Huge win for Marquette at Notre Dame last night. As usual, my DVR saved me, as I had to fix a relatively minor, but relatively peculiar problem with my car. Rather than recapping last night's game, or delving into any of the games that I attended over the weekend, I think today's a more interesting time to make a few points with regard to the bigger picture this season for both Marquette and Wisconsin, two teams that are essentially polar opposites in terms of performance in recent weeks.
1) I’d like to suggest to all of my Marquette fan friends this week to not get too worked up about the media discussions will take place (and probably already have) questioning how good Marquette is in light of their schedule to this point in the season. I don’t think this question takes away from what Marquette has done to this point in time. Going 7-0 to start the Big East is amazing, and I don’t believe anyone who’s questioning how Marquette will do as their schedule toughens is suggesting otherwise. But it’s fair to have some questions about a team that has yet to play Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Louisville and Connecticut. Notre Dame, for example, was looking a lot more attractive before their recent four-game skid against four of the top teams in the conference. So while Marquette deserves tons of credit for taking care of business so far, I'm sure even Buzz Williams is still reminding his team that things are only going to get tougher.
2) Speaking of Marquette’s Big East schedule, while things seem wonderful right now, the conference schedule-makers didn’t do Marquette any favors. With a final five-game stretch made up of all of the aforementioned power teams that Marquette has yet to face, it's a pretty safe bet that the Golden Eagles won't be coasting to the end of the season. Two risks arise with such a rough slate of games down the stretch. First, a losing streak to close out the season could be costly for NCAA tournament seeding purposes, given that human nature is to remember more recent happenings first. Second, regardless of Marquette’s success in their final five games, five straight marquee games followed by the Big East tournament has serious potential to wear the Golden Eagles out (and Marquette isn’t a team with tons of depth to begin with). The next couple weeks don’t lack any importance, but Marquette’s real season begins on February 21. On the bright side, at least this should keep things interesting until the end for us fans.
3) I was somewhat amazed at the number of discussions that I had this past Friday night with people telling me that they were going to stop watching Wisconsin play for awhile. I don’t dispute that Wisconsin has been tough to watch lately, but throwing in the towel that quickly kind of irks me. Most of my conversations took place prior to the Illinois loss, so essentially what people were telling me then is that losing three straight games, two of which went to overtime, is enough to give up on the Badgers. That’s remarkably spoiled, if you ask me. No, I don’t feel good watching the Badgers lose games in uniquely painful ways each time they play. But it’s going to take more than four horrid games to make me give up on the season. Wisconsin’s got some good games left, and I plan on watching them. They can’t all be 30-win seasons.
4) I said at the start of the season that I thought the winner of the Big East and the winner of the Big Ten would each have 4-5 losses at the end of the season, but for very different reasons. The Big East winner should have some losses because roughly half of the Big East is stellar. The Big Ten winner should have some losses because every team (with the exception of Indiana) is at a similar level: good, but far from great. I stand by my prediction of 4-5 losses for each conference champ, though I’ll admit that the records of Louisville, Marquette and Michigan State are making me nervous.
Here's hoping that Wisconsin gets back on track against Purdue tonight. Though if I'm being honest, that's about the last team in the conference that I want to see the Badgers play tonight.