Marquette basketball tries to “pass the test” versus Miami

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For the third straight season, Marquette basketball has advanced to the Sweet 16.  Ohio State, Kansas, and Florida are the only other programs that share that distinction.  Unlike the Buckeyes, Jayhawks, and Gators though, the Golden Eagles have been unable to take the next step and get to the Elite 8.  Thursday night versus Miami FL, MU will try to pass the test and get over the hump.

The past two years, Marquette basketball laid an egg in the Sweet 16.  In 2011, the 11th seed Golden Eagles were simply out-matched by a bigger, longer, more athletic and talented North Carolina team that pretty much blew them out of the gym.  Last year as a three seed, Buzz Williams’ team came out flat in a 68-58 loss to Florida.

The jubilation of simply getting to this stage of the tourney is out the window.  Williams made that clear when he addressed the team after their narrow victory against Butler on Saturday.

So how does Marquette basketball pass the test tonight in our Nation’s Capital against the ACC regular season and conference tournament champion Hurricanes?

Tuesday’s news that Miami back-up big man Reggie Johnson won’t play due to a knee injury is a huge bonus.  One of the strengths for the Hurricanes has been their physicality inside.  Miami starts 6-10, 250 pound Julian Gamble and 6-11, 242 pound Kenny Kadji up-front so not having the 6-10, 290 pound Johnson, who was playing about 21 minutes per game, should give Devante Garnder more ability to operate down low.  Miami still brings seven-footer Tonye Jekiri, who could cause some problems with his height and length.

The loss of Johnson will also provide Marquette basketball with a tremendous depth advantage.  The Canes really only go seven or eight deep with Johnson while Williams will use ten or eleven guys and rotate them in and out more frequently than Kate Upton is searched for on Google images.  If MU can keep their legs fresh, they will have an opportunity to wear down Miami, which might be essential if another late game comeback is needed. Like in the first two games of the tourney versus Davidson and Butler.

It would be idiotic to call the 2012-2013 season a disappointment if Marquette basketball doesn’t beat Miami.  There’s nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to a Big East Co-Championship and third straight trip to the Sweet 16; especially for a team that was picked seventh in their preseason conference predictions.  Yet to take the next step as a program, the Golden Eagles must pass the test Thursday evening against Miami.

David Kay is a senior feature NBA DraftNBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)

You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.

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