7. Marquette (11-3)
Last season was a breakthrough for Shaka Smart and Marquette and this season is about taking the next steps after winning the Big East and falling earlier than anticipated in the Big Dance. Fantastic things are possible for these Golden Eagles, who pushed Purdue to the brink in Maui mere hours after beating Kansas. They’ve proved they belong among the elite, but how will they fare in the upcoming weeks against the rigors of Big East play.
Their first game after Christmas was already their third in conference play, with Marquette ending up on top for a second straight time as they welcomed Creighton to town. Saturday ended with a 72-67 win over a Bluejays team that led much of the first half of the game. Tyler Kolek and Sean Jones both had 15 points to lead the Golden Eagles while Oso Ighodaro was terrific with 16 rebounds. Marquette was outshot and outworked early but survived at home for another key win.
A great performance against Creighton gets added to a win pile that includes Illinois, UCLA, Texas, and Kansas. We’ve seen Marquette at their best and we’ve seen how these pieces move and play together. The Big East already knows how lethal this squad can be and you can bet Marquette, certainly one of the favorites, will continue to see their best shots. Next Saturday’s game at Seton Hall might be a sneaky test for the Golden Eagles.