The Golden Eagles will hit the road today for the first time in conference play in game number three of their heavyweight Big East schedule. The Rutgers Scarlet Knights (9-6, 0-2) will try to put an end to MU's five-game winning streak, and give them their first loss in conference play. No. 18/15 Marquette (13-2, 2-0) will have other plans though, coming off their largest conference win in twelve years, an 84-50 bludgeoning of Cincinnati on Sunday.
Despite their struggles, RU is not a team to be taken lightly. The key match-up should be between Marquette's savvy senior guard, Dominic James, and Rutgers' hot-shot freshman, Mike Rosario. Rosario ranks third nationally in scoring among freshman, with a 17.3 points-per-game (ppg) average, and leads the Big East in free throw percentage, making 88.5 (46-52) of his charity attempts.
He can fill it up against the best – look no further than his 26-point outburst at then-No.1/1 North Carolina. At 6'3", 180 pounds, it will be interesting to see if James can handle the match-up for forty minutes. Expect MU's defense to be based around Rosario, as he is the only Scarlet Knight in double-figures for the entire season.
Outside of the high-flying Rosario, the Golden Eagles' defense will have one other top priority in senior guard Anthony Farmer. Averaging just under 10 ppg and just under 3 assists per game, Farmer does a nice job penetrating and setting up easy baskets for RU's big men.
Hamady Ndiaye, Gregory Echenique, and J.R. Inman are the big men on the receiving end of those drive-and-dishes, and they have an opportunity to really hurt the Golden Eagles inside. Scarlet Knights head coach Fred Hill has mixed and matched his lineup all season, so do not be surprised if you see the 6'11" Ndiaye, 6'9" Echenique, and 6'9" Inman on the floor at the same time. Although none of these three have been dangerous scorers all season, MU has had a tendency to host the coming out party for opposing forwards (see Chism, Wayne).
On paper, this is a game the Golden Eagles should win. Outside of Rosario, there should be three clear mismatches for Marquette's Fab-Four on the defensive end. Look for Jerel McNeal to build off his most recent Big East Player of the Week award, as his 7-of-7 shooting from three against Cincinnati will definitely raise some eyebrows in Piscataway, N.J. Coming off that strong shooting display from the entire team, you can bet Rutgers will be closing out hard and fast on MU's perimeter players. This will only play into Marquette's game plan, as they will put the ball on the floor and get to the rim.
But they must attack the basket with their head up. One thing Rutgers does extremely well is block shots. Echinque averages an impressive three blocks per game, only to be outdone by Ndiaye, who is averaging four. These two are the reason Rutgers leads the conference in blocks (that's right – more than UConn). This could be a big day for MU's forwards as well, though, as they could be the recipients of many drop passes for dunks.
Tip off is set for 6:30 pm CST from the RAC on Rutgers' campus. WMLW will be producing the game for the greater Milwaukee area, and the game can be caught on ESPN Full Court.
Brian Henry is a senior majoring in broadcast communications and the Sports Director at Marquette Radio.