This may not be how we initially anticipated Marquette vs. Ohio State (see: cancelled Carrier Classic, 2012), but if anything, this is better. Bradley Center. Saturday afternoon. #10 vs. #17. Really, this home-court atmosphere is going to be better than anything we could’ve possibly imagined. If you aren’t able to make the trip, be sure to catch it on Fox at noon central time. Until then, we present you our game preview:
Both teams’ rosters have undergone much turnover since last year. Marquette starters Vander Blue, Junior Cadougan and Trent Lockett are all gone. As for Ohio State, lead scorer and rebounder Deshaun Thomas left through the NBA Draft. Because of this, and along with the fact that neither have played respectable opponents so far, today’s match will be labeled as each team’s first test of the season. Will Marquette’s backcourt hold up, even against a relentless defender in Aaron Craft? Speaking of Craft, can he emerge as OSU’s top scorer? Such questions can only be answered by playing the game. But that won’t stop us from discussing the possibilities. Thus, we give you our questions for tomorrow’s game, players to watch, and of course, our X-factor for a Marquette victory:
1. Can Derrick Wilson handle heavy minutes against Aaron Craft?
- After combining for 1 point over his first two games as a starter (and averaging a mere 1.7 PPG last season as a backup), it’s always been known that Wilson isn’t a scorer. But the kid is unmatched in terms of taking care of the ball. Wilson put up 10 assists and only 1 turnover in 20 minutes against Grambling State on Tuesday – and though done against a weak opponent, they were nonetheless very “Derrick-Wilson-esque” numbers that you should expect to see throughout the season. So sure, there’s a likely chance Wilson is held scoreless, but he’s not going to be scoring anyways regardless of who’s guarding him. As long as he takes care of the ball, he’ll be doing his job.
2. Will Jamil Wilson finally break out?
- On the other hand, this Wilson was predicted by many to be Marquette’s top scorer this season. So far, he’s seemed more like a second fiddle to Gardner, scoring only 10 and 11 points in his first two games. But again, not only was against Southern, it was the first game of the season. Vander Blue only scored six points in both his first two games last year, and then exploded for 17+ in four out of the next five on his way to a fantastic season. It’s very possible we see a Wilson breakout game against OSU.
3. What will MU’s lineup look like?
- To exploit OSU’s weak frontcourt, Buzz has stated that Otule and Gardner will often be on the floor together. But playing time and starts don’t correlate much under Buzz’s playing style. For example, Juan Anderson started 31 of 35 games last year, despite averaging only 13 minutes per game. As of this season, Buzz seems to like starting Jake Thomas and Steve Taylor (and still keep Gardner coming off the bench), so we see a lineup of Derrick Wilson, Jake Thomas (cringe), Jamil Wilson, Steve Taylor and Chris Otule headed our way. But with Buzz’s lineups, you really never know until the game tips off.
Players To Watch
Derrick Wilson – See above.
Jamil Wilson – See above, again.
John Dawson – Steady backup play from Dawson will be key for an MU victory, especially if Wilson becomes too much of a liability.
Todd Mayo – Will he finally earn himself a start? Can he put up 20 again?
Jake Thomas – Will we get three-point specialist Jake Thomas, who scores 11 points while going 3-5 from three (as he did against Grambling), or pump-fake-happy Jake Thomas, who goes 0-2 from three and stops shooting the rest of the game (as he did against Southern)? Most likely the latter. Also, will Buzz start him again? If he does, why? Just… why!?!??!?!
Deonte Burton and JJJ – Was their combined 26 points against Grambling merely an outlier? Most likely – hell, even Dylan Flood scored. But it’ll be interesting to see what role they play in crucial games, such as this one.
X-Factor: It’s widely known that this game will be full of contrasting strengths and weaknesses. Primarily, Marquette has a weak backcourt and a strong frontcourt, and Ohio State vice versa. Which combination prevails?
- If Derrick Wilson takes care of the ball, Marquette can spread the floor on offense, and Gardner puts together a solid game, there’s no doubt Marquette can win this game. Having a well-rounded team all starts with a good frontcourt – and Ohio State’s big men pale in comparison to those of Marquette. Gardner has already proven himself able to carry us through big games, even without help from perimeter players. For example: everyone seems to remember that Gardner put up 26 in MU’s thrilling win over Syracuse, but no one seems to recall that Vander only had 6 points in that game. Marquette also went a combined 5-21 from three, and the only other double-digit scorers were Cadougan and Jamil Wilson with 12. To keep piling it on, Jamil went 3-12 from field and 1-8 from three. It not only makes Gardner’s performance against Syracuse seem all the more unreal, but also makes a Marquette win today seem a lot more possible.
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