Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Buzz Signs New Contract With MU

It's official, Buzz will be staying at MU, as he just agreed to a new contract with Marquette.  Todd Rosiak has a brief overview of it, but no terms have been disclosed yet.

I'd had about enough of those "Buzz to OU" rumors, glad this finally got taken care of.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Q&A With Todd Rosiak

After the 18-point loss to UNC in the Sweet 16, MU's season has come to an end.  While the regular season was a rocky one, the golden eagles put up an impressive performance in making it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and made believers out of many fans still skeptical of Buzz.

To go along with this, it seems that MU has all but locked up Buzz into a new contract and quenched any rumors of him leaving.  And with a new crop of talent coming in, all appears to be well in Mil-town for now.

To give us some perspective on the season that was and what lies ahead, I gave a list of 10 questions (9 of them being serious) to Todd Rosiak from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.  You can follow him at JS Online or on Twitter.  Enjoy

1. When the NCAA Tournament began this year, what did you think was a realistic goal for MU?  How surprised were you that we made the Sweet 16, if at all?

I thought beating Xavier was a real possibility, as it was a good matchup for MU. I also thought the Syracuse game would be a close one, but one that MU wouldn't win. So, the team probably went a game further than I expected it to. Aside from 2003, I've come to expect the worst from MU when it comes to the NCAAs -- i.e. tough losses in the early rounds -- so from that standpoint, this season's performance has to be deemed a success from where I sit.

2. MU went 0-4 in meaningful OOC games, 9-9 in Big East play, 2-1 in the Big East Tournament, and of course went 2-1 in the NCAA Tournament.  When you add all of this up, how successful was this season?  Does the Sweet 16 appearance wipe out losses from earlier in the season?

I don't think there's any question the run in the NCAAs outweighs all the close losses in the regular season. How could it not? For whatever reason, MU lacked that "closer's mentality" in tight games for the most part, and that's something that has to be looked at moving forward. In my opinion, the team suffered from the lack of a strong, senior voice as well as a lack of that "go-to" guy that Lazar Hayward was the year before. Jimmy Butler and DJO had their moments, but too often they disappeared for long stretches and at crucial times. That can't happen.

3. What impressed you the most about the 2010-11 team?  What frustrated you the most?

I would say MU's resilience this year impressed me the most. It was kind of like last year in that regard -- tons of tough, frustrating losses, but somehow the team found a way to dig deep when it mattered most, and got into the Sweet 16. I would say the biggest downside to the season would be the team's inconsistency combined with the inability to seemingly learn from its mistakes. Seeing the same problems crop up game after game was head-scratching at times.

4. Chris Otule and Davante Gardner both made big strides this year.  Do you see one of them taking more of a lead role in the paint next season, or splitting time like this year?

I would anticipate a two-headed monster in the pivot just like it turned out this year. Both are developing nicely, and each player's strength seems to offset the other's weakness, which is obviously nice to have. Buzz can sub offense-defense when need be, or ride the hot hand on a given night also. Suddenly, the need for a big man doesn't seem so glaring.

5. Of the returning players for next year's campaign, who do you think will improve the most?  Why?

I would expect Vander Blue to take that next step. MU needs him to. No doubt about it, he was a disappointment this season -- especially on the offensive end. He still has plenty of ability, though, and if he's willing to put in the time in the gym over the summer to re-work that jump shot, he could turn into the player most people thought he'd become. Continued development from Jae Crowder and Chris Otule will also be a must.

6. Who do you think Marquette's starting 5 will be next January?  Or will it still be a work in progress at that point?

Buzz seems to settle on a core group of guys by January each season. Without having seen any of the incoming guys yet, it's hard to answer that question. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the starting lineup consist of all returning guys -- Cadougan, DJO, Wilson, Crowder and Otule.

7. After losing Jeronne Maymon and Reggie Smith in the last 2 years, MU clearly has had to deal with players leaving due to lack of playing time.  With a lot of talent returning and coming in next season, are you concerned we'll have, as Yogi Bera puts it, deja vu all over again?

I think transfers are going to continue to be an issue not only at MU, but just about everywhere. It's just part of the deal now. Kids are growing up in an instant-gratification society, and some aren't willing to wait their turn. From MU's standpoint, the team takes something of a PR hit when a guy like Maymon or Smith transfers out so quickly. But on the flip side, MU also isn't wasting any more of its time trying to develop someone that isn't in it for the long haul. Cut the losses and move on.

