Playing with House Money

Can I get a show of hands of all those who believed Marquette would be 10-3 this season heading into conference play? Please keep your hands raised if, now, you think Marquette could have won even more of these early non-conference games? That's what I thought. Such is life with this young team.

Can I get a show of hands of all those who believed Marquette would be 10-3 this season heading into conference play? Please keep your hands raised if, now, you think Marquette could have won even more of these early non-conference games? That's what I thought. Such is life with this young team.

I recently returned from a ten-day play session in Phoenix and Las Vegas, soaking up as much sports as I possibly could. Wearing Marquette gear throughout the week as I meandered through Sun Devil Stadium and Vegas's finest sports books, I was often questioned about what has gone on with the Golden Eagles/Gold/Warriors since Dwayne Wade and Travis Diener punched their tickets to the state of Florida. After all, if I didn't attend Marquette and I was only a casual college basketball fan, I probably would ask the same thing. You cannot find a mention of MU on ESPN.com's front page, or in their endless links to stories saturated with endless "dap" for the Tobacco Road teams, Adam Morrison, the Orange Krush, or a Gator team that will still bomb out come tourney time. When a Marquette/Wisconsin game can't reach Lincolnshire, Illinois via cable TV, you know times have changed a little.

The questions were easy to answer. I was bursting with enthusiasm over our youth, quickly citing my personal belief that Marquette is a sweet 16 team in the making, but probably not for one year or two. But why concede? You can't tell me that an 8-8 finish with one Big East tournament victory won't cue up the dance music on Wisconsin Avenue. And a timely visit from #2 Connecticut January 3rd might be exactly what the doctor ordered.

They talked a lot about odds in Vegas last week, so let's continue the conversation. For starters, Marquette is minus one and UConn is plus one, referring, of course, to MU's loss of starting guard Wes Matthews to injury, and the Huskies addition of star guard Marcus Williams, fresh off of a semester long suspension. Tuesday's clash with Connecticut will also be the first Big East game for Marquette, a daunting fact compared to UConn's 26 Big East seasons already in the books; thus, the Huskies get the edge on experience. I got 1:1 odds that living rooms in Lincolnshire still won't be lighting up with the Blue and Gold, but I'll give 2:1 that Jimmy Dykes gets the color nod on ESPN Plus's Wisconsin only regional telecast. All bets are off on Tim Higgins officiating the contest.

It probably won't be the game of the week, or even game of the evening, but the Marquette/Connecticut battle could best just about all the odds already stacked high. For Marquette, it is nothing but an opportunity to build on. MU doesn't even have to win to take away positives from this game. A good showing could springboard this young bunch towards knocking off 90's rival and former CUSA bully Cincinnati on January 7th.

Even a good showing may take something extraordinary.

Every now and then, a team can find indelible pluck and triumph through the shadows of the underdog label. Marquette has had their fair share of upsets in the recent years (see Kentucky 2003 and Louisville x2 in 2004). It may take a performance that makes even the most avid Blue and Gold fans shake their heads in disbelief. I don't know who, or if anyone will step up and own ONE game like Wade did against Kentucky, Novak did against Louisville, Diener did against Wisconsin, or Amoroso did against South Carolina. But it may take that kind of performance to beat a team like Connecticut. And it can be done. This team is just young enough, hungry enough, and oblivious enough to the pandemonium an upset might cause.

Last minute marketing efforts are spilling off gomarquette.com's webpage to get fannies in the seats. They will come. The holidays are over and it's time to start thinking basketball. Get ready Milwaukee. There's only one SURE bet for Tuesday-this game is BIG.

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