NO. 15 LOUISVILLE (14-4, 2-3 Big East) AT NO. 24 MARQUETTE (14-4, 3-2 Big East)
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m./ESPN
Location: Bradley Center
RPI Ratings: Louisville 41 (No. 7 Big East); Marquette 19 (No. 6 Big East).
Line: Marquette -4
Louisville Players to Watch: PG Peyton Siva, 6-0 Jr. (8.4 ppg, 5.7 apg, 2.1 spg); G Russ Smith, 6-0 So. (12.2 ppg, 2.1 apg, 2.4 spg); C Gorgui Dieng, 6-11 So. (10.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.3 bpg). Smith is one of the most inconsistent players in the country, but when he’s on, the Cardinals are nearly impossible to defeat.
Marquette Players to Watch: G Darius Johnson-Odom, 6-2 Sr. (18.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.8 apg); F Jae Crowder, 6-6 Sr. (16.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 50.5% FG); G Todd Mayo, 6-3 Fr. (9.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.3 apg). Mayo has been up-and-down, but he played a strong all-around game in Saturday’s 62-57 win over Pitt with nine points (on 4-of-7 shooting), seven rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Storylines: After falling to 1-2 in the Big East, Marquette bounced back for wins over St. John’s and Pittsburgh at home last week. Early last week, Louisville suffered an embarrassing 90-59 loss at Providence to fall to 1-3 in the conference, but the Cardinals, too, recovered for a 76-59 victory over DePaul on Saturday.
Keys: Dieng, who is playing with a sore neck, could have a big day with no Eagles able to match his size. However, Marquette’s undersized center Devonte Gardner did play his best game of the season with 22 points and 15 rebounds in Wednesday’s win over St. John’s. That was followed by a 7-point, 6-rebound performance in the victory over Pitt on Saturday. The Eagles have almost no shot-blocking presence. … Both teams force a lot of turnovers. Louisville has typically handled pressure well, but the Cardinals have been turnover prone of late, including 17 in the 18 in a double-overtime loss to Notre Dame a week ago. On the other side, Junior Cadougan and Mayo will be tested against Siva, Smith and the feisty Cardinal press. … Without a true go-to scorer, Louisville has gone through several long scoring draughts this season, and it seems to happen more often away from home. … Louisville is one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country at 31.5 percent. Take away Kyle Kuric’s 35.2 percent and Chris Smith’s 40.9 and they’re even worse. Marquette defends the arc well, surrendering only 32.2 percent. … Marquette is 12-1 at home this season. Louisville is 2-2 in true road games.
The Bottom Line: This is a really tough one to call. Both teams have struggled lately but each came up with a win in their last game. Throw in the unpredictability of a weekday afternoon game, and really, anything could happen. If you’re a gambler, the wise move is to stay far, far away from this one.
The Pick: Marquette 70, Louisville 67.