Golden Eagles ready to earn their respect

March 20, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Buzz Williams has felt his team has lacked respect all season long. Why should the NCAA tournament be any different? 
Third-seeded Marquette has been a popular pick to be upset by 14th-seeded Davidson in Thursday's NCAA tournament Round of 64 game at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.
"Well, according to all the pundits nobody has picked us to win," Williams said. "So it may be the 3, 14 Cinderella story."
The Golden Eagles don't see Davidson as a 14 seed. Not only are the Wildcats battle-tested, but they are hungry to do better than last season's loss to Louisville in the NCAA Tournament. The talented frontcourt duo of Jake Cohen and De'Mon Brooks average 28.6 points per game and has proven its worth against major-conference schools.
"Davidson is a very well-rounded team,, disciplined," Marquette senior guard Trent Lockett said. "They're very physical as well. I think we all agree as a team they're better than a 14th seed. They're a very good team and we cannot take them lightly."
Because teams like George Mason, VCU, Butler and Davidson themselves have paved the way for the mid-majors with NCAA tournament upsets, Marquette knows it must play well. 
With expectations to at least head back to the Sweet 16 for the third straight season, the Golden Eagles can't look too far ahead or they will be on a plane back to Milwaukee rather than preparing for Butler or Bucknell.
"I don't believe in the underdogs," Marquette junior forward Jamil Wilson said. "I feel like if you make it this far, you have a chance to beat anybody. We've seen it all year, just upsets all over. If you make the NCAA tournament, you have a chance to win it all."
One major factor that could increase the odds of an upset are turnovers. Marquette has struggled to protect the ball in its losses and can't afford to be careless as the season becomes win or go home. 
"Our turnover rate can't be as high as it's been the last couple of weeks because everything is magnified," Williams said. " ... Over the last month we've really tried to concentrate more on creating more possessions. Don't turn it over and get more offensive rebounds."
The Golden Eagles did neither in their Big East quarterfinal loss to Notre Dame last Thursday. Marquette turned it over 14 times and got hammered on the offensive glass in the second-half stretch that killed any hopes of advancing to the semifinal. 
"I feel like we really didn't leave our mark in New York like we wanted to," junior guard Vander Blue said. "It's win or go home. I want to get past the Sweet 16. I've been to two in them in a row, and it's time to start talking Elite Eight and Final Four.
"We didn't come here to make friends or take tours. We came here to win."
And that lack of respect continues to drive them. Each prognosticator picking Davidson to spring the upset only further motivates Marquette.  
"Of course it does," Wilson said. "Especially saying another team is better than us and that they are going to beat us. It completely throws everything we've done out the window to this point, so it's a little bit of extra motivation."

Follow Andrew Gruman on Twitter.