Davante Gardner looks for a foul call on the St. John's
defense during the first half of an NCAA college basketball
game Saturday, March 8, 2014, in Milwaukee.
MILWAUKEE — No
getting around it now for Marquette — the Golden Eagles need to
win the Big East tournament to guarantee a ninth straight trip to
But if his team
can at least get to the conference tourney finals, coach Buzz
Williams is hoping that maybe, just maybe, that might be enough to
give the NCAA tournament selection committee something more to
talk about before finalizing the brackets.
"Do we have
to win it? I would say probably," Williams said. "It's
hard to say ... but we definitely have to be in the championship
game in order to get into the conversation."
favorites in the reconfigured Big East, the Golden Eagles (17-14,
9-9) head into this week's conference tournament reeling after
having lost three straight, including two consecutive games in
double overtime. The last one came in an emotionally-draining,
regular-season finale last weekend against St. John's.
head coach Buzz Williams reacts to a play during the first
half of an NCAA college basketball game against Villanova,
Sunday, March 2, 2014, in Philadelphia.
It was the sixth
overtime game of the year for Marquette. The positive takeaway is
that the Golden Eagles have shown they can claw back into any
game, especially when junior guard Todd Mayo is on a roll in the
to the character of our kids. It's hard in one week to lose in
double overtime, both by a point. At any point in time we could
have folded," Williams said.
lose in the manner that we did, it makes you as a coach, it makes
you study ways to get better," he said. "We've got to
find ways to get better, and find ways to get better against
Xavier on Thursday night."
Musketeers are the first opponent in the league tourney in New
York for Marquette, seeded sixth. The teams split the
regular-season series, with Xavier shooting at least 52 percent in
Last time out,
Marquette allowed St. John's to shoot 50 percent, including 53
percent (7 of 13) from 3-point range. Safe to say, improving
defensively is one of Williams' top priorities this week.
experienced up front with Davante Gardner, the league's sixth man
of the year for the second straight season, along with center
Chris Otule and forward Jamil Wilson, all seniors. The Golden
Eagles seem to be at their best offensively when the frontcourt is
complemented by Mayo in the clutch and fellow off-guard Jake
Thomas hitting from long range.
the backcourt and outside shooting haven't been Marquette's strong
suits. Williams' team is last in the league in 3-point shooting at
The last time
that the Golden Eagles finished 9-9 in the Big East, in 2010-11,
they made the NCAAs after getting two wins in the Big East tourney
as a No. 11 seed. Marquette finished 22-15 that season, and won
two games as a No. 11 seed in the NCAAs before falling to North
Carolina in the regional semifinals.