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Marquette vs Kansas Maui Invitational Preview

The Jayhawks and Golden Eagles square off for a spot in the Maui Invitational title game.
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It wasn’t the prettiest win, but the Kansas Jayhawks advanced in the winners’ bracket of the Maui Invitational after defeating Chaminade 83-56. The Jayhawks will need to be on their game the next two days as a pair of top-10 teams wait for them no matter how the results fall. And first up is No. 4 Marquette.

Opponent Overview

Team: Marquette

Record: 4-0

KenPom: 12

Line: KU -4.5

Team Form

Shaka Smart’s Golden Eagles overcame a halftime deficit and drained the winning three-pointer with 36 seconds left to escape past UCLA in the first round 71-69. Marquette is now 4-0 with wins over two top-35 KenPom teams (UCLA and Illinois) to go along with convincing wins over Northern Illinois and Rider. Though it’s tough to know how good this UCLA team is since Marquette was the first team the Bruins had played that wasn’t ranked in the 300s in KenPom.

Players to Watch

What makes Marquette so dangerous is that it brought back a core of players that have proven it at a high level. Tyler Kolek is the most well-known Golden Eagle. The reigning Big East Player of the Year is averaging 13.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.8 assists so far this year while hitting five of nine from deep. And maybe most impressive? He’s only fouled three times in four games. Marquette goes as Kolek goes.

But the best offensive player so far has been Kam Jones. Jones is averaging 17.5 points per game on 60% shooting from two and 46% from three to go with four rebounds and 2.3 assists. UCLA was able to contain Jones, who had a season-low 12 points as he fouled out in just 22 minutes on the court.

Down low, senior Oso Ighodaro will provide a good matchup for Hunter Dickinson. Ighodaro is averaging 13.3 points and 7.5 rebounds and those numbers could even be higher because he has gotten to the line seven times per game so far this year. The problem is he’s only making 46% of them.

The Golden Eagles’ best player against UCLA was David Joplin, a 6-8 junior who went 5-11 from three while scoring a team-high 19 points.

Matchups to Watch

The pace of this game is going to be fascinating to watch. KU is 12th nationally in average possession length and Marquette is ninth, which means we might see a lot of up-and-down action with a ton of possessions. The Golden Eagles also get the most of these possessions because they do a great job of taking care of the ball. Marquette is 11th in offensive turnover rate and only averages 8.3 turnovers per game, while turning opponents over nearly 15 times. And the one area Kansas needs to work on the most is protecting the ball and not giving up possessions.

From a style standpoint, Marquette is going to take a ton of threes. Forty-three percent of its field goal attempts are from three, and it's only shooting 35.8% so far, but a hot night could make for a long one for KU.

A major weakness is going to make for a fascinating contrasting of styles. Marquette is not a protect-the-paint type of team. The Golden Eagles are one of the worst teams at blocking shots, they give up a ton of offensive rebounds, and they don’t grab a ton of offensive rebounds themselves. And while they get to the line a decent amount, they’re shooting just 61.2% as a team, which is 325th in the country.


This has the makings of a memorable Maui game. Marquette could get hot from three and get out and run, but will poor free-throw shooting and a lack of rim protection cost it the game? Similarly, Kansas can pound the paint and get high-percentage shots, but it has to take care of the ball and prove it can hit an outside shot to keep the defense honest. And individually, Kolek against Dajuan Harris is going to be must-see TV.

Both of these teams are experienced and have already been battle-tested. Marquette will have less recovery time (playing the late game) and had to work harder to grind out a Monday win, but the effects of that might not be felt until Wednesday.

If I had to guess, this is a close, back-and-forth battle for the full 40 minutes, but I think Dickinson and Kevin McCullar are playing so well right now so I’ve got Kansas advancing to the title game, but Marquette narrowly covering the spread.

Kansas 84, Marquette 80

Record ATS: 3-1

Record Straight Up: 4-0

(Last game: Kansas 83, Chaminade 56)