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Marquette has collected triumphs over Baylor, Creighton, UConn, and Xavier over the course of the campaign and slowly cemented itself as a sleeper pick to win the national championship in Shaka Smart’s second season at the helm. The team already had four losses by mid-December but has dropped just two contests since, turning around its season in conference play.
The Golden Eagles racked up six-straight victories to close out the regular season and clinch sole possession of the Big East regular season title. With an elite-level offensive attack, Marquette will be tough to slow down in the NCAA Tournament.
Last National Championship: 1977
Last Final Four: 2003
2023 Title Odds: +3000 (as of March 7, 2023)
Why Marquette Will Make a Run
Marquette boasts one of the best offenses in college basketball. The team is sixth in Division I in field-goal percentage (49.5 percent), fourth in assists per game (18.0), and 15th in points per game (81.0). Kameron Jones, Tyler Kolek, Olivier-Maxence Prosper, and Oso Ighodaro are all scoring in double figures, and every member of the Golden Eagles rotation has an effective field-goal percentage of at least 50. Even if you stop one or two of Marquette’s scorers, it has a line of players waiting to fill in.
This team also takes good care of the ball, only turning it over at a rate of 10.7 times per night. Marquette also generates the eighth-most steals per game of anyone in Division I, and six of its players come up with at least one per contest on average. As a consequence, the Golden Eagles are second in the division in fastbreak points per outing (16.35). If this team is matched up with one that coughs up the rock, it could be a long day for the opposition.
Why Marquette Will Exit Early
This team uses its aggressive, ballhawk defense to get easy points in transition, but Marquette isn’t otherwise a defensive juggernaut. It allows 71.3 points per game, which isn’t horrible but won’t be what advances this team deep in the tournament. Marquette is outside of the top 60 for adjusted defensive efficiency in KenPom and T-Rank.
More troubling, though, is how the Golden Eagles rebound. This isn’t a very big team, and in most of Marquette’s losses this season, it was slaughtered on the boards. Marquette ranks near the bottom of the Big East in all notable rebounding statistics, and it’s also 10th in the league in blocks per personal foul (0.20). Against a team with size that can clobber the offensive glass and dominate the paint, the Golden Eagles might have some issues.
What It’ll Take to Win
Without Kolek’s distribution, the Golden Eagles’ offense would be a fraction of what it is. He’s second in Division I in assists per game (7.9) and fourth in the country in assist/turnover ratio (3.37). To have a chance at winning the national championship, Marquette will need Kolek at his best, finding open shooters and cutters, taking care of the orange, and putting the ball in the basket to boot.
Marquette is one of the nation’s most efficient teams from inside the arc, which will have to continue. Additionally, the Golden Eagles will have to connect from range to keep up with teams that are likely to outrebound them. This team is one of the Big East’s most trigger happy from three but it only hits them at an average clip. If Marquette can splash more of those triples in the tournament, it could be the difference in a national championship win.