Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Marquette (9) vs. Seton Hall (8): BIG EAST Tournament Preview

By: DaVaughn Lucas

Marquette and Seton Hall brings us a match-up that is part of the “old” Big East conference that had the likes of Syracuse, Notre Dame and others in it before the league split up two years ago.

Marquette will be led by sharpshooting senior Matt Carlino, who has been the fourth leading scorer in the BIG EAST this season (17.2 points per game), first in 3-point percentage and 3-pointers made. Along with his strong scoring, Carlino has been a dominant force on defense, coming in third in the BIG EAST in steals at 1.9 per game.

Carlino has great help in this game in super-freshman Duane Wilson, who earned an All-Rookie selection in the BIG EAST.

At 12.1 PPG, Wilson gives Carlino a bit of a break when it comes to the scoring load and with his strong outside game, the guard play of Marquette will be a true force in putting pressure on Seton Hall’s guards to play both ways.

In the frontcourt, the big man down low who eats up the rebounds is junior Steve Taylor, Jr., who has grabbed 29 rebounds in the last two games.

He has been accounting for large percentages of the team’s totals over the last few games and is clearly playing with a strong confidence right now as being a guy who can kill possessions for other teams as well as giving his offense second chances for scoring.

The Seton Hall Pirates are also coming into the game with strong All-BIG EAST selections. Junior Sterling Gibbs was voted to the All-BIG EAST East second team and freshmen Angel Delgado and Isaiah Whitehead were All-BIG EAST Rookie Team selections.

All are strong scoring threats and can work hard on the offensive and defensive ends, particularly Gibbs, who has nine 20-point games this season, including a 40-point breakout game earlier this season in the finals of the 2014 Paradise Jam.

Delgado and Whitehead have been strong in their freshman campaigns, with Delgado becoming one of the top rebounders not only in the Big East, but in all of college basketball, which could lead to a great match-up with Taylor from Marquette down low.

Whitehead has battled injury trouble this year, but still had a strong year with averaging 12.2 points & nearly four assists a game in the BIG EAST.

Along with the big stage, the coaches of both squads also understand the magnitude of the BIG EAST Tournament.

Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski understands the growth of the BIG EAST & sees strong potential in the future.

"The BIG EAST is what I thought it would be. It's one of the best conferences in the country,” Wojciechowski said in Monday’s BIG EAST Teleconference. “I'd put our league up there with any in the country.”

Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard also sees the growing strength of the conference, but also understands the importance of having a true power team heading the league in Villanova.

“I think it’s important that Villanova is a flagship and the level of play from the start to now has given the league an opportunity to be highlighted from top to bottom,” Willard said.

No. 9-seeded Marquette (12-18, 4-14 BIG EAST) vs. No. 8-seeded Seton Hall (16-14, 6-12 BIGEAST)

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y.

Tip-off: Wednesday 6 p.m. CT

TV/Online: Fox Sports 1/Fox Sports Go

Commentators: Gus Johnson (play-by-play), Bill Raftery (analyst) and Molly McGrath (sideline)

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Follow DaVaughn Lucas on Twitter @sportsfanplay.