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Jan 18, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Marquette Golden Eagles head coach Shaka Smart reacts to a score during the second half against the Providence Friars at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

A look at the latest Associated Press top-25 poll has Marquette coming in at No. 16. That’s a sight which hasn’t been seen for some times.

The Golden Eagles haven’t been ranked that high since the 2018-19 season. Marquette hasn’t finished in the top 25 since 2012-13, when it came in at No. 15 and hasn’t reached a single-digit ranking since Jae Crowder and Darius Odom-Johnson were patrolling the floor in March 2012.

How has head coach Shaka Smart helped turn around a team which was 13-14 two years ago? Marquette, which is 16-5 (already just three wins shy of last season’s total) is, for lack of a better term, unselfish. Oh, and here’s another one, careful. And how about efficient? Yes, very efficient.

OK, that was a lot of words. Let’s dig in.

While Crowder and DOJ were the big scorers for Marquette over a decade ago, both averaging over 17 points per game, this edition of the Golden Eagles features four players scoring in double figures with no one higher than Kameron Jones’ 16.4. Reserve David Joplin just misses the cut at 9.7 ppg although he’s doing it in only 18.9 minutes per game.

Marquette is eighth in the nation in scoring against Division 1 teams at 82.3 points per game – 84.3 against four teams which were ranked when the Golden Eagles played them (Baylor, UConn, Xavier and Providence). 

(Side note: All stats listed here are vs. D1 teams only; no need to reward padding numbers against D2 or D3 squads.)

The Golden Eagles do it with incredible efficiency. Despite being tied for 61st in the nation in pace, Marquette is sixth in the country in points per possession (PPP) at 1.126. As a comparison, last season it was 1.003. 

Marquette scores no matter where it plays. The Golden Eagles’ PPP at home is 1.154 and on the road 1.086. The latter is the seventh-best rate in the country and something which bodes well for March.

Interestingly, in this age of 3-point shooting (just watch any pregame or halftime warmup), Marquette does most of its damage inside the arc. 

No team in the nation makes 2-point shots at a better clip than Marquette, which comes in at 60.6% (last season: 52.6%). While the Golden Eagles might not be as proficient from 3, they still are hitting on 35.0% from downtown and get 26 points per game off 3s, which is good enough for 40th in the nation. Marquette’s 57.4% effective field-goal percentage is topped only by Colgate’s 58.1%. 

Marquette is fifth in the nation in assists per game, led by Tyler Kolek at 7.8 per game, which is third in the nation. 

The Golden Eagles are eighth in the country in assists per possession (24.9%) and 24th in assists per field goal (58.9%). That’s both unselfish and efficient.

In Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive efficiency, Marquette is No. 1 at 120.2 (points per 100 possessions). The Golden Eagles are also ranked 8th in Pomeroy’s rankings.

But it’s not just the offense.

Marquette helps itself with an opportunistic defense. While the Golden Eagles might not have the biggest roster – the tallest listed players on the team are 6-foot-9 – they have other attributes, like taking the ball away from an opponent.

The Golden Eagles are tied for 10th in the nation in steals per game at 9.5 and their 13.0% steals per possession ranks 15th.

Sharing the ball, hitting shots and getting turnovers on defense have all added up to Marquette’s season and what the Golden Eagles hope to see what they haven’t witnessed since 2013 – a win in the NCAA tournament.