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The State Of Marquette Basketball Is What It Is

Check your optimism at the door and bring enough Arby’s to share with the group.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 22 Marquette at Providence Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Sunday morning, following Providence’s 84-72 defeat of Marquette on Saturday, Friend Of The Show Mike Hopkins of the illustrious website fired up this tweet about his Friars.

This made me think about a couple of things.

  1. I remember when Marquette lost to Providence at home earlier this season and that was a Quadrant 3 loss for the Golden Eagles and thus very bad. They have rebounded nicely from their awful non-conference results to be a perfectly respectable Big East squad, thus moving that earlier loss safely up into Quadrant 2.
  2. I was pretty sure that Marquette does not have seven Quadrant 1 wins at this point of the season, and I was right. In the brand new Team Sheets on Sunday morning, MU is 5-8 against Q1 foes. This doesn’t mean that the Friars are inherently a better team than Marquette at 7-8 in Q1, merely that they’ve had more opportunities than the Golden Eagles.

In the process of double checking on Marquette’s record against Quadrant 1 foes, I was struck by something that’s immediately visible on the Team Sheets thanks to the red highlighting for losses by the NCAA’s computers. Here’s what MU’s Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 sections look like through games played on February 22nd.

According to the NCAA’s NET system, Marquette has lost seven of their eight toughest games this season. Outside of those eight games, Marquette’s only losses this season have come against Providence. They’re undefeated against non-PC opponents outside of the Quadrant 1A group.

I want to make something clear at this point: This is not me trying to tell you that Saturday’s loss is actually okay. It’s not. It’s still as terrible as it was while it was going on and as terrible as it was when it ended. It was supposed to be Marquette’s chance to prove that they shouldn’t have lost the first meeting with the Friars, and instead of showing that, they did the other thing, where they made it look like it was a damned miracle that Marquette forced Providence to overtime in Milwaukee.

The point I’m making is an observation that Esquire politics writer, Marquette grad, and (I still can’t believe that I get to say this) Friend Of The Show Charles Pierce made over a month ago. In fact, it’s one that was made in the wake of the first loss to Providence, which is a nice thing to bring full circle here.

He’s right. It’s a flawed team. There is a ceiling on what Marquette can accomplish this season as a team. That’s how you end up taking loss after loss in the hardest games of the season, but (almost) never lose other than that. In fact, the very nature of being flawed helps explain why Marquette is undefeated outside of Quadrant 1A except against the Friars. For whatever reason, Ed Cooley has the exact right combination to beat Marquette this season, even if his team is going to have to claw and scramble to get into the NCAA tournament. Consider it revenge for 2015-16 if you want, when Marquette somewhat inexplicably beat a ranked Providence team twice and then didn’t even go to the NIT.

This isn’t the article where we’re going to dive deep into Marquette’s flaws this season. Once we start taking the door off of that vault, we’re probably going to find it’s a lot bigger than we want to know. That’s going to lead to discussions about how Steve Wojciechowski found himself at this particular juncture in his tenure at Marquette, and those are long conversations for another time.

This three game losing streak isn’t going to cost Marquette a spot in the NCAA tournament. They’re very much free and clear from the cutline right now, according to Bracket Matrix. However, the three game skid can’t turn into another season ending nosedive, either. Just because Marquette is a flawed basketball team that has a ceiling on it doesn’t mean that they have to work hard to find a trap door in the floor and keep falling. There are two home games this week, one against a reeling Georgetown team and one against Seton Hall. That last one will be MU’s final shot at a big quality win this season. After that, it’s two “they’re favored but nothing’s guaranteed, I guess” games at DePaul and St. John’s.

Can they win all four and make us feel a lot better about how this season goes? Sure, says they’re favored in all four right now. Are there talented players and smart coaches out there waiting to take advantages of Marquette’s flaws in this final stretch? You bet.

We heard a lot of talk at the start of the season, particularly from star guard Markus Howard, that the team wants to and knows they need to make a big splash in the postseason this year. Now’s the time to prove that they can do that, flaws or not.