At the other end of the spectrum, Notre Dame is fighting for their postseason lives after suffering repeated close losses, the latest one an overtime loss Tuesday at #4 Connecticut that symbolized the heartbreak they have suffered this season.
Trailing 48-30 at halftime, the Irish responded in the second half with a 25-2 run that gave them the lead, a lead they would hold until a Marcus Williams put back in the waning seconds sent the game to overtime. The Irish faltered again during crunch time, losing 75-74 in OT after Chris Quinn's final runner missed.
Sitting at 4-8 going into the UConn game, a trademark win in that game would have propelled the Irish into the serious at large discussion, with two very winnable games left, DePaul at home, and Providence on the road, and another chance for a marquee win in their game Saturday against Marquette left on the schedule.
Instead, they sit at 4-9 and are in danger of missing the Big East Tournament, having to win two of their final three to ensure a trip to New York. Their only hope to make the NCAA Tournament would be winning the Big East Tournament, a tournament the Irish may not even make.
Marquette, at 8-5 in the Big East, has a chance to earn a bye in the first round of the Big East tournament with wins in their final three games. Facing two desperate teams on the road, Notre Dame and Louisville, winning out will not be easy.
Still, Notre Dame would gladly trade positions at this point. The luck of the Irish left South Bend this season, as their nine conferences have been by a combined 27 points, four of them occurring in overtime.
The main players on each team match-up very well: sharpshooters, Novak on Marquette and Colin Falls at Notre Dame; dynamic point guards, Chris Quinn for the Irish and Marquette's Dominic James; and talented freshman scoring guards, Notre Dame's Kyle McAlarney and Marquette's Jerel McNeal. Both teams rank among the Big East's best in scoring, Notre Dame 2nd at 76.9 points per game, Marquette 4th at 75.1 points per game.
The difference has come in close games. In games decided by six points (two possessions) or less, Marquette has gone 7-3, 5-3 in the Big East. The Irish have won just 2 of their 12 games decided by six points or less, and have lost all nine of them in the Big East.
The real surprising thing is that Marquette plays four newcomers among their top seven, while Notre Dame starts two seniors and two juniors. Despite being predicted to finish 12th in the preseason, Marquette has played well beyond their years, and looks poised to make a statement in March. Notre Dame just hopes to have a future beyond the regular season.