GameNight: #13 Villanova at #25 Marquette

January 1st, 2009
Jan 1 2009 - 2:30pm

Preview & Prediction: By Douglas Phillabaum





The New Year gets started in a big way as  #13 Villanova (12-1) heads to Wisconsin to face #25 Marquette (11-2) in its Big East conference opener. The three losses for these two teams are telling: Texas, Tennessee, and Dayton--all NCAA Tourney-bound teams. However, neither team has a strong win on its resume and only one team can earn that signature win today. Both teams play 3-guard lineups, with Villanova having a slight edge in size and overall talent. Villanova's Dante Cunningham (a veteran forward averaging 16.9 ppg) will be the key player to watch. Villanova has won games without Cunningham leading the way in scoring, but against a smaller Marquette squad (Lazar Hayward being their only forward) Cunningham should shine.

Marquette won last year's only meeting, a ten-point victory at Villanova. With the win, Marquette finished 11-7 in Big East play, while Villanova fell to 9-9 and ended up with a lower Big East Tournament seed. After barely squeaking into the Big Dance, Villanova redeemed itself by advancing to the Sweet 16 in March, losing to eventual National Champion Kansas. Villanova returns all the important pieces from that team and therefore retains a slight advantage in overall experience, though Marquette's core (James, McNeal, and Matthews are all seniors). This year, it seems as if each Villanova starter has improved, and Dante Cunningham has stepped up to lead the team in scoring instead of Scottie Reynolds. This has resulted in a little more interior scoring and toughness than you'd expect from the usual Villanova squad and it should help them in tough road games like this.

Neither of these teams can afford to pass up winnable games like this, making this matchup quite revealing. Will Marquette defend its house or can Villanova step it up on the road? I look for Villanova to use its slight talent advantage to the fullest and pull out a closely fought battle. Villanova should find an advantage on the boards and be able to draw fouls and connect free throws down the stretch.

Winner: Villanova       Margin: 3-5 pts