Milwaukee, WI – The 2011-12 college basketball campaign gets ranked team in the nation tonight, as the Marquette Golden Eagles entertain the Mountaineers of Mount St. Mary's at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
The Golden Eagles are coming off a 2010-11 campaign in which they finished 22-15 and were a break-ever 9-9 against other members of the Big East Conference. Marquette, under the direction of head coach Buzz Williams, made the NCAA Tournament for the 29th time and made it all the way to the round of 16 before bowing to North Carolina, 81-63.
As for the Mountaineers, they are under the direction of second-year head coach Robert Burke who last year took over for Milan Brown. Burke had trouble getting Mount St. Mary's into gear late in the 2010-11 campaign as the squad dropped four straight Northeast Conference bouts before closing with a 64-55 win against Saint Francis (Pa.). Unfortunately, the Mountaineers were bounced out of the NEC tournament immediately by Quinnipiac, 78-59, and finished with a record of just 11-21 overall, but 9-9 in conference.
As far as the all-time series between these two schools is concerned, this is the first-ever meeting. Last year, the Mountaineers suited up against another Big East program in Cincinnati and lost by a 69-59 final.
Last season, the Mountaineers had their issues scoring points, putting up just 60.6 ppg, yet they still found a way to win a total of 11 games so from time to time the squad was able to put all the pieces together. Junior guard Lamar Trice leads the way for Mount St. Mary's after putting up 13.3 ppg a year ago, shooting a respectable 41.6 percent from the floor. Trice connected on 62- of-174 from three-point range and when combined with Julian Norfleet (60- of-191) the guard duo was a tough matchup for a number of opponents. Now a junior, forward Danny Thompson (5.5 ppg) was the strongest rebounder for the group a year ago with six boards per contest, but with just 57.9 percent shooting at the free-throw line and a total of 13 assists in close to 700 minutes, he might not be the perfect player to always have on the floor.
The Golden Eagles are putting all their eggs in the basket of one Darius Johnson-Odom. The senior guard, who is the top returning scorer for the program with 15.8 ppg and considered one of the top performers in the Big East heading into this season, is a versatile player who also averaged 3.0 rpg and nearly two and a half assists per outing last year. Johnson-Odom, second on the team in free-throw attempts last year (121-171), was also the top three- point threat for the squad (71-of-195), second on that list was Jae Crowder (11.8 ppg) who is also back for another go. Chris Otule (5.1 ppg) started 35 games for the Golden Eagles a year ago, but he really wasn't a main contributor at the offensive end, although he did post a team-high 55 blocked shots in an effort to make up for having just five assists the entire season.