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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

LEUZZI: Marquette is good but still needs to prove itself in March

Photo by Katie Craig
Marquette men’s basketball earned the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament after winning its first conference regular season title.

This. Is. March. 

These three simple words have become three famous words tweeted out repeatedly by national college basketball insider Jon Rothstein during the month.

It’s a time that college basketball fans often coin “the best time of the year.” 

That is unless you are a Marquette fan. 

Marquette enters March as one of the more surprising teams this season but the narrative still remains the same, the Golden Eagles haven’t won anything in the postseason since 2013.

Picked to finish ninth in the Big East preseason coaches poll, Marquette (25-6, 17-3 Big East) entered the season with the fourth-least experienced power conference team in the country according to KenPom and least experienced in the Big East.

Marquette then took down then-No. 6 Baylor Nov. 29, its highest-ranked win under Smart. Since Jan. 1, the Golden Eagles have gone 14-2, which included three Quad 1 ranked wins. 

With its win over Butler Feb. 28, Marquette became the lowest Big East preseason picked team to claim the league’s regular season title in its 44-year history. 

Four different players have already received Big East postseason honors.

Tyler Kolek was named All-Big East First Team (unanimous selection) while both Oso Ighodaro and Kam Jones were tabbed All-Big East Second Team. David Joplin earned the Big East Sixth Man Award.

Head coach Shaka Smart and Kolek are expected to win Big East coach and player of the year honors respectively as well but that won’t be announced until Wednesday.

But again something is still missing in this: a win in March. 

Even though the Golden Eagles are the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament this week at Madison Square Garden, they aren’t the favorites to earn the conference’s automatic bid for the big dance. DraftKings Sportsbook currently lists UConn as the favorites at +190 with Marquette and Creighton tied for second at +320. 

Don’t get me wrong, Marquette is talented and has exceeded expectations all season, but the team isn’t talented enough to win the Big East Tournament. 

At least not this year. And here’s why. 

Assuming Marquette takes care of business on Thursday in the quarterfinals against either St. John’s or Butler and UConn takes care of its own business against Providence, the Golden Eagles will match up with the Huskies in Friday’s semifinals. 

That’s a matchup that is not favorable whatsoever for Marquette on paper. 

All you need to know is how the Feb. 7 game between both teams went. 

UConn looked like the team that began the season 14-0 in the first half that night — especially on the glass, finishing with a 40-19 rebounding edge. 

But if Providence takes down UConn Thursday, I could see Marquette playing under the lights in the World’s Most Famous Arena come Saturday night. 

Regardless of what happens at Madison Square Garden, the Golden Eagles will make their second March Madness appearance under Smart. 

Currently, Marquette is listed as a No. 3 seed in ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s March 5 bracket projection. That would be the highest NCAA seed for the Golden Eagles since the 2012-13 season.

If you asked me at the end of January, I would have said the ceiling for the Golden Eagles would have been borderline Final Four, a projection solely based on how their offense was humming and how they were playing at that point of the season.

But a month later, it is Sweet 16 or Elite 8. Why the change?

First, Marquette has seen a decline in offense efficiency since the start of February as it has dropped to the No. 4 ranked offense on after sitting at No. 1 for weeks.

Secondly, since Feb. 1, Marquette ranks 38th overall in the country, 33rd in offense and 68th in defense according to T-Rank.

And then there is the inevitable Achilles heel that Marquette brings with itself: lack of size and height. For example, if Marquette has to play teams like Arizona, Kansas or Kentucky that have elite forwards, it won’t stand a chance.

But what do I know? Maybe Shaka Smart and the Golden Eagles will “Shaka the world” like Smart did in 2011 at VCU bringing the Rams to the Final Four. 

Time and matchups only will tell.

This article was written by John Leuzzi. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JohnLeuzziMU. 

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About the Contributor
Katie Craig, Staff Photographer
Katie is a Staff Photographer at the Wire. She is a first-year from Lakeville, MN studying digital media and minoring in advertising. In her free time, Katie enjoys photography and hanging out with her friends. This year Katie is looking forward to getting to know more people and improving her photography skills.

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