Marquette was given only 36 hours to prepare for its first opponent in the NCAA Tournament, having to wait until the Tuesday night outcome of Brigham Young University and Iona.
That brought twice the amount of work for the coaching staff and plenty of uncertainty for the Golden Eagles players.
But on Thursday afternoon, none of that seemed to matter as No. 3 seed Marquette defeated No. 14 BYU, 88-68, to advance to the second round in the West Region.
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The Golden Eagles came into Louisville well-rested after an early exit in the Big East tournament, while BYU had to overcome a 25-point deficit on Tuesday to stun Iona in the play-in game.
And while Marquette would be the superior team on most days, it looked like the much fresher group Thursday. It took less than six minutes for the Golden Eagles to take an 18-5 lead and soon they were up, 36-18, with more than eight minutes remaining in the first half.
BYU simply could not keep up with Marquette’s athleticism and trailed the entire game.
Senior forward Jae Crowder not only looked like the Big East Player of the Year but showed on a national stage why he may be one of the best in all of college basketball. Crowder finished with 25 points on 10 of 20 shooting, along with 16 rebounds, five steals and four assists.
Though Marquette is an undersized team, it attacked the glass hard and finished with 16 offensive rebounds, six of which belonged to Crowder.
Senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom was also on top of his game with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists as he slashed his way to the hoop at will and knocked down three 3-point shots.
Though BYU did not pose much of a challenge to the Golden Eagles, there will be a much more difficult matchup awaiting Saturday with the No. 6 Murray State Racers. Not only did Murray State lose only one game all season, but this game will be played only three hours from the school’s campus.
Essentially, Marquette is about to run into a road game in what is supposed to be a neutral site against a team that cruised through most of its competition this season.
Both Murray State and Marquette averaged more than 74 points per game this season, so it should be very high-scoring and fast-paced.
For coach Buzz Williams and the Golden Eagles, the road to the Sweet 16 is about to get bumpy.