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Marquette Basketball

(Isabel Bonebrake/Marquette Wire)

Marquette Basketball Has Been a Huge Surprise in 2022-23

Marquette Basketball
(Isabel Bonebrake/Marquette Wire)

Marquette Basketball Has Been a Huge Surprise in 2022-23

One of the biggest surprises of this college basketball season has been Marquette Basketball. Hand up, I thought this team was going to stink out loud. I didn’t expect them to be quite as low as DePaul or Georgetown, but certainly not far from there. The Big East coaches agreed, voting the Golden Eagles ninth in their preseason poll. Fast forward to now: Marquette is 16-5, second in the Big East, and a top-10 KenPom team.

I maintain that there wasn’t a whole lot to like about Marquette entering the season. Shaka Smart and company managed to crack the Top 20 of the AP Poll last season, but things quickly fell apart from there. The Golden Eagles dropped seven of their final 11 games, ending their season with a 32-point loss to North Carolina in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Star forward Justin Lewis left for the pro ranks after a breakout campaign, and second-leading scorer Darryl Morsell graduated. Marquette didn’t bring in a lauded recruiting class or make a big splash in the transfer portal. After collapsing down the stretch, losing their two best players, and failing to make any meaningful additions, how did Marquette manage to get better?

Marquette’s Simple Solution

Good old-fashioned player development, that’s how. Kam Jones went from scoring seven points per game off the bench to leading the team in scoring. The sophomore guard is averaging 16.4 points while shooting 37% from three on almost eight attempts per game. Sophomore Tyler Kolek has been one of the best point guards in the country, posting almost eight assists per game while bumping his scoring average into the double digits. Junior forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper scored 6.6 points per game last season. He’s averaging 14 this year. Forward Oso Ighodaro is putting up 12.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game one year removed from 5.5/3.3/0.9.

Marquette’s improvement has been maddeningly simple. The Golden Eagles just collectively got better. They are shooting over 50% from the field as a team and boast the No. 1 offense in the country per KenPom. If you told me before the season that Marquette would have a legitimate claim to being the best team in the Big East, I would have called you crazy. Yet here we are.

In the wake of last season’s late collapse, it remains to be seen whether the Golden Eagles can sustain this level of play into March. Shaka Smart hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2013 with VCU, but this Marquette team is certainly capable of ending that drought.

***

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