Marquette's Next Three Games Loom Large

Gregory BoulangerContributor IFebruary 13, 2010

ROSEMONT, IL - JANUARY 20: Maurice Acker #2 of the Marquette Golden Eagles drives up the court against the DePaul Blue Demons at the Allstate Arena on January 20, 2010 in Rosemont, Illinois. DePaul defeated Marquette 51-50. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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If the Golden Eagles have the misfortune of missing out on the big dance for the first time since 2005, they will most likely be looking back at this three game stretch as where the ship sank.

MU’s next three games are all against strong, but not elite competition. The three teams-South Florida , Pitt , and Cincinnati —are all pretty much in the same bout as the Golden Eagles. They all sit in the middle of the Big East  standings are considered bubble teams for the tourney at this point (although Pitt may be in the best position of the four teams).

The first game, saturday vs. USF, could be the most important of the three. The Bulls are hot of late, and could be considered as one of the big surprise teams in the NCAA this year. After going just 9-22 last year, USF has pulled it together this year and has garnered wins against the likes of No. 7 Georgetown  and No. 23 Pittsburgh.

They are a tough team and very much alive for a tournament selection; and a win at the Bradley Center saturday would be big on their resume. Led by a strong front court of Augustus Gilchrist and Jarrid Famous , South Florida could create matchup problems for MU. The Golden Eagles will need another big performance from their back court to counter the Bulls’ paint presence.

On Thursday, Marquette travels to the Zoo to take on the perennially strong Pitt Panthers. After starting out the season very strong, Pitt hass cooled down, losing four of their last seven games. Of the Panthers’ six losses this year, only one has come at home. The Zoo is considered one of the hardest venues to win in for opposing in the Big East, and will provide a major challenge for Marquette.

If the Golden Eagles are able to win this game, it would certainly boost their chances come Selection Sunday.

The final of the three games is against the Cincinnati Bearcats. UC plays hard every night and are led by uber-talented Freshman Lance Stephenson .

Stephenson and forward Yancy Gates will be mached up on Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler respectfully, creating one of the most intruiging 2-on-2 matchups MU has seen this season. Hayward and Butler must win these individual battles if MU has any hope of countering the Bearcats rebounding advantage (Cincy comes in fourth in the Big East in team rebounding).

After these three games, the Golden Eagles travel to St. Johns and Seton Hall before closing out at home against Notre Dame and Louisville . All these are important, but this three game stretch against other bubble level teams will really separate MU from the pack; this could be a good or bad thing dependong on how they do.


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