Tonight at the Fifth Third Arena, the Cincinnati Bearcats play host to the Marquette Golden Eagles. Cincinnati is merely playing for seeding in the NCAA tournament and a possibly first-round bye in the C-USA tournament. Meanwhile, Marquette is playing for their proverbial NCAA lives.
The now Travis Diener-less Golden Eagles will have to try to pull off the upset after their starting point guard, and the C-USA's leading scorer, was lost for the season with a broken arm. Diener was averaging 19.7 points a game until the injury.
Tonight at 9 PM, on ESPN, 21st-ranked Cincinnati (20-6, 8-4 C-USA) will tip it off against Marquette (18-8, 6-7 C-USA) who is looking to survive without their leading scorer and assist-man.
The Bearcats are coming off a key 72-69 win over UAB on Saturday afternoon that saw Cincinnati commit 12 more turnovers than UAB did. That trend is unlikely to continue tonight as the Golden Eagles will have to play with walk-ons at the point guard position at certain times during the game.
With the depth being an issue for Marquette, Cincinnati will try to step up their pressure defense and force Marquette into some turnovers, and shoot a low percentage from the field—the type of game the Bearcats play so well, as they lead the nation in field goal percentage defense allowed.
With Diener out of the lineup, expect 6-10 junior Steve Novak to step up the scoring for Marquette. Novak, a forward, averages 13.9 points a game, as he is a terrific outside shooter.
The last time these two teams met was January 14th of last year, where Cincinnati took an 85-73 win with Tony Bobbit's 18 points. The last time they played in Fifth Third Arena was two years ago, when Marquette beat the Bearcats 82-76 with 21 points from Robert Jackson.
Cincinnati is led this season, by 6-7 Jason Maxiell who averages 15.5 points a game in addition to grabbing seven boards per contest. The Bearcats' second leading scorer is Eric Hicks who is averaging 14.1 points a game and also getting 9.0 rebounds a game.
Next season, these two teams will be foes in the new Big East Conference. Until then, Marquette is simply hoping to survive this game and the remainder of their season.