The Big East player of the year, Jae Crowder has been the catalyst for Marquette's best season since Dwyane Wade took the Golden Eagles to the Final Four in 2003. Marquette is 25-7 going into Thursday's second-round game against BYU, and its No. 3 seed matches the school record. Crowder finished in the top 10 in the Big East in both scoring and rebounding, averaging 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds, and was second in the league with 2.4 steals a game. But it was down the stretch that he was at his best.
In the Golden Eagles' wild comeback against Villanova on Jan. 28, Crowder capped the 10-point run that got Marquette back into the game with a 3-pointer as he fell, and finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Three days later, with Wade and LeBron James sitting courtside, Crowder had another double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds. They’ll bring the better defense to the table which is especially impressive considering they faced a much more difficult schedule. This is a team that will harass the ball and force turnovers, bad news for BYU who just committed 20 against Iona.
It was a great comeback win for BYU in its play-in game against Iona but plenty of red flags suggest this team simply isn’t ready for the step up in class they’ll face in this matchup. BYU repeatedly failed when stepping up against quality opponents in 2011-12. They were blown out by the two best teams in the WCC every time they traveled; the Cougars suffered a 19-point loss to Gonzaga in the conference tournament, an 11-point loss to the Zags away and a 16-point loss to St. Mary’s away. Their one big step up away from home against a “power conference” school? A 17-point loss to Wisconsin. Marquette brings a toughness and maturity that comes not just from banging in the Big East all year but also from a strong tournament run a season ago with much the same roster that knocked off both Xavier and Syracuse in the Big Dance. Lean to the over 153.5 as well. GL