By David K.
The past three seasons, Marquette has been one and done in the post-season.Â In 2005, it was an opening round loss to Western Michigan in the NIT, followed up by first round defeats at the hands of Alabama and Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament.Â For the past few months, weâ€™ve heard how this yearâ€™s Golden Eagles are different.Â They have grown.Â They are more mature, and ready to make some serious noise in March.Â Come Thursday, we will find out if that is indeed the truth, or just another figment of our imagination that will end in more disappointment.
MU ended up where I expected them to, as a six seed with a favorable first round match-up against 11th seeded Kentucky.Â It was a tale of two halves for the Wildcats this season.Â After starting the season 7-9, Ashley Juddâ€™s boys won 11 of their final fourteen games to secure one of the final at-large bids in the field of 65.Â
Since stud freshman power forward Patrick Patterson went down with a season-ending stress fracture in his left foot, the Wildcats are 2-2, including a first round SEC Tournament loss to eventual champion Georgia.Â Â With Patterson in street clothes, Kentucky does not go very deep on their bench.Â Only seven players see significant minutes which serves as an advantage to a Marquette team with a steady rotation of ten guys that love to run and play pressure defense.Â Iâ€™ve been preaching it all season, if MU can keep the tempo of the game to their liking, running at every chance possible, they should be able to get out of the first round of the tournament for the first time since their Final Four run in 2003.
The bulk of the Wildcatsâ€™ scoring comes from the guard duo of Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley who average a little more than 33 points per game.Â If one of these guys has an off-day, I really like Marquetteâ€™s chances of advancing.Â
Waiting in the Wings
ESPN.comâ€™s bracketology correctly projected Marquetteâ€™s potential second round game with Stanford.Â I let out a four-letter curse word when I saw this prediction become a reality because I think the Harvard of the West is a bad draw for the Golden Eagles, and not just because it will ultimately be a road contest. (the venue is Anaheim)Â
Assuming Stanford beats Cornell in the battle of the brains, the second round game will come down to our guards versus their bigs.Â The Cardinal rely on the inside play of the seven-foot Lopez twins, Brook and Robin.Â Brook is the one with the less goofy hair. But he much more skill on the offensive end than Robin and he is a sure fire lottery pick in this yearâ€™s NBA Draft.Â Both of those trees patrol the paint on defense meaning Marquetteâ€™s guard heavy line-up will have to rely on their outside shooting which we all know has been hit-or-miss all season.Â Iâ€™ll say it again, RUN, RUN, RUN.Â Transition basketball at every possible moment will be a key if they want to live to see another weekend of the Big Dance.Â If MUâ€™s inside players get into early foul trouble which has been a problem against bigger, more physical players, Tom Crean and company could be in for a long day of playing catch-up.
The biggest question heading into the greatest weekend of the year is which Marquette team will show up.Â If itâ€™s the Golden Eagles that played the first half of the Big East Tournament games versus Seton Hall or Pitt, or the Dominic James that shot a woeful 3 of 16 on Saturday, then we have â€œearly exitâ€ written all over us.Â If MU can string together a series of games like they did at the end of February when they won five straight in convincing fashion, then a repeat of 2003 is not outside the realm of possibility.Â But that is why it is called March Madness.Â Anything can happen.Â Any team can catch fire.Â Here are my predictions for this weekend:
Marquette 76, Kentucky 62
(Homer David) Marquette 63, Stanford 59
(Journalistic David) Stanford 68, Marquette 61
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