8. Of the new guys coming in (and Jamil Wilson), who do you think will have the greatest impact on the team next season?

I would expect Wilson to have the biggest impact, simply because he already has a year of Division I ball under his belt from his time at Oregon and another year under his belt practicing with the team at MU. Throw in his tremendous athleticism, and you could have a more talented Jimmy Butler -- i.e., a guy who can do all sorts of things and play at a number of different positions. Of the incoming guys, Juan Anderson and Todd Mayo intrigue me most -- Anderson for his versatility and Mayo for his ability to score, as well as his bloodlines.

9. Of the departing seniors, Jimmy Butler leaves the biggest shoes to fill (aside from Frozena's popularity).  Who do you think will fill that role?  Do we need multiple players to fill it?

As I mentioned before, I think this year's team lacked strong senior leadership. I don't see DJO having that kind of personality, either. That's going to put a lot of pressure on Crowder to step up and be vocal and lead the team. Cadougan strikes me as someone who could be a strong, positive personality in the locker room. Considering the position he plays, that would be a great thing for MU.

10. Rumor has it you once saved 10 children from a burning building while on your way to accepting the Pulitzer Prize for Beat Writing.  Any truth to that???

I'll settle for just surviving the upcoming Brewer season. The Pulitzer can wait.

Thanks again Todd!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Marquette and UNC Meet in the Tourney for the First Time Since 1977

With all the media attention MU has gotten about JUCO players, Buzz's antics, and a Sweet 16 being someone's birthday, it's time to get past all of that and focus on the task at hand: taking down North Carolina.  While Marquette has made an impressive run thus far as an 11-seed, it only gets tougher from here when they take on the #2-seed tar heels Friday night in Newark.

Since Larry Drew left the squad in December and Kendall Marshall took over at point guard, UNC has improved tremendously.  They're creating much better looks on offense and are turning over the ball at much lower clip than they had over the last 1.5 seasons.  They're probably the most improved team in college basketball over the last 3 months, and to use a couple cliches, they've gone from "pretender" to "contender."  After losing to Duke at Cameron in February, Carolina rattled off 9 straights wins, won the ACC regular season crown, and made it to the finals of the ACC Tournament before getting knocked off by Duke.  The tar heels beat Long Island University in the first round and narrowly escaped with a win over Washington in the second round.

Most media folks have Carolina winning this game because 1) Carolina's a 2-seed playing an 11-seed and 2) Carolina's a 2-seed playing an 11-seed.  Not a lot of writers have the stones to predict the upset, but Jon Rothstein does.

What you need to know about Carolina

They're deep.  The heels have 9 guys on their team that play at least 15 minutes a game.  Coach Roy Williams can constantly sub fresh legs in throughout the game to wear down the opposition.  Of these 9 guys, 5 of them are averaging at least 7 ppg, and three of those five are double-digit scorers.

They're long   Of the 9 guys that play meaningful minutes, 5 of them are 6'7 or taller.  John Henson and Tyler Zeller are averaging 10 and 7 rpg, respectively.  Between these two, they're blocking 4.5 shots per game.  Henson doesn't look like a force to be reckoned with given his build at 6'10 and 210 lbs, but anyone who's watched him live knows that he can compete with just about anyone in the paint, including ACC foes Chris Singleton and the Plumlee brothers.  Carolina is the best rebounding team left in the dance with 46 rpg.

They're fast  The heels average 72 possessions a game, more than anyone else in the Sweet 16.  Roy has always coached his teams to play fast and score in transition, and this team is no different.  Kendall Marshall excels at having court vision in transition and can almost always find the open man down the floor.

They play great defense  Carolina is allowing 0.886 points per possession, 5th best in the Sweet 16.  Between blocking shots and good defensive rebounding they don't allow a lot of second-chance points.  They also limit their opponents in shooting free throws, as their FTA/FGA ratio is second in the country, only behind Ohio State.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Few Thoughts on 2 out of 11 Big East Teams Making the Sweet 16

Ok, clearly there's been a lot of ink spilled over the Big East in the last few days and the fact that "the best conference in the country" only got 2 teams into the Sweet 16 out of the 11 that made the dance.  While there are a few supporters out there, Gary Parrish is one of them, most writers are saying that the Big East shouldn't have deserved to clog up thr 68-team field with 11 of its own teams when only 2 could make the Sweet 16.

