The Marquette Golden Eagles entered the season with one of their most promising men’s basketball teams in recent memory. Incoming freshmen Henry Ellenson and Haanif Cheatham were top recruits that figured to play a key role in Marquette’s return to prominence. Yet a nagging question remained despite the optimism: how good is this team?
The question was answered with a resounding “uh-oh” last Thursday after the Golden Eagles were throttled by the Iowa Hawkeyes at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. So severe was the loss that Head Coach Steve Wojciechowski (also known as “Wojo”) confiscated the team’s gear, sending the message they have to earn everything. The motivational tactic worked and Marquette responded with a pair of gutty victories at the FanDuel Legends Classic.
What’s most encouraging about the past two victories is how Marquette played in crunch time. On Monday night Marquette found themselves trailing #22 LSU after an acrobatic layup from all-world freshman Ben Simmons put the Tigers up 80-79 with 26 seconds remaining. The Golden Eagles permanently regained the lead after Jajuan Johnson made a pair of free throws and suffocating defense to forced a desperation three point shot as time expired.
On Tuesday night the Golden Eagles had another taut contest against the Arizona Sun Devils in the Championship game. In contrast to the night before, Marquette rallied from a late deficit and forced overtime where they defeated the Sun Devils.
Last season Marquette played several close games, but it was a rare occasion they would emerge victorious. This season the Golden Eagles already have two overtime wins and a one-point victory against a ranked opponent. It’s possible this is a sign Marquette will have the most stressful season in NCAA history, but more likely it’s proof this team is pretty good.
Looking ahead several months, both of these victories will come in handy on Selection Sunday – especially if Marquette finds themselves on the NCAA Tournament bubble. For now they are an indicator that Wojo has the Golden Eagles back on the winning path.