As the stretch run of the college basketball regular season begins, the race for the Big East title is on the line.
Syracuse (22-5, 10-4) at Marquette (19-7, 10-4); Monday, 7 p.m. ET; TV: ESPN
Both Syracuse and Marquette suffered losses on Saturday that put them a game behind Georgetown in the Big East standings.
Monday's game in Milwaukee is a de facto elimination game in the Big East, as the loser of this game will be two games behind the Hoyas with three games to go.
Jim Boeheim's Syracuse team fell at home to Georgetown on Saturday, and in the process they scored their lowest point total in Carrier Dome history with just 46 points.
With four games left on the schedule, the Orange will face a massive uphill climb if they want to claim the Big East title in their final season before leaving for the ACC.
In their final four games, the Orange will face three ranked opponents and lowly DePaul, a stretch that ends with a trip to Washington D.C. to play the Hoyas one final time in the Big East.
The good news for the Orange is that senior forward James Southerland is once again eligible after being suspended for six games earlier this season.
Since returning on Feb. 10, Southerland has not missed a beat, as he has scored in double figures in his last five games.
Another crucial player in the Syracuse lineup is senior guard Brandon Triche, who leads the team in scoring with 14.7 points per game.
Accompanying Triche in the backcourt is superstar sophomore Michael Carter-Williams, who is averaging 12.5 points and 8.0 assists per game,
The duo of Triche and Carter-Williams will have plenty of competition in the backcourt at the Bradley Center on Monday night as the Golden Eagles possess a very strong guard duo.
Vander Blue and Junior Cadougan have powered Marquette to a 10-win season in the Big East, but they were not able to help the Golden Eagles get past Villanova on Saturday.
There is no doubt that Marquette has the easier schedule to end the season of the two teams, with the Orange and Notre Dame visiting the Bradley Center before road trips to Rutgers and St. John's end the regular season for Buzz Williams' team.
For the Golden Eagles to come out on top after 40 minutes, or possibly more, on Monday, leading scorer Blue and his backcourt companion Cadougan will have to outplay the Syracuse duo of Triche and Carter-Williams.
Blue is the team's leading scorer with 14.7 points per game, but he has been shut down in two of his last four games by scoring just seven points against both Georgetown and Villanova.
Cadougan has been shut down as of late, with a combined 22 points in the last four games.
Who Wins on Monday?
Monday night's game presents the guard duo of Marquette with a perfect opportunity to put their cold streaks aside and play well in a big game that could decide where they end up in the tournament.
While plenty of the attention will be on the Marquette guards, its primary big man, Davante Gardner, will have to step up and play better than Southerland in the paint for the Golden Eagles to come out of the game victorious.
This game is expected to be a hard-fought Big East struggle that has plenty on the line.
While Syracuse possesses the experience, Marquette has not lost a game at home this season, and its star players are due to have breakout performances.
With all that being said, it will be a close game throughout, but the Golden Eagles should come out on top in front of their home crowd.
What do you think is the game to watch this week in college basketball?
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