Preview & Prediction: By Jeff Borzello
On any given night, one could just look at the Big East schedule for that day and find a marquee match-up; this weekend is no different. Two teams looking to separate themselves as contenders in the conference will square off as #25 West Virginia (11-3, 1-1) heads to Wisconsin to take on #18 Marquette (14-2, 3-0). West Virginia dropped a game at home earlier this week to Connecticut, but the Mountaineers have been solid this season. They own a blowout win on the road over then-unbeaten Ohio State. Marquette is one of the hottest teams in the Big East, winning its last six games, including three conference contests. The Golden Eagles have wins this season over Villanova and Wisconsin.
West Virginia is a talented and versatile group with plenty of options and mismatch opportunities. Wings Alex Ruoff and Da’Sean Butler are the main offensive threats. Ruoff can really stroke the ball from three-point range, while Butler can score inside and out. Darryl “Truck” Bryant has stepped into the lineup for Joe Mazzulla at the point, and the offense hasn’t missed a beat. Up front, freshmen Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones are versatile forwards, while Wellington Smith and John Flowers bang down low. On the other side, Marquette is a perimeter-oriented team with four scorers and not much else. Of course, when you have the quartet the Golden Eagles have, you don’t need anything else. Dominic James leads the way at the point; he has improved his all-around game this season. Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews combine to average more than 37 points per game from the wing. McNeal is also an outstanding defender. Lazar Hayward is an inside-outside threat in the frontcourt, while Dwight Burke also starts. Jimmy Butler is the main option off the bench.
With this being a Big East battle, expect a tough, physical contest. With this being West Virginia and Marquette, expect a close game filled with outstanding on-ball defense and exciting individual play. Both teams have plenty of perimeter options who can create for themselves, as well as frontcourt players who can create match-up problems. The difference will be Marquette’s experience and its homecourt advantage. James should be able to control the game against Bryant, and McNeal should slow down Ruoff.
WINNER: Marquette MARGIN: 5-7
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About Jeff Borzello
National College Basketball
Jeff Borzello is a freelance writer who also runs and writes his own blog, March Madness All Season. During the season, Jeff has a weekly appearance on ESPN Radio 1300 in Baltimore and has appeared on AOL Sports Radio and CFRC Sports.. He constantly outdoes the "experts" in his projected brackets and also provides analysis and insight on every conference and team in the country. His favorite teams are Connecticut and Hofstra, showing love to both majors and mid-majors at the same time--indicative of his columns. Jeff is originally from Long Island, NY.