Marquette Golden Eagles vs. Louisville Cardinals Preview and Pick

Marquette Golden Eagles (13-2) +2.5, 136 O/U at Louisville Cardinals
(12-4) -2.5, 136 O/U, 7 PM Eastern, Thursday

by Badger of

Two Big East teams with a little bit of recent bad blood between
them meet at Freedom Hall Thursday night when No. 13 Marquette takes
on Louisville in a crucial early season game on ESPN.

Marquette comes into the game off of their best performance in
awhile. Called a statement game by just about everyone within the
program, the Golden Eagles destroyed Notre Dame last Sunday, 92-66.
Prior to that the Golden Eagles sort of sleepwalked through their
first three Big East games, beating Providence (96-67) and Seton Hall
(61-56) with an upset loss at West Virginia (79-64) in between.,

Louisville is finally starting to get healthy inside, and its
starting to show in the win column. The Cardinals have won three
games in a row, starting with the battle versus in-state rival
Kentucky (89-75) and ending with last weeks 64-49 thumping of
Rutgers on the road.

The bad blood in the rivalry stems from the Cardinals last-second
upset of then No.12 Marquette last February, 61-59. Louisville guard
Jerry Smith, a Milwaukee native, hit a fall-away 3-pointer as time
expired to spring the upset, then paraded around the Bradley Center
chest thumping and showboating. The Golden Eagles thought the display
by Smith went over the top, and it turned an already contentious
rivalry up another notch.

Las Vegas oddsmakers opened the game with the home Cardinals as a 3-
point favorite, with an opening total of 136. Louisville is also a
-150 on the moneyline, while the Golden Eagles are a +135.

Marquettes offense features a guard-heavy lineup headlined by point
guard Dominic James (14.9 ppg, 4.5 apg). Wings Jerel McNeal, Wesley
Mathews and Lazar Hayward are all capable of putting the ball in the
hoop, as all of them scored in double figures the last time out in
the win over Notre Dame (James 16, McNeal 18, Hayward 17 and Mathews

For the season the Golden Eagles are averaging 80.1 points per game
(29th in NCAA), are shooting 48 percent from the floor and 38.6
percent from 3-point range. Although those numbers have dropped since
they opened Big East play (72.5, 44.4 and 30.8).

Louisville has picked up the tempo on the offensive since they have
welcomed the return of big men David Padgett and Juan Palacious. Just
like Marquette, the Cardinals are led on offense by a duel-threat
point guard in Terrence Williams (11.6 ppg, 4.2 apg). Smith and
forward Earl Smith are strong contributors, both averaging around 11
points per game as well.

For the season Louisville is averaging 70.9 points per game (145th),
are shooting 43.7 percent from the floor and 34.6 percent from 3-
point land.

This game should be a great one to watch from a defensive standpoint.
Louisville is one of the top defensive teams in the country, as their
full court pressure holds opponents to just 58.9 points per game
(21st) and 37.4 percent from the floor.

Marquette also has a high-pressure defensive scheme, but they perform
it from half court only. The limit teams to 61.3 points per game
(40th) and 39.6 percent shooting (45th), but they are especially good
at closing out to the 3-point arc (allow just 29.8 % from 3-point
land 18th) and getting deflections and hands on the ball in the
passing lanes ( forced 24 turnovers vs. ND last game).

The two schools split last seasons series, with each team winning on
the opponents court. Louisville has won four out of the last five
games straight up, but each team has alternated covering the number
in those five games. Overall, the underdog is 6-2 ATS in their last 8

Marquette is 6-4 ATS for the season, but they struggle on the road
with just a 2-7 ATS record in their last 9 away from Milwaukee.
Despite the strong defensive presence, the over has covered in seven
of the Golden Eagles last nine Big East games and in nine of their
last 12 road games.

Louisville is a weak 6-8 ATS this year, but they have covered the
number in all three of the games during their three-game winning
streak. The Cards also like playing on Thursdays, because they are
6-2 ATS in their last eight on Thursday and they have gone over the
total in six of the last eight Thursday game as well.

There are no significant injuries to impact this game either.

Badgers Pick: As first I thought Marquette was an easy cover in
this game, but as I think about it more it looks like a classic trap
game. The Golden Eagles are not a good road team, and at the same
time the Cards seem to feed off the hometown crowd. That said, Im
not sure Im sold on Louisville either. Look for some bad shooting
due to strong defense and take the under of 136 in this game.