Thursday, January 03, 2008


January 3, 2008

For the second year in a row, Marquette and Providence open up Big East play facing each other. Here are the local updates on the game found on the internet:

Friars Counting on Efejuku to Take it to the Limit (Providence Journal)
Marquette Game Preview (Post-Crescent)
Eagles Have Pieces to Fly High in Big East (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
PC at Marquette (Providence Journal)

And, for the second consecutive season, Providence enters the game without Sharaud Curry. Last season the Friars upset Marquette (who was without Jerel McNeal) as Curry sat out for disciplinary reasons, this year PC goes to Milwaukke to open the Big East and Curry remains out with a foot injury suffered in the preseason.

Providence has been using a guard-heavy line-up often in their out of conference schedule, but tonight those guards will be tested by one of the nation's best trio of guards and deepest guard groups. Juniors Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews are as good as any guard group and sophomores Maurice Acker and David Cubillan add quality depth behind the first wave.

The player who might be taking Marquette to another level is sophomore Lazar Hayward, a 6'6 forward, who is averaging 13 PPG and gives Tom Crean's club another offensive option who can score in a variety of ways to compliment the guards. They still do not have much of a post scoring threat, where Dwight Burke and Ousmane Barro are mainly used for defense and rebounding. Also coming back from injury and off the bench is Dan Fitzgerald, a 3-pt threat at the forward position.

Burke and Barro will be taking turns guarding Randall Hanke, the redshirt junior who has gone from hardly playing at all the first half of the OOC schedule to starting and playing well, offensively at least, in the last several games. Hanke is shooting 73% from the floor, but the Big East will call for more physical tests so we will see how Hanke fares right away. Jonathan Kale and Ray Hall also split time in the post, but neither have shown any consistency since the real games have begun, Kale was expected to take a big step forward this season, but it has not translated in game action.

The Friars rely on their guards, with Curry out, Dwain Williams has assumed the PG duties and he has been solid. He came to PC last year with the rep of a scorer, but he has improved his distribution skills. Three-point threats Brian McKenzie and Manhattan-transfer Jeff Xavier can really stroke the three-ball and will be watched closely by the Marquette guards. Weyinmi Efejuku has been giving the Friars a spark off the bench and they will need him to play a very good game on offense and defense against the Marquette guards. Geoff McDermott is a forward that is a tough match-up for anyone, but Marquette uses a similar line-up as the Friars and can negate some of his match-up problems he usually creates.

With a crowd of 18,000+, look for MU to be raring to go tonight. The on the ball pressure applied by James and McNeal and the athletic and strong play of Mathews and Hayward should cause the PC offense to struggle. Without Curry to handle the ball and break down the defense, it might be a long night for PC as 12-pt underdogs.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Marquette 85 Providence 70



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