After a long hiatus, Stuck in 1977 is back for the season. And on this gameday against evil Wisconsin, it's time to look back on what this team has shown us over the last 30 days. So far we've seen flashes of greatness from this team, and proof of why they're ranked 16th in the country. But every team has their faults, and MU is no different. Enjoy.
1. This team is very fast and can score in bunches
Buzz's eagles have shown they are a team that loves to get out into transition and score quickly. The transition game is lead by DJO, Junior Cadougan, and Vander Blue. This team has struggled with the transition game in recent years, but that is no more. And the numbers show. Marquette has scored over 90 points in 4 of their 6 contests (88 against Jacksonville) and is averaging over 70 possessions per game. Part of what makes this team so dangerous is that the transition game can turn a close game into a blowout. Marquette was up by 9 points going into the half against Jacksonville, and after a couple 3-balls by Jae Crowder and a couple buckets in transition, they were up 20 points and never looked back. This team is going to be a ton of fun to watch all season long.
2. Darius Johnson-Odom has answered the call of being this team's undisputed leader
A preseason All-Big East selection, DJO has shown in the first six games why he has deserved that honor. So far he leads the team in nearly every offensive category: PPG (20), 3-pt FG made and % (14 and 47%), and free throws made and attempted (33 and 43). Not to mention, he leads the team in one of the most important overall stats: minutes played (28 per game). He also won the MVP of the Paradise Jam for his stellar play throughout the entire tournament After Jimmy Butler's departure last year, there were concerns amongst the MU faithful about who would be the guy to step up and take over the team, no more. The kid pretty much does everything you want out of a 2-guard: plays great in transition, can drive to the rack, shoots a high percentage from around the floor, and most importantly is the guy you want to feed the rock to when the game is on the line (see Marquette vs. Syracuse, circa 2011 of the NCAA Tournament). Look for DJO to make a run at first team All-American if he takes the golden eagles deep into the post-season.
3. Jae Crowder has managed to get even better than he was last year
MU fans were pleasantly surprised to see JUCO transfer Jae Crowder's production last year. He seemed to be everywhere on the floor, hitting threes, scoring in the post, and cleaning up on putback shots. This year, he's added an important facet to his game: speed. Yes, I mentioned DJO, Blue, and Cadougan as the leaders in transition offense, but who are they feeding the ball to? If they're not taking it to the hole themselves, Crowder is often the guy with them on that end of the floor helping create mis-matches in numbers. Crowder's offensive production is way up at this point compared to last year (partly due to Jimmy MF Butler's departure), but he's also putting himself in a position to score a lot more often. Last year a 25-point performance from Crowder was a shocker and a marvel. This year it'll be just another game for this kid.
4. The newbies are already showing there is room for growth
This season has a cast of 4 newcomers: Todd Mayo, Jamil Wilson (sat out last season due to transferring), Derrick Wilson, and Juan Anderson. While the roster is top-heavy with experience from guys like DJO, Crowder, Cadougan, and Blue, these kids are still making an impact with the time they've had on the floor. Todd Mayo has looked sloppy at times handling the ball on offense, but he can score in the transition game and plays good on-the-ball defense. Jamil Wilson has shown he can do a bit of everything, from grabbing boards to making the two-point jumper to feeding the open man under the basket. Even though Juan Anderson has so far only played in garbage time against Jacksonville, the kid was diving all over the floor for loose balls and didn't have the "Oh my God I have the ball I need to score to impress my coaches!" mentality. The newcomers give this team added depth that could prove to be crucial down the stretch, as well as hope that this team will continue to be very talented in the future.
5. We STILL struggle against the 2-3 zone
AAAHHH!!! What is it about the 2-3 zone that we can't figure out? Did we forget about beating Syracuse twice last year? This issue somehow has stuck around with the team since the Tom Crean days, likely due to lake of size in the paint. In the championship in the Virgin Islands against Norfolk State (who we had beaten by 31 points the week before, by the way), MU quickly got up to a 16-point lead, and it looked as though the game was already in the bag. 6 minutes into the game, the spartans switched from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone, and the golden eagles just looked lost and confused against it. There was virtually zero penetration in the paint, and no type of strategy on how to stop it. Buzz also refused to call a timeout because he wanted to let his team figure it out on their own, and they struggled mightily because of it. Eventually they began to feed the ball inside to Davante Gardner, but by that point in the second half the game was already so tight they couldn't get enough momentum to pull away. MU managed to do just enough to win by 2 points, but the W certainly felt like a L. Soon they'll realize that you need to play inside-out to attack this zone (feed it inside to Gardner or Otule, collapse the defense, and either go up for the bucket or kick it back out to an open man), and hopefully they'll learn soon. MU better learn how to beat this zone quickly, because they'll certainly have to face a zone defense against Syracuse, Louisville, and West Virginia, and may have to face it at other points in the season too.
Marquette storms into Mad-town today with their perfect 6-0 record on the line in hopes of taking down the #7-ranked Badgers before they head to MSG to take on Washington. Previews of the game can be found here: