From hunter to hunted

MUHoops.com opinions column: The Golden Eagles are off to their best start in conference history. Now's when we learn what they're made of, says Brian Henry.

5-0…

Really digest that for a moment.

Jumpin' Jesuits… WE'RE 5-0!!!

That's about the reaction from almost every Marquette fan as they wake up on this holiday weekend. If you pick up a newspaper and turn to the standings of the Big East Conference, you cannot help but smile when you look to the top.

1. No. 11/10 Marquette 16-2 (5-0)

To put it plainly, this is awesome. But be weary Marquette Basketball fans, because being the hunted in this conference is something new for this program. Take the Golden Eagle's first three starts in the Big East as evidence:

2006: 3-2; 2007: 3-2; 2008: 3-2

Good, but certainly not great. Starts that are not going to make opposing teams and fans sweat over the upcoming Marquette game on their schedule. You get off to a 5-0 start though, and regardless of who you did it against, everyone is looking up at you.

Everyone.

If Buzz Williams and his players wake up today and notice a strange itch developing on their backs, it might be a big red bull's eye that grew overnight. And with every victory that bull's eye will get bigger.

Hey, you all wanted this. Now it's time to put up or shut up. Two of the next three games are against ranked teams, with the always-heated Notre Dame game taking place in South Bend. We'll all find out just how good this team really is.

If this group gets to 6-0, 7-0 – dare I say even 8-0 – in conference play with only four players scoring the basketball, Buzz Williams should get the Nobel Prize. Talk about getting the most out of your players. You could write a book on the things that this team lacks. And you could write another about overcoming adversity.

I've always used one main criterion to determine a great team from a good one: Even when you don't play well, you are still able to find ways to win games. In the past three seasons, if the Golden Eagles didn't show up at the start of a game they were dead in the water. Let Saturday's game against Providence show that this trend is beginning to be bucked.

The Golden Eagles erased a 13-point second-half deficit, going ahead for good on a Lazar Hayward three-pointer with 2:10 left in the game. Even the players have to be pretty amped about that right?

"[This win is] going to be real big, but we ain't real concerned with that right now," said Jerel McNeal when asked if the Providence victory could be a real springboard for the rest of the season.

"We're going to enjoy it for a couple hours right now, and when next week starts, we'll focus on our next opponent. It's a big win for us tonight, but tomorrow it means nothing."

Wise words, but I'm not sure everyone else who follows this team got the memo.

The national media has begun to take notice. Alumni are tiptoeing around their homes trying not to jinx anything. The student body is in a near-frenzy. And all the while, Buzz Williams keeps his players focused on their schoolwork and the next upcoming game. Even with some irritated powerhouses looking up at one of the Big East's newbies, it's hard for fans to say they've never felt more confident.

The foundation for a special season has been laid. Now let's find out how high and fast they can build in the middle of a hurricane.

Brian Henry is a senior majoring in broadcast communication. He is also the Sports Director of Marquette Radio.


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