NCAA Tournament: Marquette looks elite
For two rounds Marquette lived dangerously. They know how to win in ugly fashion but living dangerously is dangerous for a reason. What if you have a night where everything goes wrong? What if you don't sink three straight threes in the closing minutes? What if you don't play tenacious defense on the last possession after turning the ball over?
Then again, what if you have a night where everything goes right? That's exactly what happened to the Golden Eagles in the Sweet 16 against Miami. Certainly health was on Marquette's side when news broke earlier in the week that Miami's big man Reggie Johnson would miss the game. Johnson's presence was missed.
Then when play began the pace favored Marquette. The score was 4-4 in the first TV timeout. Miami loves to run and they are athletic but from the start it was physical and grind-it-out. Vintage Big East ball. IT certainly helped that the referees weren't calling it tight. Not before long it was 12-4 Marquette. One possession later in the half told the story. Miami grabbed three offensive rebounds but couldn't connect until a foul was called. The Hurricanes were going to have to work for every point. And that's not their style.
With a 13 point lead at the half the Golden Eagles were right where they wanted to be. But no lead is safe in the NCAA Tournament. No problem for Marquette. THe Golden Eagles made 10 of their forst 12 shots to open the second half.. A blistering 83% pace. No team, even one as talented as Miami, can come back from that.
Again, it was a night where everything went right. Marquette finished the night shooting 54% while holding Miami, an excellent shooting team, to less than 35%. The Golden Eagles gave up 15 offensive rebounds but Miami could never quite capitalize. In the first two rounds Miami drained a combined 21 three point shots. Against North Carolina in the ACC title game the Hurricanes nailed another 12 trifectas. In those three games Miami shot nearly 48% from beyond the arc. But Thursday night proved to be an off night with Miami making just eight three pointers on 26 attempts. Advantage Marquette.
So it's on to the Elite 8. Sure Tom Crean vs. Marquette had a lot of sizzle but in an ultra-competitive year the Big East As We Know It deserves one more encore. Marquette vs. Syracuse for a trip to the Final Four.