As an avid supporter of Big East basketball, I figured it's worth a shot to take an un-biased (maybe) look at each of the 11 teams to see if the haters are right, or if the Gary Parrishes of the world are right.  Let's go from the top down.  For future reference, when I say "first round" I'm referring to the field of 64 teams, not 68.

1. Pitt - Beat #16 UNC-Asheville in the first round, lost to #8 Butler in the second round by a point.  This game had arguably the wildest finish of the tournament thus far, with two questionable fouls being called with less than 5 seconds left in the game.  Nonetheless, Butler came out on top in this one.

2. Notre Dame - Beat #15 Akron in the first round, lost to #10 Florida State in the second round.  The fighting irish ran into a team that defends the three-ball better than any other team in the country.  As a result, ND had a poor shooting night and was down by double-digits for most of this game.

3. Connecticut - Defeated #14 Bucknell in the first round, beat #6 Cincy in the second round.  One of the two remaining teams in the tournament.

4. Syracuse - Beat #14 Indiana State in the first round, lost to #11 MU in the second round (!!!)

5. Louisville - Lost to #13 Morehead State in the first round.  The eagles made a clutch three-pointer and a key block at the end of the game to win by a point.

6. West Virginia - Beat #12 Clemson in the first round, lost to #4 Kentucky in the second round.  This one was pretty close for most of the way, but the wildcats made just enough shots down the stretch to advance.

7. Cincinnatti - Beat #11 Missouri in the first round, lost to #3 UConn in the second round.

8. St. John's - Lost to #11 Gonzaga in the first round.  The Johnnies were clearly the underdogs with their third-highest scorer in D.J Kennedy out for this game.

9. Georgetown - Lost to #11 VCU in the first round.  Same as St. John's, having Chris Wright back for the first time in three weeks certainly didn't help these guys.

10. Villanova - Lost to #8 George Mason in the first round.  The wildcats continued their end-of-season collapse with yet another loss, this one coming right down to the wire.

11. Marquette - Beat #6 Xavier in the first round, beat #3 Syracuse in the second round.  One of the two teams remaining in the tournament.

Right off the bat, the Big East could have at most 9 teams in the Sweet 16 since the second round featured two BE match-ups.  Allow me to play a little defense for the other 7 teams:

- Pitt took on a team that's very tournament-tested.  Even though Gordon Hayward is gone, the bulldogs still have Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard from last year's team that lost at the buzzer to Duke in the national championship.  Referee calls aside, taking down this team would've been no easy feat.

- Notre Dame drew a terrible match-up in Florida State.  Like I said, FSU is the best at defending the three-ball, which is a nightmare for a team like Notre Dame that wins big games by hitting three-pointers.  If Notre Dame can't shoot well, they can't win.

- Preston Knowles from Louisville got injured with 9 minutes left in the game and didn't return.  Up until then he had 9 points, 5 assists and 3 steals.  Think he could've made a 2-point difference in those 9 minutes?  Probably.

- West Virginia took on a very hot team at the moment in Kentucky.  The wildcats had a mediocre stretch in the middle of their season, but have been playing great basketball over the last month.

- St. John's played without D.J Kennedy, wh is not only 3rd in scoring on the team, but lead the Johnnies in rebounds and steals.  This is a quite a big hole to fill, no matter what team you are.

- Georgetown has a similar story.  Having Chris Wright (arguably the second-best player on the team behind Austin Freeman) back for the first time in three weeks was still a burden for the hoyas.  And he certainly didn't play like his old self, scoring only 6 points instead of his usual 13 and committing two more fouls than his average.  Not to mention, VCU absolutely destroyed Purdue on Sunday, so it's not like they lost to a garbage team.

- Villanova went down to the wire with George Mason, which is what's supposed to happen in a 8-9 match-up.  If these teams played 10 times, they'd probably split the series 5-5.

With all of these defensive points in mind, does this mean we should've gotten 9 teams into the Sweet 16?  Absolutely not.  But I do think a few of these merit a discussion.  Of the 7 teams that didn't make the Sweet 16, I feel that Pitt and West Virginia probably should've made it to the Sweet 16 too.  If Louisville and St. John's didn't have their injury issues, they probably would've been in the regionals too.  Nobody should've expected Villanova to make the Sweet 16 because they would've been drilled by Ohio State, and G-town is a toss-up.

Do the haters out there have a point?  Maybe.  Did the Big East deserve to get all of these teams in, even though they didn't all advance as far as they should have?  I think so.  The 37 at-large bids go to the 37 best teams, but does that mean you're not one of the best teams because of one game that you played and lost?  Every team in the tournament is just as hungry to win as the teams in the Big East.  Just because a team lost to an equal team or was upset by a worse team doesn't mean they didn't deserve to be there in the first place.  Given the pedigree, should the Big East have won more games this post-season?  Definitely.  But don't hate on the conference because it didn't pan out that way.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Clutch is Spelled D-J-O: MU Makes the Sweet 16 For The First Time Since 2003

I had a lot of conflicting emotions going into Sunday night's game against Syracuse.  For every positive thought a negative one went with it.  "We beat these guys before, we can beat 'em again, right?  These guys are a three-seed, isn't it time for us to bow out with the other double-digit seeds?  We looked great Friday night, if we keep that up we'll wins this one for sure, right?  'Cuse hasn't forgotten about our matchup in the regular season, they'll be looking for revenge against us."

I guess what it sums up as is I felt just as confident about this game as I do about any game in the Big East, which is not confident at all.  Sunday's contest turned out to be no different, as the golden eagles played an incredibly close game against 3-seed Syracuse in Cleveland.  A little recap:

Syracuse started out hot with a 7-0 run.  After MU scored 6 straight points, 'Cuse went on a 12-2 run and seemed to be firmly in control, up 19-9.  Marquette seemed lost on offense, and was putting up tough shots that weren't falling.  Syracuse was making just about everything on the other end.  But thanks to the toughness Buzz has instilled in his guys, Marquette fought back and figured out how to attack the 2-3 zone of Syracuse.  At one point DJO scored 8 straight points to put us back in the game at 21-21.  After that, we played a brilliant end to the half that ended with Jimmy Butler getting intentionally fouled on a steal and drive to the hoop, sinking both free throws, making a 2-point jumper on the ensuing possession, and sinking a 2-point jumper as the game clock expired to go up 34-31.  The shot reminded me a lot of the game-winners he hit last year at UConn and at St. John's.  Yeah, we were up at the half, but I could still feel that stomach ulcer developing.

Start the second half.  Syracuse goes on a 4-0 run, and with that a crushing blow was dealt to the orange.  On a drive to the rack, Brandon Triche collided with Junior Cadougan and landed hard on his tailbone.  It would ultimately be the end to his season, as he didn't return to the game.

Not that I was happy to see a player get knocked out because of injury, but I'll take every advantage I can get.

The game was neck-and-neck the rest of the way, with no team going up by more than 5 down the stretch.  Every basket made seemed to be traded for a basket on the other end.  Syracuse knocked down a high percentage of their jump shots, but MU was able to penetrate the seams of the zone and score inside buckets.  This game was shaping up to be a photo finish.

Fast forward to 3 minutes left in the game.  Rick Jackson gets a feed in the post and puts up a nice hook shot off the glass to put Syracuse up 59-56.  I had a pretty uneasy feeling at this point.  We've all seen it before.  The close games down the stretch, the inevitable missed shot or turnover (or call by Jim Burr) that gives Marquette a L for the game.  Something told me this game was shaping up to be more of same.

MU took the ball up the court knowing they needed a big score to stay in this game, and they got just that.  Jae Crowder went from the left wing, down under the hoop, and out to the right wing and caught a pass from DJO after drawing a double-team.  Crowder caught the pass and put up a 3-pointer in stride.  Good.  Tie ball game at 59.

2 possessions later with the game still tied at 59, Syracuse inbounded the ball to Scoop Jardine who caught the ball on the Syracuse side but stepped over the half court line.  MU ball.

This game has already taken 6 months off of my life.

And now the most crucial possession of the game.  With 55 seconds on the clock, the golden eagles had a chance to go up and control the rest of the game.  At first, they didn't show much on offense and just seemed to run down the clock, but here's how it went down:

Marquette passes it around the horn.  DJO has the ball, Butler sets a screen to free up Buycks.  DJO dishes it to Buycks.  Buycks has an open look but shakes it off.  Buycks passes it to Jimmy Butler at the top of the key.  Butler drives and draws the double-team, kicks it out to DJO.  DJO for three and...


Jardine heaved up a desperation three-pointer on the other end which clanged off the rim and into the hands of Junior Cadougan.  Cadougan calmly drained both of his free throws, and after trading a 'Cuse basket for two free throws from Jae Crowder, it was all but over. 'Cuse made a free throw on the other end and rebounded the miss on the second free throw, but Dwight Buycks snatched it away from Rick Jackson.  Ball Game.

