Big East Tourney Kicks Off

Jerel McNeal was sidelined for Marquette during last season's Big East tournament, which helped contribute to the team's early exit.

Looking to help the Golden Eagles make their first extended run in this event, McNeal and No. 25 Marquette takes on Seton Hall in the first round at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Marquette –10.5 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 85% of bets for this game have been placed on Marquette -10.5 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

Because of an injured right thumb, McNeal missed Marquette's final four games last season, including two conference tournament games and a loss to Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA tournament. McNeal, who ranked second for the Golden Eagles last season with 14.7 points per game, is leading the team this season with 13.6 points and a Big East-leading 2.3 steals per contest.

He scored 22 points and added six rebounds in Marquette's final game of the regular season - an 87-72 loss at Syracuse on Saturday. Wesley Matthews added 14 points, but the Golden Eagles couldn't overcome 58 percent shooting from the field by the Orange, as they lost for the second time in three games.

Marquette, which is holding Big East opponents to 68.4 points this season, has given up an average of 77.3 in the last three games.

"We've just got to have a different defensive attitude," coach Tom Crean said. "The story of the game for us was we did not create enough points off our defense. That's how we play. We weren't physical enough, we weren't aggressive enough and they capitalized."

Marquette comes into the Big East tournament as the No. 6 seed for the second straight season. In 2007, the Golden Eagles defeated St. John's in the first round, but lost to Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals. They are 13-17 all-time in league tournaments, and 1-2 since joining the Big East for the 2005-06 season.

Crean said his team is excited about playing at the Garden, and is taking things one game at a time.

"We don't have a lot of goals, but we feel like if we can get to the semifinal game on Friday night that you have an opportunity to play for it all," Crean said. "Getting to the championship is incredible, winning it would be incredible, but if you're playing in the Friday night semifinal game that's what we aspire to get to, and I think we can do that."

Marquette has beaten Seton Hall (17-14) twice this season and four straight times as part of the Big East, including an 89-64 rout on Feb. 12 in the last meeting.

Seton Hall has lost three straight and eight of 10, including a 64-61 loss to Rutgers in its regular season finale on Sunday. Despite shooting just 31.4 percent from the field, the Pirates blew a 17-point lead and lost on JR Inman's 3-pointer at the buzzer.

"For me, this was the most crushing, disappointing loss of my life, my life, ever in nine years as a head coach," Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez said.

Jeremy Hazell scored 19 points and Brian Laing added 16 points and 10 rebounds. Laing, who was named first team All-Big East on Monday, is averaging 19.0 points and 7.0 rebounds this season.

Seton Hall gave up a league-high 76.3 points during the conference season. The Pirates are 17-27 all-time in the Big East tournament, including 7-12 in the first round. They've lost in the first round the last three times they were in the tournament.

The winner of this game will face 14th-ranked Notre Dame on Thursday.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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