struggled last Game down low and couldn’t really get anything going. He along with Julian Gamble will play an important role against Marquette. Due to Reggie Johnson’s knee injury, it’s going to be very hard for Miami to win the battle of the boards. Chris Otule and Davante Gardner are big bodies that can cause problems. Both of them provide size and strength down low with Gardner being the Big East Sixth Man of the Year.
On the outside for the Canes, LArkin is supplemented by Durand SCott, Trey McKinney Jones and the savior from last Game, Rion Brown. Jones and SCott were both ineffective offensively which is something that needs to change against Marquette. SCott was dealing with an eye injury and looked very tentative when given open looks. Brown came through off the bench hitting five threes for a team-high 21 points. The difference maker in this Game could be Kadji as he has the ability to stretch the floor with his shot. That’s something that didn’t happen last Game, but he may have an easier time of it this time around.
OUtside of Vander Blue, Marquette’s production is unpredictable. Their second and third leading scorers come off the bench with Gardner and Jamil Wilson. Gardner and Wilson could provide tons of trouble for Miami as Reggie Johnson will be out. Due to that, the Canes don’t really have anyone that can match up with Gardner. As for Wilson, he’s an interesting matchup problem for Miami at 6-7, bigger than the guards, but smaller and quicker than the forwards. Wilson is averaging just 9.7 points per Game on the year, but has hit double digits in seven straight contests. Junior Cadougan and Trent Lockett are also two players that stepped up last Game as they combined for 22 points. While Blue is a great scorer, he can’t take every shot for this offense.
Many thought Miami were going to run away in their Game with Illinois, but that didn’t happen even though the Illini didn’t shoot all that well. Marquette hasn’t looked great in their first two Games, however, that doesn’t really matter in this Tourney as long as you advance. If the Golden Eagles get scoring outside of Blue and hold their ground in the paint, they should be able to keep this Game close.