What do you call Cinderella, when she doesn’t really look like a Cinderella?
You call her the Marquette Golden Eagles.
It is not hard to figure out why. Even though they are playing in the South Region which is pretty loaded, they are primed to go at least two rounds.
First off, they play in the rough and tumble Big East. Their conference record was 11-7 which was good and a look at their key wins explains more. They beat a good Wisconsin team on the road, and they also took out Notre Dame twice. Notre Dame is a five seed in the East, and Wisconsin is a three seed in the Midwest.
They have also beaten physical Pittsburgh who won the Big East Tournament. Louisville did beat the Eagles twice, which is nothing to be ashamed of because Louisville got a three seed.
Care to go a little deeper?
Marquette excels at small ball and plays excellent defense. They are led by junior guard Dominic James, and Jerel McNeil. James has had some injury problems that kept his scoring average down, but he soared in the Big East tournament. He put up 25 and 23 against Villanova and Notre Dame respectively.
The real story has been the play of McNeil. He not only led the team in scoring, but was also the Big East defensive player of the year.
Wes Mathews is also playing well and is a key part of their three-headed monster at guard. Marquette doesn’t have a true big man, but their forwards have improved their rebounding as the season has progressed.
The Golden Eagles struggled earlier in the year because teams out-muscled them inside, but they have come a long way since then. Ousmane Barro has stepped up his play in the latter half of the year, and Lazar Hayward, their power forward, averages 13 points per game despite only standing 6'6".
First up for the Golden Eagles is Kentucky another team reliant upon their guards. Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford provide a lot of the offense for Kentucky, but Marquette matches up well because they defend on the perimeter so well. The only team that gave them problems was Louisville because their skilled players were slightly better.
Kentucky had a hard time slowing Georgia down, and they will have a harder time with Marquette.
Stanford should be up next for Marquette and that will be an interesting matchup because of the contrast in styles. Stanford will try to beat up Marquette with their seven foot twins, Brook and Robin Lopez, who reek havoc on opposing teams on both ends of the court.
Pressure can bother the Cardinal, however, and take them out of their half court sets. Something Marquette will have to do while playing up-tempo basketball to make it a track meet.
Marquette must also make shots and rebound defensively so Stanford’s bigs don’t take over the game. I like Marquette because of their style and the strength of the conference they played in.
The Cinderella slipper will fit just fine.