Marquette (8-1) faces its most difficult test of the season to date when they square off tonight against the Tennessee Volunteers down in Nashville. The game, televised on ESPN at 8:30pm CT, marks MU's first appearance in the BIG EAST/SEC Invitational.
The 16/19th ranked Volunteers (7-2) return to their home state after an 88-72 trouncing at Temple over the weekend. As usual, Bruce Pearl runs one of the nation's most innovative rotations -- no fewer than 10 Volunteers average at least 10 minutes per outing so far this season, with eight of those players averaging at least six points per game. As Rosiak points out, UT is deeper, taller and more athletic than MU. Once again Lazar Hayward's effectiveness against a wave of athletic forwards will figure heavily in the final outcome.
UT is paced by 6'7" junior forward Tyler Smith at 17 points and six rebounds per game. Starting guard J.P. Prince missed the Temple game with an injured leg, and he is doubtful for tonight's game. If Prince is out, the Volunteers have more than enough depth to compensate, particularly with 6'7" guard Scotty Hopson nailing 50% of his three-pointers.
Meanwhile, Buzz Williams has become increasingly reliant on the Fantastic Four while the thin Marquette bench continues to struggle. Only backup point guard Maurice Acker averages more than four points per game. In a game that promises a brisk pace, perhaps the bench will find a bit of magic on the road tonight.
While depth and athleticism are hallmarks of this UT squad, the team is loose with the basketball and has been an up and down rebounding team at times this year. Here are the Top Five Numbers to know for this game. Numbers for this section come from Pomeroy's Scouting Report and Game Plan, as well as from Rob's own calculations.
39% - That's a model prediction on the chances for a Marquette victory. Hey, it could be a lot worse. Pomeroy only gives us a 15% chance of winning the game. One item of concern is that we are ranked ridiculously low in the Pomeroy Rankings (#67). Some may say that this is attributed to our strength of schedule (poor), so hopefully our team will rise as the season moves along.
Moving on... bringing back the quote from Rosiak's IPFW Blog Recap, there's the following quote from Buzz:
"Tennesee will probably have more than 12," said Williams when asked about the 12 offensive boards. "Probably double it."15% - If Tennessee gets 24 offensive rebounds (which would be an OR% of about 50%), our chances of winning the game drop to fifteen percent. Marquette needs to hold the Vols to about thirteen offensive rebounds or less (or an OR% about 26%). Bad news... Tennessee is #29 in the country at OR% with an average of 39.5%.
5 - Tennessee's average height ranking. Marquette's average height ranking? 315! However, much of the advantage for TN comes at the PG, SG, and SF positions, where hopefully Marquette's experience (#10) will provide a counterweight against TN (#298). (Hat tip: Pardner).
21 - This is approximately the number of turnovers that Marquette needs to force in order to win. This would mean Tennessee ending up with a TO% of about 25%, or one in every four possessions. Right now, TN is about average (20%) for turnover rate. Can the Marquette defense deliver?
13 - Marquette needs to protect the ball exceedingly well, by getting thirteen turnovers or less. Marquette is a pretty good team at protecting the ball (#56), but this would involve protecting the ball even better than normal.
In summary, we see a fairly close matchup, with Tennessee ending up with advantages on eFG% and OR% and Marquette winning the TO% and FTR battles. The prediction is TN wins with an efficiency of 1.03 points per possession vs Marquette's 0.98. The question is if Marquette can keep Tennessee off the offensive glass and enjoy a significant advantage at turnovers to turn that efficiency around.
- Last week Andy Katz filed this in-depth review of Pearl's 09-09 Volunteers
- Chattanooga Times Free-Press previews the game, focusing on MU's backcourt
- Sportsline Preview
- MU game notes
- Rosiak's blog
- Marquette Hoops offers a preview
- Here's the StatSheet preview