Tennessee Volunteers vs. Marquette Golden Eagles: game preview

Expect Tennessee’s game against Marquette tonight in Nashville to be a battle of the boards and benches. If Tennessee can win those two games-within-the-games, the Vols should be okay. If not, well, think Temple.

Keys to the game

Rebounding. Both teams are very good on the boards. Whichever team has the better night cleaning up the shooting failures of others will have an advantage. The Vols rank 5th in the nation in rebound margin, averaging 11 more boards than their opponents. But the Golden Eagles have out-rebounded their opponents in eight of nine games. In its last game against Indiana-Purdue-Fort-Wayne (the most awkwardly-named team in college sports!), Marquette tallied 48 total rebounds behind 18 from Lazar Hayward, who’s ranked 17th in the nation in rebounds with 10.6.

Marquette’s starting five vs. Tennessee’s bench. The Golden Eagles’ starting lineup is stocked with guys ranking nationally in many key statistical categories, but their bench production is sorely lacking. The starting five currently accounts 81.3 percent of the team’s offensive production, and the bench has contributed a grand total of 12 points over the last two games. Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl is fond of saying that although his opponent’s starting five might be better than his own starting five, his ten are better than his opponent’s.  Look for Tennessee to push the tempo and to force the game into a contest of depth.

Marquette players to watch

The aforementioned Hayward. Hayward was not only one board shy of the Bradley Center record of 19 in his last outing, he also managed a game-high 19 points on 9 of 17 shooting from the field. Dude’s got three double-doubles on the season already.

Senior guard Dominic James, who is perhaps Marquette’s best player. James currently ranks 17th in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.2), 37th in the nation in steals (2.4 per game), and 51st in the nation in assists (5.3 per game). He’s also averaging 11.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. He was one of 50 guys named to the preseason candidate list for this year’s Wooden Award.

Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews. Notice I said that James is “perhaps” Marquette’s best player. If not, McNeal is. Perhaps. McNeal is ranked 75th in the nation in steals and 82nd in the nation in points per game. He, too, is on the preseason Wooden Award watch list. Or maybe Wesley Matthews is the Golden Eagles’ best player. Matthews scores more points per game  than either McNeal or James, thanks in part to his free throw shooting. Only two guys in the nation are making more free throws per game than Matthews, who’s hitting 7.7 per game on 8.8 attempts. Don’t foul Matthews!

KEY STATS COMPARISON
Tennessee logo
Marquette logo
Category
Rank
Actual
Rank
Actual
Scoring Offense
8
85.3
12
82.8
Scoring Defense
273
73.4
174
67.3
Scoring Margin
62
11.9
29
15.4
Field-Goal Percentage
61
47.1
95
45.7
Field-Goal Percentage Defense
212
43.8
130
41.4
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game
126
6.6
174
6.1
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage
154
34.0
222
31.4
Three Pt FG Defense
117
0.32
51
0.292
Free-Throw Percentage
100
70.9
109
70.5
Rebound Margin
5
11.0
24
8.2
Assists Per Game
10
18.9
32
16.6
Assist Turnover Ratio
44
1.18
40
1.21
Blocked Shots Per Game
138
3.5
188
3.0
Steals Per Game
139
7.3
48
8.9
Turnovers Per Game
246
16.0
106
13.7
Turnover Margin
190
-0.5
81
2.4
Personal Fouls Per Game
273
20.9
258
20.4
 
PLAYERS TO WATCH Tennessee logo
Marquette logo
Category Player Rank Actual Player Rank Actual
Points PG       W. Matthews
J. McNeal
48
82
19.6
18.2
FG%        
3-Point FG PG        
3-Point FG%        
FT %       W. Matthews
44
87.3
Rebounds PG B. Williams
93
8.1
L. Hayward
17
10.6
Assists PG B. Maze
T. Smith
76
94
4.9
4.6
D. James
51
5.3
Blocks PG  
 
Steals PG  
D. James
J. McNeal
37
75
2.4
2.1
Assist-TO
Ratio
B. Maze
6
3.9
D. James
17
3.2
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