Breaking Down the Marquette Golden Eagles Part One

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Another classic Conference-USA matchup awaits the Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday. Last week they survived an inspired performance from the DePaul Blue Demons but this time around UC will be facing a very good Marquette Golden Eagles basketball team. Since moving to the Big East with Cincinnati, Marquette’s program hasn’t missed a beat finishing near the top of the Big East on a regular basis and continuously accepting NCAA Tournament invites. The Golden Eagles have done so with a brand of offense that loads up on guards to create speed in transition and score points in bunches. This 4-guard lineup is one that Cincinnati has adopted this season and it’s clear that it can most certainly equate to consistent winning.

Key Numbers

Like I mentioned, the Golden Eagles score early and often ranking 2nd in the Big East with 76 points per game. The problem is that, like some spread offenses in football, they score so quickly that it gives teams a lot of extra possessions to score points. Opponents are averaging about 70 possessions and 65 points per game on MU, which are both 2nd worst in the Big East. While both Cincinnati and Marquette seem to be inclined to use the 4-guard offense, the Bearcats can fall back on the fact that they play great defense in case the shots don’t fall whereas the Golden Eagles just accept it as a cost of running a high-scoring offense. But that offense is overwhelming and Marquette moves the ball well (1st in the Big East in assists). UC players will need keep their head on a swivel when defending this offense.

Players to Watch

– Darius Johnson-Odom (#1): This is the guy that makes the Marquette scoring machine go. By the numbers, Johnson-Odom just gets it done for the Golden Eagles- Leads the team in points per game (18) and knocking down jumpers from beyond the arc. He’s going to be a handful for the guards to contain on the outside. Wright, Dixon, Kilpatrick, Parker, whoever need to make sure he doesn’t get into a rhythm from three.

– Jae Crowder (#32): Not to be outdone is Johnson-Odom’s teammate Jae Crowder. Cincinnati has faced a similar player this year in West Virginia’s Kevin Jones. While being slightly smaller and not having the do-it-all tendencies of Jones, Crowder is a small forward that collects a ton of rebounds, can shoot the three-ball, and pick up easy points in the paint. He is the Golden Eagles’ second-leading scorer and compliments Johnson-Odom nicely.

– Junior Cadougan (#5): He is to Marquette what Cashmere Wright is to the Cincinnati Bearcats. Cadougan has started every game this year and will get his share of minutes and points. But he appears to be the floor general making sure the offense is running like a well-oiled machine. Also like Cash, Cadougan feeds the playmakers on his team. He leads Marquette in assists (5.6 per game) and has a crazy 2.24 assist/turnover ratio which is 6th best in the Big East.

Final Thoughts and Prediction

Marquette plays a style of basketball that UC is experimenting with and found success. Expect a battle of 4-guard lineups on Saturday but don’t fool yourself, this is going to be a tough, tough game for Cincinnati to win. But the Bearcats are road warriors playing remarkably better away from the friendly (or unfriendly) confines of 5/3rd arena. When Marquette returns the favor later this month, that’s when I think the series will be split. For now, the Bearcats take this one. They just play better defense!

Cincinnati: 77

Marquette: 72