Thursday, January 04, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Marquette @ Providence

January 4, 2006

An interesting game a couple weeks ago might even be more interesting now with who might not be playing than with who will be playing. It is pretty much certain, although still nothing official, that Providence will be without their point guard and leading scorer Sharaud Curry, suspended for violating team rules. On the other hand, the clear advantage that Marquette enjoyed over Providence, and any other Big East team, on the perimeter could be washed away with the mishap in practice causing Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews to bump heads, leaving their status for tonight's tip-of uncertain as of yesterday.

Here are the game preview stories from around the internet:

Marquette's Road Show in Town (Providence Journal)
McNeal, Mathews Might Not be Ready (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
Marquette Basketball Preview (Post-Crescent)
Marquette/PC Scouting Report (P-J)


This had all the makings of a big early season game. One team (Providence) looking to stamp themselves as a contender for the upper-echelon of the conference while the other (Marquette) looked to set off on the road and gain a one-up advantage on the rest of the challengers by wrestling a tough road win from a solid team. However, now we sit and wonder who will be on the floor and who wont be at game time.

It is more of a known certainty that Sharaud Curry will not be on the floor for the Frairs tonight. The sophomore point guard has been suspended for the last two games for a violation of team rules. Curry had been averaging a team-high 17 PPG and 5.6 assists for the offensive juggernaut that has become the Friars. Without him available, freshmen Dwain Williams takes over the ball-handling duties with additional help from Weyinmi Efejuku and Brian McKenzie. In Curry's first game out, Florida State feasted on that line-up, forcing 22 turnovers in a 30-pt romp over the Friars. Efejuku and Williams combined for just 5 assists and 11 turnovers in that contest, just the kind of shaky ballhandling that the Marquette trio of ballhawking guards (Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and wes Mathews) lick their chops to play against. However, it is uncertain of the availability of McNeal and Mathews tonight, throwing Marquette's decided advantage literally out the window as they would probably go with freshman David Cubillan in one spot and Dan Fitzgerlad in the other.

Providence still has plenty of fire-power left without Curry as bruising pt-forward Geoff McDermott would be a very tough match-up for Marquette. The sophomore averages a stat-stuffer line of 11 pts, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. Herbert Hill mans the middle and averaged 15.5 PPG on 73% shooting and the athletic Efejuku has upped his scoring role this year netting 15/game as well. Big men Ray Hall and Jonathan Kale offer solid relief to the frontcourt off the bench and Charles Burch has been throught he Big East battled before.

With Marquette, they will still be led by super sophomore PG Dominic James. The explosive 5'10 James has picked up where he left off last year averaging a team-best 17 PPG and whith his comrades in McNeal and Mathews, he finds room to penetrate and score in a variety of ways. McNeal leads the nation in steals and is the type of player that would give the Friar backcourt fits with his defensive ability. If he is ready to go, I think Marquette forces Providence out of their offensive sets often and wreaks havoc on the Friars inexperienced ballhandling corps. Without Mathews and McNeal, Providence will have better luck getting into their offense and able to exploit Marquette's softer-side, their frontcourt. The will find it easier to run things through McDermott who can post and dish inside to Hill or kick out to some solid shooters.

Marquette enters the game as a 1-pt favorite. With McNeal and Mathews, I think the Golden Eagles get the first road victory of the Big East season. Without, I think Providence holds serve on their home court as Marquette struggles to get offense from their defense and mis-fires on the road from deep.

NBE Blogger Prediction (MU with M&M): Marquette 73 Providence 64
NBE Blogger Prediction (MU w/out M&M): Providence 75 Marquette 66

What do you think?


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