Eric Silver: State of the Marquette Program

It's obvious to anyone who follows college basketball that Marquette has had a successful run since joining the Big East three years ago. But just how "successful" has the program been since it left the second-tier Conference USA?

NCAA Tournament Appearances

During that period Marquette is one of only 17 teams (out of 73) in the six top conferences that have managed to participate in the NCAA Tournament all three years. That limited list includes: Arizona, Arkansas, Duke, Georgetown, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, MARQUETTE, Michigan State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A & M, UCLA, Villanova, and Wisconsin. This list represents less that one fourth (23.3%) of all teams in the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10, and SEC. In fact, even Connecticut, Florida, Louisville, and Ohio State can not make the same claim.

This is not to argue that MU has been "more successful" than these last four programs over the past three seasons. However, the statistic does illustrate just how difficult it is to maintain NCAA-Tournament status even during a period as limited as three years.

Furthermore, it is very likely that a year from now the coaches, players, and fans of only 15 of the 17 programs listed (20.5%) will be able to say their team has made it to the Big Dance four years in a row as both Indiana and Arkansas are expected to finish at or near the bottom of their conference standings.

For the record, besides the 17 teams that have earned three trips to the NCAA Tournament, 16 other teams have participated twice while 19 teams have participated once and 21 teams have been shut out during that time span.

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Winning Percentage

A program's winning percentage in its conference is probably a better gauge of "success" than is overall winning percentage, primarily because the level of non-conference competition can vary enormously from team to team. An examination of the winning percentages in regular season conference games over the past three years is again an indication of how well Marquette has done since the members of the present senior class began their college careers.

Here is a list of all 73 teams in the six major conferences and their winning percentages in regular season league play. (The number following each team's record represents the number of appearances in the NCAA Tournament.)

Winning Percentages the Last Three Seasons (Conference Games Only)

1. Kansas – .833 (40-8): 1. UCLA - .833 (45-9): 3. Texas - .792 (38-10): 4. North Carolina - .771 (37-11) 5. Georgetown - .760 (38-12) 5. Wisconsin - .760 (38-12) 7. Tennessee - .750 (36-12) 8. Ohio State - .740 (37-13) 9. Duke - .729 (35-13) 10. Connecticut - .660 (33-17) 10. Indiana - .660 (33-17) 12. Florida - .646 (31-17) 12. Texas A & M - .646 (31-17) 14. Louisville – .640 (32-18) 14. Pittsburgh - .640 (32-18) 14. Villanova - .640 (32-18) 17. Stanford - .630 (34-20) 18. Kentucky - .625 (30-18)

19. MARQUETTE - .620 (31-19): 3

19. Notre Dame - .620 (31-19) 19. West Virginia - .620 (31-19) 22. Vanderbilt - .563 (27-21) 23. Michigan State - .560 (28-22) 24. Arizona - .556 (30-24) 24. USC - .556 (3024) 26. Arkansas - .542 (26-22) 26. Kansas State - .542 (26-22) 26. Maryland - .542 (26-22) 26. Oklahoma - .542 (26-22) 30. Purdue - .540 (27-23) 31. Boston College - .521 (25-23) 31. LSU - .521 (25-23) 31. Mississippi State - .521 (25-23) 34. Iowa - .520 (26-24) 34. Syracuse - .520 (26-24) 36. Washington - .519 (28-26) 36. Washington State - .519 (28-26) 38. Clemson - .500 (24-24) 38. Illinois - .500 (25-25) 38. Oregon - .500 (27-27) 41. Florida State - .479 (23-25) 41. Virginia - .479 (23-25) 41. Virginia Tech - .479 (23-25) 44. Alabama - .458 (22-26) 44. Texas Tech - .458 (22-26) 46. California - .444 (24-30) 47. Michigan - .420 (21-29) 48. Nebraska - .417 (2028) 49. DePaul - .400 (20-30) 49. Seton Hall - .400 (20-30)

51. Georgia Tech - .396 (19-29) 51. Miami - .396 (19-29) 51. Mississippi - .396 (19-29) 51. North Carolina State - .396 (19-29) 51. Oklahoma State - .396 (19-29) 56. Providence - .380 (19-31 (0) 57. Missouri - .375 (18-30) 58. Cincinnati - .360 (18-32) 59. Baylor - .354 (17-31) 59. Georgia - .354 (17-31) 61. St. John's - .340 (17-33) 62. Iowa State - .333 (16-21) 63. Minnesota - .320 (16-34) 64. Auburn - .313 – (15-33) 64. Colorado - .313 (15-33) 64. South Carolina - .313 (15-33) 64. Wake Forest - .313 (15 – 33) 68. Penn State - .300 (15-35) 69. Arizona State - .296 (16-38) 70. Rutgers - .260 (13-37) 71. Oregon State - .148 (8-46) 72. Northwestern - .018 (9-41) 73. South Florida - .014 (7-31)

Only 21 of these teams (28.8%) have managed to come out victors in more than 60% of their conference games during this period. And that list, surprisingly, does not include two programs generally recognized as elite - Michigan State (.560 winning percentage) or Arizona (.556 winning percentage).

In fact, to show how challenging it is for programs to maintain a high level of success Syracuse, despite winning a national championship just six short years ago, is only 26-24 in conference play – with one NCAA appearance – the last three years.

Along the same line, since making it to the national championship game in 2005, Illinois slipped to 5-13 in Big 10 games a year ago, thereby lowering its winning percentage the past three seasons to .500 (25-25).

A myriad of other programs – specifically Georgia Tech, LSU, Maryland, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Washington to name a few – have also been to the Final Four (or beyond) in the last decade. But not one of these teams has won even 55% of its league games the past three years, and one has won fewer than 40% of those contests.

Consistency

Finally, an indication of success is CONSISTENCY. Of the 73 teams in the six top conferences, only seven have managed to win at least 60% of their conference games in EACH of the past three seasons. That list includes the following:

Georgetown

Kansas,

MARQUETTE

North Carolina

Tennessee

Texas

UCLA

This is perhaps the most surprising testament of all to MU's achievements since the Three Amigos entered the program. Not Duke, not Indiana, not Kentucky, not Pittsburgh, not Wisconsin have managed to win at least 60% of their conference games each of the past three seasons.

Conclusion

In short, despite some definite disappointments during the post-season the last three years, which many would also justifiably include as a criterion for "success," there is no denying that Tom Crean, regardless of how one feels about him now, resurrected Marquette's program from the realm of mediocrity and turned it into, arguably, one of the Top 20 programs at present in the country.

Perhaps equally important, the prognosis for continued success is also bright. MU should again win at least 60% of its conference games this year and should, once again, be invited to the Big Dance.

In addition, Coach Williams has laid the groundwork for the post-Amigo years with his present recruiting class of 2009, as well as this year's talented newcomers. MU fans should be able to sit back and enjoy the next stage of the journey.


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