I've been thinking a lot about Marquette and the game SU played against them in late February. My first feeling was concern that Marquette has already beaten us and maybe they're one of those teams suited to beat us again. But my next feeling was that the February Marquette game actually felt like a lucky win for the Golden Eagles.
Let's go back through some of the numbers and see ...
Marquette 74, Syracuse 71
Fouls - Syracuse 22, Marquette 10
A 2:1 foul and 5:1 free throw advantage isn't likely to happen again. Although the Golden Eagles are better at drawing fouls this season than committing them (574 fouls vs. 646 against), at about .88 fouls committed vs. against. However, by comparison, the Orange are at about the same ratio (607:698) at .87 fouls committed vs. against.
Marquette was at .73 fouls committed vs. against Miami, so even if they match that performance you can expect it to be more around 20 fouls for Syracuse and 15 for Marquette.
Free throws - Marquette 29/35, Syracuse 5/7
Looking at Free Throws alone: while the fouls should be closer than last matchup, the free throws in particular should be SIGNIFICANTLY closer. The Orange and Eagles both averaged just over 21 free throws made per game. No way Marquette matches a 5:1 ratio.
Rebounds - Marquette 33, Syracuse 27
It felt like Marquette dominated the rebounds in this game, but it really was closer than it seemed. On the season, both teams were very close in overall rebounds (35.2 for Marquette, 38.6 for SU), and during their sweet 16 wins, they each outrebounded their opponent by a slim margin (+4 for Marquette, +1 for SU). This will probably be close again.
Points in the paint - Syracuse 30, Marquette 24
Another stat that seems different than the way the game felt. The Orange actually scored more in the paint, though you could probably argue that Marquette's biggest buckets came from inside in the 2nd half as they made their run. Marquette scored 40 points in the paint against Miami, while the Orange scored 30 against Indiana. Expect Marquette to do some more work here, so SU will have to offset this scoring somewhere.
SU 3-pointers - 8/24 (33%)
Syracuse shot 36.4% on Thursday and 33.8% on the season. Miami looked lost and still put up 30.8% from 3s on Thursday against Marquette. Shouldn't be hard to hit at least the same amount on Saturday.
Davante Gardner - 7/7 from the field, 12/13 from the line, 26 points
This is where SU will benefit significantly as well. Davante Gardner had a career game against the Orange. And there is virtually no way he will repeat it. Gardner averages 58% from the field, which is pretty solid. He shot 100% against Syracuse in February. He also averages 84% from the free throw line, which again is fantastic. He shot 92% against Syracuse. If Gardner shot his averages in February, he would have shot 4/7 from the field and 11/13 from the line. That would have given him 19 points instead of 26, which more than covers the difference.
The point is. Marquette is extremely unlikely to have another game where they get every single call and Davante Gardner misses 1 of 20 shots from the field and the free throw line. Even WITH all that, they still had to grind their way to a 3 point lead at home. The Verizon Center will not be a friendly environment to them (potentially affecting foul calls too).
Not saying it's a lock or anything. I'm just saying Marquette needs to have a GREAT game to beat Syracuse, just like they did in February. While I think the Orange probably only need to have a pretty good game, and watch Marquette come back down to earth, in order to win.