Greska: Embrace the Hype

As the confetti was still hovering over the Huskies, outlets across the country were racing to publish their first rankings for the 2024 season. And a funny thing happened, the consensus settled on Marquette being the team to beat next year.

The fine folks at Field of 68 were able to round up 12 of the highest profile outlets that published a ranking and gave us a beautiful visual to boot. Although UConn has more top spot billings, the consensus gives Marquette the higher average rank, and thus the title of consensus No. 1 team. (If you want to look at the individual write ups from each publication, Anonymous Eagle is doing some heavy lifting collecting it all in one easy to read post.)

Ok, this is where we’ll stop and throw up 48 caveats, the biggest one being that in this day and age with transfers and extra COVID years galore, most rosters won’t look anything like what they do today. Some will be better and some worse, but almost all will be different. Heck, even Marquette has an open scholarship and open questions about whether someone like OMax will test the draft process.

So knowing that, it’s really WAY way too early to do anything but politely click and log off. This isn’t going on any shirt. No one is hanging a banner.

And outside of the fact that we don’t know what the rosters will look like, even if there was a bit more certainty, nothing has ever been won 7 months before the season starts. We just went through a full season making fun of coaches and media and fans that dared to place Marquette as a bottom tier Big East team, we of all fanbases should know better than to give any sort of meaning to what basically amounts to clickbait.

As Shaka Smart drilled over and over this season, the guys in the locker room put in the work on the court and with each other, and that, not anyone’s opinion or ranking, is what truly matters to success. Definitely not hype pieces based on intuition and incomplete models.

But I’m not the coach. And I’m not on that team. And I’m not used to Marquette being talked about as an elite powerhouse rather than a nice story. So with all due respect to Shaka, the man most responsible for a revitalization of this program, I’m going to say he’s wrong.

Offseason ink and media praise won’t have any bearing on the on-court product next season, true, but it means a hell of a lot to the fans that support the team. We saw the crowds build deeper into the season as the wins piled up and Marquette’s rank climbed into the single digits. There was buzz and excitement online and in person, the kind we had almost forgotten about.

And while taking control of the Big East title race is quite a bit different than being highly regarded in the aftermath of a season, I’d argue the fan aspect is quite similar.

In both cases, there is excitement that you are getting to witness a winner, a team that has earned your time and attention and money. Basically, fandom is an investment. You provide the financial and emotional currency you have in the hopes you will be rewarded with moments and seasons like last year’s.

And the signs for 2024 are pointing to a significant return on that investment, one that will draw more support and attention from places that have not necessarily invested heavily in the past. So while there are 7 long months before we start to see any return, I think playing up opportunities like these to build that excitement and anticipation are both meaningful and important.

Of course, there are always the dark shadows that lurk in the recess of every MU fan’s mind.

After the devastating 2008 NCAA loss to Stanford, the Amigos were being joined by a great recruiting class and were ready for one last ride as a top team in the country. Then Tom Crean left and the recruits mostly did as well and although the core remained, a lot of the offseason was spent wondering how this new coach would do, rather than savoring what promised to be a glorious campaign.

Following a marvelous Elite 8 run, and 3 straight 2nd weekend appearances, there was an incredible amount of hype for the 2014 season, with Marquette making a smattering of top-10 rankings early on (9th for both ESPN and SB Nation). And then Vander Blue declared for the NBA draft. Even though Marquette was still projected to be a top-of the Big East team, the sky high national title thoughts were axed very early on. (And we know how that season played out.)

Do I have to even recap the Hauser stuff? I think it’s still too raw, but over the course of 3 days we saw a team that had been a consensus projected top-10 team, well you know the rest.

So trust me, I am well aware of what buying into this early April hype can do to a soul. The past 15 years have not been kind to anyone at Marquette nation going all in at this point of the year.

But as the Scrambled Eggs podcast brilliantly explained in early January, when some fans were weary of completely buying in to a team that had hurt them most Februaries, losing will hurt no matter how many barriers you put up. If you are using past history and pessimism as your shield, you risk missing out on so much joy.

I truly think this audio clip changed my perspective on the season, from using analytical caution as my safety blanket, to using stats simply as a backstop. And it worked marvelously. I’ve never enjoyed a season like I did this year.

So I’m here to say I get it if you don’t want to give any credence to stupid rankings. I understand if the past offseason excitements only leading to doom has made you hesitant to believe. I feel all of that myself.

But should things break right, the 2024 Marquette team has a chance to make history and be the first top-10 preseason AP poll team since 1978. And potentially be talked about as a true championship contender rather than just a nice story of plucky overachievers. It’s a new baseline for multiple generations of Marquette fans. I truly do get it.

Lean into the hype. Let it build and bring others along with you. Better yet, be an active participant and send a couple dollars to the Be The Difference collective that provides Marquette men’s and women’s basketball players with revenue opportunities paired with great causes.

We have a seemingly endless summer to bring rationality back into the fold. For now, don’t be afraid to dream big.

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Categories: Columns


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