Monday, February 28, 2011

More on the Tiebreaker Situation

John Pudner from Cracked Sidewalks has put up an explanation of MU's tiebreaker situation here.  It's very well-detailed and is just as good, if not better, than I could explain it.  Whatever way you look at it though, we need to win our next 2 games to rise to the top of the 5-team logjam.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

MU Takes Care of Business Against Providence

After a crucial victory on the road against UConn, the golden eagles returned home and beat up on a helpless Friars squad in a 86-62 victory.  Marquette finished the week 2-0 and has 2 games remaining before the Big East Tournament in New York.  With the win, we're 9-7 in conference play and in a 5-way tie in the BE standings.

Marquette started out on a 10-0 run in this game and never seemed to look back.  Between cold shooting from Providence and solid defense and rebounding from MU, the friars never had a chance.  While Providence would go on a 5 or 7-point run at a couple points in the game, we always had an answer with a run of our own.

Given the final score, there's mostly positives to take away from this game.  5 guys scored in double figures: Butler, Otule, Cadougan, DJO, and Crowder.  As usual, Crowder was a beast on the inside grabbing boards and causing havoc in the paint on defense.  Junior Cadougan had a career night with 10 points, 10 assists, and 6 boards.  He made some great passes to the interior that translated into easy points.

The defense was also much improved, as they only allowed 0.78 points per defensive possession today.  We did a much better job of rotating on defense which seemed to frustrate the friars throughout the game.  Part of their poor shooting percentage (32%) was due to them taking long-range contested shots that they should never be taking in the first place.  Combine that with being out-rebounded 37-15 in their end of the floor and it made for a long afternoon for Providence.

The main negative today was turnovers, as MU turned the ball over on 22% of their possessions.  Most of these were head-scratching passes that lead to fast break points on the other end for Providence.  At one point in the second half when the friars began to press, we inexplicably turned the ball over twice before crossing the timeline which gave Providence 4 easy points.  This is probably a one-off scenario given the fact that we only turn the ball over 18% of the time on offense, but nonetheless this was something you never want to see again.

On a side note, fans got a serious scare from DJO when he hit the floor hard after making a drive to the rim in transition in the second half.  He landed on his right elbow and didn't get off the floor for a few seconds.  The first thing that went through my head was "Great... Travis Diener, Jerel McNeal, Dominic James, and now DJO is next in line to get seriously injured at the end of the season."  Thankfully, he was just out for a couple minutes and came back in and played like he hadn't missed a beat.  Definitely didn't need to say that during a blowout victory on a Sunday afternoon.

Big East Standings

As of now, here's where the Big East stands from top to bottom, courtesy of the Big East's website:
StandingsConferencePct.PFPAOverallPct.PFPAHomeAwayNeutralLast 10Streak
Pittsburgh 13-3.81370.161.325-4.86274.861.216-16-23-17-3L 1
Notre Dame 12-4.75070.466.623-5.82175.165.216-04-43-19-1W 2
Louisville 11-5.68869.265.622-7.75975.064.218-24-50-07-3W 3
St. John's 11-5.68866.965.619-9.67970.165.811-35-63-08-2W 6
Syracuse 11-6.64768.765.524-6.80072.462.715-36-33-06-4W 4
Georgetown 10-7.58865.965.021-8.72472.265.610-47-44-07-3L 2
Cincinnati 9-7.56364.462.722-7.75969.058.514-37-41-06-4L 1
Connecticut 9-7.56368.767.421-7.75073.265.913-35-43-05-5W 1
Villanova 9-7.56371.268.221-8.72473.764.713-47-31-14-6L 2
West Virginia 9-7.56365.462.618-10.64369.964.110-25-63-25-5W 1
Marquette 9-7.56374.170.118-11.62177.468.614-34-60-25-5W 3
Seton Hall 5-11.31362.866.211-17.39366.265.06-74-71-33-7L 3
Rutgers 4-12.25064.169.313-15.46465.865.210-62-71-22-8L 4
Providence 3-13.18873.179.814-15.48376.774.613-50-91-13-7L 6
USF 3-13.18863.169.69-20.31062.365.67-81-111-12-8W 1
DePaul 1-15.06364.977.97-21.25068.275.26-101-80-31-9L 3

Like I said, we're in a 5-way tie (which Buzz had predicted before the season started would be the result at the end of the season) with Cincinnati, 'Nova, West Virginia, and UConn.  If the golden eagles can take care of business against Cincinnati and Seton Hall, that would put as at 11-7 and should give us a bye in the first round of the Big East Tournament.  As you can see, things have gotten pretty hairy.  To check out how tie-breakers work, you can read it here.  Basically, if we're in a tie with at least 2 other teams, those teams are turned into a "mini-conference" and the records of each team against those other teams in the tie-breaker are stacked up.  So for instance, if we're in a tie with UConn and West Virginia, we'd be 2-1 in that "mini-conference" and that record would get stacked against the records of UConn and West Virginia.  2-team tie-breaker rules would apply if UConn or West Va. also went 2-1 in the mini-conference.

