In honor of Groundhog Week, here are a few things that never seem to change when the calendar hits February in the college basketball season.
The Wisconsin Badgers are always better than the preseason advertisements suggested.
Bo Ryan makes his team believe they are invincible at home (is it just me or does every Big Ten opponent run its offense as if they had one 2 a.m. too many on State Street the night before?).
And -- since expansion -- the Big East is in a class by itself as far as NCAA tournament bids are concerned.
Now that the Big Dance is just six weeks away, fans can start playing Prince's "Musicology" on their iPods and just substitute
"Bracketology" in the refrain.
It appears the Big East will receive at least seven and possibly eight bids this season ... which means Marquette is one of five teams in the league fighting for two or three spots.
Five Big East teams (Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, West Virginia, Pittsburgh) are locks to make the 64-team field.
Any of the next six teams (including Marquette) in the bumper-to-bumper conference scrum could make the tournament easily ... or end up in the NIT.
Marquette coach Buzz Williams has said on more than one occasion this season that his team's "margin for error is zero." His team isn't alone. With five weeks left in the regular season, the entire middle of the Big East is in a win or else situation.
Here's the Ratings Percentage Index Situation for the six Big East teams jockying for postseason position. RPI ratings were calculated prior to Wednesday's games.
44. Louisville (14-8, 5-4) -- The Cardinals are just 2-6 against the top 50, with victories over UConn and Cincinnati. Marquette faces Rick Pitino's crew March 2 at the Bradley Center.
47. Cincinnati (14-7, 5-4) -- The Bearcats are 2-5 vs. the Top 50 and 3-7 on the road. They still have to play the four Big East teams that are ranked in the top 10 of the RPI. The Golden Eagles travel to U.S. Bank Arena on Feb. 21.
49. Connecticut (13-9, 3-6) -- Only four of the Huskies' victories are against teams from power conferences. UConn is 2-6 vs. top 50 and 4-6 in their last 10 games. Only a victory over suddenly sliding Texas is keeping them afloat. MU shocked the Huskies Saturday.
54. South Florida (15-7, 5-5) -- The suddenly-charging Bulls are 5-1 in their last six games with victories over Pittsburgh and Georgetown. USF is 2-4 vs. top 50. A Wednesday night matchup at the Bradley Center is suddenly a pivotal game.
57. Seton Hall (12-8, 3-6) -- Marquette's final road game of the regular season is a Feb. 28 date with the Pirates. It could be a swing game as far as the postseason in concerned. The Hall is 4-5 vs. Top 50 and all five losses are to teams in the top 16 RPI.
59. Marquette (14-8, 5-5) -- Like Seton Hall, Marquette's 3-6 record vs. the top 50 teams is a bit deceiving. Four of the six losses are to top 10 RPI teams by a total of 10 points. A pair of defeats vs. foes outside the first second half gives the Eagles a solid chance for a plus-.500 record in the conference and an at-large bid. Not bad for a squad that was picked 12th in the preseason conference standings.
Considering the parity, Marquette senior Lazar Hayward figures MU will have a few more two-minute drills after the conclusion of Super Bowl Sunday. Six of Marquette's 10 Big East games have been decided by three points or less.
"We've been in so many close games," said Hayward after the 80-69 victory over DePaul. "It helps to say we've been in this situation before. We know what to do and we know what not to do."
Marquette is back at .500 in the conference for the first time this season and still has games with four of the five teams hanging in the pack. A dangerous Providence team looms on Saturday.
Though MU routed the Friars 93-63 on Jan. 17, Hayward certainly doesn't expect another cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts Arena on Saturday in the beast that is the Big East.
"Not at all," Hayward said. "Not in this league."
Emmett Prosser is a former sports producer at Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online and has covered the Brewers, Bucks and Marquette basketball in many capacities for 13 years.
Prosser also signed a year's worth of 10-day contracts with the Cleveland Cavaliers' media relations department after graduating from Xavier University so he could get three-point shooting tips from NBA great Mark Price. The son of an English teacher and former basketball coach, Prosser attended Marquette high school.
In his spare time, Prosser enjoys live music and fooling people into making them believe he can play the drums. He also serves on the board of directiors for United Cerebral Palsy.