"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

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Golden Eagles look for 17th in a row at home


Marquette (21-4, 10-2) puts its 16-game home winning streak on the line on Tuesday night against the Seton Hall Pirates (14-10, 5-7). Marquette has won five in a row against the Hall, including a three-game sweep last season.

Fresh off their win against St John's the Golden Eagles are back in the driver's seat for a double-bye in the BIG EAST tournament. With West Virginia's win over Villanova last week, MU now enjoys a two-game lead for the free pass in New York City. More importantly, after UConn's home loss last night Marquette is now tied for first place in the loss column with six games remaining (three at home, three on the road). However with a murderer's row in season's final five games, a slip-up against the upstart Pirates would be costly for both BIG EAST Tournament and NCAA tournament seeding.

Despite a sub-.500 conference record, the Pirates are playing their best ball of the season having won five of six with the lone blemish a tough 62-54 loss at home to UConn on Saturday. Bobby Gonzalez has a perimeter-oriented squad once again, led by sharpshooter Jeremy Hazell's 23 points per game on 43% shooting from deep.

Duquesne transfer Robert Mitchell has been solid in his first year of BIG EAST action contributing 15 points and eight rebounds per night. Here's a great story about Mitchell from NJ.com. Point guard Eugene Harvey chips in with 13 per outing to go along with 5 assists. Paul Gause scores eight per game and leads the BIG EAST in steals.

Tonight's game promises to be a relatively high-scoring affair. MU continues to set the pace in scoring offense in conference games, while the Pirates are one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Of course, we know Marquette has struggled defensively in league play as well.

Jerel McNeal, Marquette's answer to Hazell's gaudy numbers, should have ample opportunity to extend his current MU record streak of nine games with at least 20 points or more. McNeal is averaging 23.5 points per game in BIG EAST action, and needs just four steals to become the school's all-time leader in thefts.

Tipoff for tonight's game is schedued for 7pm CT. The game will be broadcast on the BIG EAST Network, including WMLW in Milwaukee.

Opponent Strengths and Weaknesses
As always, this information comes from Pomeroy's Scouting Report

1. Protecting the ball – Seton Hall is #7 in the country at protecting the ball, turning it over on only 16.5% of all possessions
2. Making free throws – Seton Hall is #48 in the country from the charity stripe.
3. Perimeter defense – Seton Hall is #79 in the country at 3-point defense. Opponents make only 32.3% of their shots

1. Defensive rebounding – Seton Hall is #334 in the country at defensive rebounding. Opponents get a rebound on almost 40% of all missed field goals
2. They foul too much – SHU is #320 in the country at letting their opponents shoot free throws
3. Making three pointers – SHU is #292 in the country at shooting threes (31%)

Specific Statistics Recommendations (In order of importance)
1. Make shots (MU eFG% of 55% or higher). This is 29 FGM (including seven threes), which is two more than average and predicts a 12 point win
2. Prevent shots (Seton Hall eFG% of 49% or lower)
3. Protect the ball (Turnover rate of 17% or less), which translates to 12 turnovers (one less than season average)
4. Force turnovers (SHU turnover rate of 20% or more), or one more TO than they average

Bottom Line
Pomeroy predicts a 87% chance of victory and 12 point win (83-71). Pretty much, we do too (85%, 86-74). The model predicts that MU will have an advantage on every factor, with a significant advantage on offensive rebounds and free throw attempts. The key areas are to make sure that the advantages in those areas maintain. If something goes different than the predicted results this evening, it'll be because of field goal percentage and turnovers. As mentioned, expect an offensively oriented game tonight.

Media Notes:

Finally, ESPN's Ombudsman responded to the grassroots effort launched by Rob to rid the world of Interactive Tuesday. Great work by Rob, and thanks to all of our readers who aired their respective grievances with the Worldwide Leader.

Also, due to personal travel I missed the deadline for this week's CBS Blog Poll. Here's the link to Week 2 -- MU checks in at #13 in the nation this time around.


Patrick said...

The ESPN ombudsman link in this post takes me to a story about IBM on Fast Company...

Tim Blair said...

updated, sorry about that