Marquette will await news of their first opponent after earning a first round bye in the last weekend of the season. At 10-6 in the league, Marquette won a tie-breaker for fourth place between Georgetown and Pittsburgh. MU will square off against the winner of the 5/12 game pitting the aforementioned Hoyas against Notre Dame. Marquette swept Notre Dame in the season series and also defeated Georgetown at the Bradley Center just three weeks ago.
For most of the Golden Eagles, this will be their first visit to "world's most famous arena." Only seniors Chris Grimm, Steve Novak, and Joe Chapman have played in the Garden. Three years ago, Marquette defeated Villanova in New York; in 2003-2004, Travis Diener and company downed St. Johns in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
"Having all the teams in one place playing each other is exciting," said Novak, who today was named to the All-Big East 1st Team. "We (Marquette) are undefeated at the Garden so far. I don't think there is a more exciting place to play—when you are on the court, and thinking about all the players that have played on that same court. This history of Madison Square Garden is unmatched."
Though Novak and his fellow seniors are the only MU players with game experience at the Garden, freshmen Dominic James, Wes Matthews, and Jerel McNeal also have been there as recently as five months ago. The three newcomers accompanied Coach Tom Crean and Novak to the Big East's media day at seasons beginning. But as incentive to his young freshmen, Crean would not let them sneak onto the Garden floor. He wanted to keep his freshmen hungry to get back there for the tournament.
"It's a big deal to qualify for this and I want our guys to be excited" said Crean. "We never went into the arena on media day because we wanted it to be something our guys could look forward to."
"My first trip to New York was actually at the beginning of the year when we went out there for media day," recalled McNeal. "The media day was actually at the Garden but coach didn't give us a chance to see the floor or anything. He wanted to use it as incentive for us and it worked out in the end."
Shield your eyes no more Marquette freshmen, its time to play with the big boys. In the new top 25 poll released today, the Big East now boasts the top two teams in the country in UConn and Villanova. A win over Georgetown or Notre Dame would probably give the Golden Eagles a rematch with Connecticut, whom Marquette thrashed 94-79 in January.
And to think, most thought Marquette wouldn't be playing this Wednesday because they wouldn't finish in the top twelve of the league, not because they earned a bye in the first round.
Added Crean, "When you look at how hard every team had to work to just get this opportunity, you don't want to go there and not give it your best shot. We want to go in and play well."