Marquette Basketball: How Golden Eagles Can Get Back into the Big Dance

Ryan CuriFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2014

Jan 20, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Marquette Golden Eagles guard Derrick Wilson (12) dribbles the ball in the first half against the Georgetown Hoyas at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

With an 11-8 overall record, including a 3-3 clip in Big East play, Marquette currently sits squarely outside the NCAA Tournament field. The Golden Eagles were the favorites going into the new Big East's inaugural season, but now appear to be a middle of the pack squad.

After blowing a 12-point second-half lead to Butler on Saturday, the Golden Eagles responded with a late comeback of their own on Monday evening, defeating the Georgetown Hoyas (80-72). Both games went into overtime, so a split on the road isn't the end of the world, although both games were there for the taking.

Buzz Williams' squad has 12 games on their remaining schedule; seven of which will be played in Milwaukee, while the remaining five come on the road. Following the St. John's game on March 8, the Golden Eagles will travel to New York City to take part in the 10-team Big East Tournament.


Projected Results

vs. Villanova W

vs. Providence W

@ St. John's W

vs. Butler W

@ Seton Hall W

Jan 20, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Marquette Golden Eagles head coach Buzz Williams (left) talks to his players in the second half against the Georgetown Hoyas at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

vs. Xavier W

vs. Creighton W

@ DePaul W

vs. Georgetown W

@ Villanova L

@ Providence L

vs. St John's W

First things first, the Golden Eagles must continue to protect their home court. MU hasn't lost a home conference game since 2011 and seven more home wins this season would continue that streak. While it won't be easy, every team in the Big East is beatable and vulnerable away from their home court. This attempted winning streak will start Saturday, as the fourth-ranked Villanova Wildcats come to the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Marquette notched only their second road win of the season on Monday in Washington D.C. Todd Mayo's game-tying three-pointer sent the game into overtime, where freshman backup point guard John Dawson carried the workload. Steve Taylor Jr. was also a pleasant surprise, nearly double-doubling with 14 points and nine rebounds.

On the road, Marquette would need to win three of their five battles in order to post a 20-11 (13-5 Big East) record before the Big East Tournament tips off. After receiving a bye on Wednesday, Marquette would do themselves a huge favor by winning their Thursday quarterfinal matchup, or even better, winning again on Friday and reaching the championship game on Saturday.

While the outcomes of the above games may figure differently, it is simply a blueprint for what Marquette must accomplish from here on out. A 13-5 Big East record should get them back to the Big Dance, while a 12-6 league mark gives them a chance. 

By reaching the above win total, Marquette would likely finish in the top four of the Big East, which will likely get three to five teams into the NCAA Tournament. This would also give Marquette some quality wins, ideally over the likes of Villanova, Creighton and Xavier, among others.

Williams can continue to use a starting five of Derrick Wilson, Jake Thomas, Jamil Wilson, Davante Gardner and Chris Otule. However, Dawson, Taylor Jr. and Mayo could be late game options on the offensive end, while Juan Anderson will be utilized as a late-game defensive stopper. Deonte Burton and JaJuan Johnson's minutes could remain limited, as Williams has favored his upperclassmen to freshmen in most scenarios throughout the season.