Western Kentucky vs. Marquette March Madness Preview and Prediction

In the No. 15 vs. No. 2 matchup in the NCAA Tournament South Region, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers face the Marquette Golden Eagles in first-round action.

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How to Watch Western Kentucky vs. Marquette

When: 2:00 pm ET on Friday, March 22nd

Where: Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana

Watch: TBS

Odds for Western Kentucky vs. Marquette

(odds current at time of publish)

Spread: Marquette -15

Total: 158.5

DraftKings Betting Splits | Live College Basketball Odds | Western Kentucky vs. Marquette Matchup

South Region No. 15 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Western Kentucky is going to make for an interesting matchup. The Hilltoppers play at the fastest adjusted tempo in all of college basketball, so facing them will definitely be unique. Western Kentucky also happens to have a really good player in Don McHenry, who had 25 points in a win over UTEP in the Conference USA championship game. The Hilltoppers also have a couple of other gritty players in the rotation. But Western Kentucky was outside the top 150 in offensive efficiency this season, and the team wasn’t in the top 100 in defense. So, this isn’t a very good basketball team, and the Hilltoppers would need to play uncharacteristically well in order to win a tournament game. 

South Region No. 2 Marquette Golden Eagles

There are a lot of question marks with Marquette entering the tournament. The Golden Eagles are a top 25 team in both offensive and defensive efficiency, so they have the balance required to be a championship team. They also have an outstanding duo in Tyler Kolek, one of the nation’s best pick-and-roll creators, and Oso Ighodaro, a two-way wrecking ball at the center spot. The two are also aided by the scoring punch of junior guard Kam Jones. The problem is that Kolek is banged up heading into the tournament, as he’s dealing with an oblique injury that forced him out of the Big East tournament. If Kolek is healthy, the team is capable of making a deep run. If not, the Golden Eagles will likely get bounced early.

Western Kentucky vs. Marquette Preview & Prediction

The status of Tyler Kolek will be the biggest talking point here, though Marquette played just fine without him in the Big East Tournament, making it all the way to the title game before the UConn buzzsaw caught them. Marquette does fit the profile of a National Championship contender by being top 20 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency per Bart Torvik and top 25 for Ken Pom.

Western Kentucky’s ability to take care of the basketball will dictate how this one goes. The Hilltoppers won the watered-down Conference USA crown, but turned the ball over on 19.5% of their possessions in league action. There are several aggressive defenses in that conference and they had some issues as a result.

This will be a really fast-paced game. Western Kentucky led the nation in adjusted tempo per Torvik and KenPom. We know Shaka Smart’s pressure-heavy defense speeds up games as well. Not only are turnovers a big point of contention, but WKU played an awful non-conference schedule and C-USA lost most of its top teams to the AAC, so that didn’t help in the SOS department.

This seems like a good matchup for Marquette. I’m curious to see how this team fares in the tournament, given the anti-Big East bias from the Selection Committee to seemingly turn its noses up at the conference. I’d be worried about Marquette running into Florida in a track meet type of game.

Estimated Score: Marquette 86, Western Kentucky 73

For expert predictions, go to our college basketball best bets page.