Given the schedules the other teams still have ('Nova plays ND and Pitt, UConn and West Va play each other, WVU also plays ND), and if we beat Cincy that of course knocks them out of the equation, we have a good shot at passing all of these teams and getting at least a 7-seed in the tournament.  There's still a lot of basketball yet to be played, but right now we're looking a lot better than we were 10 days ago.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

MU Downs the Huskies in Overtime!

Finally, the golden eagles came up with a signature win to bolster their tournament resume with a 74-67 victory in overtime against UConn in Hartford.  With the win, Marquette improved to 17-11 and 8-7 in conference play.

The huskies got out to a quick 11-3 lead, but MU stormed back through solid zone defense and interior scoring.  With a 3-point lead, Dwight Buycks was fouled making a 3-pointer and converted the 4-point play to put the golden eagles up 7.  UConn also had a poor 20 minutes of shooting which MU was able to capitalize on.  At the end of the half, Jimmy Butler made a tough 20-footer to put Marquette up by 11 at the half, and things were looking great.

But we've all seen this before, and just like the other times, we coughed up the lead and let UConn right back in the game.  The huskies dominated the glass in the second half and Kemba Walker began to take over the game and simply couldn't miss.  The same shooting woes that UConn had in the first half transferred to Marquette in the second half, and the golden eagles didn't score a field goal until the 8th minute in the half when Dwight Buycks drained a three.  Surprisingly, Vander Blue was one of our only sources of offense during those 8 minutes as he managed to draw contact on a couple drives and knock down his free throws.  Jae Crowder made a couple dumb fouls early on in the second half and played with 4 fouls most of the way.  Things weren't looking good down the stretch in Hartford.

With the final minutes winding down, the game became incredibly tight, and missed rebounds caused Marquette to blow its chance to put the game away in regulation.  Down 2 with 35 seconds, UConn took the ball up the floor, and after a clutch steal, shot fake, and layup by Darius Johnson-Odom, the golden eagles had tied the game at 59 apiece.  UConn couldn't convert in the final seconds which took the game to overtime.

From there, MU put up an impressive performance in its first overtime game of the year and was in control the whole way.  Where Kemba Walker left off, DJO picked up and had 9 of his 17 points in OT.  Marquette made its free throws down the stretch and UConn turned the ball over too many times to put up a fight.

Tonight was not our most impressive night offensively.  The golden eagles average 1.16 points per possession, and tonight they had just 1 point per possession.  20% from 3-point range (0-7 for DJO) and 37% overall from the field.  Although Jimmy Butler had his usual performance with 16 points, he was cold at times from the floor too, going 6-16 overall.  Some of the shots he took were ones he'd normally pass away, and even missed a few easy layups.  But since he played for 44 of the 45 minutes you still gotta give him props.

Like I said before, UConn dominated the golden eagles on the boards.  Tally at the end was 52-39 UConn.  The most frustrating part about this was a lot of those boards could've or did go Marquette's way, but they just seemed to cough the ball up to UConn before we had clear possession of it.  The huskies are one of the tallest teams in the country, so I guess I can live with this.

The real difference maker for MU was turnovers, as we dominated on this front 17-8.  Despite DJO's shooting woes during regulation, he came up with four steals during the game, including the one that eventually put the game into overtime.  Teams like us that are offensively lop-sided need to win this battle to have a fighting chance against the top-tier teams.

From a defensive standpoint, I think we did a poor job of defending jump shots.  Between fighting off ball screens and rotating on double-teams to the open man, MU left too many huskies open for three-pointers on the perimeter.  While those shots didn't fall for UConn in the first half, they definitely began to fall in the second half.  What was especially troubling about this was it wasn't just one player, it was Buycks, DJO, Butler, etc.  This leads me to believe it's a coaching issue, and something Buzz needs to fix asap so that Marshon Brooks doesn't put up 52 points against us this Sunday.

