2012 Big East Conference Tournament
Thursday, 3/8/12, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, TV: ESPN
#2 Marquette Golden Eagles (25-6, 14-4 Big East) vs. #7 Louisville Cardinals (23-9, 11-8)
Madison Square Garden – New York, New York
Opening Line: Marquette -3
Current Line: Marquette -3
Opening Total: 135
Current Total: 135
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker
The second-seeded and ninth-ranked Marquette Golden Eagles earned individual honors that not even the regular-season conference champion and top-seeded Syracuse Orange could boast about heading into their Big East tournament quarterfinal matchup with the seventh-seeded Louisville Cardinals on Thursday. The Golden Eagles (25-6, 14-4 Big East) tied a school record for most conference wins and put two of their starters on the All-Big East first team, led by Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder.
But can Marquette (-3, O/U 135) perform up to expectations this year after making a surprising run to the Sweet 16 in 2011? Last season, the Golden Eagles slipped under the radar and snuck into the NCAA tournament as a No. 11 seed, but they squeezed the Orange out of the Big Dance in the second round with a thrilling 66-62 victory before losing 81-63 to North Carolina.
An 81-56 loss to Louisville (23-9, 11-8) last year in the Big East tournament quarterfinals sent Marquette home after the team won its previous two games to lock up an NCAA tournament bid. Then-sophomore sharpshooter Mike Marra scored a career-high 22 points off the bench for the Cardinals, hitting 6 of 10 shots from 3-point range. Marra suffered a torn ACL in their second game against Lamar last November 13 and was then ruled out for the season.
Louisville has won ugly for most of the year without Marra and looked even worse in the team’s losses. The Cardinals are coming off a 61-55 win over No. 10 seed Seton Hall on Wednesday in second-round action, shooting just 39 percent from the field and 57 percent from the free-throw line. The Pirates also outrebounded them 36-25 but made only 33 percent of their shots from the field and had 17 turnovers compared to eight for Louisville. The total has gone UNDER in the past five games for the Cardinals.
The Golden Eagles actually sank one less basket than Louisville in a 74-63 home victory on January 16 but made up for that discrepancy at the charity stripe. They scored 12 more points at the free-throw line, with the Cardinals making just 4 of 10. Free-throw shooting has not been a strength of Louisville, as the team makes just 68 percent to rank 11th in the Big East.
Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom, who also made the All-Big East first team, scored a team-high 19 points in the first meeting while Crowder scored 14 and had a team-high 11 rebounds. Russ Smith led Louisville with a game-high 20 points and Chris Smith added 19, as the duo connected on 7 of 14 shots from beyond the arc. But their teammates missed all nine of their 3-point attempts.
The winner will face the winner between No. 6 South Florida and No. 3 Notre Dame in the semifinals on Friday at 9:00 p.m. (ET).