No. 9/10 Syracuse Orange (18-3, 5-3 Big East) vs. Marquette Golden Eagles (13-8, 4-4 Big East)
Time: Saturday, 2 pm CST
Bradley Center- Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The Marquette Golden Eagles have lost four of their last six Big East games, five of which have come against ranked opponents, including an eight-point home loss against No. 5 Connecticut earlier this week. And things don't get much easier on Saturday afternoon as the No. 9/10 Syracuse Orange bring their act to the Bradley Center stage.
Things aren't so peachy in upstate New York either, at least not as much as the national rankings might indicate. Syracuse is coming off a 22-point drubbing by Seton Hall at the Carrier Dome Tuesday night. Losers of their last three games, Jim Boeheim's club is struggling to stay afloat near the top of the Big East standings.
The Orange's feared 2-3 zone defense has been less than effective in the losses, allowing an average of over 82 points a game against Pittsburgh, Villanova and Seton Hall. In stark contrast, Syracuse has allowed less than 60 points-per-game during their five Big East victories.
Pittsburgh attacked the middle of the 2-3 zone and opened it up from the inside, while Villanova and Seton Hall simply shot over it. Villanova shot field goals at a 50 percent (25-50) clip, including 11-for-24 (45.8%) from three-point range. Seton Hall shot 33-of-61 (54.1%) from the field, including 10-for-17 (58.8%) from beyond the arc.
All that said, Syracuse is still immensely talented and extremely dangerous.
Junior point guard Scoop Jardine is averaging almost 13 points and 6 assists-per-contest this season, but has been struggling during Syracuse's three-game skid. His jump shot has been off and he has turned the ball over with high frequency. Jardine is averaging 3.9 turnovers-a-game in Big East competition compared to only 2.2 turnovers-per-contest in non-conference play. As a result, he saw less time against Villanova and Seton Hall. Look for Marquette's active perimeter defense to force Jardine into making some poor decisions.
Combo guard Brandon Triche has played mostly at the two-guard position this season, and at 6'4" can be a difficult shooter to defend from the perimeter. He averages about 10 points and three assists-per-game this season. It will be interesting to see if he gets more minutes at the point with Jardine going through a rough patch.
Look for the Orange to go at a smaller Marquette team inside. Syracuse has a strong frontcourt, starting with Kris Joseph. The 6'7" forward can score from inside, netting 23 and 17 against Villanova and Seton Hall, respectively. Joseph also averages over five rebounds-per-contest.
Marquette will have trouble stopping Rick Jackson from producing in the paint, and can only hope to contain him. Look for the Golden Eagles to double down where possible. Jackson has recorded five consecutive double doubles, highlighted by a 16-point, 15-rebound performance against Villanova. And denying opponents offensive rebounds is an area where Marquette struggles. Jackson pulled down seven and eight offensive rebounds against Villanova and Seton Hall, respectively. He also added six blocks against Seton Hall.
If Boeheim decides to go with a bigger lineup against the Golden Eagles, highly touted freshman center Fab Melo will likely start, despite his lack of contribution thus far in somewhat limited Big East action. The seven-footer has seen just over seven minutes-per-game since Big East play began. He played well against Cincinnati though, posting six points to go along with four rebounds and four blocks in 15 minutes.
Other frontcourt options for Boeheim include James Southerland, C.J. Fair and Baye Moussa Keita. Southerland and Fair can provide some scoring off the bench for the Orange, and both are long and athletic. Moussa Keita doesn't bring much to the table offensively, but at 6' 10' the freshman has shown he can rebound and block shots.
Look for a hard-fought forty minutes on Saturday, with both teams desperately needing to change direction in Big East play.
Preview: No. 10 Syracuse
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