Marquette Preps For Elite Eight Matchup With Syracuse
March 29, 2013
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The No. 3 seed Marquette University men's basketball team (26-8, 14-4 BIG EAST) will face No. 4 seed Syracuse (29-9, 11-7 BIG EAST) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. CT in the Elite Eight from the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. CBS will feature the national television broadcast, with Verne Lundquist (play-by-play), Bill Raftery (analyst) and Rachel Nichols (reporter) calling the action.
By Chris Jenkins
WASHINGTON -- For folks who felt nostalgic about the most recent Big East tournament, it's an unexpected extra chance to see two familiar foes get after it.
It's far more than that, of course, for Marquette -- a team that suddenly finds itself knocking on the door of another Final Four.
After beating Miami on Thursday to advance to the Elite Eight, No. 3-seeded Marquette faces No. 4 seed Syracuse on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. CT.
The two teams know each other well from their hard-fought Big East games in recent years, along with Darius Johnson-Odom's unforgettable 3-point shot in a 66-62 victory that sent the Golden Eagles to the Sweet 16 in 2011.
Syracuse will not be part of the reconstituted Big East, which is set to begin play next season. So most people figured the two schools wouldn't see each other for a while after Marquette beat Syracuse 74-71 in Milwaukee on Feb. 25.
But conference affiliations aren't at the top of Buzz Williams' mind as he prepares for Saturday's game.
"Whoever wins tomorrow, as much as they say they're playing to say we are a part of this league, they're playing to win for all the people in the locker room to advance and continue their season, to play in the Final Four," Williams said Friday. "And those are memories that will last a lifetime, and lives are changed when you get to this point in March."
The rematch with Syracuse means another test from coach Jim Boeheim's vaunted 2-3 zone defense.
Williams says the height and wingspan of Syracuse's players makes their zone even tougher to play.
"Everybody keeps saying, `get it to the high post,'" Williams says. "You guys know that, coaches know that, players know that. You can't get it to the high post when there are five guys standing within nine feet of one another, from top to bottom."
While Boeheim's full-time use of zone makes Syracuse unique, Marquette players have seen plenty of teams play zone this season. That, plus their previous experiences playing Syracuse, has them feeling confident.
"Not too many teams have played us man-to-man all year, and we're comfortable against Syracuse's zone," Vander Blue said.
Syracuse will certainly be mindful of Davante Gardner, who had 26 points in the teams' most recent matchup -- a game in which Marquette rallied from an 11-point deficit.
"I don't think he will play that well again, and that's only because he's never played that well before or since," Williams said, drawing laughs from reporters on Friday's news conference. "So he played incredible. But we do need him to play. If you look at the games where we've won, the games where we've lost, Davante is a big pendulum swing in that."
And while the teams know each other well, Williams doesn't necessarily see that as an advantage either way.
"I don't want to play Syracuse again," Williams said. "Well, you know them and you know their zone, I know all that. I don't want to play them. I would rather play somebody else. But it's part of having so many good teams in our league that go to the NCAA tournament."
Marquette is making its seventh trip to the Elite Eight, and its first since the 2003 Final Four run. Marquette also advanced to the Elite Eight in 1955, 1969, 1974, 1976 and its NCAA Championship season in 1977.
Marquette is one of just six teams to be selected to the NCAA field in each of the last eight years, a list that includes Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan St. and Wisconsin.
And while Marquette's 2011 tournament win over Syracuse might still be somewhat fresh in fans' minds, it's not particularly relevant to Saturday's game.
"Just a good memory, that's all that is," center Chris Otule said.
Added point guard Junior Cadougan: "We're not really thinking about that game. That's a long, long time ago. We're not even really thinking about the last time we beat them. This is a new game. This the championship game of this two-day tournament. That's how we're looking at it."
That's not to say Cadougan has forgotten Johnson-Odom's big shot.
"Crazy," Cadougan recalled. "All net."
Golden Eagles Making Seventh Trip To Elite Eight
Marquette will be making its seventh trip to the Elite Eight when the team faces Syracuse Saturday afternoon at the Verizon Center.
The program's last matchup in the NCAA regional final came in 2003 and resulted in a trip to the Final Four in New Orleans, behind the leadership of guard Dwyane Wade. MU defeated top-seeded Kentucky 83-69 in Minneapolis, Minn., before falling to Kansas.
MU is now 41-31 all-time in the NCAA Championship and also advanced to the Elite Eight in 1955, 1969, 1974, 1976 and 1977 (NCAA Champions). A pair of BIG EAST competitors last matched up in the Elite Eight in 2009. Villanova defeated Pittsburgh 78-76 that season in an East Region contest from Boston, Mass.
MU is one of just six teams (Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan St. and Wisconsin) to be selected to the NCAA field in each of the last eight years.
MU-Syracuse To Face Off In Bonus Matchup
Marquette fans thought they had seen the last of Syracuse when the two teams met at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Feb. 25, but Saturday's Elite Eight matchup provides a bonus opportunity while the squads are still members of the BIG EAST Conference.
Syracuse leads the all-time series 8-5, with Marquette earning a 74-71 decision in the most recent matchup. The Golden Eagles trailed by as many as 11 points in the game, but were able to hold on for the win thanks to a career-best 26 points off the bench from Davante Gardner. Prior to last season, Marquette had won the previous two matchups, including a 66-62 decision in the 2011 NCAA Championship that allowed the Golden Eagles to advance to the Sweet 16.
The series dates back to the 1941-42 campaign, but at one point there was a 40-year gap between meetings. Marquette has defeated every program in the BIG EAST since joining the league in 2005-06, with Syracuse being the final conference foe to fall (W, 76-70 on Jan. 29, 2011) against the Golden Eagles.
Cadougan Quietly Collecting Impressive Career
Senior Junior Cadougan, who finished with eight points, five rebounds and an assist, is quietly putting together one of the most impressive careers in Marquette history.
The four-year letterwinner has helped account for 97 victories during his tenure, the fourth-highest total in the school's record book and the most since Bernard Toone (98, 1975-79). The Toronto, Ontario, native has now been a member of two Sweet 16 rosters (2010-11, 2011-12) and another that has advanced to at least the Elite Eight. He is currently ranked seventh at MU in assists with 433 and has started in 67-of-68 appearances.
Lockett's Introduction Might Require Position Change
Senior guard Trent Lockett has been rebounding with such efficiency during the team's NCAA run, he might need to be introduced as a center in the starting lineups.
The Golden Valley, Minn., native is averaging a team-best 9.3 rebounds per game in the three outings, including a total of 24 in the last two games. He grabbed a career-best 13 in the win over Butler and followed that up with an 11-carom effort in the victory versus Miami. Lockett also found time to chip in eight points and two assists in 38 minutes. For the year, Lockett is the squad's leading rebounder at 5.1 boards per outing.
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