Marquette (6-1) and Wisconsin (6-1) will meet for the 115th time in their storied rivalry in Milwaukee on Saturday.
Buzz Williams may only be in his first season as Marquette head coach, but he understands what this rivalry means to residents of the Badger State.
“I know enough to know that it is important to a lot of people,” Williams. “It’s important to our alumni, to their alumni, to their players, to our players.”
But once again, the Golden Eagle who gets asked the most about this rivalry is Madison native Wesley Matthews.
“You know [this is a big game for me],” said Matthews. “It’s a lot of fun. You start to get to the middle of the season, you get the kinks out and you’re working to get better every day and then you got the Badgers coming to town.”
Matthews did get to have fun at last season’s contest, an 81-76 Marquette victory at the Kohl Center, and described it as one of the highlights of his career at Marquette.
“People don’t win at the Kohl Center,” Matthews said. “It’s a tough place to play. That definitely is one of the highlights though, being able to go back home and get one [win]. Especially after starting out 0-2 against them.“
This season’s installment once again features two teams with contrasting styles and opposing strengths.
“I think it will be a battle of wills on every possession,” said Williams. “Our team is built differently than theirs. Every possession will be a battle.”
One of the keys that Marquette will be focused on is pressuring Wisconsin’s guards to try and keep the ball out of the paint.
“We have to keep the ball out of the post whether we are playing Central Michigan or Wisconsin,” said Williams. “When the ball gets into the paint, that’s when we are most vulnerable. The best thing to do is to keep the ball as high on the floor as you can and make sure you have great ball pressure.”
This game should be another classic in a lasting rivalry.
Marquette runs what most consider being a motion or continuity offense. It is considered an equal opportunity offense because it is not strictly set plays and the players are supposed to read and react to the defense.
So far this season, Marquette has excelled in this offense scoring 87.9 points-per-game, eighth in the nation. The number one reason they have increased there scoring so much is that they have been getting baskets without taking time off the clock.
They are 10th in the nation in getting to the free throw line. Overall Marquette is pretty similar to where they were efficiency-wise last season. The only difference is that they are playing at a faster pace.
Defensively, Marquette has played strictly man-to-man defense and I would expect the same on Saturday night. Many fans are concerned with the number of points per game they have allowed but part of this is due to the fast pace that they play at.
According to Ken Pomeroy, Marquette’s adjusted defensive efficiency is 116th in the nation. Meanwhile there raw efficiency, which does not take into account the quality of the opponent, is 85th in the nation.
Marquette likes to try and force other teams to turn the ball over by pressuring there guards and sometimes applying either a full court or three-quarter-court press.
This season they have not been as efficient in turning the other team over. Last season they ranked 49th in defensive turnover percentage and 11th in steal percentage while this year they are 158th in defensive turnover percentage and 79th in steal percentage.
Although, it doesn’t show in the stats, Marquette has had trouble defending the post. Part of this is due to their lack of size and depth at the forward and center position.
Last season, the Wisconsin really made a name for themselves on the defensive end. They were first in the nation in raw defensive efficiency and second in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency.
So far this season they have not been able to keep up that pace and have slipped to 130th and 107th, respectively. Like Marquette, they play strictly a man-to-man defense. The Badgers play a tough defense and generally do a good job of positioning themselves to play solid defense without fouling.
Since 2004, the Badgers have been ranked in the top 33 for defensive free throw rate all but one season. This season they have had trouble defending three point shooters, allowing opponents to shoot 39.8 percent from downtown.
However, they make up for it by not allowing many second chance opportunities. Overall, they are not a team that is going to turn their opponents over but they will make them earn every point they get.
Wisconsin runs the Swing offense, which Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan is known for. It is also a read and react offense but it has its differences from a ‘normal’ motion offense as well.
In the Swing offense, players go to assigned spots before reading and reacting the defense. Also, guards are encouraged to post up and big men are given opportunities to score from the perimeter.
Wisconsin has been very successful in this offense and Ryan has recruited players that fit to his style. Wisconsin has taken advantages of opportunities from the perimeter so far this season by hitting 42.9 percent of their three point shots. In addition, they do an excellent job of protecting the ball.
Dominic James has proven himself to be one of the best floor generals in the country so far this season. He is averaging 5.6 assists per game and has a 3.9/1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He doesn’t seem to be looking for his shot as much this season (nine shots per game this season vs. 11.4 last season) but has continued to do an excellent job of running the offense.
On the downside, James has shot a lousy 48.9 percent from the free throw line this season. Defensively, James has been a ball hawk in the passing lane, averaging 2.7 steals per game.
