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!