Rivals don’t like being touted for their similarities. While many fans of Wisconsin and Marquette won’t want to hear it, the bitter rivals have been a lot alike this season.
Here are some of the ways Marquette and Wisconsin have mirrored each other this season.
Shattering preseason expectations
Based off preseason media polls, neither Wisconsin nor Marquette were expected to have strong seasons. The Badgers were picked to finish 10th in the Big Ten. Marquette was pegged ninth in the Big East. However, both teams are having sensational years and are ranked in the top 25.
Marquette started 0-3 in the Big East. Since then? Five consecutive wins, including three against Top 20 opponents.
This team was picked NINTH in the league preseason poll. Shaka Smart has to be a favorite for Coach of the Year. Incredible turnaround of this program in year one
— John Fanta (@John_Fanta) January 20, 2022
Wisconsin won the Maui Invitational that included wins over Houston and Saint Mary’s to put people on notice. The Maui Invitational also marked the arrival of Johnny Davis as a star, too. The Badgers have followed with a fantastic conference season as well which includes wins at Purdue and at Michigan State. Wisconsin has peaked at No. 8 in the AP Top-25 poll,
You know who else had a really good showing in the Maui Invitational? Greg Gard. #Badgers
— Tom Oates (@TomOatesWSJ) November 25, 2021
Marquette also had a solid nonconference with wins over Illinois, West Virginia and Kansas State. The conference slate is where the Golden Eagles have shone brightest, though. Marquette began 0-3 in Big East play, but responded with a seven-game win streak. Marquette has notched sweeps of Seton Hall and Villanova and has wracked up home wins over Providence and Xavier, too. The Golden Eagles are in the top-25 and have notched six wins – tying a school record – over ranked teams.
Teams with the most Quad 1 wins:
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 10, 2022
Stars are born
Davis has really come out of nowhere to be the frontrunner for National Player of the Year. He was expected to make a jump and be the go-to-guy for the Badgers. But this? Davis is averaging 20.7 points and 8.3 rebounds after averaging 7 points last year. Davis arrived with a blistering performance at the Maui Invitational in the nonconference. He then had a signature moment with 37 points and 14 rebounds in an awe-inspiring performance in an upset win over Purdue at Mackey Arena.
He's had 3 national player of the year games: 30 in a win over Houston. 37 in a win at Purdue. 27 tonight in a win at Northwestern. Hey, men's college basketball fans/teams/stakeholders, your current favorite for the @NaismithTrophy is @BadgerMBB Johnny Davis. https://t.co/0Sm3UlJrYq
— Andy Katz (@TheAndyKatz) January 19, 2022
Justin Lewis was expected to be a solid player this year for Marquette, but he has taken his game to another level. Lewis is averaging 16.8 points and 8 rebounds per game and the 6-foot-7 forward is a tough matchup as he is hitting 36.4 percent from 3. The forward has some big-time moments and performances leading the way for Marquette. Lewis hit a game-winning 3 at Villanova and he had a 33-point performance in the Golden Eagles’ win at Seton Hall.
FINAL: Marquette 73, Seton Hall 63
Fresh off its first AP ranking this season, #mubb keeps it rolling by winning its seventh straight.
Justin Lewis (college high 33 points) is a star.
— Ben Steele (@BenSteeleMJS) January 27, 2022
Young point guards making big impact
Chucky Hepburn has had the difficult task of being the starting point guard as a freshman. But his youth hasn’t shone much and he is playing very well and playing like a seasoned college player. His stats won’t blow you away, but Hepburn is a bulldog defensively and has done all coach Greg Gard and the Badgers could ask for and more.
I have raved about the defensive work of #Badgers Chucky Hepburn. Watch this sequence as he realizes he can come off his man and clog the driving lane to stymie Hall. He moves his feet and does not reach with his hands. High hoops IQ. pic.twitter.com/IqXM9yd9aD
— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) February 9, 2022
Tyler Kolek transferred to Marquette from George Mason and he’s been quite a coup for the Golden Eagles. While he isn’t shooting the ball well, Kolek leads the Big East in assists at 6 per game. He also averages 1.6 steals per game. He has been the engine for the Golden Eagles offense making things go with his precise passing.
Both Wisconsin and Marquette are young. Marquette is ranked 351st in experience according to KenPom.com and Wisconsin ranks 293rd out of 359 teams. However, fifth-year senior Brad Davison and senior transfer Darryl Morsell have been calming, experienced players for their respective teams. Davison is averaging 14.7 points per game and four rebounds per game while shooting over 35 percent from 3 for Wisconsin.
Morsell is putting together very similar stats. He came to Marquette with a defensive reputation, winning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2020-’21. Morsell has been strong defensively and averaging 1.7 steals per game, but he’s been as impactful offensively for the Golden Eagles, averaging 12.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and shooting 36.3 percent from 3.
Adds up to coach accolades
While Marquette and Wisconsin don’t want to be compared for how alike they are, when both teams are good, it’s beneficial to the rivalry. With the lack of expectations for both teams nationally and what the teams have done brings another similarity. Wisconsin coach Greg Gard and Marquette coach Shaka Smart could be the top two candidates for National Coach of the Year or at least on the short list. It wasn’t expected, but both coaches have shattered expectations and both Wisconsin and Marquette have gone from low expectations to aspirations of deep runs in March.
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