How High is Marquette’s Ceiling?
Marquette Golden Eagles had six difficult non-conference games this season. It got off to a shaky start with the Golden Eagles getting rocked by Indiana on the road. Marquette suffered another tough loss to Kansas being that stretch 0-2 in November against those teams. Marquette scored a gritty overtime win against Louisville then they swept their top competition in December beating Kansas State, Wisconsin and Buffalo. The question is how high can Marquette go this season with this team? This is the best Marquette team in years, and the opportunity seems ripe for them to have a major year.
Markus Howard is in the running for National Player of the Year. Howard is doing some incredible things on the court. It’s going to eat at me that I had an opportunity to be in the building for Howard’s 40-point second half yet couldn’t make it to prior commitments. Watching the highlights and Brian Anderson losing his mind when Howard keep making shots. It seemed absurd to him that Howard kept making shots. He is one of the best players in the country, and Marquette’s offense figured out how to use him effectively. Using Theo John has a screener to free up Howard worked so well, and if teams move a guy towards Howard, it frees up someone else.
Howard isn’t the only reason to give Marquette hope though. This team can play defense. This is the best defensive team under Steve Wojciechowski. Marquette has ability to defend the paint because they actually have size, and on the perimeter, Howard is a poor defender yet the rest of the starting lineup can make up for his mistakes on that end. Marquette clamped down a difficult Buffalo offense in the second half as the Bulls were close to start the second half. Remember also what they did to Kansas State, and how they shut down everyone on Wisconsin not named Ethan Happ. This team works its ass off on defense and doesn’t try to outscore everyone. This is very refreshing compared to the last few years.
Marquette is the favorite in the Big East. That might seem like a spicy take. Yes, the Big East is down this season because they do not have a National Championship contender. Villanova will be good. St. John’s is unproven despite being unbeaten. Providence and Seton Hall are tough yet unsure if they have the horses to compete night in and night out. Marquette has the best resume out of any Big East heading into conference season next week. And yes, it’s fair to think of them as a potential Final Four contender.
There are going to be bumps in the road in the coming weeks, but I have a feeling we’re in for a special season.