Jerel McNeal increased his scoring by 2.5 points per game from 14.9 to 17.4 this season. He has continued his stat stuffing ways, averaging over four assists and four rebounds a game.
McNeal has taken five three pointers per game this season which he might want to tone down considering he is only shooting 33 percent from downtown. McNeal’s slashing ability could prove to be a problem for Wisconsin especially if Bohannon is matched up on him.
Wesley Matthews might be the most improved player in the Big East so far this season. He has exploded offensively, averaging 22 points per game. Due to Marquette’s lack of size he has been forced to rebound the ball and is averaging 6.3 boards per game.
His biggest difference this season is his ability to get to the free throw line. He leads the nation in free throws made and its not that close. He has not only gotten to the line but he has been effective there as well, hitting 88 percent of his freebies. He has stepped up so far this year but will have to work on protecting the ball (3.3 turnovers per game).
Lazar Hayward is off to an excellent start to the season, nearly averaging a double-double. His team leading 9.1 RPG are good enough for 7th in the Big East. In the Golden Eagles first seven games, Hayward has played primarily inside the three-point line despite shooting over 45 percent from downtown last season.
Dwight Burke has been a disappointment so far for Marquette fan’s who were expecting a jump in his production. In fact, he has committed more fouls (25) than points (16) or rebounds (24).
That being said, Burke had a career game versus Wisconsin last season. He finished the game with 12 points and 9 rebounds in just 17 minutes of action. Marquette needs him to stay out of foul trouble, especially with their size deficiency.
In each of their seven regular season games the Golden Eagles have only suited up nine scholarship players. Therefore there bench has been forced into action. Maurice Acker and David Cubillan provide depth at the guard position and both are a threat from three-point range.
Butler, a sophomore transfer has filled in at both the guard and forward position. His length has helped him in drawing fouls and grabbing rebounds. Hazel has played a lot of minutes due to Burke’s foul troubles. He has had some solid games but overall his performance has been inconsistent.
Trevon Hughes currently leads the Badgers in scoring at 13.9 ppg. He is an ultra quick guard that combined with Dominic James will prove to be an excellent matchup. Not necessarily known for his three-point shooting ability, Hughes is shooting an amazing 54 percent from beyond the arc after shooting just 31 percent last season.
In the game against Marquette last season, Hughes did not shoot the ball well (4-15 FG) and really seemed to be forcing his shot in the game. So far this season he is shooting ten percentage points higher from the field.
Jason Bohannon will not wow you with his athleticism but he is a smart player and a good shooter, despite his early season numbers. It will be interesting to see what guard he matches up with defensively because he is not known for his foot speed. However, his stroke from deep is good enough to make up for it. I think if he can hold his own defensively, the Badgers will be in excellent shape.
Joe Krabbenhoft is your typical hard-nosed, physical, Big Ten style player. He is a jack-of-all-trades, master of none type player. He leads Wisconsin in rebounding (5.9 RPG) and assists (3.1 APG). Krabbenhoft is a physical player that can post you up, hit from mid range and shoot it from the outside.
In addition he has a reputation for being a pretty good defender. In the game versus Marquette last season, he played nearly every minute (38) while scoring six points and grabbing five rebounds.
Marcus Landry was named preseason all conference in the Big Ten this season. He is a Milwaukee native playing his last game in his hometown. He is second in scoring for the Badgers and has been an enforcer around the rim by blocking just over two shots a game.
Landry presents a matchup problem for just about every team he faces. He can score both inside and out and his athleticism can be a problem for opposing teams. MU did a nice job last season of containing him to just 7 points and 5 rebounds.
Keaton Nankivil is a former teammate of Marquette guard Wesley Matthews. Both of them played their high school ball at Madison Memorial. Nankivil did not play much last season (46 minutes the entire season) and plays just 18 minutes a game, despite being a starter. He is a physical post presence that could cause problems for Marquette.
Jon Leuer has proven himself to be quite the player so far this season after showing flashes as a freshman last year. In fact, he came off the bench to score nine points and grab five rebounds in the game against Marquette last season. His combination of size, skill and quickness could be a problem for Marquette’s frontcourt.
Tim Jarmusz is another player that gets a lot of minutes off the bench for Wisconsin. He is a big guard that can stroke it from deep. Jordan Taylor and Rob Wilson are basically the only other guys who get playing time from Coach Ryan. Taylor usually comes in to back up the point guard slot while Wilson is an athletic wing player.