Usually when February rolls around, we are beginning to talk about what a great job Buzz Williams has done with his Marquette team.
In the last three seasons, Williams has guided his Golden Eagles to the Sweet 16 (at worst) in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
Just last year, the Golden Eagles got over the Sweet 16 hump and made it into the Elite Eight before falling to Syracuse in the East Regional final.
This year has presented a much different scenario for Marquette, as it sits at 13-10 overall and 5-5 in the new-look Big East.
FIRST OUT: Richmond, LSU, Boise, LaTech. NEXT OUT: StMary, Arkansas, Baylor, Clemson. FOUR MORE: Ole Miss, Marquette, Gtown, Indiana.— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) February 1, 2014
A record like that has put the Golden Eagles on the verge of failing to qualify for the big dance as a whole for the first time since 2005, when now-Indiana coach Tom Crean was in charge of a team that went 7-9 in the Big East.
The main reason for the failure to succeed in Milwaukee this season has been inconsistency. Since their December 17 victory over Ball State, Marquette has alternated winning and losing, a dubious streak that includes losses to three of the top four teams in its conference.
Having a terrible streak like that will do no good for a team that is usually near the top of the conference standings, no matter who the competition is.
Another problem for the Golden Eagles has been their scoring, as they rank 213th in the nation with 70.4 points per game and have just two players on their roster who average more than 10 points per game.
As expected, Davante Gardner (14.0 ppg, 6.0 rebounds per game) has carried the load, but his teammates have not done the same. Williams is now on the verge of missing out on his first postseason as head coach of the Golden Eagles.
The worst record a Williams-led Marquette team finished with in conference play was 9-9 back in 2011, a year in which it still advanced to the Sweet 16.
The good news for Marquette is that there is still some time to turn things around before it is too late, but it will take a Herculean effort to do so.
Can Marquette Qualify for the NCAA Tournament?
Marquette still has a chance to enact revenge on Creighton, Villanova and Xavier, as well as complete its season sweep over Providence, but for that to happen, players not named Gardner will have to up their levels of contribution.
Todd Mayo (9.5 ppg) and Jake Thomas are the two players who would be best fit to step up and game-changing plays for the Golden Eagles down the stretch, but it would also be nice if Chris Otule (6.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg) finds his own in the paint alongside Gardner, especially against the top teams in the Big East that have an established paint presence.
In all honesty, we are asking a lot out of Marquette to make the postseason, but this is college basketball, where stranger things have happened before.
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