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March 17, 2008

MarquetteWatch.com's MU - UK Preview

There have been some memorable games between Marquette and Kentucky in recent NCAA tournament play.

Tony Miller slicing through the Kentucky defense leading MU to the Sweet Sixteen in 1994. Dwyane Wade's triple double versus the Cats during the Golden Eagles' run to the 2003 Final Four in New Orleans.

This time the roles are reversed with Marquette being the favorite when the teams face off Thursday at 1:30pm CST in Anaheim. After starting the season 6-7, the Wildcats have finished strong after buying into first-year coach Billy Gillispie's hard-hosed style. MarquetteWatch.com looks inside at keys to the opening round NCAA tournament game.

Battle of the Bigs

Or maybe, which teams big men will show up. Neither team boasts a dominant big man, so any contribution from the post will be key to either teams success. UK's loss of 6'9" Patrick Patterson to injury was viewed a devastating. In his abscence, a number a Cats have stepped up their game to pick up the scoring and rebounding slack. Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley have picked up the scoring load and Perry Stevenson has done a good job in the paint.

As for MU, Ousmane Barro's scoreless performance against Pitt shows the importance a down low threat for Marquette's backcourt.

UK's Big 2

Marquette led the Big East in steals this year due to great on-ball defense by their perimeter players. They will have their hands full with Kentucky's combo of Bradley and Crawford. Earlier in the season, they combined for 55 of the team's 71 points in a win over South Carolina. They average over 33 ppg combined and will test Marquette's backcourt both off the dribble and from deep.

Tempo, Tempo, Tempo

Depth has become an issue for Kentucky with injuries to Patterson, Jodie Meeks, Derrick Jasper, and the transfer of Alex Legion. Eleven times this season Bradley has logged over 40 minutes and four UK players played over 40 minutes in their SEC tourney loss to Georgia.

The Golden Eagles are deep in the backcourt and will try to push the tempo while UK will try to limit posessions by slowing the game down.

Banged up Wildcat

The health of UK's Jodie Meeks has been an issue all season. Coming into the season he was viewed one of top players on the squad. If he is able to play meaningful minutes, pressure will be taken off Crawford and Bradley to carry the scoring load. Without Meeks, depth for Kentucky will be an issue. They will try to slow the game and limit possessions to avoid getting into a track meet with the Golden Eagles.

Prediction

Golden Eagles - 64
Wildcats - 56



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