Marquette is one of college basketball’s biggest surprises this season, and a newfound elite offense is driving its success.

Marquette has been one of the biggest surprises in all of college basketball this season, and perhaps the least discussed surprise, too.

The Golden Eagles were picked to finish ninth in the Big East in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll following the losses of Justin Lewis and Darryl Morsell. Now entering mid-February, Shaka Smart‘s squad is tied for the conference lead with a No. 10 national ranking in the AP poll and is top-10 in both KenPom and Torvik.

The driving force behind this surge has been the team’s incredible offensive efficiency. Marquette is one of the nation’s leaders in that category with a 120.8 mark that rivals the best offenses of the past decade.

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There was very little indication that this kind of explosion was coming. Lewis and Morsell were Marquette’s two leading scorers on a 19-13 team that overachieved in Smart’s first year. No returning player averaged more than 7.4 points per game in 2021-22.

Nothing in Smart’s coaching history suggested this was on the horizon, either. He had never led a top-20 offense in any of his previous 13 seasons as a head coach. During his tenure at Texas, Smart had the same number of sub-150 offenses (two) as he had top-45 offenses. His teams, both at VCU and with the Longhorns, were known for their defensive prowess.

The system the Golden Eagles are utilizing isn’t anything revolutionary. There is a set action to initiate an offensive possession — typically a pick-and-roll — and everything else is dependent upon the ball-handler reading the defense.

“[It’s about] taking what the defense is giving you,” Smart told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “Our guys have done a great job of playing out of flow, so not really a play call. We make some play calls, but they are at their best when they are getting into multiple actions on their own through what we do.”

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