SYRACUSE ORANGE (22-5)
at MARQUETTE GOLDEN EAGLES (19-7)
BMO Harris Bradley Center - Milwaukee, WI
Tip-off: Monday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Syracuse -1.5, Total: 131
Two teams tied for second place in the jam-packed Big East standings play a crucial game in Milwaukee on Monday night when Marquette hosts Syracuse.
Both schools enter this contest 10-4 in Big East play, but Syracuse is just 4-4 (SU and ATS) in its past eight games, including an embarrassing 57-46 home loss on Saturday where the Orange shot 34% FG (4-of-20 threes) and had twice as many turnovers (16) than assists (eight). Marquette is also coming off a loss, falling 60-56 at Villanova, but had gone 6-2 SU (5-3 ATS) in the eight games prior to Saturday's defeat. The Golden Eagles are riding a 23-game home win streak, including a perfect 14-0 SU mark this season, outshooting visitors 48.6% FG to 39.9% FG. Although Syracuse is 5-2 SU against Marquette since they joined the Big East, the Eagles are 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings between these schools. The Orange were favored by 10.5 points in their lone meeting last season when they were ranked No. 1 in the nation, but failed to cover in a 73-66 win at the Carrier Dome over then-No. 20 Marquette.
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Despite Syracuse's horrible offensive showing on Saturday, this team still scores 74.1 PPG (37th in nation) and shoots a respectable 44.6% FG. Although playing mostly a 2-3 zone isn't always conducive to a strong showing on the glass, the Orange pull down the 12th-most rebounds in the nation (40.0 RPG). Syracuse gets the bulk of its scoring from its top four players who all average at least 12.5 PPG, while no other player scores even six points per contest. PG Michael Carter-Williams (12.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG) ranks fourth on the team in scoring with subpar shooting percentages of 38% FG and 28% threes. However, the 6-foot-6 point guard leads the nation in assists (8.0 APG) places fourth in steals (3.0 SPG) and carries a 2.33 Ast/TO ratio for the season. His backcourt mate, senior SG Brandon Triche (14.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.5 APG) leads the team in scoring, which includes a monster game of 29 points, six rebounds and five assists in his most recent road game on Feb. 16 at Seton Hall. Although he had as many turnovers (four) as field goals (4-for-13) against Georgetown on Saturday, Triche scored 16 points (4-of-9 threes) with seven boards, four assists and two steals in last season's win over Marquette. Junior SF C.J. Fair (14.2 PPG, 7.3 RPG) is the team's most consistent player, scoring in double-figures in 17 straight games. In the past six contests, Fair has averaged 16.2 PPG and 8.7 RPG, and also had a big game against the Golden Eagles last season with 13 points and eight rebounds (four offensive) coming off the bench. Senior PF James Southerland (13.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG) is the team's best three-point shooter at 39.2% from downtown. He has scored at least 11 points in each of his past seven games, averaging 14.4 PPG during this stretch, but has made just 14-of-39 shots (36%) in his past three road tilts.
Marquette scores less than 70 points per game (69.2 PPG, 134th in nation), but makes an efficient 46.5% FG, good for 39th in the nation. Rebounding is not the Eagles strong suit (34.8 RPG, 172nd in D-I), but a bigger concern is the lack of consistent three-point shooters to combat the Syracuse zone. SF Jamil Wilson (8.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG) is the only player that makes more than one-third of his threes, knocking down 41.1% from long range. Junior SG Vander Blue (14.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG) leads the team in scoring, but makes just 30% of his threes, including 26% (16-of-61 threes) in Big East play. After back-to-back, 19-point efforts in wins over Pittsburgh and Seton Hall, Blue made just 2-of-8 FG for seven points in Saturday's loss. However, Blue had a well-rounded nine points, seven rebounds and five assists in the most recent meeting with Syracuse 13 months ago. Junior PF Davante Gardner (11.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG) is a load in the paint with his 290-pound frame, and is looking to redeem himself after playing horribly against the Wildcats on Saturday, a game in which coach Buzz Williams limited him to 11 minutes because Gardner was playing so poorly. Gardner has given a much better scoring effort at home this season though (13.5 PPG), and had nine points, five rebounds and five steals in last season's defeat at the Carrier Dome. Senior PG Junior Cadougan (8.5 PPG, 4.3 APG) does a decent job running the offense, but has a mediocre 1.66 Ast/TO ratio. Although he scored 12 points in Saturday's defeat, his five turnovers really hurt his team. Cadougan scored 10 points with five assists and three steals in last season's loss to the Orange.