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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

How Marquette is learning from its early exit in last year’s NCAA Tournament

Stevie Mitchell flexes after an and-one layup in Marquette’s 87-69 win over Western Kentucky. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — They haven’t forgotten.

The pain. The sadness. The nagging. The belief they could’ve done more. Knowing their season ended with unfinished business.

Everyone on the Marquette men’s basketball team remembers last year’s NCAA Tournament Round of 32 defeat at the hands of Michigan State.

After the season-ending loss, head coach Shaka Smart had every member of the team — staff, players and coaches — write down what they believe worked in the Golden Eagles’ win over Vermont and, more importantly, what didn’t work in the second round loss to the Spartans.

Every answer is sitting in Smart’s hotel room in a file folder named “Lessons from the NCAA Tournament.”

“Some good stuff in there,” Smart said. “But the key is applying it.”

Stevie Mitchell wrote that the team needed to be more open with each other about how they’re feeling.

“We were banged up at that time (in the loss to Michigan State),” Mitchell said. “Just communicating where everybody was at was something that we could have done better. And I think like we’ve been doing a great job of that this year.

“And obviously, nobody’s 100 percent, so just letting everybody know what you’re feeling, where you’re at. So they can encourage you to give it your best and give it your all.”

For a Golden Eagles team that has been plagued with many injuries — including multiple to Mitchell — that message turned out to be uber-important.

“The pain you feel in the locker room after the season’s over is worse than any pain you’re gonna feel in your body during the game,” Mitchell said. “So I think that just having that mindset, just gives you the will to go out there and just leave it all out there.”

Ben Gold said that his team wasn’t being the aggressors against the Spartans.

“We did that, probably for like half the game,” Gold said. “They were the aggressors the rest of the game. That’s why they ended up winning.”

Tyler Kolek talked about how he wanted to help his teammates more.

“I was kind of in a head space of my own. I really just got wrapped up in myself and the things that I wasn’t doing well,” Kolek said. “This whole year, I’ve been focused outward and really trying to help these guys and that in turn helps me.”

There are a hundred more answers sitting in that folder that Smart has drawn on in the team’s preparation for the tournament. They all culminate into not letting history repeat itself.

“That’s definitely a huge learning experience, losing in that second round,” junior guard Kam Jones said. “Coach had pointed out going into that game we had won 10 in a row. So losing that game, it was a different very, very different.

“You know, it almost felt like for a minute I forgot what it felt like to lose. You kind of expected to win. That happening and a lot of mistakes that we made in that game were huge reasons [we didn’t win].”

Marquette is now one win away from its first Sweet 16 appearance in over a decade when it faces No. 10 seed Colorado Sunday. The Golden Eagles will be drawing on that folder — and the answers inside — to help avoid a second round defeat for the second year in a row.

“This game is not promised to us. It’s win or go home,” Jones said. “Like coach said, before the tournament started, he said ‘There’s 68 teams, and it’d be 64 tomorrow.’ And he said yesterday, he said, ‘After today there’s gonna be 32 teams.’

“And so it’s cutthroat man and nothing’s promised for you. Like I said, now’s the time to do the things that we’ve said we want to do.”

This article was written by Jack Albright. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter/X @JackAlbrightMU.

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About the Contributor
Jack Albright
Jack Albright, Assistant Sports Editor
Jack Albright is a junior from Charlton, Massachusetts studying journalism. He is an Assitant Sports Editor for the 2024-2025 school year. In his free time, Jack likes to hang out with friends and watch Formula 1. He is excited to write fun stories about all things Marquette athletics and oversee new types of digital content.

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