Everything you need to know for MUBB vs. South Carolina
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GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA — Marquette, welcome to the big dance.
The Golden Eagles make their return to the NCAA Tournament tonight, flying south to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks. It’s Marquette’s first tournament appearance since 2013, and the first under head coach Steve Wojciechowski.
“We’re incredibly excited to be here,” Wojciechowski said. “I’m so happy for my players, my staff, the entire Marquette community.”
Here’s everything you need to know before watching tonight’s action.
Men’s basketball vs. South Carolina
Where: The Bons Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina
When: 8:50 p.m. central standard time
Radio: Wire sports commentators Connor Basch and Grant Becker are on the call at marquettewire.org/listen
Scouting the enemy
If Marquette wins tonight, it likely means South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell had a quiet game. Wire sports reporter Andrew Goldstein broke down his game earlier this week, explaining how his ability to draw fouls and rebounding could make him hard for Marquette to stop.
Abe Danaher, the sports editor of The Daily Gamecock, talked about what to expect from the team as a whole. We touched on the difference in style between the two teams, with Marquette ranking as a top 10 offense and South Carolina a top 10 defense.
“They are going to win or lose the game on how their defense plays,” Danaher said. “They will be pressuring your guards. I think the game will be decided by how Marquette can handle the pressure defense that has really terrorized many of the teams that South Carolina has beat this year.”
Marquette hasn’t played South Carolina since 2005, but Andrew Rowsey has history with the Gamecocks. He was a sharpshooter against South Carolina in 2014 while with UNC Asheville, scoring 30 points on 10-for-18 shooting and 6-for-12 shooting from 3-point range. He also snagged four steals, but South Carolina pulled out a 89-75 victory.
“We weren’t as bad as it makes it sound,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. “He’s just a real good player. We guarded him pretty good that day. He just knows how to play.”
“He’s playing his tail off right now. I watched some of their games early this year. And he’s playing in a completely different place now right now. He’s got that confidence going. He’s aggressive. He’s got that unbelievable knack to get to the foul line with his shot fakes. And if you’re late on any coverage, that ball’s in the net.”
South Carolina received a favorable landing spot in the tournament, as the Gamecocks were able to stay in their home state. Greenville is only an hour and 36 minutes from South Carolina’s campus, meaning the crowd likely favor South Carolina tonight.
“It’s huge,” South Carolina’s Duane Notice said. “We’re the type of team that we play off of our home crowd, things like that. I know once we get on a run and get things going and we kind of hear the building erupt and just see familiar faces and things like that, and everybody just play loose and relaxed and be willing to be at the top of their game.”
There should still be a decent Marquette contingent, as the Marquette ticket office sold all the tickets it was given by the NCAA. Some Duke fans could also stay after the Blue Devils’ game ends to root for Wojciechowski, but the players are prepared for a hostile environment.
“We’re going to try to treat it as any other road game in the Big East,” Markus Howard said.
The NCAA vet
Katin Reinhardt is the only Golden Eagle with NCAA Tournament experience, making trips to the tourney with UNLV and USC. He’s the second player in NCAA history to make the tournament with three different teams, and Wojciechowski, Howard and Luke Fischer all said his experience made a big difference for the team this season. Read more about Reinhardt’s story here.
Wojo and Coach K’s relationship
Despite Marquette focusing on South Carolina, it’s hard not to peek at the tremendous storyline that would take place with a Golden Eagles’ victory. With No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Troy on the other side, it likely would mean a matchup between Wojciechowski and his alma mater, coached by his mentor, Mike Krzyzewski.
Krzyewski complimented the work his former player and associate head coach has done at Marquette, focusing on Marquette’s shooting ability and Wojciechowski’s flexibility.
“I think what Steve has done is he’s taken the talent that he has and meshed it into a style that can beat you instead of trying to fit guys into another style that wouldn’t be as successful,” Krzyzewski said.
Krzyzewski said after knowing each other for about 20 years they’ve become a part of each other’s family.
“And besides that, he’s Polish,” Krzyzewski said. “So we share an even greater bond. And he didn’t change his name and I didn’t change mine.”
BIG EAST update
The BIG EAST Conference went 3-0 yesterday, as Villanova, Butler and Xavier are all moving on. That moves the conference to 3-1, with Providence falling to USC in the first four.
Two other BIG EAST squads are in action today, with Seton Hall playing Arkansas in Greenville at 12:30 and Creighton battling Rhode Island at 3:30.