On a side note, Buzz went hoarse from yelling during the first half and couldn't even speak to the team at halftime.  Gotta love it.

This win will do some good for us in terms of RPI.  UConn's currently 13th in the RPI, and our road win over them will certainly move us up a few pegs.  Don't ask me why, but the NCAA tournament committee practically lives and dies by the RPI.  It's a good measuring stick for a team, but it leaves out the all-important "eye test."

A side note on Jim Calhoun not coaching tonight.  Say what you want about us beating a "Calhoun-less" team, it's still a quality win.  The RPI doesn't say "Oh, this win isn't as good because Jim Calhoun wasn't coaching."  The UConn players clearly weren't lost without him, otherwise they wouldn't have fought back in the second half to regain the lead.  Kemba Walker was still Kemba Walker tonight regardless of who was coaching on the sidelines, UConn just happened to get beaten by a team who was desperate for a road win.  And was today George Blaney's first day ever coaching a team, or even coaching UConn?  Of course not.  Yeah, there may be some bias in saying all of this, but I hope you get my point.

Marquette returns to Mil-town to take on Providence this Sunday.

Answer to the Trivia Question: Jerel McNeal is MU's all-time leader in steals with 287.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Marquette Dominates the Boards En Route to a 73-64 Victory Over Seton Hall

After St. John's handed the golden eagles their first double-digit loss of the season, they bounced back with a 9-point win over the Seton Hall Pirates at the Bradley Center on Saturday.  MU is now 16-11 on the season and 7-7 in conference play.

The first half was pretty evenly matched, with MU winning the battle on the glass, but coughing up turnovers to keep Seton Hall in the game.  In the second half, MU exerted its home court dominance in several key areas to pull away from Seton Hall for good.

Here's what went well for MU:

- Rebounds.  Marquette out-rebounded Seton Hall 39-21 (12-6 on offensive boards).  The Marquette bigs did a great job of boxing out on missed shots, which resulted in a lot of boards.  A few of them, including one from Joe Fulce, were simply jump balls that Marquette came up with due to better hustle.  Because of this, Seton Hall never went on more than a 5 or 6-point run, which kept them from gaining any momentum.

- Fouls.  We all know this is part of MU's bread-and-butter this season, and last night's contest was no different.  Not only did Marquette take 15 more shots from the foul line than Seton Hall, but two of Seton Hall's big men, Herb Pope and Patrik Auda, fouled out with key minutes remaining.  Chris Otule can be credited with drawing most of the contact from these guys.  Keeping these two bigs on the bench opened up the paint for MU to make back-door cuts and create passing lanes on the strong side of the rack.

- MU's Big Men.  Despite getting into foul trouble, Chris Otule had a monster night for the time he was on the floor.  In just 20 minutes, Otule put up 10 points, 8 boards, and a block.  He was well-positioned under the hoop for the easy putback shots which kept MU in the game during their cold shooting streaks in the first half.  Davante Gardner also had another efficient game, with 7 points and 6 boards in just 11 minutes.  With every game I'm seeing both of these guys get better and better, and it makes me feel a lot better about how good our front-court is going to be next season.  If Gardner can drop about 15-20 pounds over this summer, he's going to be incredibly dangerous next year.

And now what didn't go so well for the golden eagles:

Turnovers.  Marquette lost the turnover battle last night 14-9 on 66 possessions.  At a rate of 21%, this was clearly a poor night for taking care of the basketball.  The frustrating part wasn't that Seton Hall played phenomenal defense to force those turnovers, but that Marquette beat themselves to cough up the ball.  Drives into traffic by Cadougan and Blue with no outlet lead to Seton Hall possessions which kept us from creating any kind of sizable lead in the first half.  This is a team that has to dominate on offense to beat the great teams, and stats like turnovers absolutely kill an offense.

Vander Blue.  While I have great hopes for him in the coming years, he's a serious liability on offense.  8 times out of 10 he'll drive to the hoop without looking for the open man which results in Seton Hall getting the basketball (Blue had 3 of the 14 MU turnovers).  While he does play great on-the-ball defense, he'll need to step up his game on the other end of the floor to take a leadership role with this team.  2-pointers, assists, free throws, I don't care what it is, just not turnovers.

And the mediocre stat of the night?

Free throws.  The woes from the charity stripe continued in the first half as MU shot an "impressive" 2-10 from the line.  The second half was much much better, as they shot 14-16 on free throws.  The overall result?  62%.  I at least felt "ok" about our free throws after that second half.

