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For Marquette, it's all uphill from here

11/22/2014

The University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks men's basketball program split its first two contests of the 2014-15 season. On Sunday, the Mavericks scored 100 points in a home win over Central Arkansas. On Wednesday, they lost by 24 points at Seattle. You probably hadn't noticed. Omaha is a relatively new member of the Summit League and of Division I more generally; the basketball program moved up from Division II just four years ago.

Last season, the Mavs had a couple scrappy, early-season road losses -- eight points at Iowa, three points at UNLV -- but ultimately finished 5-9 in conference play and 190th in adjusted efficiency. They entered Saturday ranked 257th. "Off the radar" is putting it lightly.

Then, on Saturday, they won by a score of 97-89. Against Marquette. In the Bradley Center.

The win is a major totem for Omaha, and all congratulations are due. But the above background is there less to celebrate the Mavericks -- though you are free to do so -- than to highlight just how ugly a loss the Golden Eagles suffered Saturday.

Consider: Omaha scored 1.28 points per possession. The Mavericks shot 57 percent from the field. Guards C.J. Carter and Devin Patterson combined for 51 points, 11 assists and 11 turnovers. Omaha turned the ball over on a quarter of its possessions. Eagles forward Juan Anderson submitted a fantasy basketball owner's dream line: 23 points, 11-of-15 from the field, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Marquette scored 1.14 points per trip, but its nonexistent defense doomed it to trail for all but 47 seconds in the second half to a team coming off a 24-point loss at Seattle.

Sure, Marquette is in transition. This is coach Steve Wojciechowski's first season at the helm and his first as a head coach anywhere, and there are always some bumps when a coach inherits a pre-existing roster recruited to match a different style. But we're not talking about 2008-era Indiana here. Anderson is a versatile threat; Matt Carlino started at point guard for BYU before a post-graduate transfer; Duane Wilson, Derrick Wilson and Deonte Burton are all legitimate Division I basketball players. A terrible roster this is not.

But it was a terrible performance. More than that, unless the Golden Eagles make a major turnaround in the coming weeks and somehow knock off Wisconsin on Dec. 6 (good luck with that), Omaha's scorching day might already have ended whatever NCAA tournament hopes Marquette had.

How ugly was it? Here's a fun fact: The most recent time Marquette lost to a mid-major opponent at home was 2006. Omaha was still four years away from moving to Division I.

Put another way: On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being "2001: A Space Odyssey" and 10 being "The Room," Marquette just posted a solid 9.5. Marquette fans can be forgiven if they decide to start throwing plastic spoons.