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The Strange Season of Marquette
The basketball has taken lots of weird bounces, but the unlikeliest one may be just over the horizon.


Buzz Williams photo by Adam Ryan Morris

It’s been such a strange season of eccentricity for Marquette’s men’s basketball team, but perhaps we should’ve seen it coming.

It was, after all, supposed to start with a game on an aircraft carrier. A game that coach Buzz Williams, who’s transformed eccentric into electric throughout his career, showed up to in combat boots.

And that game, a celebration of the mightiest Navy on earth, was promptly canceled by water.

It’s a season that saw Marquette beat Wisconsin in a mid-December game where both teams looked destined for the NIT. And it’s a season in which both teams, just two months later, are top-25 clubs who seem destined for the Sweet 16.

It’s a season that saw a Marquette home game interrupted by a dive-bombing bat.

Often.

While fans serenaded it with “I Will Always Love You.”

It’s a season in which Williams, who’s become a master at instilling confidence in his players both on the court and in life, has oft repeated a metronomic mantra: “We’re not very good.” And yet, Marquette has somehow extended its streak of home victories to 23 consecutive games.

Oh, and it’s a season in which Marquette announced it was leaving the storied, venerable, hallowed Big East to help build another conference from scratch.

And the school will probably make more money in the process.

But in the midst of all the oddities, fun or otherwise, the season’s strangest thing might be this: Marquette is five games away from winning a Big East championship.

Yes, the same team that lost one game to Florida by 33 points and lost another to unheralded UW-Green Bay is thisclose to making history. The team that hasn’t been very good could very well accomplish something great.

The Golden Eagles awoke Wednesday morning in sole possession of first place. If they win out for the rest of the season, the worst they can do is share the championship with fellow Big East defector Georgetown. And winning the title is so improbably plausible.

Marquette’s two toughest games over that home stretch will be, fortuitously, at home. No. 8 Syracuse and No. 25 Notre Dame must play Marquette on a BMO Harris Bradley Center court where the Golden Eagles haven’t lost since Dec. 29, 2011.

Marquette’s three other games are on the road, where the team has often looked rather lost, to the tune of a 3-5 record. But the Golden Eagles have won two of their last three roadies, while their final three road opponents - Villanova, Rutgers and St. John’s - entered Wednesday with a combined Big East record of 19-22.

Can it really happen? Can a Marquette team without one of the Big East’s top 10 scorers or rebounders really end the season on top of the heap? Why not?

By now, it should take a lot more than that to surprise you.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, where I tweet as howiemag. And listen to me chat sports with Mitch Teich monthly on WUWM's "Lake Effect."





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