The road to the 2013 Final Four was finally unveiled on Sunday and the Marquette Golden Eagles, fresh off of a share of their first Big East title in program history, begin their quest in the Bluegrass State on Thursday as a three seed in the East Region, where they will face the 14th-seeded Davidson Wildcats.
One of eight Big East affiliates to earn entrance into the Big Dance (headlined by the Louisville Cardinals, who were pegged as the tournament’s top overall seed), Marquette (23-8, 14-4), making their eighth consecutive trip to college basketball’s showcase event, garnered a three seed for the second consecutive season.
“I think it’s deserved,” noted MU head coach Buzz Williams, who is 5-4 in NCAA tournament play since supplanting Tom Crean on the Marquette sidelines following the 2007-08 season, as reported by jsonline.com. “For us to have won 14 games [in the Big East] with what we lost says a lot about these kids.”
Come Thursday, the Golden Eagles will face a Davidson (26-7, 17-1) squad entering postseason play on quite a roll.
Winners of the Southern Conference regular season (South division) and tournament crowns, respectively, the Wildcats, who lost to Louisville in the Second Round of the NCAA tournament a season ago, have notched 17 straight victories and are making their fourth NCAA tournament appearance in seven years.
Led by head coach Bob McKillop, in his 24th year with the university and an eight-time recipient of the Southern Conference Coach of the Year Award, the Wildcats (Davidson, N.C.) hold top-50 national rankings in points per game (73.7, 38th) and field goal percentage (.463, 42nd) and are anchored by the frontcourt duo of De’Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen.
Cohen, a 6’10”, 235-pound senior hailing from Berwyn, Penn., is the Wildcats’ leading scorer (14.8 ppg) and second-leading rebounder (5.5 rpg) and enters Thursday’s Second Round match up with MU averaging 17.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per outing since Feb. 2.
In turn, Cohen, the SoCon Player of the Year whose 36 three-point makes is fourth on the team, has served as Davidson’s most efficient interior defender as the 22-year-old forward boasts a team-best 1.7 blocks per game average.
The 6’7”, 227-pound Brooks, a 2012 AP All-American Honorable Mention selection as a sophomore, meanwhile, stands as the Wildcats’ leading rebounder (6.2 rpg) and has notched double-digit scoring efforts in all but eight of the 33 contests he has played in during the 2012-13 campaign; most notably a 24-point showing against the College of Charleston on Monday in the SoCon tournament final.
A relatively deep club, Davidson, perhaps preserved in March Madness lore resulting from their run to the Elite Eight in 2008 behind the heroics of Stephen Curry, has seven players on its roster who average at least 7.3 points per outings and seven who play at least 21 minutes per outing.
Marquette, coming off of back-to-back Sweet 16 berths for the first time since 1977, should it upend Davidson, would face off of against the victory of the No. 6 Butler - No. 11 Bucknell affair on Saturday.