"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Game Preview: Marquette Takes on Alabama

Led by seniors Steve Novak, Joe Chapman and Chris Grimm, Marquette returns to the NCAA tournament on Thursday after a two-year absence to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in San Diego. Tipoff is scheduled for 2:40pm EST. For those with the Directv March Madness package, the game will be broadcast on channel 708.

The Crimson Tide are making their fifth consecutive trip to the tournament thanks to what might be Mark Gottfried’s best coaching job. The Tide only suits up seven scholarship athletes and lost their best player, Chuck Davis, to a knee injury early in conference play. Yet the Tide cobbled together a 17-12 record on the shoulders of one of the SEC’s most dominant inside-outside combinations, point guard Ronald Steele and post man Jermareo Davidson. Steele is a true ironman, averaging 38mpg through the tough SEC conference season. The 6’3” guard runs the show for the Tide, while Davidson patrols the paint to the tune of 14 points and 9 rebounds per game. Diaper dandy Richard Hendrix turned in a stellar season averaging nearly 10 points and 8 rebounds per game.

Alabama is proficient in halfcourt sets, something that Georgetown used to its advantage last week to defeat MU in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament. With their lack of depth, Gottfried’s squad relies on Steele to run an efficient offense that takes advantage of the Tide’s advantage in the frontcourt, as well as their athletic wing players, Jean Felix and the surging Alonzo Gee. Steele, with an assist to turnover ratio of nearly 2.5/1, did wear down late in the season when the Tide lost two of their last three games, but six days of rest are sure to rejuvenate this First Team All-SEC performer.

MU will continue to rely on its talented backcourt and stellar outside shooting on Thursday. The Golden Eagles are one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the NCAA tournament, averaging nearly 40% from beyond the arc this year. The Tide’s longer, athletic wing players, particularly Felix and Gee, could be one of the more formidable defensive matchups MU has faced on the perimeter this season. Novak, who has scored at least 18 points in nine straight games, will be the focal point of the Tide’s defense all night.

For MU fans, all eyes will be on Dominic James who is coming off of his worst performance as a collegian. Like Steele, James’ productivity declined in MU’s final three games, and the week-long rest was overdue. While James will look to rebound from a tough stretch, Wesley Matthews has re-emerged as a force for the Golden Eagles, scoring in double figures in four of the last five games, including a 14 point, 6 rebound effort last week against Georgetown.

Now that Matthews is fully recovered from his foot injury, MU’s backcourt mix is as deep as its been all season. With a full complement of guards, MU will push the ball up the floor quickly, even after made baskets against the Tide. While Bama is not deep, a week of rest can negate a perceived advantage from a deeper roster. However, MU is a more difficult squad to matchup against in an up-tempo game because of the abundance of shooters the Golden Eagles put on the floor at any given time. Can a quicker pace lead to open looks? That's the hope.

Inside, MU will once again turn to the Grimm Reaper to marginalize the Tide’s productive post players. Grimm, who playing time increased dramatically late in the season, and teammate Ousmane Barro draw the tough challenge of slowing down Davidson and Hendrix.

Welcome back to the Dance. Lets hope MU sticks around for a while.

**If you need a refresher on the Crimson Tide, please see our 'Know Your Opponent' feature here.


Al.com boils it down to "Tide's size vs. Eagles' Novak today".

The San Diego Union-Tribune picks MU to win by 7.

Birmingham News quotes the Tide as saying, "we're supposed to win".

The Montgomery Advertiser focuses on rising Tide freshman, Alonzo Gee.

Todd Rosiak looks at today's game through the eyes of MU's three seniors.


Anonymous said...

"returns to the NCAA tournament on Thursday after a three-year absence"

I know it's been a while, but we only missed two tourneys ;)

Christopher Lee said...

From a Rutgers fan, I hope the Golden Eagles make a run in the tourney as well and make the BE proud (something my team hasn't been able to do in a while)...

Do you want to trade links? I started an RU blog: Shirts and Skins: Rutgers Basketball Blog

NY Warrior said...

yes on the RU blog......lemme get to it later today

correction noted as well!!