The Marquette Golden Eagles will (probably) return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.
Entering Saturday, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi projected Marquette to make the NCAA Tournament as an 11-seed. Elsewhere in the world of punditry, CBS Sports projected Marquette as one of the “Last Four In.” Make no mistake about it: Marquette was on shaky ground entering the weekend. However, their 91-83 victory over the tournament-bound Creighton Blue Jays should have them safely on the right side of the bubble (I think).
Marquette will have an opportunity to lock down a tournament bid in the Big East Tournament. Their first game is on Thursday against the Seton Hall Pirates. Though Marquette should be okay if they lose that game, a loss will have them sweating it out until Selection Sunday.
Even if Marquette’s bubble bursts, the fact remains that Steve Wojciechowski has orchestrated a remarkable turnaround in Milwaukee. He inherited a bare cupboard after Buzz Williams departed for Virginia Tech in 2014, yet in three seasons Wojo constructed a team that finished 19-11 overall and 10-8 in the Big East. More than that, he’s a proven recruiter and is maximizing the incoming talent. Marquette is the nation’s best 3-point shooting team and, unsurprisingly, top-20 in scoring. If nothing else this is an entertaining team to watch.
Looking ahead, Marquette fans should root against upsets in mid-major conference tournaments. If, for example, Gonzaga or St. Mary’s fail to win the West Coast Conference Tournament, then a Tournament bid will go to a team that otherwise would not be selected. They also need bubble teams to falter, which happened on Saturday when the Rutgers Scarlet Knights knocked off the surging Illinois Illini.
If Marquette makes the field (which the should), they will be the dreaded “team nobody wants to play” because of their three-point shooting. Oddly enough, the Wisconsin Badgers are becoming “the team everyone wants to play.” But that is a post for another time.