Happy New Year Golden Eagles fans! We are a week removed from ringing in 2023 which means we are one week closer to the largest sporting event in history. Once that event (Superbowl 57) has come and gone it will be time for not necessarily the biggest sporting event, but very clearly the best. The very words send pure dopamine through the bodies of fans, mid-major hopefuls, and sports bettors alike…
The historic moment flurries through our minds; Kris Jenkins drilling a 3 to down North Carolina in the title game, St. Peter’s nearly running the table, George Mason making everyone throw away their brackets in 2006, and Jimmy V needing a hug in 1985.
As Marquette fans, we have some amazing moments to reminisce upon. Who can forget the throttling Marquette handed to the #1 Kentucky Wildcats in 2003 to get to the Final Four? Or Doc Rivers handing Notre Dame a loss in 1981? Of course, there is one moment that will forever be collectively seared into our minds.
The 1977 National Championship. Plain and simple the absolute pinnacle of Marquette basketball. As the Marquette Warriors that championship team went 25-7 as an Independent school and brought the ultimate prize home after defeating the Tar Heels 67-59. A team comprised of 5 future NBA players averaged only 70.5 points per game, ranked 188th out of the 244 teams that year. Seems odd that a team with that dreary average could win a title. Alas, the Warriors had the 2nd best defense in the nation, only allowing 59.4 points per game. Stout to say the least.
It’s the dream of every school to climb the ladder and cut the nets in late March, and Marquette can do it in 2023.
I understand. It sounds bananas. However, if the Golden Eagles do these 3 things, we could be popping champagne in late March as we watch Shaka Smart wear the net around his neck in pure elation.
GIVE KAM JONES THE ROCK
If you have watched any Golden Eagles basketball this year, it’s hard to miss the athleticism that Kam Jones oozes all over the court. He can shoot from beyond the arc, and he can take it to the rim. 5th in the Big East in scoring with one of the nation’s best facilitators in Tyler Kolek feeding him the ball, Kam Jones can take over games. These are the kind of players you need to lean on come March. Kam seems to have that “it” factor. It’s easy to see why he consistently draws double coverage.
In games where Kam Jones leads the team in scoring Marquette is 3-1 with the one loss coming to 13th-ranked Wisconsin, in overtime. He leads the team in points per game and has a knack for the basket, this guy should be the driving force in Marquette’s run in the dance.
BEAT UCONN… MAYBE
Connecticut is good. Very good. They proved fallible against Xavier and Providence in their recent 2 game skid though. Marquette’s offense is very similar in terms of output, to the Huskies. The Huskies have a 10-point advantage in points allowed per game. Providence scored 73 and Xavier scored 83 in their respective wins over the current Big East favorite, proving that this defense can be beaten.
The Golden Eagles love to score against their Big East rivals, averaging 84 points a game since conference play kicked off. The matchup on Wednesday the 11th is in the Al Maguire center in which Marquette is 10-2 this season. Connecticut is in for a high-scoring affair against Marquette, and if Marquette beats them, watch out Big East.
A win isn’t necessary against the 4th ranked team in the country, however. A close game against the Huskies can prove beneficial for the confidence of the Golden Eagles. They have played quality teams close this year, almost beating in-state rival Wisconsin in overtime and beating 6th-ranked Baylor. A win is the best-case scenario, but knowing you can hang in with the best in the nation can provide the fire necessary to fuel a deep run in March.
LET TYLER KOLEK BE TYLER KOLEK
Tyler Kolek is incredible to watch. Fluid, smart, decisive, and confident. He has the 3rd most assists in the nation and can score when he is not passing. Not to mention his defensive prowess averaging almost 2 steals a game. Now I am not a coach at a Division 1 school, but I feel confident when I say, nothing needs to change about Kolek’s game.
Shaka is very smart. (I understand the pun, it was intentional.) He understands that sometimes the best way to coach a player is to just, let the player play. Kolek is one of those guys. He is built to be a point guard in the Big East, and he thrives when he is the focal point of Marquette’s offense because he helps other people score when he is keyed on. Kam Jones and Tyler Kolek are one of the most dangerous backcourt duos in the country.
Marquette is set to square off against Connecticut on Wednesday, January 11th at 5 PM EST. Arguably the biggest game of the year so far for the Golden Eagles. Marquette is already having a fantastic season and will most certainly be one of the 68 dancers in March, but a win against the Huskies would catapult them into the national spotlight. A title game is not far off for the Golden Eagles, they have beaten the elite of the elite this year and can make a true statement with a win against Connecticut on Wednesday.
So get ready Golden Eagles fans, 1977 may be almost 50 years ago, but get ready to celebrate like gas is $0.35 a gallon because Marquette can win the title this year.