"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Three other great Marquette overachieving seasons

This year’s Marquette Golden Eagles defied expectations. Picked to finish no higher than ninth in the Big East, the Marquette Golden Eagles finished fifth. They are poised to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.

This is not the first time this century the Golden Eagles exceeded low expectations. There are three other seasons where Marquette surprised the college basketball world.

2001-2002: This is the season that kicked off Marquette’s run of success through 2013. Dwyane Wade was eligible after sitting out his freshman year as a partial qualifier. It was Travis Diener’s freshman season. The Golden Eagles had a senior class led by Cordell Henry that never made the NCAA Tournament.

There were rumors that Wade had a chance to be good but no one knew just how great he would be.

Wade’s coming out party happened in the Great Alaskan Shootout were Marquette beat Tennessee, Indiana, and Gonzaga.

Fans stormed the court after Marquette beat No. 4 Cincinnati at the Bradley Center. The Golden Eagles went undefeated at home. Marquette reached as high as No. 9 in the rankings. 

Unfortunately, Marquette’s season ended in the NCAA Tournament’s first round against Tulsa. Diener’s second desperation three fell short and Wade's put back attempt missed.

2005-2006: Marquette’s first year in the Big East was supposed to be rough. One local reporter had Marquette winning just three Big East games.

The Golden Eagles won three of their first five Big East game. Steve Novak introduced Marquette to the Big East in grand fashion with 41 points against No. 2 UConn. 

Freshman Dominic James and Jerel McNeal stellar play aided Novak towards a first Big East season that far exceeded expectations. Wesley Matthews and Joe Champan also provided solid contributions.

The Golden Eagles went onto a 20-win season but bowed out in the NCAA Tournament's first round to Alabama.

2009-2010: The James, McNeal, and Matthews trio graduated. It was supposed to be a rebuilding year.

Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler had other plans despite all the early season bad luck.

Junior Cadougan, Chris Otule and Joe Fulce all suffered major injuries. Jerrone Maymon left the team after nine games. That left Marquette with a rotation player no taller than Butler and Erik Williams.

Yet, the undersized Golden Eagles could shoot like no other. They had Maurice Acker, David Cubillan, Dwight Buycks, and Darius Johnson-Odom bombing away from three.

Hayward played like a NBA first-round pick and Butler stepped up his game.

Marquette ended up with a 22-12 and made the NCAA Tournament but lost a heartbreaker to Washington in the first round.

One way this season can be better than those three seasons is avoiding being one-and-done.


No comments: