During the extended holiday break, most college students have the opportunity to lounge around often in the family recliner.
However, chilling out isn't exactly an option this month if you earn your scholarship in the nation's toughest basketball conference.
After a pair of gut-wrenching losses to No. 6 West Virginia and No. 8 Villanova this week, the Marquette Golden Eagles are currently fastened into the no love seat of a Big East torture chamber.
Schedule makers didn't exactly do Buzz Williams' young team any favors this month. The Eagles play five rivals ranked in the top 13, including three in seven days.
MU will play No. 13 Georgetown Wednesday night and then ‘Nova again Saturday.
Instead of game film, perhaps Marquette's starting five should dig up Celebrity Death Match reruns. Considering the physical nature of the conference, the undersized Golden Eagles are going to have to continue to move their quick feet, make key free throws and withstand plenty more Big East body blows.
Though this type of madness isn't supposed to start until March, MU's current stretch of games is tougher than a conference tournament weekend at Madison Square Garden.
"I think we'll relish the challenge," said sophomore guard Darius Johnson-Odom. "Coming in, we're always going to be the underdog. That doesn't stop us from getting better as a team."
In order to get better this week, Marquette must turn the page on a pair of heartbreaking losses.
Missed free throws in the final minute have plagued the Golden Eagles in clutch situations. Considering the fact that Marquette's offensive attack lives and dies off of the dribble, making winning time free throws is going to be crucial if MU is to have success in the conference. The Eagles went to the line 26 times Saturday, but missed three of their final four charity tosses.
"I think our margin for error is zero...maybe less than zero," said Williams. "Every possession for us is so critical."
There is no coaching manual for an ‘Always Be Closing' class. Inexperienced teams usually deal with the agony of defeat before they learn how to win big games.
"We have to play from the start to the end," said Williams. We're getting better, but that's not good enough in our league."
Vertically challenged all season, MU has been able use its quickness to exploit longer, slower defenders on the perimeter. That wasn't the case against the Wildcats. Villanova attacked the basket on its first five possessions and scored on four of them.
MU actually played slower than usual at times in both halves in an effort to limit Villanova's run and shoot attack. Because of a lack of depth and a lack of size, Williams didn't want to trade baskets and let the Wildcats get into a rhythm.
"We had to play ball control football at times," Williams said. "They are too good to play them at their style."
MU will switch gears Wednesday night and try to run its familiar high octane attack vs. Georgetown's more patient offensive sets. While the Eagles continue to put themselves in position to win against top competition, nobody likes to talk about moral victories in the Big East.
"We have to play for 40 minutes," said Dwight Buycks. "It's that simple."
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.