Being a No. 2 seed and losing in the second round in most instances is a disappointment. However, for Marquette it can be a stepping stone.
It still stinks to lose early in the NCAA Tournament, but this may have been the most unpredictable tournament ever. Also throw-in what was expected of Marquette before the season and what the team accomplished, it was a special season.
Not much was expected of Marquette before the season started. The Golden Eagles were picked 9th in the Big East Conference in the Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
Rather than struggling through the season, Marquette soared to success in a season of firsts for the Golden Eagles. Marquette has been in the Big East since 2005 and won its first outright regular season Big East title in program history.
Marquette also had never been to a Big East Tournament final, let alone win it. Marquette won the Big East Tournament and defeated UConn in the semifinals and crushed Xavier in the title game.
Marquette was the best Big East team in the regular season, despite no one picking them.
Marquette won the Big East Tournament, despite no one picking them.
Marquette thrives when doubted. Shaka Smart for President.
— Big East Bar Room 🎙 (@BigEastBarroom) March 12, 2023
Marquette won a program-best 29 games. Add it up and this could be the most special season for the Marquette program since Dwyane Wade and the Golden Eagles’ Final Four run in 2004. Yes, they have had an Elite 8 trip since then (2013 with a share of the Big East crown), but it was a season to remember for Marquette. Winning the regular season conference championship and Big East Tournament Championship and it could be the top season in two decades for Marquette.
Tasting an NCAA Tournament win again
Take into account the past postseason struggles for Marquette and coach Shaka Smart (post-Final Four berth with VCU). Both the MU program, fans and Smart were starving for a tournament win.
When Marquette defeated Vermont in the opening round it snapped a slump for the MU program and Smart.
The NCAA Tournament victory was Marquette’s and Smart’s first tournament wins since 2013.
Miss me with the Shaka Smart vitriol now. This is the man who led a team predicated to finish 9th in his conference to the Big East title this year, 29 wins and a 2 seed. Most of the folks spouting this foolishness probably never even saw Marquette play this year.
— Mike Hill (@ItsMikeHill) March 20, 2023
Marquette could repeat success
The Golden Eagles did not have a senior who played any significant minutes during the season. Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kolek leads a talented squad with all five starters – Kolek, Kam Jones, Olivier Maxence-Prosper, Stevie Mitchell and Oso Ighadoro – expected to return.
However, Marquette was over the limit for scholarship players for 2023-’24 with three players in the upcoming recruiting class – Tre Norman, Zaide Lowery and Al Amadou. No worries with the transfer portal, though! Zach Wrightsil, Emarion Ellis and Keeyan Itejere all entered the transfer portal as playing time opportunities seem limited with nearly everyone for the Golden Eagles.
The bench and this year’s freshman class of Ben Gold, Chase Ross and Sean Jones all should be back as well.
With the acquired experience, Marquette could build upon this season. While the early tournament loss stings, Marquette can use this as fuel. Nearly every contributor should return and with an incoming recruiting class and a potential portal acquisition, Marquette could make a deeper run in the NCAA Tournament next year.
The Marquette Golden Eagles season has ended.
A Big East Regular Season Championship, A Big East Tournament title, and a hell of a ride.
Just a reminder: the whole team still has eligibility.
What a season.
— Big East Bar Room 🎙 (@BigEastBarroom) March 19, 2023
Marquette weren’t expected to do much this season. That will not be the case next year. Marquette was picked to finish 9th in the Big East and earned a No. 2 seed, won the Big East regular season title, tournament title and won an NCAA Tournament game. Expectations will be far different in 2023-’24. Marquette might be a top-5 team in the preseason poll in the country let alone the Big East. If the Golden Eagles can handle much different expectations, they are talented enough to at least play on the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament next year.