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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Marquette defending its crown in highly-anticipated season

Marquette+mens+basketball+celebrates+its+first-ever+Big+East+Tournament+Championship+on+the+floor+of+Madison+Square+Garden.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Marquette+Athletics.%29
Marquette men’s basketball celebrates its first-ever Big East Tournament Championship on the floor of Madison Square Garden. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

At the 2022 Big East Media Day, Tyler Kolek said “F— ’em” to the doubters that predicted the Golden Eagles to finish ninth in the Big East. This year, he didn’t have anything outlandish to say in front of the press because every analyst knows what the team is capable of.

For the first time since the 1977-78 season, No. 5 Marquette men’s basketball is ranked in the top ten of the Associated Press Top 25 Men’s College Basketball Poll.

On top of that, the Golden Eagles have been voted to finish first in the Big East Preseason Coaches Poll with Creighton a mere four points behind in second place and reigning national champions UConn in third.

CBS college basketball reporter Jon Rothstein said that with these expectations, the Golden Eagles are in uncharted territory.

“The dynamic has changed,” Rothstein said. “Last year at this time, we’re all asking ourselves, ‘How is this program going to replace Darryl Morsell and Justin Lewis?’ Now, everything shifts. Marquette goes from being the hunter to the hunted.”

Last year, nobody on the Marquette roster earned any preseason honors. That’s turned around this season with Kolek being named an Associated Press Preseason First Team All American and Big East Preseason Player of the Year. Senior forward Oso Ighodaro and junior guard Kam Jones also made the Preseason All-Big East Second Team.

Although Marquette’s 2022-23 season accolades included a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament along with Big East regular season and tournament championships, a new campaign lies ahead with elevated expectations of how they will perform this time.

Sam Vecenie, an NBA and college basketball writer for The Athletic, named Kolek as the No. 1 point guard in the country.

“Kolek does everything you need a lead guard to do. He works perfectly in tandem with Marquette big man Oso Ighodaro to run the show for the nation’s best offense, moving the ball around and getting it to his teammates in the best positions,” Vecenie wrote. “He’s a truly great college guard who thrives in the oceans of space that the Golden Eagles’ offense gives him.”

John Fanta, national college basketball broadcaster and writer for Fox Sports, said the sophomore class will play a big role this season.

“This year you have a sophomore class that’s set to raise their game with Ben Gold, Chase Ross and Sean Jones,” Fanta said. “The fact is all the pieces are in place for this team at every level.”

This year, the Marquette roster isn’t much different from the one that hoisted the Big East Tournament trophy over their heads on the court at Madison Square Garden.

During the offseason, head coach Shaka Smart ignored the transfer portal and retained most of his roster, including all but one of his starters: Olivier-Maxence Prosper, who was drafted as the No. 24 overall pick in the NBA Draft.

Fanta has placed Marquette at the top of his Big East preseason power rankings. Part of his reasoning comes from Smart’s anti-transfer portal approach.

“They don’t take transfers, which I like because I think it’s different,” Fanta said. “It resonates with the players because you’re counting on your guys internally to get better. You don’t need to go look elsewhere to find somebody to improve your team. They’re inside this building. That’s player development — that’s roster retention.”

In non-conference play, Marquette will face two preseason ranked teams: No. 18 Texas and No. 25 Illinois. Though, Fanta says that the real challenges will start Dec. 19 when the Golden Eagles face the Providence Friars on the road in their first Big East game. The conference is the only one in the NCAA that has three teams in the top ten of the AP Preseason Poll.

“I don’t think that those teams have any catching up to do,” Fanta said. “The league is loaded. That’s why it’s the Big East. This league is an absolute monster so it’s gonna be a war every night.”

Rothstein said that the Golden Eagles should have Final Four dreams this year.

“They’re not going to be the same team as they were last year but they can be a different team,” Rothstein said. “One that’s also very, very good, one of the best teams in the country.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of the article incorrectly stated that Al McGuire was the head coach of Marquette men’s basketball during the 1977-78 season. The story has been updated to correct the mistake.

This story was written by Benjamin Hanson. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter/X @benhansonMU.

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About the Contributor
Benjamin Hanson, Sports Reporter
Ben Hanson is a sophomore from Minneapolis, Minnesota studying journalism, digital media and advertising. He is a sports reporter and the assistant social media producer for the Marquette Wire for the 2023-2024 school year. When he's not in the newsroom, he likes creative writing, being with friends and going to sporting events. He is excited to be able to spread the word of the Marquette Wire because it has done so much for him while also refining his sports writing.

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