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
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.
- I Bleed Blue and White blogs the game from a VU perspective....good stuff, fellas
- Villanova By The Numbers previews the game -- "warriors v. wildcats" Nice!
- Villanova News blogs their preview for tonight's top 25 tilt
- VillanovaHoops is on it as well
- There's also an article from Villanova Viewpoint
- And one from Let's Go Nova, who is also hosting a live blog this evening.
- CBS Sportsline's video preview of the game
- Rosiak's blog preview
- Rosiak previews the game, built around Jerel's pursuit of the scoring record
- ESPN has a great article about Lazar Hayward. Lots of good stuff in this article