Three goggles were being thrown up everywhere.  Syracuse was stunned by what they just witnessed.  Buzz Williams remained calm for about 30 seconds before he embraced his wife and kids and then high-fived everyone within arms length.

A couple points to note about the game

- No question the player of the game was Darius Johnson-Odom. 17 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, and 3 steals.  Did I mention he hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 25 seconds left?
- Solid interior play from Otule and Gardner.  They held Rick Jackson, who averages 13 ppg, to just 7 points
- I thought Buzz made great use of his time-outs in the second half.  He used them to stop every run Syracuse had, and called his guys to the bench during crucial offensive series.  Great work Buzz
- 4 more rebounds and 4 less turnovers for our guys.  Those are your two deciding stats
- Love watching Cadougan play aggressive on offense.  Gives me good hope for next season
- What made the MU victory even sweeter?  The fact that Gus Johnson was doing the play-by-play
- I've watched DJO hit that go-ahead three-pointer at least a dozen times now.  Still haven't gotten tired of it, and probably never will.

A final thought about tonight's win.  What does this do for our overall season?  Can we forget about everything bad that has happened and just focus on our last two wins?  I'll say this: take all of the close losses we've had and weigh them against yesterday's W.  Think of teams like Louisville and St. John's who had solid regular seasons but got knocked out in the first round.  Which would you rather have, victories in the regular season over Duke, Gonzaga, Vanderbilt, and Louisville but get knocked out in the first round, or losses against those 4 teams and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen?  The answer is clearly your own opinion, but in my opinion I'll take the latter everytime.

Marquette heads to Newark to take on North Carolina on Friday at 6:15 pm.  Check back here later in the week for a preview of the game.

To relive DJO's three again and again and again, you can watch it here

Sunday, March 20, 2011

MU Knocks Off The X-Men, Earns Another Date With Syracuse

Marquette shocked much of the college basketball world Friday night with a dominating 66-55 victory over the Xavier Musketeers.  Most people (including myself) thought this one would come right down to the wire, but the golden eagles proved us wrong by jumping out to an early lead and never looking back.  While most of the stats from this game were pretty even, the main difference was overall shooting, in that MU had a fantastic day from the field while Xavier was mediocre on 2-point and 3-point jumpers.

Let's look at our keys to the game and see how they panned out:

1. Stop Tu Holloway.  CHECK.  Marquette clearly figured out that to stand a chance against these guys we needed to stop their best performer in Tu Holloway.  While Holloway averages 20 ppg, we held him to single-digit scoring for just the third time this season, only 5 points.  Kudos to Jimmy Butler who gave Holloway fits all night and kept him from finding any rhythm in the back court.

2. Stay out of foul trouble.  Semi-Check.  While the X-Men had 1 more foul than MU (19-18), Otule did foul out of the game.  With just 2 boards and no points though, it was a pretty quiet night for Chris anyways, so there was no real harm done with knocking him out of the game.  No one else on the team had more than 3 fouls.

3. Speed up the tempo.  Negative.  Friday's contest with 63 possessions was actually a slower pace than both teams play, as MU and X average 67.5 and 66 possessions, respectively.  Marquette has been a better half-court team than a transition team all year, so this may have played to their advantage.

4. Beat them on the boards.  Semi-check.  Xavier did have 2 more boards in this game, but we had four more offensive boards than they did, which allowed us to get those ever-crucial second chance points.  Crowder, Butler, and Gardner had 6, 5, and 5 boards, respectively.

Like I said, aside from the keys above, overall shooting was the main difference in this game.  MU shot 42% from beyond the arc, 53% overall, while the musketeers were 15% and 41% from those categories.  Marquette took a lot of smart jump shots from all over the floor, created by open looks through transition and high ball screens.  Jimmy Butler had a couple nice drives in the paint that he dumped off to Crowder for the easy deuce (one of them being a three-point play).

Top performances go to Jimmy Butler and DJO.  DJO put up 19 points and went 4-6 from 3-point land.  Rarely did he put up a shot that just made you scratch your head.  Jimmy had the best overall performance with 15 points, 5 boards, 4 assists, and 3 steals.  He clearly was not ready to end his career in a Marquette jersey that night.

