Why There's Reason for Excitement

Marquette coach Tom Crean cut the game net with the help of his 10-year-old daughter, Megan, after Marquette beat South Carolina 92-89 in overtime to win the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage, Alaska, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2005. (AP Photo/Al Grillo)

There isn't anything new about the way Marquette has began the 2005-6 campaign. For the seventh straight season, Marquette has four victories in their first five games, with the fifth victory coming in dramatic fashion against South Carolina in the finals of the Great Alaskan Shootout.

No one really had the opportunity to talk about a match up with South Carolina Saturday because just 24 hours earlier, Marquette didn't even know who their opponent would be. Wait…South Carolina a big game? South Carolina was one of two NCAA teams to carry a five plus game winning streak into this season. They competed in the 2005 NIT tournament and defeated Miami, UNLV, Georgetown, Maryland, and St. Joes en route to the Championship. South Carolina returned all but three of their scholarship players including 3 starters.

Was Saturday night's non-conference victory over South Carolina as significant as a victory over, lets say, Wisconsin last year? Notre Dame the year before? Wake Forrest in 2003? You bet.

Think about it. Marquette was 2-10 on nationally televised games last season. Winning the Great Alaskan Shootout, which rounds out the major preseason tournament list with the NIT Tournament, the Guardians Classic, and Maui Invite, was a huge accomplishment for this young team. Getting any sort of excitement brewing about this young group is an even bigger accomplishment just five games into the season.

With Big East expectations ranging everywhere from middle of the pack to missing the conference tournament, Saturday night's win speaks volumes. It proved that Marquette could play with an experienced and athletic team that has won before. Many of the teams that Marquette will face in the Big East will be just that. Sure, Marquette is still young. They are still starting three freshmen in arguably the best conference in the country. There are still 20 some games to go, but there is definite reason for optimism.

For those who tire of watching Marquette play the Savannah State's and Western Carolina's of the division one basketball world, Saturday's win should also help MU's non-conference RPI rating. South Carolina should be good for nearly 20 wins this season and is predicted to compete for an NCAA bid. The Southeastern Conference is a bit weaker this year, with just three ranked teams and one other team getting votes in the latest top 25 as of this week.

In addition, Marquette's semifinal victory over Oral Roberts should lift the RPI rating. Oral Roberts racked up 25 wins last season in the Mid-Con, an above average mid-major conference. Having three victories at a neutral site also raises the multiplier for wins when compared to just winning games at home. Plainly speaking, Marquette's neutral court triumphs this past weekend hold a lot more water than even a victory over Winthrop would have last week. Marquette's non-conference RPI should also be boosted by away games at Wisconsin and Nebraska.

During the past two seasons, Marquette has watched teams with lower records receive automatic bids because of their strong RPI's and quality opponents played. It's true. Teams with losing records in good conferences are receiving non conference bids every year. With a stronger Big East Conference this season and win's like South Carolina already in the bank, Marquette should have a better outlook on an "in" to the tournament. Expectations aside, this win meant a lot.

Marquette Hoops Top Stories