NEW YORK – Marquette should feel pretty good about being in the NCAA Tournament, and by now the Big East should feel pretty good about getting 11 teams, although they might have one or two that get very low seeds for at-larges. Marquette’s 67-61 win over West Virginia is another quality win for the Golden Eagles that should wrap up a bid should they not win Saturday night.
The last game of the day proved to be the best one at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. West Virginia rode some hot shooting in the first half to a lead, as the Mountaineers were 7-11 from long range. They shot over 58 percent from the field in the half. Then Marquette turned it around in the second half, holding the Mountaineers to 22.2 percent shooting, including just 3-11 from long range.
“(Darius Johnson-Odom’s) shots were big, but the reason we won the game was because we guarded in the second half,” said head coach Buzz Williams.
Added West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins: “Shoot 22 percent the second half, you’re not going to win. You’re not going to win in this league doing that.”
The Golden Eagles got good games from their backcourt, although not in the sense that they dominated the game. They had decent numbers, but they really came through in the clutch. Johnson-Odom’s three-pointers that broke a 55-55 tie will get a lot of attention, but Junior Cadougan made plays that were very big in the grand scheme of things as well and Jimmy Butler didn’t have big numbers but made his share of plays.
Cadougan scored 13 of his team-high 15 points in the second half. Included in that was a layup that pushed the lead back to six and two free throws that helped seal the game in the final minute. Earlier, he went on a personal 7-0 run to start a rally when the Golden Eagles were down 44-35 in the second half.
“We put this game on Junior,” said Johnson-Odom. “He carried us and controlled the game and did a great job doing it.”
Marquette’s RPI is a little shaky, as it was 68 at the beginning of the week. But the Golden Eagles now have six wins against the RPI top 25 among their 20 on the season, and the worst loss is probably the one at Seton Hall to end the regular season, which is hardly a resume killer. Their RPI should go up from two more wins thus far, especially another top 25 win. It all adds up to what should be a pretty good case to be in the NCAA Tournament, but Williams understandably won’t take anything for granted.
“I went out early again tonight and I was looking for someone on the selection committee,” Williams said. “I didn’t see anybody. I thought they would be the best dressed here. I saw guys from Wall Street but I didn’t see anybody from the selection committee.”
Williams didn’t just have fun with the question about being in the NCAA Tournament, though. He did have a serious response.
“I think the best thing is to continue to win because the teams that are continuing to play this late in March are typically going to play next week,” the Marquette mentor added. “Our guys are smart enough to deduct all of that.”
Marquette should feel pretty good about their case now. Another win or two might get them a pretty good seed since it would mean more top 25 wins, but right now they look to be in good shape. The only question will be their seed.