COACH: Buzz Williams, two years at Marquette, two years in NCAA Tournament
HOW THEY GOT IN: At-large bid MATCHUP BREAKDOWN: Marquette didn’t get a lot of respect after starting 2-5 in the Big East, so it’s fitting that its first-round opponent is also one that has a chip on its shoulder. The Huskies were 3-5 through eight Pac-10 games, but finished on a 12-2 run on their way to winning the conference tournament and ending all suspense. Isaiah Thomas — no, not THAT Isaiah Thomas — is coming into the postseason on fire, having just won the Pac-10 Tournament’s Most Outstanding player award, and the battle between him and Maurice Acker may be the most entertaining matchup of under-six-feet guards all season. Quincy Poindexter is the big threat on the inside for the Huskies, but Marquette should match up well with him.
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GO-TO GUYS: Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler are the two key players for Marquette’s chances of making an extended NCAA Tournament run. The two leading scorers have an impact on the offense that goes beyond the numbers, and when either is on the bench or playing poorly, the Golden Eagles are much less effective.
THEY’LL KEEP WINNING IF: They stay out of foul trouble. This isn’t a deep team, and Buzz Williams tends to sit players when they pick up their second foul in the first half. If the Golden Eagles have to play extended stretches without one of their key players, Marquette will have a hard time generating points.
STRENGTHS: Marquette keeps every game close. It’s used to games that come down to the wire, and won’t be afraid if it gets into that situation in the NCAA Tournament. Lazar Hayward can score from anywhere on the court and will be a matchup problem for any team. The Golden Eagles are one of the country’s top 3-point shooting teams, with Maurice Acker, Darius Johnson-Odom and David Cubillan are able to knock down long-range shots when they get a little space.
WEAKNESSES: Marquette keeps every game close. The Golden Eagles don’t put teams away, and have a tendency to get sloppy on offense when they have a lead. Marquette doesn’t have much size on the interior — Hayward, at 6-feet-5, is far from a true center, even if his hops and wingspan help him play bigger than that — and when Maurice Acker and David Cubillan are in the game the Golden Eagles are very short on the perimeter as well. Free throws late in games have been a particular problem, so if the team is still shooting one-and-ones in the final minutes, no lead is safe.