"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

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Ranking Marquette’s three other underrated Big East teams

The Marquette Golden Eagles are proving a ninth-place preseason prediction in the Big East was an incorrect projection.

The forecast at the time was fair. Justin Lewis had just departed the team for a pro career. Darryl Morsell and Kur Kuath had run out of eligibility. Greg Elliott left to finish his final year of eligibility at Pitt.

Losing Lewis and Morsell meant a majority of the scoring had to be replaced with players that had the potential but not a lot of production to back it up.

Maybe those making predictions should have taken into account the potential this roster had to be good. Tyler Kolek, Kam Jones, Oso Ighodaro, David Joplin, and Oliver-Maxence Prosper all showed promise last season that they could be even better this season.

They are showing off the improvement as Marquette is sitting near the top of the Big East standings. They are currently in KenPom’s Top 25.

It would not be the first time Marquette has been undervalued in the Big East only to beat projections. 

Marquette’s first year in the Big East was supposed to be a struggle. The Golden Eagles entered the 2005-2006 season with the expectation that they would be lucky to win three Big East games.

Steve Novak had a spectacular senior season. Joe Chapman contributed some big shots to keep the Golden Eagles in games. A talented freshman trio of Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, and Wesley Matthews burst onto the scene to help Marquette break into the Big East in a loud “we have arrived” manner.

https://twitter.com/joechap32/status/1613623690054275086?s=20&t=VIrtyuMGQc78JwBThat is probably the best Marquette team to outdo expectations. They throttled No. 2 UConn in the school’s first Big East game ever. They swept Notre Dame. That team beat Georgetown when they were in the Top 25 and Pittsburgh when they were in the Top 10.

Instead of winning three Big East games, Marquette won 10 and finished in fourth place.

Another Marquette team that blew past low expectations was the 2009-10 squad. James, Matthews, and McNeal had run out of eligibility. This team lacked size. They were projected to finish 12th.

Yet, led by Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler, the Golden Eagles finished 11-7 in the Big East. 

They started Big East play 1-3 with all three of the losses decided by a bucket or less. The group rallied thanks to some outstanding shooting to finish 11-7 in the conference and make the NCAA Tournament.

This is probably the second-best group to blow by bad expectations. They were also gritty as they won three games in a row in overtime. 

Then last season, the Golden Eagles were not projected to do much. Marquette was projected to finish 9th or 10th depending on what preseason forecast you looked at. 

They had nine new players and had to learn a new system with Shaka Smart’s arrival. We all remember how that team defied expectations and made the NCAA Tournament and won 11 Big East games.

Last year’s team did not have the shooting like the ‘09-‘10 team or the collection of talent of ‘05-‘06 group.

It will be interesting to see how far this year’s group of overachievers can go. They got the talent to become one of the best teams in program history that blew low expectations out of the water.

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