After 27 wins, including a program record 14 in conference, the Marquette Golden Eagles were awarded a No. 3 seed in the West region of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
It is the Golden Eagles highest seeding since 2003, when junior guard Dwyane Wade and coach Tom Crean led third-seeded Marquette to a Final Four berth in New Orleans, the site of this year’s Final Four as well.
The NCAA Tournament committee, which released its complete rankings for the first time, had Marquette ranked as the No. 10 team in the country, or the second-highest No. 3 seed.
In Marquette’s West region, Michigan State is the top seed, followed by No. 2 Missouri, No. 4 Louisville and No. 5 New Mexico. Here is the entire bracket.
The Golden Eagles join Florida State (East), Georgetown (Midwest) and Baylor (South) as the four No. 3 seeds in the tournament.
Head coach Buzz Williams did not put much stock into his team’s high rank in the bracket.
“I don’t think that seeding matters when you get to a tournament,” Williams said. “I think your body of work gets you the seed, but once your seed is established it’s win or go home.”
But on the day Williams and the Golden Eagles received their seed, they did not receive their opponent just yet.
Marquette will play the winner of Tuesday night’s play-in game between Brigham Young and Iona. That winner will claim the No. 14 seed in the West and play Marquette two days later.
Williams said preparation will be difficult, as the coaching staff scouts both teams, but that the time before knowing who they play can not be wasted.
“You can’t give away Sunday evening until Tuesday night,” Williams said. “So it’s kind of double work, because you’re preparing for two teams. And then from Tuesday night until when we play Thursday, you can lock in then. We need to make sure we’re prepared in the appropriate way.”
Just moments after Marquette’s name was called, the coaching staff huddled together to discuss strategy, before many of the coaches were dispersed to begin game planning for the two opponents.
Despite having to prepare for two opponents for the next 48 hours, Williams said the coaching staff must balance how much information on each opponent is crammed into the brains of each player.
“Your team needs to have a little bit of a feel for both teams,” Williams said. “But you can’t inundate kids with too much information, and then Tuesday night half the information you gave them is wrong.”
Senior and Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder said the team’s focus is not an issue, coming off the heels of an 84-71 loss to Louisville in the Big East Tournament on Thursday.
“I felt like this is where it starts for me and (Darius Johnson-Odom,” Crowder said. “Setting the momentum now, Setting the tone in practice. And I feel like we did that. We went pretty hard, so by the time we get to Louisville we’ll be ready for the opponent.”
The KFC Yum! Center, home to the Louisville Cardinals, is the venue for the second and third rounds. The Golden Eagles are familiar with the site, but choked away a 17-point second half lead at Louisville a year ago.
Sophomore Vander Blue said the venue won’t make a difference in the Golden Eagles’ end goal next weekend.
“It’s a tough place to play, but it’s the NCAA Tournament,” Blue said. “It’s not home court advantage. It’s more like, wherever we play we have to go and handle our business. We have no hard feelings in Louisville.”
Crowder, who averaged 12.3 points and 7.0 rebounds in three NCAA Tournament games last year, knows each game comes with plenty of hype.
“Last year it was about JuCo guys, so there’s always something. You just have to block it out and know you’re just playing basketball, the game you’ve played all your life,” Crowder said. “It’s good pressure that I’ve brought on myself. We just want to go out there and prove that you deserve what you get.”