Going into the final game of the regular season, the # 20 Golden Eagles (22-7, 11-6 Big East) face a tough test when they travel to upstate New York to face Syracuse. Picking up a key 85-73 conference road win Wednesday at Seton Hall, the Orange (18-9, 8-9 Big East) desperately need a win at home Saturday to keep their NCAA hopes alive.
Orange NCAA Resume
Syracuse is banking on their #8 national strength of schedule to convince the selection committee they are deserving of an NCAA bid. A 1-7 record against the RPI top 50 and a 5-5 record in their last ten games makes a win over Marquette (RPI #20) a must. The Orange, sitting squarely on the NCAA bubble, need to improve their #52 RPI before Selection Sunday.
Everyone in the house Saturday knows this is a must win game for the Orange. Possibly the final home game of the season (NIT berth) and with an NCAA dance ticket on the line the young and energetic Syracuse team will feed off the home crowd atmophere. Getting off to a good start and taking the crowd out of the game will be key for the Golden Eagles.
Guards Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews have been starting together in the Marquette backcourt since they arrived on campus three seasons ago. Their chemistry on both ends of the floor spark the Golden Eagles' scoring. Syracuse's young backcourt led by super-frosh Jonny Flynn will have the daunting task of containing the ultra-quick James' penetration and keeping MU transition points to a minimum.
PLAYER POS PTS REB AST
Jonny Flynn G 15.7 2.7 5.2
Kris Ongenaet F 3.9 4.3 1.0
Donte Greene F 17.4 7.5 1.9
Paul Harris F 14.5 8.3 3.4
Arinze Onuaku F-C 12.9 8.1 0.7
Though they do not have as much on the line, Marquette will not take this game lightly. Head coach Tom Crean will use this road test and hostile atmosphere as a final prep for the Golden Eagles' runs in the Big East and NCAA Tournaments.