By Jim Owczarski Sports Editor Published Mar 23, 2015 at 1:03 PM Photography: David Bernacchi

The time of year fondly known as "March Madness" died in Milwaukee just over a week ago, when Villanova handily dispatched Marquette University in the second round of the Big East conference tournament. 

That was it. One nice mild upset over Seton Hall on March 11, then a pounding at the hands of a top 5 team with national title aspirations. 

Two tournament games.

This time last year, we were celebrating the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers’ improbable run to the Big Dance after creating some madness of their own in capturing the Horizon League tournament title.

Yes, that was just over a year ago.

Two years ago, Buzz Williams led Marquette into the Elite Eight. 

It seems like two lifetimes.

But this March is especially tough for those who love the two Division I basketball teams in Milwaukee. This is the first time both programs have missed the NCAA tournament since the 2003-04 season.

Marquette hasn’t missed the tournament in back-to-back years like this since 2004-2005, and UWM had that hope stripped from it at the start of the as it were.

So, as the Wisconsin Badgers face the pressure of holding its No. 1 seed and bear the burden of expectation, let’s take a quick look at the two programs who are now waiting till next year.

Marquette (13-19, 5-14)

I said this on the Dennis Krause Roundtable and on Mike Heller’s show on the Big 920 last week, and I’ll believe until I see otherwise – the Golden Eagles should be very good next year if Henry Ellenson is as good as advertised.

In college basketball, an über-talented freshman can make all the difference in the world, and if the 6-foot, 10-inch forward from Rice Lake is indeed the best American high schooler (which Golden Eagles head coach Steve Wojciechowski believes he is) that could be enough to reverse Marquette’s record. 

Playing this year with eight scholarship players, and then at times just six, Marquette had no business being as competitive as they were, let alone winning five conference games and another in the tournament. 

It shows me that "Wojo" and his staff can coach, and that they can players to run through a wall for them. So, add Ellenson and the rest of a consensus top five recruiting class to the eligibility of super-athletic Wally Ellenson and the improvement of Duane Wilson and Luke Fischer, this Marquette team should be tournament bound, at least, this time next year. 

Point guard will be a question mark, though. Will true freshman Traci Carter be able to come in and run the show, or will Wojciechowski look for a one-year senior a la Matt Carlino or Trent Lockett to help ease the transition?

UWM (14-16, 9-7)

The Panthers talked a good game at the start of the year, trying to mask any disappointment at not being able to defend their conference tournament title with the bravado of aiming for a regular season league victory, but it was clear at the outset that there was something a bit off about this team.

Austin Arians, who head coach Rob Jeter feels can score 15 points per game at this level, redshirted. Opponents focused in on Matt Tiby – a surprise to many last year – and it took him a while to get untracked. The same with Akeem Springs, a first-year eligible transfer.

While the end result was less than ideal, the Panthers did rally to post a winning league record to finish fifth, two games out of third and four games out of first.

The team only loses point guard Steve McWhorter, and they have to expect Tiby (13.3 points, 7.8 rebounds) and Springs (10.8 points per game) will be ready to perform at a high level from day one, along with Arians. A big question will be inside, where East Troy twins Brett and Alex Prahl (each 6-9 and 225 pounds) will have to take a huge leap forward in their sophomore campaigns.

Marquette and Wojciechowski will dominate the summer headlines and be a sleeper pick to contend in the Big East next year, just based on how highly regarded Henry Ellenson is nationally and the job the coaches did with a limited roster this year. 

But, the consistency that Jeter has sought over the last decade may finally emerge, with a roster that is led by upperclassmen who have starred in March Madness. 

Milwaukee is on the outside looking in for the rest of this month, but hope always springs eternal. 

Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.

A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.

To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.

Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining

In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.

Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.