(3) Marquette vs. (14) BYU/Iona Preview
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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(3) Marquette Golden Eagles
Buzz Williams’ system has proven to be quite successful in the regular season, but because it is unorthodox there are always going to be doubters. Last year’s run to the Sweet 16 gives credence to the notion that they can win in the tournament. Senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom is one of the nation’s most underrated players. He’s capable of carrying a heavy load for the Golden Eagles, but he can only do so much. The only way the Golden Eagles are going to advance further than last season is if their frontline rises to the occasion. Senior forward Jae Crowder and sophomore forward Davante Gardner, who missed the better part of the regular season’s final stretch with a sprained knee, have to prioritize hitting the glass and defending the paint. In a perfect world for Marquette, they’d avoid bigger teams for as long as possible because they’re undersized and have been outrebounded on the season.
(14)Brigham Young Cougars
The combination of being without now Sacramento Kings guard Jimmer Fredette and in a new conference was not enough to keep the Cougars out of the big dance for the sixth-straight year. This is a much different team than the one that advanced to the Sweet 16 last year. Their strength is on the frontline, where they have Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies. They are the Cougars leaders and they are looked to do everything out on the floor, not just score and rebound. Matt Carlino and Charles Abouo are just as well-rounded as they are. This Cougars team has really developed into a squad that can hurt you in multiple ways. They’re nowhere near as reliant on one player like they were last year. They typically win the battle of the boards by four and score 78 a night. They’re one of the best passing teams in the tournament, usually accumulating 17 assists a game. They were just 1-6 against the RPI Top 50. Defense will be the key in the Cougars’ hopes to advancing.
(14) Iona Gaels
The biggest surprise on Selection Sunday was that the Gaels, who lost to Fairfield in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament, managed to get an at-large bid. While they may not have been the most deserving team for one of the final at-large bids, nobody is going to complain about their participation once they see them play. The Gaels are a high speed team who pushes the tempo at each and every opportunity. They led the nation in scoring with 83 points a game. Senior guard Scott Machado was instrumental in that, dishing out a nation-leading 9.9 assists a night. As a team the Gaels accumulated 19 assists on average, the nation’s top mark. They’re very efficient offensively, shooting 50 percent from the field, 39 percent from deep while only turning it over 12 times. Senior forward Mike Glover and junior guard Lamont Jones are Machado’s favorite targets. They combine to score 34 a night, while Glover also pulls in a team-high nine rebounds. The Gaels struggle on the boards and defending the three. Against the RPI Top 50 they were 0-2. Their best wins were against non-tourney teams Nevada and St. Joseph’s.
HOOPSWORLD’s pick: Marquette. We expect Iona to show that they do belong in the field by beating BYU. Their game against Marquette should be a high-scoring affair, but it’s nearly impossible to beat the Golden Eagles at their own game.
Who do you think is going win? Chime in by leaving a comment below!