How safe is Marquette’s road to the tournament?

The optimism surrounding men’s basketball took a hit Saturday with a loss to Providence, but Marquette still has a path to make the tournament for the first time since 2013.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, Sports Illustrated’s Michael Beller and CBS’s bracket all have Marquette as an eight seed in their latest Bracketology. Teamrankings.com has Marquette at a 67.5 percent chance of making the tournament, slightly down from the 79 percent the Golden Eagles were at before the Providence loss.

So, the loss to the Friars isn’t a back-breaker, but it certainly gives Marquette far less wiggle room.

The Golden Eagles are 5-4 in BIG EAST play and now have a handful of resume-building wins. Villanova is obviously at the top of that list. Marquette’s victory against Creighton, who was playing without injured Maurice Watson, took a hit with the Bluejays’ 20-point loss to Georgetown. If the Bluejays stabilize after a beatdown of DePaul Saturday, a win at one of the toughest places to play in college basketball will be looked at fondly by the selection committee.

The victory against Georgia in non-conference will also help. The Bulldogs sit just outside the top 50 in RPI and KenPom. And just as valuable as the wins is Marquette’s lack of horrific losses. Michigan, Pittsburgh and Seton Hall are all on the bubble currently.

Luckily for Marquette, it’s already gone through the tougher half of the conference schedule. Of the nine remaining games, four are against teams in the bottom half of the conference: at St. John’s, at DePaul, at Georgetown and at Providence. KenPom favors the Golden Eagles in all but two of their remaining games: Georgetown and Xavier.

It also helps that it’s a down year for mid-majors. There aren’t many teams from smaller conferences with good enough resumes that would get in even without winning their conference tournament. The Atlantic 10 is projected to get only one or two teams in the field, while the American Athletic Conference’s only shots are SMU and Cincinnati barring a surprising upset in the conference’s tournament. The teams on the bubble are far from impressive.

Although it is hard to make this a simply numerical game, if Marquette gets to 10 wins in the conference, that’s usually good enough to make the tournament. Both Providence and Butler were 10-8 last season and made it in, and Marquette already has wins that will impress the selection committee. However, if Marquette’s losses come against teams like St. John’s and DePaul, that could drag the team down more than wins against Georgetown and a Maurice Watson Jr.-less Creighton will raise them up.

In many ways, Marquette controls its own destiny. If the Golden Eagles win the games against the teams below them and lose against the teams above them on the remaining schedule, they should be in. But as we’ve seen this week, the games don’t always go down the way they are supposed to on paper.