[caption id="attachment_12402" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Marquette Athletics[/caption] Big East men’s basketball has been off to a sizzling start this year with an overall conference record of 63-19. While there are a fair share of teams that have both risen above and have yet to reach expectations, there is one squad that is making a quiet surge through the ranks. That would be Marquette. Coming off an underwhelming 12-18 season, the Preseason Big East Poll ranked the Marquette men’s team to place in seventh in the conference, tied with Butler, and a fair margin behind Seton Hall’s projected production. Currently, Marquette stands in fifth place in the Big East with a 7-2 record, but that is a small part of a larger, more resilient picture. The Golden Eagles were tested off the bat on their schedule, suffering a close loss, earning an overtime win, and then falling to Iowa in a blowout. The team started the season 1-2 – a mark they were expected to meet three games into the year. Now, on a six-game win streak, the Golden Eagles have spread their wings. They have not made all the headlines, but their streak, including two gritty overtime wins and a defeat of Ben Simmons and a ranked LSU teams, is not something to nod off just yet. The steady improvement from Marquette can be seen in the numbers, especially in its recent contests that include wins of both 36-point and 37-point margins. To fuel the fire, a Marquette young gun is one to thank for the recent production. The youngster has come from lucky number 13; freshman forward Henry Ellenson. Recording 29.8 minutes per game, Ellenson is averaging an impressive 16.3 points (fourth in Big East), 8.9 rebounds (second in Big East) and 2.4 assists a contest. Another key cog in Marquette’s recent stretch is junior center Luke Fischer. In 28.3 minutes per game, Fischer is averaging 15 points (eighth in Big East) while shooting a scorching-hot 68.2 percent from the field (first in Big East, fifteenth in the NCAA). He is also adding 7.1 rebounds (eleventh in Big East) and 2.1 blocks (second in Big East) per game. When a team has two players that can fill a stat sheet like that up front, all it needs is a player from outside to pour on the pressure. So far, the team’s average of 81.6 points per game shows the threat on offense has been no fluke. While the Golden Eagles’ schedule has already provided some close contests, the remaining non-conference games include some winnable ones against Chicago State (36) and Presbyterian College (4-5). The largest challenge before Big East play for Marquette hoops will come against Wisconsin (6-3). If Marquette wins two of its next three games, it can enter conference play with a 9-3 record, which is pretty respectable for a team that was predicted to land seventh in the Big East. If the Golden Eagles can keep up with their Big East foes as they have with their non-conference matchups thus far, this can be an unexpectedly dominant season for Marquette with a potential trip to the NCAA tournament in sight. That of course is a while away though. Marquette hoops faces its first conference test against Seton Hall on Wednesday Dec. 30 in Milwaukee. If both the Golden Eagles and Pirates keep up their current production, this can prove to be an exciting, competitive, must-see matchup. Elizabeth Swinton can be reached at email@example.com. edu or on Twitter @eswint22.
How we see the Big East: Marquette quietly off to a surprising star