2009 March Madness Round 1: Marquette Golden Eagles vs. Utah State Aggies Preview and Pick

No. 23 Marquette Golden Eagles -4.5, 142 O/U(24-9) 14-13 ATS, 14-14 O/U vs. Utah State Aggies +4.5, 142 O/U(30-4) 16-12 ATS, 11-16 O/U Friday, March 20, 2009 Taco Bell Arena, Boise, Idaho 12:30 p.m. EST, TV: CBS

By Wilson of Predictem.com

The No. 6 seed Marquette Golden Eagles will face the No.11 seed Utah State Aggies in the NCAA Tournament first round action at Taco Bell Arena this Friday. Marquette will be making their 27th NCAA Tournament appearance and their fourth straight showing. The Aggies return to the tournament for the first time in three years and sixth appearance in the last decade. The Aggies last NCAA tourney game was back in 2006 when they dropped the opening game to then No. 5 seed University of Washington.

Utah State is not ranked on the AP Top 25 poll but they are ranked No. 25 on the ESPN/USA Today Poll. The Aggies bring a most impressive 30 wins into the dance, and that kind of resume should cause concern for any opponent. The Aggies enter Fridays game averaging nearly 73 points per game on a stellar 49.8 shooting percentage from field goal range and as a team they shoot 72 percent from the charity stripe. Defensively the Aggies only allow 62 ppg to their opponents.

The player to watch as of late on the Aggies roster is Gary Wilkinson, who was recently named the Most Valuable Player in the WAC Tournament as he led the Aggies to the automatic NCAA bid and the WAC Tournament title. Wilkinson averaged 19.3 points per game during the tourney on 54.1 percent shooting from the floor, and grabbed 5 rebounds in each contest. I think hes ready to play in the big dance!

Marquette earned in at-large bid into the tournament as the 6 seed in the West Region. Playing out of the Big East the Golden Eagles have been tested all year by what has shaped up to be arguably the best conference in the country. The Big East was granted three number one seeds in this years NCAA round of 64. The Golden Eagles went head to head with nationally ranked teams 12 times during the regular season and 10 of those opponents were invited to the dance.

The Golden Eagles come into the first round game averaging 78.8 points per outing on 45 percent shooting from the field. They give up an average of 69 points to their opponents.

Marquette has lost four of their last five games with the most recent loss at the hands of Villanova 76-75 in the Big East tourney. Two of the losses were to both number one seeds Pittsburgh and the overall number one seed in the tourney, Louisville. The Golden Eagles also fell to Syracuse.

Fridays matchup will mark the first ever meeting between these two programs. Utah State is 6-9 versus teams from the Big East, and the last time they faced a Big East squad was in 2000 when they lost to Connecticut. The Golden Eagles are 9-1 against the WAC with their only loss to New Mexico in 1972, 73-69.

Bookmakers online and in Las Vegas have this game in favor of the Golden Eagles at -4.5 with the total at 142. This line doesnt surprise me as it will be tough to gage how each team will respond in the big dance, but 4 points might not be enough here as Utah State is the real deal. I think this team is fantastic and they have a ton of passion and they travel well especially with a short trip up to Boise. Utah State is 22-3 in their last 25 games and playing like a team on a mission. Senior Gary Wilkinson will lead his team Friday and let Marquette know that they are in for a throw-down in Boise.

Wilsons Pick: Utah State gets the upset! Aggies 64, Golden Eagles 62. Luck to ya.