Enough about the game, Dan.  Are we going to make the tournament?

I think there are two scenarios that guarantee us a bid to The Dance.  The first scenario: win out in the regular season.  An 11-7 conference record with a road win over UConn would give us the resume we need to get in.  The second scenario: lose at UConn, win the other 3 conference games, and win 2 games in the Big East Tournament.  A 10-win record in Big East play and 21 overall wins (I think we need 21 wins instead of 20 given our woes on the road) will also get us in the dance.  While I'd love to see the first scenario play out, the second is more realistic. Maybe 20 wins puts us in the dance, but with the amount of teams vying for bids from the Big East, and the fact that we can't win on the road, I don't think we're guaranteed a ticket with 20 wins.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

St. John's Q&A

Continuing with our pre-game Q&A series, Here's an interview with Dave Krupinski from Johnny Jungle.  You can check out his website here.  Enjoy.

1. Obviously there's a big change in the program this season with Steve Lavin taking over for Norm Roberts.  How has Lavin been received so far by players, fans, alumni, etc?

Steve Lavin has been a breathe of fresh air. He's carried the baton from Coach Norm Roberts and has done marvelous things with this team in addition to bringing in quite possibly the most highly touted recruiting class in school history. Big East Media day was only an appetizer size of media that has been sucked into every word that exits Steve Lavin's mouth. He's a rockstar after games getting after it on the radio to his old pals at ESPN on Sportscenter.

2. What has impressed you about the 2010-11 squad?  What has frustrated you?

The impressive part of this team is their selfless attitudes. It's rare to see guys who are so willing to accept a reduced role to help the team win. Guys like Paris Horne, Justin Burrell, Sean Evans, Malik Boothe have all been starters years past and all have played multiple games coming off the bench this season. This team shares the ball so well with one another and its great to see this group of seniors see some success on the court.

Perhaps the frustrating part is knowing this team had the potential for 2 seasons or so. No homer, I've seen the talents of this team and sometimes it wasn't being utilized properly. In this season something in particular is that St. John's plays to the level of their opponent far too often. They've played to the level of Duke and made them look like a D2 school and on the flip side they've played weaker opponents with inferior energy and execution.

3. How has Gene Keady's involvement affected the program this season?

Special Assistant Advisor Gene Keady is certainly a wealth of knowledge for the coaching staff. I know he provides a strong support for Coach Lavin. Who doesn't love a fresh set of eyes and especially a pair that has seen it all before?

4. How do you feel about Steve Lavin as an in-game coach?  What do you like and dislike about his style of coaching?

It's no secret Steve Lavin came in with a reputation of being more of a salesman than a coach but I've been impressed overall. In the beginning of the season he was half implementing the systems because he didn't want to overload or overhaul 9 seniors. He mixed up the rotations a lot, sometimes to my dismay, but ultimately he's found a solid mix of players and in the process made everyone comfortable and capable when their number is called.

Defensively his matchup zone and pressure defense is very tough given St. John's speed and length 1-3. This has given teams fits whether they're turning over the ball or simply being taken out of their tempo.

Offensively I've seen some positives and I've seen some negatives. There is certainly a methodical approach offensively and St. John's will deliberately burn 20 seconds off the clock before running a set. However if this set fails it leaves little to no room for error which sometimes comes to bite the Johnnies in the butt. However the offensive flow is there and the scoring and %'s are there to prove it.

He's done a great job calling timeouts and coming out of them with success which is an underrated observation by fans at times. St. John's has also come out of the locker room at halftime and delivered.

5. This squad is very experienced.  That being said, there are also top-notch recruits coming in the next couple years.  With as many as 9 guys leaving after this season, are you more worried about the departure of experience, or are you more excited about the recruits in the pipeline?

Losing 9 seniors is never an easy thing to do however the immense talent that Steve Lavin has brought in for next season is certainly making everyone excited. The new guys will go through some woes however there is a good mix of talent from scoring, defensive, and distributing. The one common bond between the recruits is all their abilities to play multiple positions and their freakish athleticism. I wouldn't be surprised to see them struggle a little bit but I also wouldn't be shocked to see them thrive in the NCAA's.

6. The main challenge of playing a zone-defense is that it can get burned by a team with a great backcourt.  St. John's seems to fit this mold, allowing opponents to shoot 37% from beyond the arc.  What do they need to do to fix this issue?

