By Emmett Prosser Special to Published Feb 21, 2010 at 8:05 AM

March must be approaching.

The Gulf Coast is officially recovered from Lombardi Gras, spring training is underway and I'm still trying to figure out why I continue to sacrifice sleep to watch another midnight curling match.

And then there are those annoying three words whenever college basketball is brought up at this time of the season.

"On the bubble."

After falling No. 19 Pittsburgh on Thursday, Marquette is suddenly in almost must-win mode if it wants to make the NCAA tournament for a fifth straight season.

MU's chances probably hinge on a three-game road trip starting today at Cincinnati. Apparently, at least one opposing coach will be rooting for them.

Half an hour after defeating the Eagles, Panthers coach Jamie Dixon appeared to be in campaign mode for another Big East NCAA bid.

The surprise here was that Dixon wasn't speaking about his own team. He was selling the too-close-for-comfort resume of Marquette.

"I'm just amazed at how good they are with the losses (of players) that they have had. I can't tell you how impressed I was watching them play."

MU didn't play well Thursday, but it's understandable why opposing coaches like Dixon come with a high opinion of Buzz Williams' group.

The Eagles were picked to finish 12th in the Big East, yet they have lost six conference by an average of three points. Starting point guard Maurice Acker wasn't even going to play on the team this year. MU's only legitimate post threat ... Chris Otule ... was lost for the season in December with a foot injury.

It's hard to not root for the undersized Eagles when you consider the fact that MU has been in every Big East game they have played without the benefit of a bench. Freshman Jeronne Maymon asked to be released from his scholarship in December and the Golden Eagles have been playing with an six-man rotation ever since.

Adversity? No problem! Senior Lazar Hayward might be the most underrated player and in the country, both on and off the court. No superstar ego exists either. It's a pass first group.

"They just move the ball so well," Dixon said.

Yet it was sharing of the basketball that failed the Golden Eagles on Thursday and put MU back in a precarious post-season position. Instead of being the team that always made the extra pass, MU finished with only nine assists.
"We didn't create for each other," said Hayward.

"That's not us," added Williams.

And, unlike previous games against ranked foes, the Eagles didn't defend as a team well either. The Panthers made 19 of 28 shots inside the arc and MU was unable to take advantage of 18 more field goal attempts.

As a result, MU is among a group of a dozen teams fighting for the final six tournament spots. Resident bracketologists will continue to babble about Marquette's postseason possibilities over the next few weeks

"All of the talk is just that and right now we're not good enough to take part in the talk, said Williams."

If the Eagles have a solid road trip this week, no more tournament politics will be needed.

Of course a shout out from Dick Vitale never hurts.

Emmett Prosser Special to

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.