MU takes on Syracuse Sunday evening at 6:30.  As you probably know, we took down the orange during their 4-game skid in conference play, so we know we're capable of beating these guys.  If we play on Sunday the way we did on Friday, I like our chances to make the Sweet 16.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Marquette vs. Xavier: The Battle For Jesuit Supremacy

Now that Selection Sunday has come and gone, it's time to fret over MU's next matchup.  The golden eagles drew an 11-seed in the East region and take on 6-seed Xavier in Cleveland at 6:30 CST on Friday.

This is a tough contest for both teams, as these two squads match up pretty well with each other.  Let's get into the pros and cons of the 2010-11 X-Men.

What they do well

- Get to the free throw line.  The musketeers are taking 24 free throws per game and their FTA/FGA ratio is 45%, 32nd in the country.  Tu Holloway alone gets to the free throw line almost 9 times a game and is shooting 87% from the charity stripe.
- Score inside.  Big man Kenny Frease is their inside presence, scoring 12 ppg.  At 265 lbs he's got muscle to throw around in the low post and can give an under-sized 4- or 5-man fits.
- Win basketball games (props to Charlie Sheen).  These guys have only lost twice since conference play began.  They've got a ton of confidence right now, and with all of the tournament experience they have (3 consecutive trips to the Sweet 16) they certainly won't be rattled by the big stage.
- Defend the two-ball.  Opponents are shooting under 44% from inside the arc against them.  They'll switch between zone and man-to-man defense on you which can either force you to take outside shots or bad two-pointers.

What they don't do well

- Force turnovers.  Xavier only forces their opponent to turn the ball over on 19% of defensive possessions, 246th in the country.
- Shoot three-pointers.  As prolific of a scorer as Tu Holloway is, he only shoots about 35% from beyond the arc, and he's the best on the team.
- Pass the rock.  Of the 7 guys that play meaningful minutes, only 3 of them have an assist/turnover ratio over 1.

Keys to the Game

- Stop Tu Holloway.  This guy is far and away the best player on Xavier.  He averages 20 ppg, 5.5 apg, and 5 rpg, all while playing about 38-39 minutes a game.  Game plan for this guy is a little different than playing a one-man show like Providence, because while you can focus on Holloway, you can't take your eyes off Frease.  MU will need to play good man-to-man defense to keep the X-Men off balance.
- Stay out of foul trouble.  Xavier draws a lot of contact from the opposition, so guys like Crowder and Otule will need to keep their hands off to prevent putting them on the foul line and putting ourselves on the bench.
- Speed up the tempo.  Marquette averages about 1.5 possessions more per game than Xavier.  If we can press on defense and score in transition, we can throw the musketeers of their game plan.
- Beat them on the boards.  These teams match up pretty evenly in rebounding, but MU's offensive boards as a % of total is much higher than Xavier's (36% vs. 33%).  If we can keep them off the glass, we can score put-back shots on offense and score in transition off of defensive boards.  We match up pretty evenly with these guys as far as size goes, so Crowder, Otule, and Gardner will have to win the position battle in the paint against these guys.

Ken Pomeroy is predicting a one point victory for the golden eagles.  Regardless of how confident that makes you feel, any game decided by a point will be an absolute dogfight until the end.  While Xavier is a tournament-tested team, we're a Big East-tested team who knows how to play those close games against tough competition.  When it's all said and done I think this will feel more like an 8-9 matchup than 6-11.  Let's just hope we can come out with a win and another date with Syracuse.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Big East Tourney Recap

Marquette's run in the Big East Tournament came to an end on Thursday after getting blown out by Louisville.  I'm still thinking/hoping we'll be a 10-seed for the Dance, but with factors such as in-conference matchups and surprise wins in the conference tournaments, we could be moved up or down a seed.

A few thoughts from each game in the BE Tourney:


- Pretty simple formula for beating these guys.  Stop Marshon Brooks, stop Providence (and ultimately stop Keno Davis from having a job
- Didn't like how we defended the three-ball, especially at the end of the first half.  Jimmy Butler was the main victim on the MU side, as Vincent Council had a stretch where he just couldn't miss from beyond the arc.
- Transition offense was much improved over the last few games.  Looking to see more of that next week

West Virginia

- Junior Cadougan.  WOW.  The kid played like an absolute beast, making great passes off the dribble, scoring in transition.  This is the guy we've been waiting to see coming out of his shell.  With Dwight Buycks gone next year, I've got high hopes for him when he takes over as the starting point guard.
- Defense looked great.  The mountaineers didn't have much of answer to what we were doing, which was key in us coming back from a 10-0 deficit
- Only 4 points for Jae Crowder, be he also had 9 boards, 3 steals, and 2 blocks.  Just goes to show you don't have to score 20 points to have a big night


- Whatever

The brackets come out tonight at 5pm central.  Check back here in the middle of the week for a preview of MU's matchup as well as some advice for filling out your bracket.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I've Changed My Mind Already

With last night's win over West Virginia, I say that puts us firmly at a 10 seed.  No telling how far we can go in the Big East Tournament, but if we continue to play the way we did in the second half last night, we should be in the championship game.

