Busting Brackets

Marquette Basketball: Takeaways from 2023-24 regular season results

Marquette had a season that included some huge wins and some heartbreaking losses. Enduring key injuries and playing together was the name of the game, and during a season that set three different home attendance records, they did just that, keeping the excitement around college basketball alive and well in Milwaukee.

St. John's v Marquette
St. John's v Marquette / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages
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Back on October 18th, head coach Shaka Smart and the Golden Eagles held an open practice to the fans and the media at Fiserv Forum. Marquette was coming off an exhilarating 2022-23 season. A season in which they were picked to finish 9th in the Big East ended in both an outright regular season title and the Big East Conference Tournament title. Cutting down the nets at Madison Square Garden is a dream for anyone who plays and coaches in the Big East, but the party didn't last long after Marquette was handed an early exit in the NCAA Tournament by Michigan St. the very next weekend. Shaka’s message during the open practice wasn't about the disappointing exit in the tourney and to set a higher tournament goal, but one built on the same core as last season: win the conference. 

Primed for another long season, Marquette returned eight of their nine top scorers from last season, including reigning Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kolek. Alongside an ever-improving Oso Ighodaro and Kam Jones, Kolek and the chemistry-driven Marquette squad were this time picked to win the Big East and sat at #4 overall in the first AP Poll. “The hunter turns into the hunted” was the theme as the season began, and with a different kind of pressure and expectation, the Golden Eagles set out to reclaim their title as Big East champions. 

A Hot Start

After a couple of tune-up wins to begin the year at home over Northern Illinois and Rider, Marquette made the trip to Champaign to take on #23 Illinois on the road for the 2023 Gavitt Tipoff games. Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Terrence Shannon Jr. wouldn't be enough for the Illini to get past the Golden Eagles, and with the win, Marquette would take a perfect 3-0 record to Honolulu for the classic early-season tournament, the Allstate Maui Invitational. 

The famous neutral-site tournament in paradise would play a good host for Marquette, despite its loaded field. The Golden Eagles opened up with a win over UCLA, a team with a talented frontcourt that was thought to cause problems for Marquette underneath. Post-disposal, #1 Kansas awaited in the semifinal. Marquette’s defensive tenacity and active pressure through turnovers and deflections held the top-ranked Jayhawks to just 59 points as they impressed with a 14-point victory, one of the biggest wins of the young college basketball season. And on the third night…Purdue. A heartbreaking 3-point loss to Zach Edey and the #2 Boilermakers in the championship game ended the excitement in Hawaii, but the Golden Eagles and their fans came away more than happy with both their performance in the tournament and their season-high #3 ranking that came after. 

Marquette would return home to run through Southern, but then drop the always-anticipated rivalry game in Madison against Wisconsin, resulting in a safe court storming of the Kohl Center. For the first time of the season, the Golden Eagles didn't look like themselves. Shaka would end up making the adjustments needed, as Marquette blew out his former Texas team by 21 points three nights later. Marquette wrapped up non-conference play with convincing wins over Notre Dame and St. Thomas(MN) and prepared for the always-grueling Big East Conference schedule.