There are 16 “Round of 32” games on Saturday and Sunday as the most exciting weekend of the sports calendar continues. As we always do every March here at MSF, we try to cover you with previews, informed and reasoned predictions, and pertinent viewing info as soon as we can get it posted.
In this post, we preview the West Region’s second round matchup between 6th-seeded Murray State and 3rd-seed Marquette.
Murray State-Marquette Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #6 Murray State v #3 Marquette in West Region
- Marquette-Murray State Date: Saturday, 3/17
- Marquette-Murray State Tip Time: 5:15 ET
- Marquette-Murray State Location: Louisville
- Marquette-Murray State TV: CBS
- Marquette-Murray State Announcers: Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery
- Marquette-Murray State Point Spread: Marquette -5
- Tickets: Murray State-Marquette Tickets
- Tickets: West Regional Tickets in Phoenix
Murray State-Marquette Analysis and Prediction
On Thursday, Murray State used a fantastic second half to beat Colorado State by 17 points, led by 15 points and seven rebounds from star guard Isaiah Canaan. They will face Marquette on Saturday, who knocked off BYU behind 25 points, 16 rebounds, five steals, and four assists from Jae Crowder.
As we shift our focus to their second round matchup, a few key things stick out.
The first is Marquette’s offensive rebounding. For the season, they grabbed 34.6 percent of their misses, while Murray State ranked 287th in defensive rebounding percentage. If the Golden Eagles start racking up second chance points, the Racers could be in for a long afternoon.
Marquette’s ability to get to the foul line is another concern for Murray State. The Golden Eagles have parlayed their aggressive approach on offense to a 41.5 free throw rate, but the Racers are in the middle of the pack in opponents’ free throw rate. Consequently, their ability to keep Marquette off the stripe will go a long way to determining the outcome of this one.
Defensively, Buzz Williams’ squad ranks in the Top 25 in turnover rate, while the Racers rank 229th in turnover rate on offense, so keep an eye on how Canaan and the other Murray State guards can handle the physical nature of Marquette’s defense.
For Murray State, they, too, hold a statistical advantage on the offense glass, with their 34.9 offensive rebounding percentage compares favorably to Marquette’s 317th-ranked defensive rebounding percentage. The Racers definitely need to capitalize on the offensive boards and shoot better from long range than they did in their game against Colorado State.
In the end, I think the toughness and aggressiveness of Marquette is the difference, and the Golden Eagles will advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
Predicted Winner: Marquette
Marquette Golden Eagles Team Capsule
- Conference: Big East
- Record: 25-7 (14-4 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 7-3
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 9-6
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Norfolk State (2), South Florida, West Virginia, Wisconsin
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Vanderbilt
- Player to Watch: Jae Crowder (6’6” F, Sr.) – 17.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.4 spg, 1.0 bpg, 50.5 FG%
Marquette Bottoms Line:
Led by seniors Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, the Golden Eagles finished alone in second place in the Big East. They rank in the Top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and with the exception of defensive rebounding percentage, Marquette is in the Top 100 in the four factors on both offense and defense. Buzz Williams’ team pushes the tempo and focuses on “paint touches,” and that aggressiveness helped them to post an impressive 41.5 free throw rate.
Johnson-Odom personifies Marquette’s toughness, and he leads the team with 18.5 points per game and knocks down nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc. Crowder is undersized but plays much bigger than his 6-foot-6 frame. He is a true statsheet-stuffer who has the ability to carry the team if needed based on his ability to impact the game in a variety of ways. Marquette has solid depth with five other players averaging at least 19.4 minutes and 6.5 points. Vander Blue has improved after a disappointing freshman year, and Junior Cadougan ranks in the Top 50 in assist rate, while guys like Todd Mayo and Jamil Wilson have also shown flashes this season.
Despite not having a lot of size inside, the Golden Eagles are as physical and tough as they come and won’t go down easily in the Big Dance
Murray State Racers Team Capsule
- Conference: Ohio Valley
- Record: 30-1 (15-1 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 9-1
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 4-0
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Memphis, Saint Mary’s, Southern Miss, Western Kentucky
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: None
- Player to Watch: Isaiah Canaan (6’0″ G, Jr.) – 19.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.4 spg, 47.3 3P%
Murray State Bottoms Line:
The Racers earned headlines as the season’s last remaining unbeaten, and their only slip-up came at home against Tennessee State, who also gave them all they could handle in the OVC Final. First-year coach Steve Prohm did a terrific job with a team that had lost a lot of key contributors from last year’s 23-win squad.
Guard Isaiah Canaan has been fantastic throughout the season, often going off for scoring binges during key stretches of games and finishing among the national leaders in overall offensive rating. Donte Poole (14.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.0 spg, 39.2 3P%) has had his share of big games as well, not to mention his contributions on the defensive end. Senior Ivan Aska (10.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 50.0 FG%) is one of few Murray State players over 6-foot-5, which means he is relied upon to hit the boards on both ends. Throw in Jequan Long (8.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.2 spg), who hit the game-winner in the OVC Title Game and shoots 44.9 percent from deep, and you have a team with a number of capable offensive weapons.
Overall, the Racers rank in the Top 10 in three-point shooting, effective field goal percentage, and free throw rate, and the only chink in the offensive armor is a subpar turnover rate. They also rank in the Top 50 in adjusted defensive efficiency, thanks in large part to their ability to force turnovers and defend the three-point line. It’s easy for people to challenge their schedule, but Murray State has played well against other tournament-level teams this year, and Canaan’s play will be critical for them in a tournament setting. They could be in trouble if they face a team with a strong point guard and a tall frontline.
Related: Jump to our West Region Bracket Breakdown