Winning on the road in Conference play is the hardest thing to do in college basketball and Villanova knows that well. The Wildcats only have one loss this season and that was at the hands of a mediocre Butler team. Now, against a mediocre Marquette team that they already easily beat, ‘Nova will be looking to add to the win total.
Villanova may be on the road, but it’s hard to argue what this team has done outside of that Butler loss. The Wildcats dismantled Georgetown and UConn in back-to-back road Games and never let St. John’s get too close in the Game before that. Betting on Marquette will be hoping from a monumental performance and that’s not entirely hard to back.
The Golden Eagles are a much better home team and that’s been evident in Conference play, blowing out Seton Hall and DePaul in recent Games. They let the Xavier home Game slip away, but that was tied with a couple minutes to go. The best selling point may be that Marquette kept things close when these teams met the first time in a 100-90 Villanova win. Of course, that also required a 37-point Game from Markus Howard (21.5 ppg). On the other end of that, second-leading scorer Andrew Rowsey (20.8 ppg) struggled to do anything and had just six points on 2-of-12 shooting.
But first, there’s no reason to believe Marquette’s defense will be any better against the best rated offense in the country. Villanova did whatever it wanted in that first Game and it wasn’t just one player doing it all. In fact, big man Omari Spellman got into foul trouble and only played 14 minutes. If he doesn’t get into foul trouble in this Game, things could be just as bad for Marquette, even at home.
The Wildcats are loaded at every position with the backcOurt of Jalen Brunson (19 ppg) and Mikal Bridges (17 ppg) standing out. The big issue for Villanova going forward is the issue with Phil Booth, who broke his hand last Game. It’s likely Donte DiVincenzo (13.3 ppg) will move into the starting lineup and he was already getting 27.5 minutes per Game. With Spellman included, those Four shoot better than 41 percent from deep. Needless to say, the weapons are endless for Villanova and that means more trouble for a team that’s struggled to play defense.
The only hope is that Marquette’s defense repeats what it did in wins over DePaul (52 points) and Seton Hall (64 points). But with Howard and Rowsey in the backcOurt, the Eagles don’t have the size to deal with any of Nova’s guards and that’s been the team’s issue most of the season. Howard and Rowsey can go off for 30-plus points, but both of them also lack on the defensive end.
To have a shot, Marquette will either have to mix up its defense or play at a slower pace. And even then, Villanova’s efficient offense will still be hard to stop. The Eagles ride Howard and Rowsey, but to win this Game, they’ll need a little more from three-point gunner Sam Hauser or even Matt Heldt and Harry Froling in the post.
Villanova has a size advantage in the backcOurt and while Marquette’s guards can fill it up, Brunson and Bridges can do the same for ‘Nova. The big thing to watch is what the Wildcats do without Booth. There’s a chance Brunson and DiVincenzo see a few more minutes or power forward Eric Paschall plays more at the Four. The advantage for Marquette would be if freshman Collin Gillespie got a bigger role as he’s rarely played in important spots this season. With the Booth injury, things look slightly better for the Eagles in terms of an upset.
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