I'll provide a recap of MU's Big East tourney run once it ends, and will follow that up with a preview of our game in the NCAA Tournament (!!!!!)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Where Should Marquette be Seeded?

First of all, congrats are in order for DJO making Second Team All Big East and Jimmy Butler getting an Honorable mention.  Well done guys, if I had it my way you'd both be on the First Team.

Now onto the important stuff.  To those of you that follow Cracked Sidewalks, you've probably seen this already but there's a website called The 2011 Bracket Matrix, which you can see here.  This is a pretty neat site, in that it compiles bracket projections from all different types of websites, from the big guys like ESPN and CBS to other sites like Bracketography that do nothing but predict the 64-team field.  All of the seedings are summed up and averaged so you can see the consensus seed for each team.

This site was last updated this morning so it's about as recent as we're gonna get.  With that in mind, believe it or not, MU is currently a 10-seed on it.  Of the 81 brackets on the site, here's our breakdown in terms of seed projection:
Seed# of Brackets% of Total

Not bad.  5% have us out of the dance, and 85% have us as an 11-seed or higher.  However, if you go to the site, you'll see one major caveat, which is that not all of the brackets are updated as of 3/7, some are about a week old.  Here's a table showing the "As of" dates:

Date# of Brackets% of Total

Could be better, but it looks like about 70% of the brackets are completely up to date, 30% are missing the loss to Seton Hall, and about 15% don't include the loss to Cincy.  There's some decent information coming from this site, but take it with a grain of salt until at least all of these brackets are updated through 3/7.

With that in mind, let's take a look at a few other factors the Committee is going to look at:

Record: 18-12
Conference Record: 9-9
Record over last 10 games: 5-5
RPI: 68
Strength of Schedule Rank: 31
Record against Top 25 RPI: 4-6
Record against Top 50 RPI: 4-11
Record against RPI 50-100: 3-2
Record against RPI over 100: 11-0
Out of Conference RPI: 122

Pretty mixed bag of figures here.  Here's the way I see it:

- Record against Top 25 RPI.  Going just under .500 against the cream of the crop looks very good, and those 4 quality wins against West Virginia, Notre Dame, Syracuse, and UConn will look very favorable in front of the Committee.  They want to see that we're both capable of winning big games and winning on the road, and we've done both of those with this stat.
- Strength of Schedule.  31st toughest schedule will show that we're tournament tested and won't be intimidated by anyone we'll face if we make the dance.  Heck, the Big East Tournament is practically a NCAA Tournament with 16 teams and a ton of talent.
- Record against RPI over 100.  No bad losses is good news for MU.  Seton Hall's RPI is 91 so we just snuck in there with an unblemished record against bad teams.

- Record against Top 50 RPI.  Compare this to the record against the top 25, and it basically says we've gone 0-5 against the 26-50 in the RPI.  These teams are the complete cream of the crop, but they're pretty close.  Hopefully the Commitee puts more weight on the top 25 than the top 50.
- Record over last 10 games.  The Committee likes to see who's on a hot streak, and at this point we're anything but.  Had we beaten St. John's, Cincy, and Seton Hall we'd be in a different boat, but at this point we just look flat, if not worse.
- Out of Conference RPI.  The Comittee, especially over the last few years, has put extra emphasis on the entire body of work, from mid-November to mid-March.  Our weak RPI from November to December won't look very good to the Committee, and this could be the difference between a 12-seed and NIT.

Enough with the numbers Dan, what seed are we getting, if any???

