The ice rink below the hardwood floor at the Dunkin Donuts Center was not the only thing to melt on Saturday afternoon.
So too did the Marquette Golden Eagles.
MU would finish the game with zero field goals in the final 7:20, going 0-for-8 from the field, and fell to the Friars by the not-so-nice score of 72-69.
Despite 24 points from freshman Markus Howard, who was 6-for-8 from the 3-point line and 8-for-13 from the field, Marquette now faces even more treachery with regards to their NCAA Tournament chances. They were straddling on the fence, but a loss like this could put them in auto-bid-or-bust position depending on the rest of the college basketball spectrum.
Providence meanwhile is starting to make their March dreams seem closer to a reality. The victory Saturday was the team’s fourth in a row and the team hasn’t beaten schlubs along the way either. No, Ed Cooley has helped right the ship for certain, and Providence has taken down Butler, Xavier, Creighton and now Marquette (two of which are bona fide tourney teams, one essentially in and one on the bubble) on this run towards the finish line.
The guiding light for the Friars was Rodney Bullock who is putting together a case to be on the All-Big East first team. Bullock notched a double double with 20 points and 10 boards, while shooting pretty effectively and efficiently. The Hampton, Virginia native made seven of his 13 shot attempts from the field and five of his six free throw attempts to boot.
The schedules contrast here on out for both sides. While the Golden Eagles must face the Xavier Musketeers and Creighton Bluejays, the Friars go up against the DePaul Blue Demons and St. John’s Red Storm.
What we learned
Ed Cooley, Coach of the Year?: While Butler Bulldogs and Villanova Wildcats coaches Chris Holtmann and Jay Wright have strong cases in their own right, Ed Cooley’s case is strengthening with every victory. For a team that was (foolishly) picked to finish ninth in the Big East, Providence is outperforming those expectations that’d been set for them. And, mind you, they were 4-8 not too long ago after a crushing two-point loss in OT to Seton Hall. That the Friars have righted the ship in this fashion means credit should not only be heaped on the players, but their coach as well. It takes two to tango, you know?
The Friars’ NCAA Tourney chances took a huge boost: Given the fact that Providence has DePaul and St. John’s left on the schedule, it’s very realistic to think that the Friars could wind up finishing 10-8 in Big East play after being 4-8 back on February 8. To that point, they’ve knocked off four high-caliber teams consecutively. While they might not have the highest of seeds, Providence looks like they could make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive year. They’ve never done that in the history of the program.
Marquette, meanwhile, is in deep trouble: The outlook for Xavier and Creighton has changed in recent weeks, yes. But Marquette’s 3-5 mark since the upset win over Villanova is a heck of an eyesore. Larger importance will be pinned on these upcoming games with the Musketeers and Bluejays when they could’ve certainly made it easier on themselves, well, legitimately any other time they took a loss. MU could very well be in boom-or-bust territory if they aren’t lingering towards there already.