The seventh-seeded Louisville Cardinals will seeded Marquette Golden Eagles tonight when the two square off in the quarterfinal round of the 2012 Big East Conference Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
The winner of this matchup will advance to Friday's semifinal round to face the victor of the day's final Big East game between South Florida and Notre Dame.
Louisville holds a 40-26 lead in its all-time series with Marquette. The Golden Eagles narrowed the margin earlier this year when they defeated the Cardinals, 74-63, at the Bradley Center. Marquette trailed by 16 points in the first half of the contest, but managed to overcome that deficit before the intermission.
Coach Rick Pitino guided his team to a 61-55 victory over the Seton Hall Pirates on Wednesday's in its tourney debut. Although their scoring output was not overwhelming, the Cardinals' 61 points on Wednesday broke a four-game stretch of being held under 60 points. Louisville played much better in the second half against the Pirates, as it knocked down 55 percent of its field goal attempts to create a little distance. The best part of the Cardinals' victory was their improvement in ball handling. After turning the ball over 14 times or more in six straight contests, Louisville had just nine turnovers on Wednesday.
Marquette has been the most impressive team in the Big East this season not named Syracuse. The Golden Eagles have been unstoppable and averaged a league- best 76.1 ppg. Coach Buzz Williams has done an excellent job getting his team to play unselfish basketball. Marquette's success has come as it hands out 17.0 assists per game, which is the sixth highest average in the nation. Williams and the Golden Eagles are still in search of their first trip to the Big East Tournament's championship game. Marquette will use its excellent distribution to try to avenge its 2010-2011 81-56 loss to the Cardinals in last year's quarterfinal round.
Peyton Siva had received criticism for his inconsistent play heading into the postseason. The Cardinals' point guard silenced the critics on Wednesday as he scored a team-high 14 points and swiped six steals to lead the team past Seton Hall. Kyle Kuric managed to add 13 points despite continuing to struggle with his shot. The senior swingman went 2-of-10 from three-point range in the victory. Pitino is still encouraging Kuric to keep firing, as he is aware of his ability to become a game-changer when he catches fire. Russ Smith and Chris Smith are both excellent scorers for Louisville as well.
The Cardinals will have to stop the highest scoring duo in the league to advance. Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom of Marquette were two of six players named to the All-Big East First Team. Johnson-Odom averaged 18.9 ppg while Crowder chipped in 18 points and 8.3 rebounds per game to earn the Big East Player of the Year award. Junior Cadougan is partially responsible for his high-scoring teammates success. Cadougan leads the team in assists with 5.5 per game.