Tough to say at this point, as the Big East Tournament is a big factor in deciding our future.  At this point, I'm assuming we beat Providence, and fall to West Virginia in the second round.  Between our quality wins and tough schedule, I think the Committee will look favorable on us.  Along with this, there's the "soft bubble" that the media has been talking about.  What this means is that the Butlers and Gonzagas of the world aren't as good as they've been in recent years which means they won't get high seeds and push power conference teams to higher seeds, as well as other power conference teams out of the tournament.  This means there's more room for the bubble teams like ourselves (and yes, that's a good thing).  With this in mind, I think when it's all said and done we'll have done enough in the Committee's mind to come out with an eleven seed.  I'll readily admit I've been wrong before (just look at my pre-season predictions), but that's my prediction-du-jour and I'm sticking to it until I decide to change my mind.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

MU Finishes Regular Season With An Embarrassing Loss to Seton Hall

No recap of the game today, but to those that didn't see, MU had a terrible performance in Newark with a 13-point loss.  The game was over after the tip, and we never pulled within 8 points of the pirates after the first 5 minutes.  MU finished 9-9 in conference play and takes on Providence Tuesday night at 8 pm in the BE tourney.

Here are a couple recaps of the game:

Cracked Sidewalks: The last time we lost to Seton Hall, gas cost 23 cents a gallon
Todd Rosiak: MU turns in its worst performance of the season

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Jimmy Butler Scores 30 as Marquette falls to Cincy on Senior Night

With a bid to the NCAA Tournament still on the line, MU had a crucial home match-up against Cincinnati Wednesday night.  With a win, we would've been on pace to finish 11-7 in conference play and secure a bye in the Big East Tournament.  Cincy, on the other hand, had a different plan in mind, and simply outplayed us and won 67-60.  With the loss, we're now 9-8 in conference play and desperately need a win at Seton Hall on Saturday.

The calling card of the bearcats is their defense, and this was very apparent last night.  Cincy played a 2-3 zone against us that we just couldn't seem to figure out.  We had a tough time finding guys to get open which lead to costly turnovers.  Their full-court press seemed to stifle us too, as if we'd never seen a press before.  Junior Cadougan made a few foolish passes across the key that turned into easy buckets for the bearcats and killed any momentum we had.  Along with the turnovers, we had a poor shooting night (39% from the field, 20% from the three) which kept us from gaining any traction against the bearcats.

At the half, MU was down by 6 and had a pathetic 3 assists matched with 9 turnovers.  In the second half, Cincy played good enough on defense (or maybe we played poor enough on offense) that we never were able to get within 5 points down the stretch.  With a minute to go and a 5-point deficit, Marquette had a phenomenal chance to get back in the game with two open 3-point opportunities (I believe DJO and Buycks had the open looks) but hesitated on both which ultimately resulted in a missed shot, a Cincy rebound,and 20 crucial seconds burned off the clock.  At that point, we were down too much to stage a comeback through fouling and the bearcats held on to win by 7.

After turning the ball over 11 times on 57 possessions against Cincy, this is now the second game in a row where we've turned over the ball on at least 19% of our possessions (AAAHHHH!!!).  Once may be a fluke, but twice is a trend, and if the trend continues, then we picked the absolute worst time to up our turnovers.  The question is: what's causing this?  Is it the fact that we're still a young team?  Is Cadougan trying to do too much in the point guard role?  Did the pressure of winning a game on senior night for the first time in three years prove to be too much?  Whatever it is, Buzz has 3 days to fix it on the road and 2 more days to prep for the Big East Tournament.  Maybe... I don't know... work on beating the press???  But I digress...

A couple bright spots despite the loss.  As usual, we won the foul situation, 22-10.  Unfortunately Cincy runs 9 deep each game so there was never an opportunity to get their guys in serious foul trouble.  The other, and more important, point of the night was Jimmy Butler's performance in his last home game in a gold uniform.  I'm sure his back was killing him after the game, because he absolutely carried us for 40 minutes.  Every time we had nothing going on offense, Butler took the game in his hands and made a spectacular cut to the rim to both draw contact and put points on the board.  Butler finished the game with 30 points, 6 boards, and 3 steals (did I mention he went 15-17 from the charity stripe?).  Well done Jimmy, we're going to miss you.

Nothing major to take away from the Senior Night speeches.  Rob Frozena by far got the most applause when it was his turn to talk.  Speaking of Frozena, you've gotta give this guy tons of credit.  He worked just as hard as everybody else on the team and got virtually no playing time to show for it (18 career points, 12 less than Jimmy Butler scored last night).  Congrats to Rob on being the first ever four-year walk-on to play for Marquette.  There's a lot to be said for what you've done as a student athlete.

Oh, and one more thing...  Dear Students: Please show up to the MU home games next year.  If I can make the 90-mile drive, you can make the 12-block walk.  Thank you.