Marquette's Gauntlet to Madison Square Garden and the Big East Tournament

Tim SeemanAnalyst IFebruary 21, 2009

A lot has happened to Marquette's men's basketball team since I last wrote about them.

They lost to South Florida and Villanova and have since bounced back against St. John's and Seton Hall, which is exactly what teams in the Big East need to do to earn the coveted double-bye that the top four seeds receive in the Big East tournament.

Right now, Marquette is sitting in a four-way tie for first place and is in good shape to win the conference if they can take care of business against Connecticut, Pittsburgh, and Louisville in the upcoming weeks. Currently, they hold a two-game lead over Villanova with five games left to play for both teams.

The final stretch starts in Washington D.C. against an underachieving Georgetown squad who will be looking to avenge a loss in the Bradley Center earlier this season. There is no doubt this will be a hard-fought game, but it will probably be the easiest game to win for Marquette until Mar. 7, when they host Syracuse.

A win against the Hoyas will probably assure them of an at-large tournament bid, but the real work starts on Sunday when the team will start preparing for Hasheem Thabeet and a top-five Connecticut team. Following this game, Marquette hits the road to play Pittsburgh and Louisville.

If Marquette can win just one game of the Connecticut-Pittsburgh-Louisville stretch, fans should feel comfortable with Marquette's standing within the top four. If they can get two of those three, there is a definite possibility that Marquette could get the top seed in the conference tournament.

The only hitch is that the three teams they're fighting with for those positions have much easier schedules than the Golden Eagles.

Connecticut plays South Florida and underachieving Notre Dame at home, and goes on the road against Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh gets DePaul, Providence, Seton Hall, and Connecticut. Louisville plays Cincinnati, Georgetown, Seton Hall, and West Virginia.

I don't see many losses amongst these games for those teams, which means Marquette might have to win-out to finish the Big East regular season where they started: on top.