I'm not sure it is an issue. If you look deeper into the numbers you'll see that St. John's zone forces teams to live or die by the three because they protect the paint so well. They've also played one of the toughest schedules in the country so along the way you're going to face good 3 point shooting teams.

For instance St. Mary's shot 27 three point attempts and Northwestern shot 25. Both teams nearly took 1/3rd of their shots from beyond the arc.

7. Like Marquette, St. John's is vertically challenged.  How have they managed to score effectively?

Again I'm not sure St. John's is vertically challenged. Dele Coker 6'10, Sean Evans 6'8, Justin Burrell 6'8, and Justin Brownlee 6'7 is a pretty solid front court. Their effective scoring comes from a tireless effort to crash the offensive boards in addition to Justin Brownlee being one of if not thee best post scorer off the bounce in the Big East.

8. If you stopped play today, what seed would you be in the NCAA tourney?  Why?  What will make this team dangerous in March?

Well I'll defer to my friend at ESPN, Joe Lunardi. He's more of an expert than I and he says #7. If that scenario plays out I'll be ecstatic because I want to avoid 8/9 as much as possible because as we all know that means #1 in round 2.

What makes this team so dangerous in March is they'll be playing every game like its their last because it truly will be.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Tale of Two Halves

The golden eagles were able to do what they couldn't do two years ago as the #8 team in the country: win in Tampa.  Tonight Marquette escaped with a 59-58 victory over the South Florida Bulls.

Both halves were like watching night and day.  In the first half, MU got nothing going on offense, and gave up easy drives on defense.  Nobody could score, nobody could guard.  At the end of the half, the team that averages 79 points per game had just 24 points.  Maybe it was the warm weather in Tampa, but Marquette just seemed to show no signs of life.

The second half didn't start out much better, with poor interior defense and horrific turnovers (Buycks passed one to the scorer's table).  MU trailed by as much as 16 points during the game, and things seemed to be out of reach.  "We're changing the channel if we're down 20 points."  Frankly, I agreed with her at that point.

But something sparked our boys from Mil-town, and with 15 minutes left, the golden eagles began their charge.  Slowly but surely they chipped away at the lead, and soon enough we were within 9 points.  MU pressed all half against USF and it worked like a charm, forcing turnovers that translated into key buckets.  Frustration set in for the bulls and coach Stan Heath, and you could tell they had been here before.  "How are we going to blow it this time?"

With more of the same down the stretch, MU pulled to within 2 points, and thanks to a three-ball by Jae Crowder, all of a sudden we had the lead.  We traded leads one more time, and with a second three-pointer from Jae Crowder, this one a fade-away, we had a 4-point lead, and you felt like they might pull this one out.

MU tried to blow the lead, forcing turnovers on defense but going 0-8 down the stretch from the free throw line.  After missing the 8th free throw in a row, 2 seconds on the clock, a 3-point lead, and a rebound by USF, Jae Crowder intentionally fouled Toarlyn Fitzpatrick.  Fitzpatrick made the first free throw, tried to miss the second one off the glass, but it went in.  MU quickly inbounded the ball, and the game was over.

A few thoughts on tonight's game:

- Although I'm a Buzz Williams fan, I completely disagree with his decision to intentionally foul after the last missed free throw.  USF had no time-outs and 2 seconds to heave up a three-pointer, leaving them virtually no chance at getting up a god shot if we just played a little bit of defense.  Instead, we let them go down by a point with a good chance of getting a rebound on a missed shot and tying up the game.  Which shot would you rather have USF take: a half-court shot or a 10-footer?

- Vander Blue was a serious offensive liability in this game.  Aside from one good pass to Jae Crowder in the paint, he tried to take matters into his own hands every time he touched the ball, and every time it resulted in a turnover.  He needs to take a few notes from Jimmy Butler, who is an incredibly smart player with the ball in his hands and virtually never takes a dumb shot.  Once Vander Blue realizes he can pass the ball when he's in trouble, he'll be just fine.

- I know South Florida is a weak team in the Big East and a team everyone expected us to beat.  But I don't care who you're up against, if you're down 16 points on the road and you come back to win, that's something special.  You've gotta give Buzz some credit for rallying his team and pulling out a W.

Marquette's next match-up is at G-town on Sunday.  A win in D.C. would be huge for us.  But then again, when is a road win in the Big East not huge?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Tom Crean Hasn't Changed a Bit

To the Tom Crean haters out there, you'll want to read this post.

