Big East Quarterfinal: Louisville vs. #9 Marquette

With so much action taking place in the exciting Big East Conference on Thursday, we simply can’t resist taking a deeper look at the second of the two most exciting games left on the quarterfinal schedule at Madison Square Garden today, as the Louisville Cardinals (23-9, 10-8 Big East) take on the #9 Marquette Golden Eagles (25-6, 14-4 Big East) with tip-off set for 7:00 PM ET.

Louisville is certainly the team with the most to prove in this match-up tonight, as coming of 3 losses in their final 4 games to end the season, head coach Rick Pitino’s young squad simply has to play better in the face of a determined Marquette squad featuring the Big East’s Player of the Year, Jae Crowder (17.6 points, 7.9 rebounds/game). Coming off a solid but not quite inspiring 61-55 win against Seton Hall yesterday, there is plenty to improve upon for the Cardinals as they face a serious step-up in competition tonight. Louisville has struggled with shooting consistency throughout the year, a product of a very young team in a very tough conference featuring a number of very good defensive units. Shooting %38.8 from the floor and %56.7 from the free-throw line last night is not going to be a recipe for success against a tough, fast paced Marquette team. For Louisville to stand a chance in tonight’s game, they simply have to find a way to shoot better from the floor (averaging 42.5 percent on the season, 221st in the NCAA), and have to improve their total scoring prowess, as Marquette averages 9 points per game more than the Cardinals for the year.

Marquette is actually one of the less talented defenses in the Big East, allowing 65.6 points to opposing offenses, and struggles (especially away from home) when teams are able to run with the ball. Therefore it will be essential for Louisville’s Kyle Kuric (12.9 points, 4.5 rebounds/game), Russ Smith (11.9 ppg) and Chris Smith (10 ppg) to keep the Cards moving up floor quickly, and get their bigger guys the rock for closer shots around the paint. Both freshman Chane Behanan (9.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and sophomore center Gorgui Dieng (9.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg) have to come up bigger tonight as the two combined for just 10 points and 14 rebounds last night. Peyton Siva (8.6 ppg, 5.3 assists/game) shined last night with 14 points on 6-11 shooting, and with a Louisville team that lacks scoring depth, he has to have a repeat showing in this match-up if the Cards are to move on in the Big East tournament. One very stressing issue heading into this match-up; Louisville has not scored more than 61 points in their last 5 games (2-3). Over that same stretch, Marquette has averaged 73.2 points, winning 4 of 5. Louisville has to find a way to open up their scoring attack, or this game is going to be over from the very early goings.

The Golden Eagles are certainly a team to watch for as they shoot for their first-ever Big East Conference title. In fact, Marquette has yet to even reach the championship game, however this year’s squad is arguably the best they’ve ever had, behind the leadership of Jae Crowder and leading scorer Darius Johnson-Odom (18.3 ppg). Depth however, continues to be a big concern for Marquette with only Crowder and Johnson-Odom scoring in double figures on the season, and while the Eagles have been dominant at home, their form on the road (6-5) leaves a lot to be desired heading into their first tournament game tonight, and the NCAA tournament to follow. That isn’t to say there is a lack of talent outside Marquette’s two stars, as Vander Blue (8.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.9 apg) has shown good skill level, Davante Gardner (9.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg) is back in action after missing 8 games, and Jamil Wilson (7.1 ppg) has been consistently improving with more minutes in action. We saw what can happen when all these players are on their game, as was evident by the 83-69 rout of Georgetown, the best defensive team in the Big East. With 4 of 5 starters in double figures for that game, lead by Jae Crowder’s 26 points and 14 rebounds, you can see that the Eagles play off their leaders, and when they do, the points go up very quickly. If Marquette can get a similar performance tonight pushing the pace against Louisville, and shoot around their solid 46 percent mark for the season, that will give the low-scoring Cardinals a very difficult task to overcome at MSG this evening.

Betting Lines for #9 Marquette vs. Louisville at Sportsbetting Sportsbook

We’ll shift online sportsbook allegiances for the Big East tournament over to the Sportsbetting Sportsbook for this exciting match-up today, hoping to pick out the best available sports betting options at another one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here.

The Marquette Golden Eagles relatively weak road form puts them as only a cautious favorite for tonight’s match-up with Louisville, getting -155 odds to win straight up on the money line. Louisville, despite averaging 7 points less per game than Marquette on the season, and more than 13 points less per contest during the last 5 outings, stands at just a slight +135 underdog to win this match-up outright.

The points spread for this quarterfinal match-up is also tight, with the favored Golden Eagles getting -3 points while the Cardinals are at +3 points to play with as underdog. While there’s no question that in a tournament atmosphere a game between two tough competitors will be close, with Marquette’s recent scoring form, the small -3 points given for them to cover is certainly enticing for sportsbook betting today.

Lastly, the over/under on total points sits at 135. With the pace of the game looking likely to be dictated by a faster-paced, higher intensity Marquette offense, even if Louisville continues to struggle with generating points, the Golden Eagles could put up enough points to help push the total points over the mark tonight. If the Cardinals can find a way to slow the game down and limit the effectiveness of the Eagles’ top shooters, this game should stay under. With the way tournament games have played out thus far in the Big East, with teams playing conservative in the first half and shooting percentage down across the board due to tighter defensive play, I’m looking for the under bet as the way to wager on total points in this match-up tonight.

Our Prediction:

While there is a bit of reluctance to take Marquette in an outright win at Madison Square Garden, given their inability to win against quality opponents in road match-ups, the Golden Eagles shouldn’t have too much trouble moving past Louisville tonight, as their better shooting and faster pace will prevent the Cardinals from keeping up in this match-up. Jae Crowder will be the player to watch, as he will be anxious to live up to his Big East Player of the Year billing. With a good game from him comes a good game from the rest of the Eagles, and when the starting five get in a collective groove, the points start adding up. Louisville, while likely to keep this game close during a likely slower first half, is eventually going to succumb to a more talented Golden Eagles team, and will have to wait to see where they shake out in the bracket seeding this weekend. Marquette wins tonight, 75-63, routing the Cardinals in a determined effort in New York.

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