Two intriguing teams will match up in the round of 16 that have taken similar paths to get where they are. Marquette and Miami both had to survive tough 3rd round matchups to get to this sweet 16 appearance. This is a match up that pure basketball enthusiasts will love. Both teams get after one another and create matchups that result in exciting play.
Marquette had a difficult 3rd round contest with Tournament darlings Butler. They were led by the fantastic performance of guard Vander Blue who had 29 big points to go along with 4 steals. Blue was also the hero, scoring the game winning layup, in their second round matchup against Davidson. Another comeback was in order as Marquette trailed by 8 at the half. They used pressure defense to slowly chip away at the lead and they were able to take a 4 point lead with 4.7 seconds left. After a goaltending call gave 2 points to Butler Marquette had to inbound with a 2 point lead and 2.9 seconds on the clock. This is where we thought we may see a hero become a goat when Blue threw his inbounds pass out of bounds giving Butler possession under its own basket with a chance to tie or win the game. Luckily they were able to swarm the ball defensively and the shot by Andrew Smith was off and Marquette advanced.
Miami had a tough fight on its hands with Illinois. While the Hurricanes surround star sophomore point guard Shane Larkin with four seniors in the starting lineup, however it was the play of reserve junior guard that kept Miami alive during scoring droughts. He finished with 21 points and connected on 5 three pointers. Miami managed to keep the game at their methodical pace while limiting the game to only 55 possessions. Larkin connected on a late 3 pointer to give the Hurricanes a 2 point lead. After a missed shot by Illinois the ball appeared to glance off of the hand of Miami’s Kenny Kadhi however it was ruled Miami’s possession. After further review there was no clear video evidence as to whom the ball hit last and possession remained with Miami. Durand Scott proceeded to make 2 free throws and the game was over.
Marquette is known for applying pressure and it will need to if they want to survive past Miami. Shane Larkin will be the primary focus for any team trying to beat the Hurricanes. He scored or assisted on 49% of his team’s baskets on Sunday and 44% in the first round. Clearly, he is their leader and go-to player. Miami will not be able to survive a poor performance or foul trouble from Larkin. Marquette has had 2 tremendously close games so far this tournament and it would not be a surprise to see another one. They play 10 players deep every game and can be very unpredictable. The only thing that is virtually guaranteed is that this should be an entertaining game. Miami will also be playing without injured center Reggie Johnson. He is a strong defensive and rebounding presence who will be missed
This game should have a little something for everyone. The star point guard, the balanced team that has no true star, and two teams leaving it all out on the floor. In the end Marquette will not be able to withstand the physical presence that Miami presents.
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