Fresh off a rejuvenating New Year's Day victory, the Marquette Warriors (10-4, 1-0) march into New Jersey tonight to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (9-4, 1-0) in search of their first road win of the season. (don't gimme that. UWM was NOT a road game)
After losing three winnable games in the closing moments, Marquette finally scratched out a close one. Sound familiar? It should... since last year's Warriors lost three consecutive one-possession games including the first two Big East tilts.
Is anybody feeling the magic once again? Is one win enough to turn the tide? At least one college basketball expert is already on board, Andy Glockner of CNNSI. Glockner, who rather enjoys tweeting it up with Warrior Nation, pegged MU as his second-half surprise team. So we got that going for us.
First things first. Claim that first real road win and turn last season's 0-2 Big East start all the way around. Or... show up in Pittsburgh on Saturday staring down a 1-2 start in conference action.
The Scarlet Knights are improving by leaps and bounds under new coach Mike Rice but this remains a winnable road game for Marquette. Offensively the Scarlet Knights are suspect, which is good news considering MU's spotty defensive profile so far this season. Interestingly, Rutgers defends the paint well -- on par with Vanderbilt's interior defense in fact -- which is where Marquette has been lethal all season long. Of course, MU carved up Vanderbilt's defense in Knoxville, so expect the Warriors to turn in another strong offensive effort. This will probably be complemented by a number of trips to the free throw line because of RU's propensity to foul.
With senior point guard Michael Coburn at the helm, the Scarlet Knights protect the ball very well and force a lot of turnovers, exactly the kind of profile we've come to expect from MU over the years. Given MU's backcourt-by-committee approach, turnover margin could be the game's tipping point.
Last time out Rutgers lost at Villanova 81 - 65. The Scarlet Knights led the Wildcats at the half by creating turnovers and nailing a high percentage from the floor, but they collapsed in the second half as Villanova's offense improved and the turnover rate declined. MU's strong offensive performances in the second half against both Vanderbilt and West Virginia bode well for tonight's game at the RAC.
The Scarlet Knights are led by Jonathan Mitchell, the Florida transfer who strongly considered Marquette as a prep in Mount Vernon, NY. The crafty 6'6" lefty averages 13 points and 6 boards per game, highlighted by 42% shooting from deep. Coburn scores 10 per night (47% FG, 39% 3-pt range) to go with four assists. Freshman Gilvydas Biruta, who averages 9 points and five boards, has scored in double figures in 8 of the Scarlet Knights' last 10 outings. Meanwhile freaky athlete Dane Miller averages 9 points, six boards and two blocks per game.
Rutgers is 7-0 at home this season. Pomeroy predicts a five-point MU victory.
- Rosiak's blog preview -- The RAC as a house of horrors
- Jerry Carino at the Asbury Park Press previews the game and calls MU "a quality team flying under the radar."
- Carino offers an injury update on the Scarlet Knights
- Carino on Mike Rice's focus on upgrading RU's defense
- GoMarquette sets up MU's two-game road trip