The 10/11 ranked Marquette Golden Eagles (11-1, 1-0) will put their seven game win streak on the line today when they play the West Virginia Mountaineers (10-3, 0-1) in Morgantown. Tipoff is scheduled for 1pm CST.
Why does anybody doubt Bob Huggins anymore? Despite being picked to finish 10th in the Big East by his fellow coaches, Huggins' Mountaineers have been one of the league's most pleasant surprises running out to a 10-3 record with wins over Winthrop, NMSU and Auburn. Still, Huggins' squad limps into Sunday's game losing two straight including a defeat at Notre Dame to open the Big East season.
In addition, despite carrying a roster that runs counter to the style of play Huggins relied on for years at Cincinnati, several Mountaineers have raised their level of play this season. Guard Alexander Ruoff leads the Mountaineers with 16ppg, followed by the talented SF Joe Alexander at 15 points and 6 rebounds per game. Senior point guard Darris Nichols runs the show with a steady hand -- he has an eye-popping A/TO ratio of 2.6 to 1 -- and drops in 11 ppg. Nichols v Dominic James should be a great matchup.
After winning the conference opener at home, Marquette could set itself up for an exceptional start in league play with a win in Morgantown. After Sunday's tilt, MU hosts back-to-back conference games. Given MU's domination at home in recent years, Crean's squad has a chance to create early separation from much of the conference.
Dominic James and Jerel McNeal remain the focal point of MU's attack, but the emergence of sophomore Lazar Hayward has made MU a more complete team. The 6'7" sophomore from Buffalo is averaging 13ppg on 58% shooting from the floor. What's more, Hayward is displaying the range we'd only heard about from his prep scouting reports by draining 44% of his three pointers.
James' play continues to impress. The junior is averaging 15 ppg and 4 apg with a solid shooting percentage of 44%. James' shot selection, frankly that of MU's entire backcourt, is markedly improved this season. After fighting through flu-like symptoms against Providence, expect Jerel McNeal to bounce back with a strong offensive game. And hey -- maybe Wesley Matthews is rounding into form after his strong effort against the Friars.
Here are the Top Five Numbers to Know for West Virginia. As always, information comes from Pomeroy's Scouting Report and Game Plan.
10 - Both teams are rated in the Top 10 for Pomeroy 2008 Ratings
- Marquette checks in as the #3 team
- West Virginia is the #8 rated team, but at one point was the #1 according to Pomeroy
- The computer prediction now puts our chances of winning at 50% - just a week ago we were only given a 30% chance of winning
- That's #3 out of 341 Division one teams
- West Virginia only turns the ball over 15.4% of the time
- Look to see how well Marquette is able to force turnovers. Marquette is forcing opponents into a turnover rate of 24.6%
- West Virginia forces opponents into a turnover rate of 26.3%
- On the other hand, Marquette only turns the ball over 20% of the time
- Turnovers are the matchup of the game
- This is good enough for Marquette to be the number 7 team in the country
- However, West Virginia typically allows opponents to only achieve an OR% of 30.5%
- Will Marquette be able to achieve good offensive rebounding?
- However, both teams are averaging over 55% eFG% on offense
- West Virginia has only had three teams reach over 50% on eFG% against them - and two of those teams won against WVU (ND - 53% ; Oklahoma - 61.1%)
- Marquette has only been below 50% on eFG% twice, and those were still at 48%
- West Virginia preview/game notes
- Marquette preview/games notes
- West Virginia Preview by Eric Silver aka Silver Warrior at www.marquettehoops.com
*Above post is a joint contribution from NY Warrior and Henry Sugar