Marquette vs Villanova
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Jay Wright of Villanova
NEW YORK – Villanova coach Jay Wright knows that by the time mid-March arrives, his team can be a few weeks away from winning the national championship, or a few games away from its season ending. Wright hopes to see a complete performance from his team Thursday when second-seeded Villanova faces No. 7 seed Marquette in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament in New York City.
“We like this group, we like being together, we have a lot of work to do,” Wright told reporters this week. “But we just don’t want to run out of time. When you get to this point, you might have two games left, so we want to take advantage of every second we get.” Villanova, ranked third in the nation, has won four of five with three 90-point performances during that stretch. The Wildcats rank first in the country in scoring (87.2) and are in excellent shape to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, particularly if they go deep in this event. They can continue to solidify that position by beating the Golden Eagles, who slipped by DePaul on Wednesday and can essentially clinch an NCAA Tournament spot by upsetting the Wildcats.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
ABOUT MARQUETTE (19-12): The Golden Eagles defeated the Blue Demons, 72-69, in Wednesday’s nightcap, riding Andrew Rowsey’s 25 points and Sam Hauser’s 16 to the opening-round win. The third member of Marquette’s big three is Markus Howard, who scored only four points on 2-of-6 shooting versus DePaul to mark his lowest-scoring game of the season. Howard erupted for 37 points in the first meeting with Villanova in early January before the Wildcats held him to 13 points on 5-of-18 shooting in the rematch in late January.
ABOUT VILLANOVA (27-4): Jalen Brunson, a candidate for National Player of the Year, averages 19.0 points and 4.8 assists while shooting well from the field (52.8 percent), the 3-point line (40.5) and the foul line (80.6). He has plenty of help in the form of Mikal Bridges (17.6 points), who has exceeded his season average in six straight games, and four other players who average double-digit points on the season. One of those is Big East Freshman of the Year Omari Spellman (10.9 points, 7.8 rebounds), who is just 6-of-17 from the field over the last two outings and totaled four points in the two earlier meetings with Marquette.
1. The winner of this game will face the Seton Hall-Butler winner on Friday.
2. Brunson averaged 29 points in two matchups with Marquette this season, both Wildcats victories.
3. Six of Villanova’s top seven scorers shoot at least 39 percent from 3-point range.