Is it time to get behind the storied program of Marquette basketball? We know that Marquette is really, really good. Based on total second half season bust in the past, I’ve been the holding back on that statement the last 2 weeks. A very difficult stretch saw this team come out even stronger than when it went in so maybe that poor play towards the end of conference play is in the past.
As for Coach Smart’s motivation, they walk along the hallway leading up to the men’s basketball office each day. The Marquette’s players can stare at the walls and see photographs celebrating the greatest teams in program history as a reminder. Now they’re intent on making themselves one of those teams. The last team featured is the squad that won a share of the Big East title and reached a regional final in 2013. Marquette hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since, which helps explain why this series of photos ends with a white space including nothing but a Marquette logo. They got even more motivation last week when Marquette honored the school’s 2003 Final Four team during halftime of a victory over Providence.
Marquette, who was picked 9th in the Big East in the preseason, has cracked the top twenty after winning in dominant fashion at Seton Hall. In their most recent game, the Golden Eagles beat Seton Hall on Saturday, 74-53. Their top scorer was Kam Jones with 22 points. It isn’t just one outlier site that I’m currently cherry-picking from either that projected that Marquette finishes at 15-5, while Xavier, Providence, UConn and Creighton all have their projections capped at either 14 or 13 wins. Only Xavier is ahead of them in conference play. However, Marquette has an 11-1 record in games it was listed as favorites, while finishing 3-3 when listed as the underdog. That’s where Coach Smart is delivering his message. They can win the big games but are not focused on the bottom feeders. As a consolation, the NCAA tournament won’t have those bottom feeders there. But the biggest reason why it’s time to take Marquette’s Big East title odds seriously is that it has the most favorable schedule remaining of all the possible competitors. Consider this a free prop bet suggestion for winning the conference title.
The Golden Eagles have been carried by their offense, as they rank 16th-best in college basketball by tallying 82.3 points per game. Coach Smart built his reputation on the “Havoc” defense that enabled VCU to press its way to a Final Four appearance in 2011. His Marquette squad is winning with a ruthlessly effective offense.
Marquette leads the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, a metric measured by college basketball stats guru Ken Pomeroy that essentially translates to points scored per 100 possessions when adjusted for the level of competition. The Golden Eagles are making a remarkable 60.6% of their two-point shot attempts. The Golden Eagles share the ball so well that five of them are scoring at least 9.7 points per game: Kam Jones (16.4), Olivier-Maxence Prosper (12.2), Tyler Kolek (10.1) and David Joplin (9.7).
The rant in the past was to take Marquette only in home games. With this team, they will get favorable point spreads on the road and at the Big East conference tournament. I wish them well as they are a huge part of what has made college basketball to be where it is today.
Wayne Allyn Root