Eagles get 4th seed with win, help

The two most compelling moments during the men's basketball game against Providence took place when a pair of men in attendance were honored at separate times on the Bradley Center JumboTron for their humanitarian work and received standing ovations.

In order of intrigue, those events were followed closely by the clamor over falling T-shirts, which were dropped from the arena rafters, attached to parachutes.

It didn't matter that the game was void of suspense and lacking a plethora of SportsCenter-worthy highlights. The only thing that mattered was Marquette won.

The Golden Eagles 88-78 victory over Providence, coupled with Pittsburgh's loss at home against Seton Hall on Friday, kept alive Marquette's slim chances of receiving the fourth seed, and first-round bye in the Big East tournament. That became a reality when South Florida defeated Georgetown for its first conference win of the year.

"I was excited," said Marquette head coach Tom Crean when asked about his reaction upon learning of the Bulls' improbable victory. "It was like perma-grin, when I heard it. That was the shocker that we would have an opportunity to do that. But again, the three teams that were in position for that to happen, we took care of business on Saturday. So the players did earn it."

Providence also entered Saturday's match needing the stars to align if it wanted to even qualify for the conference tournament. For the Friars to advance they needed to win, St. John's had to lose to Rutgers and Notre Dame had to fall to DePaul.

In the early going the Friars failed to grasp that urgency.

Within the first seven minutes of the game Providence head coach Tim Welsh had to call two 30-second timeouts because his team was unable to match Marquette's level of play on either end of the court.

It didn't get much better from there for the Friars. They shot 27.6 percent from the floor in the first half and 34.2 percent for the game. Providence was even worse from behind the arc, making only four of the 23 three-point shots they attempted.

On defense they allowed Marquette to shoot 51.7 percent from the floor and an absurd 61.1 percent from behind the arc.

Marquette was far from perfect, however, committing 19 turnovers, surrendering 30 offensive rebounds and losing the rebounding battle by 11 boards. This did not escape Crean's notice.

"Certainly giving up 30 offensive rebounds is not something you write home about," he said.

Crean later added: "Obviously the blocking out, the rebounding, our rotations a little bit defensively, our transition defense can continue to improve. I don't know if there's anything that we do really wrong. But I don't know if there's anything that we can look at and say, 'Well, if we don't work on this over the next few days then we're just going to continue be good at it.'"

The reason Marquette will have an extra day to prepare for its conference tournament game against either Georgetown or Notre Dame is the team's play has undergone continuous improvement during a season in which they enter the postseason at 20-9, 10-6 in the Big East.

In the fall most pundits thought Marquette would be very lucky to go 6-10 in conference play. Yet, the team continued to improve and the players believed anything was possible.

"I think that we definitely believed that we were capable of the things we've done this year," said senior Steve Novak. "At the beginning of the year there's no question a lot of people doubted us. … We weren't worried about that, we knew we just had to stay focused on what we believed. Within in the locker room we believed we could be this good."