(3) Marquette vs. (14) Davidson
(3) Marquette Golden Eagles
Despite losing star players Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom to graduation and the 2012 NBA Draft, the Golden Eagles (23-8, 14-4) have quickly retooled and remained one of the best teams in the deep Big East. Vander Blue and Davante Gardner have taken over as leaders, with Blue averaging 14 points and three rebounds while Gardner contributes 11.5 points and 4.8 rebounds. The Golden Eagles aren’t overly reliant on them, though, as they have five other players who score at least five points a game. Collectively they score 69 points a night and allow 62. They played the 12th strongest schedule in the country and also have an RPI in the top 12. They only have one bad loss on their schedule, falling to Green Bay way back in December. Against teams in the RPI top 100 they went 10-6, with their best wins coming against Syracuse and Georgetown at home. The Golden Eagles are looking to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third straight year. If they can survive and advance past that point it will be the first time since 2003, when Miami HEAT shooting guard Dwyane Wade was starring for them.
(14) Davidson Wildcats
Back in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season, the Wildcats (26-7, 17-1) were nearly flawless in the Southern Conference and are currently riding a 17-game winning streak. Their last loss came back on Jan. 14 to Georgia Southern. Since then they’ve been dominant, albeit against a competition level that pales in comparison to what they’re going to be facing in the tourney. Their best win during that stretch was against Montana, an RPI top 100 team. Against the RPI top 25 they went 0-3, falling to Duke, New Mexico and Gonzaga. The Wildcats scored 73 a night during the regular season while allowing 62. They’re the best free throw shooting team in the country, making 80 percent from the line. They’re an efficient offensive team that takes good care of the basketball and can really shoot it from deep. They make almost eight a game on average. Their strength is in their frontline, where Jake Cohen and De’Mon Brooks combine to average 28 points and 11 rebounds. For the Wildcats to win their first tournament game since the Stephen Curry era, they will have to play like stars and the team as a whole will need to be on from three. Their defense will also have to be as good as it’s been all year.
HOOPSWORLD’s Pick: Marquette. The Golden Eagles will get past the Wildcats thanks to how much more battle tested they are.