By: Chris Terlop
This winter has been good to Wisconsin sports teams, both professionally and collegiately. The Marquette Golden Eagles, Wisconsin Badgers, and Green Bay Phoenix Women’s basketball teams are all ranked in the top 25 in the country. The Green Bay Phoenix Men finished fourth in the conference and won their first two Horizon League tournament games under head coach Brian Wardle, and came within seconds of a Horizon League Championship appearance. Even the Milwaukee Bucks, as up and down as they have been, have seemed to find their stride and are just three games out of fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Today I will tell you why it has been good for the Golden Eagles. Later this week I will get to the Badgers, before wrapping it up with the Milwaukee Bucks, to remind you how good you have it in Wisconsin.
Marquette has been the team that has always been good, not great. They always the underdog, despite playing the powerful Big East Conference since 2003 and finishing above .500 seven out of the past ten years. They Golden Eagles never seem to garner the same respect as Syracuse, Connecticut, or Louisville and part of that has to do with history.
The argument being that Marquette cannot win on the big stage, having never won a Big East regular season title or a Big East tournament title. The past two seasons have garnered Sweet Sixteen appearances following five straight seasons of first or second round exits in the NCAA Tournament, where legacies are made.
Buzz Williams’ squad is equipped to break out this season and finally be looked at as one of the elite teams in college basketball. Since being under Williams’ tutelage the Golden Eagles have finished every season with at least 22 wins and an appearance in the NCAA tournament, however, as established earlier, you need to add some titles to the resume to be recognized as elite.
Marquette has finally done that this season. The Golden Eagles won a share of the Big East regular season title on Saturday, sharing it with Georgetown and Louisville. This is the first Big East Title of any kind for Marquette.
Much like the Phoenix, if they cannot get it done this season, next season looks bright with the top three scorers in Vander Blue, Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson with eligibility left. Add that to a top ten recruiting class coming in next year, and they can only go up. Every team needs to take that next step, to be battle tested, and this season is exactly that for Marquette. A Big East Tournament Title, an Elite Eight Run, further? None of that is out of the question when this team is clicking.
One thing is for sure; to overlook this team again would be a mistake.
You can hear Chris on Sportsline M-F 4-6pm and on Saturdays 8-9am. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisTerlop.