Monday, January 31, 2011

The Best Thing I Ever Ate...In Milwaukee

With Marquette in the thick of the Big East schedule, I figured now would be a good time to do something off-topic, food.  The Marquette community has some great spots to check out, and if you're a health-conscious eater, you may want to read something else.

Without further ado, here are a few great spots for local fare in the Brew City

1. Sobelman's - Anyone who's gone through 4 years at Marquette should be well-versed in the Sobelman's experience.  Sobelman's is most famously known for their fantastic burgers, and with a website name like they pretty much have to be good.  What makes it different is the combination of ingredients that goes into it: a bakery-fresh roll, beef patty, bacon, onion, jalapenos, cheddar cheese, American cheese, and swiss cheese.  Anytime I'm on campus it's pretty much a place I have to eat at again and again.  To those that like a good bloody mary, Sobelman's makes a fantastic one, with an entire meal of garnishes sitting atop this tasty beverage.

2. Marquette Gyros - From the moment I first visited campus as a senior in high school, Marquette Gyros was a staple in my college diet.  Of course, as the name implies, their signature food is the gyro, but getting a burger, fries, and a drink for $4 was a deal I could never pass up.

3. Michael's Restaurant - At first glance Michael's may seem like your standard Greek diner, but at 2 in the morning after 15 beers it's so much more (I think)!  The pay-before-you-get-your-food aspect of it puts it over the top.  Try the biscuits and gravy, I'm not sure if it tastes good before midnight, but it definitely tastes great after.

4. La Perla - Honestly, students don't come here for the food, but the food is in fact very good.  So why do students go?  I'm not saying that it's because a crappy fake id will get margaritas for an entire table of freshmen, but a crappy fake id will get margaritas for an entire table of freshmen.  Make sure to ride the mechanical pepper before you leave, it's a great resume-padder!

5. Real Chili - Last but not least is the best chili in the city.  If you can't make it all the way to Michael's on 22nd street after a night of partying, Real Chili is another great option.  The standard bowl of chili, aka The Marquette Special, comes with noodles, 2 servings of meat, and beans.  Onions and cheese are optional, but not required.  And of course, you get all the oyster crackers you could ask for.  There is a location downtown that also serves beer, but it isn't open nearly as late as the one on campus.  Throwing oyster crackers at the other patrons after having a few too many isn't required, but it is encouraged.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Just Another Week in the Big East as MU goes 1-1 Against Two Top-10 Teams

First of all, my apologies on not getting up more posts recently due to that pesky thing called "work."

Marquette continued its brutal stretch against teams ranked in the Top 25 this week with home games against UConn and Syracuse.  They lost a tough one at home to UConn but came up with a huge victory against the orange on Saturday.

Does anyone really want to read about the loss to UConn?  Me neither, so I'll get right into the recap of the victory against Syracuse.

Marquette dominated 'Cuse for most of this game despite its recent woes against teams that use a 2-3 zone defense.  While we had a decent shooting day from the perimeter (6-13), MU was able to penetrate the orange's matchup zone and make some big plays in the paint.  At the half Marquette was up by 11 points and seemed to be in control.

But we've seen this before in the last couple weeks, in that Marquette hasn't been able to hold on to a lead in the late stages of the game.  That seemed to be the case for the first 15 minutes of the second half, as Syracuse managed to chip away at the lead until the game was tied at one point.  In the final couple minutes, MU was able to make some big stops on defense, and with the help of two clutch 3-pointers by Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom, they sealed their first victory against Syracuse in Big East play with a final score of 76-70.  With this win, Marquette has now defeated every Big East team since it joined the conference in 2005.

As I said before, interior play was crucial in the victory today.  MU had a few instances where it tried to make something out of nothing on offense which ended up in a turnover or a poorly missed shot, but they also fed a lot of passes to Jae Crowder in the paint which resulted in a lot of easy buckets and 3-point plays.  Jae Crowder's effectiveness inside also lead to putting Fab Melo in foul trouble, as he sat on the bench with four fouls for the most crucial minutes of the game.  Did I mention Crowder had 25 points on the afternoon?  This kid has been a beast inside for us all season.

Syracuse was pretty evenly matched with MU on the boards (24-22, in favor of MU), but the golden eagles won the battle at the free throw line.  Not only did Marquette shoot better from the charity stripe (73% for MU vs. 57% for 'Cuse), but they took 19 more free throws than the orange.  Jae Crowder and DJO combined to go 15-17 from the line.

What continues to amaze me is the amount of parity in this league.  At the end of the day the two 3-balls from Butler and DJO were what decided the game, and everything else was basically a wash.  To those that haven't noticed, a lot of upsets have happened in the Big East this week, which again shows that any of the cellar-dwellers (yes, even DePaul) can knock off the big guys.  It makes the daily grind of the Big East that much tougher, knowing that what Ken Pomeroy predicts or what Las Vegas says is basically meaningless once the ball is tipped.  Sure, it makes the Big East that much more exciting to watch, but it's also going to give me stomach ulcers by age 30.

Marquette is now embarking on a 2-week road trip with games at Villanova, South Florida, and Georgetown.  At this point there's a decent amount of media buzz for us being in the NCAA tournament, but I'll feel more comfortable about it when we have 6 more wins under our belt.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Week in Review: MU Blows Out DePaul, Falls to Fighting Irish

Mixed bag of emotions for the golden eagles this past week, with a win and loss against two of their Catholic rivals in DePaul and Notre Dame.  Marquette dominated the blue demons last Tuesday with a 30-point victory, but blew a 9-point halftime lead to fall to Notre Dame on Saturday.  Saturday's loss was yet another game that Marquette should've won, but just couldn't seem to hold on.

Not a ton to take away from the DePaul victory, as they've only won a single conference game since 2009 (yeah I know, it was against us, worst $40 I've ever spent on tickets).  MU did a phenomenal job in the turnover battle, not only protecting the basketball, but scoring off of every DePaul turnover (39 points off of turnovers, I believe).  Jimmy F. Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom lead the way with 20 points apiece.  Jae Crowder was one rebound and 4 assists away from a triple-double.  The game was close for the first 10 minutes, until Marquette went on a scoring spree and never looked back.

Unfortunately, the ND loss was a more important game to note.  Here's your recap.

Marquette started out very strong in this game.  They hit their 3-point and 2-point jump shots, drew contact on inside buckets, and forced a few key turnovers.  The golden eagles quickly raced out to an early lead and had a decent cushion for most of the first half.  The crowd was quickly taken out of this game, and it seemed as though the irish wouldn't be getting their revenge on Marquette after the 22-point beat-down they suffered in Milwaukee 2 weeks ago.

And then the second half happened.  Both teams played the opposite of their first half performance, and Marquette's collapse ultimately lead to a 5 point loss in South Bend.  Notre Dame switched to a 2-3 zone in the second half and absolutely stifled the golden eagles.  Marquette was able to stretch the zone in the last match-up between these two with great perimeter shooting, but the offense quickly cooled off in the second half, and before you knew it, Notre Dame was up by double digits.  MU got killed on the inside off of ball screens and gave up way too many points in the paint.  Marquette's counter move was to try and break the zone and score inside, but nothing seemed to fall.  With 10 minutes left in the game, you could already tell that this game was going to end in a W for Notre Dame.  Even perimeter shooting fell apart for MU in the second half.  As if size wasn't a big enough issue for us, Chris Otule and Jae Crowder were both fouled out by the time there was 3 minutes left on the clock.  When you add it all up, we really didn't give ourselves a chance to come out of this crucial road game with a win.

Buzz has to be feeling some heat at this point, after blowing 2 comfortable leads on the road in the team's last 3 games.  While the offense could have played much better in South Bend, defense was what put Notre Dame (and the crowd) right back in the game.  Switching match-ups off of ball screens, defensive boards, and hustle have taken this team out of must-win games.  Fouling has been a strength of ours all season, and while the refs did call a few ticky-tack fouls (thank you Ed Hightower), Marquette could've played much smarter on defense.  DJO has been one of the team's best defenders this season, and was torched by Ben Hansbrough, who ended with 28 points on the night.

Something has to change for this team, and fast.

Monday, January 17, 2011

MU Blows 18-Point Lead and Falls to Louisville, 71-70

Too pissed to write a review about this one.  To those that didn't catch the game, the headline of the article tells the whole story.  Here are a few links with recaps of the game:

Cracked Sidewalks
Todd Rosiak
Anonymous Eagle
CBS Sports

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

MU Shoots Notre Dame Out of the Gym in a 22-Point Blowout

Marquette's first win over a ranked team came on Monday as the golden eagles stunned Notre Dame with a barrage of three-pointers and ultimately a 79-57 victory.  MU improved to 12-5 on the season and 3-1 in the Big East with the win.

The game was close in the first half, with Marquette leading by 4-7 points for most of it.  In the second half, Notre Dame couldn't keep pace with Marquette's shooting and the rest is history.  The fighting irish were simply outplayed in this game.  They'll be looking for revenge when MU comes to South Bend for a rematch on January 22.

A lot of good things to talk about with this victory.  In case you missed Monday's game (shame on you), here's what you should know:

Marquette was absolutely on fire from beyond the arc.  The golden eagles shot an astonishing 71% on three-pointers, something they haven't done this well since 2001.  Every three-pointer just seemed to go in during the second half, and that's what lead to MU pulling away from the irish in convincing fashion.  Not to mention, offense like that is a lot of fun to watch!  On the other hand, ND was horrendous from long range, only going 3-16.  ND's two stellar shooters, Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis, were a collective 1-4 from long range.  The irish got plenty of open looks but they just weren't falling.  Combine the performances from each team into one game and you end up with a lop-sided victory.

Dwight Buycks had a career night with 21 points and an impressive 5-5 from the perimeter.  What made his performance even more incredible was that he took several three's that were very difficult shots, but it just didn't matter, as the hoop was 6 feet wide for him that night.  Jae Crowder contributed to the three-point fest as well going 4-6, but was also his usual self in the paint with a lot of key points down low.  Chris Otule was a key presence in the paint as well, not only for easy deuces, but also helped create open looks for Crowder and Butler when collapsing the defenders.

This is the second conference game where Marquette has beaten a team that utilizes a 2-3 zone.  I'm hoping that the Tom Crean curse of losing against zone teams has finally withered away and we can hang with these guys.  Maybe we've got a shot at finally beating Syracuse?  I know, wishful thinking.  But at least you can hope.

And last but not least, remember that awful defensive performance against Pitt on Saturday?  It looked like a distant memory in this game.  Marquette did a phenomenal job on the defensive side, picking up defenders off of screens and forcing Notre Dame to take more outside shots.  All in all, MU only allowed 0.9 points per defensive possession (they average 0.95).  Nice work boys, keep it up.

Just a couple points to note despite the big win:

One, Notre Dame is much better than they let on to be Monday night.  They got plenty of open looks but simply had a poor shooting night.  Conversely, Marquette had a phenomenal shooting night, and even made a lot of low-percentage shots.  These two factors would certainly revert to the mean if they played 9 more times.  But hey, I think we could beat these guys 6 or 7 times out of ten.

Two, Marquette absolutely needed this win to stay alive in the Big East.  With the next couple weeks proving to be horrendous, this victory was one that gave us some much-needed momentum going into this stretch.  You can celebrate for now, but there will be a serious wake-up call if we don't take down a few more of the top-tier Big East teams.

Lastly, you think Notre Dame will remember this game when we come to South Bend in 2 weeks?  Absolutely.  They'll be more than ready to get revenge against us on their home turf, so we better be ready for the dogfight.

Marquette's next game is at Louisville Saturday morning.  Bloody Marys anyone?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Week in Review: MU Goes 1-1 on the Road

Marquette had a mini road trip this week with games at Rutgers and Pitt.  MU took care of business with a nice win at Rutgers on Wednesday, and expectedly lost to Pitt on Saturday.


