"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 10, 2009

Marquette versus Villanova - Round Two

When he arrived on campus as awkward shooting freshman with a reputation as a rugged defender, nobody expected Jerel McNeal to stamp his name in the Marquette record books as a scorer. Tonight at Villanova, the multi-talented McNeal could do just that. The 6'3" senior guard needs 21 points to break George Thompson's 40-year old scoring record for the blue and gold.

McNeal comes into tonight's game on a tear. A leading candidate for BIG EAST Player of the Year, McNeal has delivered seven consecutive games of at least 20 points or more and is averaging 20 points per game in conference action. McNeal is second in the BIG EAST in three-point field goal shooting, nailing 47% from deep making him -- and by extension his teammates -- much tougher to defend.

Simply put, Jerel McNeal has been the key to Marquette's 9-1 record in BIG EAST play and will factor heavily into the Golden Eagles' efforts to jump back into the win column after a disappointing loss at USF. MU topped the Wildcats 79-72 in the conference opener for both teams on New Year's Day. Marquette topped the 'Cats last year on the road -- but remember, that game was in Philly and this time MU has to venture into the Pavilion on campus. Villanova has won 25 in a row at the Pavilion.

While MU (20-3, 9-1) hit a speed bump last week, Villanova (19-4, 7-3) is positively rolling.
Jay Wright's crew has won six of seven, including home wins over Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Last time out, the Wildcats buried Syracuse 102-85 behind Dante Cunningham's 31 points and nine rebounds.

Tonight's game will be televised on ESPN2 at 6:30pm CT.

Opponent Strengths and Weaknesses

As always, much of this information comes from Pomeroy's Scouting Report.

1. Defensive field goal percentage – Villanova is #30 in the country at defensive eFG% (44.9% allowed). Opponents make only 42.4% of 2-point baskets (#22) and only 32.4% of 3-point baskets (#82). The 'Cats are #13 in the country overall at defensive points per possession (0.88 ppp allowed)
2. Getting to the line – Villanova is #30 in the country at Free throw rate (FTA / FGA of 43.8%)
3. Protecting the ball – Villanova is #69 in the country at turnover percentage (18.8%)

1. Defensive FTR - Villanova is #220 at letting their opponents take free throws
2. Not much else – They’re top 100 in every category except defensive turnover rate (#102)

Specific Statistics Recommendations (In order of importance)
1. Stop Villanova from making shots (eFG% of 47% or less). This translates to 22 FGM (including six threes), or three less than their average
2. Make shots (MU eFG% of 53% or higher)
3. Force turnovers (TO Rate of 27% or higher for Villanova), which would be about five more turnovers than their average
4. Prevent offensive rebounds (Villanova OR% of 22% or less), or keep them to about four less OR's than their average
5. Protect the ball (MU turnover rate of 13% or less), or about three turnovers less than average
6. Get offensive rebounds around the season average (MU OR% of 33% or more), or right around MU's season average

Bottom Line
Pomeroy gives us a 29% chance of winning, and unfortunately I am only slightly more optimistic (33%). In an average paced game (68 possessions), Marquette is expected to lose the game by four points. The model predicts that MU will have an advantage on turnover rate and that’s it. OR% is predicted to be a significant advantage for Villanova, with only slight advantages on Free Throw Rate and effective field goal percentage. Both offense and defense for Marquette are predicted to be worse than average. MU will probably have to combine multiple recommendations in order to win.

Media Updates

Evidently, there are 31 different Villanova blogs (kidding, guys!) Seriously, all the Villanova blogs do a nice job and there is a healthy degree of mutual admiration on both sides. Go visit some of their sites and see what their fans think. Villanova fans are probably more fired up for this game than you might realize.


BetFirms said...

Great article on the game tonight. I'm going to have to agree with Pomeroy and the odds makers here and give the edge to Villanova tonight. However, McNeal has been such a stud this year and Marquette has had such a great season it's tough to go against them.

JesuitWarrior said...

Cracked - got any sci-fi math to prove the point that James should stop shooting 3's? He's another 1-9 @ USF. He's always 1-x. He's effective if he slashes or pulls up, but I'm afraid for the backboard, the band, the cheerleaders and the mascot when he shoots from the arc.

Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...

Hello, Cracked Sidewalks-

We've had a reciprocal link since 2007, which I really appreciate. I also really enjoyed reading your preview - very substantive...

I've written a preview for the showdown at the Pavilion, and I was wondering if you would be willing to include it in your roundup of Villanova blogs at the bottom of your preview. If you go to my preview, you'll note that I have all the Villanova blog previews linked, as well as a direct link to your preview. Of course, I hope you enjoy my version as well, too. You have a great team and I'm looking forward to it...

BTW - you'll probably like the fact that I included your Nov 2002 thrashing of us (with Dwyane Wade, of course) at MSG.

Thanks for your help. Just comment on my blog if you need to reach me. (I have a different e-mail address now than I had back when I started... so the best way is to just comment on it and/or leave an e-mail address where you can be reached...)

Looking forward to it...

Villanova Viewpoint

Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...

One more thing - forgot the permalink for you....

blog's general URL...



Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

Nice preview, CS.

Let's Go Nova also has a preview, and we will be holding a live blog at 7:30 tonight, if anyone is interested.

Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...


Thanks for putting up a link to my preview...

Question for you or other Marquette partisans-

Outside of your regular rotation, who would be the first one off the bench if there were significant injuries or foul trouble?

Rob Lowe said...

Hey Publisher. We basically have two guys that have seen extended bench roles on the team. The first is JUCO sophomore Jimmy Butler. He's a 6'6 player whose job is basically to secure rebounds and provide minutes. The second is backup PG Maurice Acker. He's a 5'8 player whose key role is as a pest on defense.

After that, we have, umm, no one really.