The win over Rutgers was statistically a quality win, since it was on the road and Rutgers was in the RPI top 100 at the time.  Marquette was in control for the entire game, and despite a late surge by the scarlet knights, the golden eagles made just enough points down the stretch to hang on for an eight point victory.  Despite a sloppy performance, MU shot well enough to win 73-65.

DJO went off for a career-high 29 points, including going 5-8 from the perimeter.  He's proved to be consistently inconsistent this season.  MU lost the turnover battle, with turnovers on 16 of 61 possessions (26%).  This was certainly MU's worst performance of the year as far as taking care of the basketball.  Vander Blue chipped in 3 of those turnovers, although one of them he immediately made up for on the other end of the court by stealing a loose ball and calling time out while he was on the floor.

Dwight Buycks injured his thigh in practice after colliding with Davante Gardner and played just 11 minutes and scored no points.  Junior Cadougan took the majority of the point guard role instead and while he had an impressive 8 assists to just one turnover, he seemed to be lost on offense.  His main issue is that despite his quickness, he can't drive to the bucket.  He'll get himself in trouble when the defense collapses on him and has to scramble for an outlet pass to rest the offense.

MU kept it interesting down the stretch as they only made 6 of their last 12 free throws, but Rutgers equally shot poorly from the charity stripe, going 4-11 for the night.  It took until 2011, but MU finally got their first road win of the season (and no, playing "at" UWM does not count).


Interior play told the whole story for why Pitt won and MU lost at the Petersen Events Center this past Saturday.  While Pitt only won by eight points, they were in control the entire way, and MU needed a late surge to only lose by single digits, with a final score of 89-81.

It's no secret that Pitt's bread and butter over recent years has been solid rebounding, especially on the offensive glass.  This year is no different, as they are once again #1 in the country in offensive rebounding % at 47%.  This was all-too-apparent throughout the game, even though only 25% of Pitt's boards were on offense, it seemed like every key miss for the panthers was rebounded by one of their players which then translated into 2 or 3 points.  Overall Pitt out-rebounded MU 36-26.

This is also the second year in a row that Marquette has been torched by Pitt center Gary McGhee.  He only averages 7 ppg on the season, but scored 12 against us.  An under-sized team like us doesn't seem to have an answer for him.  Lazar Hayward wasn't the answer last year, and Chris Otule surely wasn't the answer this year.

To couple with the costly rebounds, MU played terrible overall defense, allowing Pitt to shoot 60% from the field and 55% from beyond the arc (compared to MU's 42% and 35% for FG% and 3FG%, respectively).  Too many of Pitt's dribble-drives and three pointers were uncontested by MU.  While the latter of those two is nothing new, the former is a bit disconcerting.  As Buzz has said, we're not good enough to play straight man-to-man defense and have to rely on "team defense" instead.  The problem with team defense is that any team that's half-decent at passing will have a lot of good looks at three-pointers against us, and Pitt was no exception.

One bright note for MU is that they improved their recent turnover woes in impressive fashion, turning the ball over just twice in the game (both by Jae Crowder).  This was what kept us in the game and helped prevent the blowout.  Dwight Buycks also put up 19 points despite being questionable for starting in the game.

MU's next tough test (yet par for the course since it's the Big East) is home to rival Notre Dame for Big Monday.  The January 4 edition of "Inside Marquette Basketball" offers a preview of tomorrow's game against ND.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Marquette Mid-Season Review

Since we're about halfway through the season, I figure now would be a good time to take a look at where MU is at in the season and look at few things they've done well and not-so-well.

How has the season fared so far?  Not bad necessarily, but could be much better at this point.  There were a lot of question marks going into the season.  How well will all of the first-year players integrate into Buzz's system?  Will we be completely lost without Lazar Hayward, Maurice Acker, and David Cubillan?  Will we continue to be plagued by a lack of size, or will our "big men" inside prove otherwise?  Or an even scarier thought: will Marquette miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 7 years?

Since assigning grades is a bit cliché (I'll admit I did it myself when I wrote for, I'll separate this into areas where we've excelled and areas where we need some help.

What's Gone Well

Emergence of the first-year players.  So far the first-year guys have stepped up big time.  MU fans had the highest expectations for Vander Blue since he was ranked as one of the top 25 high school recruits last year.  He's excelled on defense, has a humble mindset about playing D-1 ball in the Big East, and has proved to be a good shooter inside the arc.  Turnovers have been his main issue so far, but that'll correct itself as he develops into a better ball-handler.  Jae Crowder, the 2009-10 JUCO player of the year, has proved to be no slouch himself.  He's provided some much-needed size in the paint which has directly translated into added boards and points.  He's also a threat from the perimeter.  While Jae does score well in the post, he's also made some great passes to other teammates on back-door cuts and screens.  Last but not least is Davante Gardner.  While injuries have kept him on the sidelines, he's proved that he's a scoring machine when he gets in the game (10 MPG and 7PPG).  His defense has been a bit questionable, but with a little more time and polish this kid can be a monster for us over the next couple of years.

Winning the Turnover Battle.  This stat is one of the most crucial in basketball, and Ken Pomeroy even lists it as one of his "Four Factors" that determine who will win or lose a game (the others are effective field goal %, offensive boards as a % of total boards, and free throws attempted as a % of field goals attempted).  MU is turning the ball over on 18.5% of possessions, but is forcing turnovers on 22.6% of defensive series.  This statistic should keep us competitive all season long.

Starting out 1-0 in Big East play.  It may not seem like much, but the victory over West Virginia was a big one.  The mountaineers are 12th in the RPI (#1 in strength of schedule) which means that last Saturday's W was a quality one.  After Rutgers on Wednesday, MU has a brutal stretch with 8 of their next 10 games against ranked teams, so we'll take all the wins we can get before those matchups.

What Hasn't Gone Well

Going 0-4 in quality OOC games.  Marquette had 4 chances to emerge as a contender during out-of-conference play with games against Duke, Gonzaga, Wisconsin, and Vanderbilt.  Unfortunately they came up short in all 4 of those games.  All of the games were close, but this isn't horseshoes so close losses don't count as wins.  This issue dates back to last year (and the Tom Crean days if you want to go back further) that in tight games MU just can't seem to close the deal.  While they won the close ones last season against Georgetown, UConn, St. John's, and Seton Hall ('Nova in the BE tourney), the losses to West Virginia, Villanova (twice), Syracuse, and Washington were what kept this team from greatness.  Buzz has to figure out a way to get this team to close the door on opponents, given that the margin for error in the Big East is so narrow.

Overall defense.  Cracked Sidewalks wrote about this a couple days ago, and I agree that it's a big part of why we're losing games.  OK, last year we didn't have much depth which wore us down in the late stages of games.  This year with added depth we have no excuse.  Poor defense (both in the paint and on the perimeter) is what has caused us to lose all 4 of our quality OOC games.  The offense is there with 1.14 points per possession, but when the game is on the line, MU can't seem to get it done.  Since Crean left for Indiana the defense has improved at playing in tight games, but we're nowhere near where we want to be as far as having a pedigree for winning those types of games.  I've got a feeling it's too late in the season for a miraculous turnaround on defense, so this may be something that will more likely show major signs of improvement next season.

Losing Reggie Smith.  Sure, Reggie wasn't a major contributor to the team at this point (which is basically why he left the team).  Say what you want though, losing a 4-star guard is a serious blow to our depth, as we're down to 4 guards for the rest of the season.  We're not at the same depth level as last year, but losing one more significant contributor will put us right back at where we left off.

So where does all of this leave us?

Let's answer the initial questions posed above based on our mid-season highs and lows:

"How well will all of the first-year players integrate into Buzz's system?"  Pretty well so far excluding Smith's departure.

"Will we be completely lost without Lazar Hayward, Maurice Acker, and David Cubillan?"  Not lost, but our three-point shooting has taken a serious hit.

"Will we continue to be plagued by a lack of size, or will our "big men" inside prove otherwise?"  Offensively, we've gotten much better in the paint.  Defensively, there's still work to be done.

"Or an even scarier thought: will Marquette miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 7 years?"  Currently, Joe Lunardi has us as one of the first four teams out.  At this point, I agree with him.  However, do we have the potential to make it to a 10 or a 9 seed?  Absolutely.  With better shooting on the perimeter and improved defense (and continued success in the turnover battle), MU can win 11 or 12 conference games and make the Dance for the 7th straight year.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Marquette Tops Moutaineers 79-74 in BE Opener

The golden eagles got their first conference win and quality win of the season with a 79-74 victory over West Virginia (who beat Vanderbilt earlier in the season, by the way).  This game was a tight one most of the way, but MU managed to get timely scoring, a steal, and defensive rebound down the stretch to secure the victory.  Marquette has improved to 10-4 on the season and 1-0 in conference play.

Marquette jumped out to an early 9-0 lead in this game with a 3-pointer by Jae Crowder and steals and resulted in layups on our end.  West Virginia quickly got back in the game through great shooting.  The game was very tight the rest of the way, with neither team leading by more than 5 points.  West Virginia had a great shooting day from beyond the arc, but MU won the battle on the offensive and defensive boards.  With Marquette up by 1 going into the final minute, Jae Crowder came up with a big steal that lead to making one of two free throws.  Darryl Bryant was then called for a loose ball foul on West Va's next possession which gave Jimmy Butler 2 free throws.  After Butler made one of two, West Virginia missed a 2-pointer with 13 seconds left and Jimmy Butler came up with the board.  Butler made both of his free throws to put the golden eagles up by 5 with 8 seconds to go, and the rest is history.

The Good

Marquette out-rebounded West Virginia 32-24.  They also minimized their fouling throughout the game with just 12 fouls vs. WVA's 18.  The double-bonus proved to be crucial for us in the final minute since Jae Crowder missed the first of his two free throws, which could have resulted in a turnover had we been in single bonus.  This was also a victory against a team that utilizes a 2-3 zone defense, something MU has struggled against in recent years.

Jae Crowder had a career morning (anyone else think that phrase is strange?) with 29 points, 8 boards, and 4 steals.  Again, he just seemed to be in the right place at the right time for a lot of put-back shots, which is where most of his scoring came from (starting the game off with a 3-pointer didn't hurt either).  DJO had a monster second half and ended up with 21 points for the day on 8-15 shooting.  The 15-foot jumpers really clicked for him in that half.

The Bad

Marquette's 3-point defense.  West Virginia had good ball movement which caught Marquette players out of transition in defensive switches which created a lot of open looks for the mountaineers.  West Virginia shot 47% overall from 3-point land which kept them in the entire game.

The Ugly

Driving 90 miles to watch a 10 am basketball game on New Years Day.  Never again, Marquette.  Never again.

On a side note, Jim Burr managed to make his way up to Mil-town to referee MU's second game in a row.  Despite one or two no-calls, Burr was fine in this game (he has done something like 16 Final Fours so I can't give him too much crap).

Marquette's next match-up is at Rutgers on Wednesday at 6:30 CST.

MU Loses to Vandy by 1 Point, Goes 0-4 in Quality OOC Games

There won't be any review of this game, I think I'm just too pissed about it to write one.  To those that didn't see it, the end of the game was a tough pill to swallow.  Dwight Buycks made a very long 2 (his toe was on the line) to put us up by 1 point with 20 seconds to go.  Vandy scored an inside bucket on their next possession to go up by 1 with 4 seconds to go.  On the final possession of the game, Vander Blue took the ball up the court, was tripped by a Vanderbilt defender on a dribble-drive, no foul was called, game over, 77-76 Vanderbilt.   Referee Jim Burr has gotten quite a bit of flack from the MU faithful over the last couple of days for swallowing his whistle on that final play.  Oh well.

For a full recap of the game, you can check Todd Rosiak's blog here.

Marquette's next game is its Big East home opener against West Virginia at 10 am on New Years Day (brutal).