So I went down to Bloomington, IN this past weekend with a bunch of Indiana alums for a two-day affair of bars and basketball.  Indiana took on fellow cellar-dweller Iowa so I'd be lying if I said I was truly fired up for the game, but nonetheless I was looking forward to watching a program that has won 5 national championships and was once coached by one of the greatest of all time, Bobby Knight.

And as you probably know, Tom Crean infamously bolted from Marquette 3 years ago to take the job at IU, without telling anyone until after he accepted the position.  Given the way he left MU, he made a lot of enemies up in Milwaukee, myself included.

The game was pretty even for most of the way, with momentum shifting every couple minutes between each team.  The Hoosiers even had a comfortable 10-point lead with about 5 minutes left, but the Hawkeyes quickly erased the lead and were right back in the game.

Fast forward to 16 seconds on the game clock.  IU trailed by just one point and called a time-out.

As a Marquette fan during the Tom Crean era, I'd seen this scenario at least a dozen times, probably more.  Marquette would blow a lead down the stretch, have a chance to take the last shot in the game, and always found a way to squander the opportunity.  The one that comes to mind is Dominic James taking the ball up the court, holding onto it until there's 3 seconds left, and tossing up a Hail-Mary like shot which never went in (except once at NC State), game over.

So naturally during this time out I couldn't help but think, in the words of Yogi Berra, that this was deja vu all over again...  But maybe Crean had changed his ways. Maybe he figured out how to win the close games while coaching in the Big Ten.  Maybe I would actually want Tom Crean back as a coach...ok, not really.

End the time out.  Indiana in-bounds the ball...and does nothing with it.  They burn 10 seconds off the clock and call another time out.  Fans all around me are irate, as they should be.  Trust me, I understood where they were coming from.

But hey, there's still 6 seconds left, maybe Crean has a trick up his sleeve.

Indiana in-bounds the ball, and again has no play to run.  One of the guards makes a last-ditch effort to win the game by driving across the key and taking a fall-away jumper, only to rattle off the rim.  End of story.

All of the energy had been sucked out of Assembly Hall instantaneously.  And I realized at that very moment:  "Wow, new team, same old Crean."  Every stereotype you could think of about coaching when the game is on the line still holds true with this guy.  He was a bad in-game coach at Marquette, and he's still a bad in-game coach at Indiana.

Tom Crean has basically done nothing as a coach at Indiana, and if he doesn't resurrect the program in the next year or two he'll be ousted and looking for work at a lesser school.  He may turn them around soon, but for now I can only think of one thing: "Karma is a bitch, Tom.  Karma is a bitch."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Villanova Q&A

Marquette continues its run through the Big East gauntlet with a matchup at Villanova tomorrow.  To get an insider's perspective on the 2010-2011 Wildcats I interviewed Brian Ewart from VU Hoops (  If you want to read my answers to his questions, you can find them here.  Enjoy.

1. Villanova started out pretty hot this season but has since lost 3 of their last 4 games.  What has lead to this skid?  Is it the brutal nature of the Big East schedule or is it something more?
The brutality of the Big East has a lot to do with it, it can definitely wear a team down. Lately we've seen some offensive struggles. The shooting percentages have been down and a lot of that has to do with the 'Cats not getting the ball inside to Yarou and Pena. Stokes has been getting a lot of attention from opposing defenses lately and they need to be productive inside to open things up for him again.

2. What about the 2010-11 squad has impressed you?  What has frustrated you?

The defense has come a LONG way since last year's Flying-Wildcat. The most frustrating has been Maalik Wayns' attempts at running the offense, which often consists of dribbling at the top of they key for 20 seconds before either driving or taking an ill-advised and off-balance (or contested) jump-shot.

3. Corey Fisher seems to be the clear leader on this team, is that true?  If no, why not?  If yes, how has he handled taking the reins from Scottie Reynolds?

I'm not really sure if Fisher is the clear leader, but he has definitely come a long way. Pena and Stokes have both shown some leadership this year, and there was a stretch where Stokes was carrying the team on his back. Frankly, I don't think anyone could be Scottie Reynolds, nor should they be. Scottie put it all on himself and it absolutely wore him down at the end.

4. How do you feel about the 4 freshmen in next year's class?

I think Yacoubou will come in and contribute right away, but Markus Kennedy will be able to contribute inside immediately. Ty Johnson could be either a HUGE piece for the Wildcats if Wayns bolts early (though that looks less and less likely) or a key roleplayer. None of the four is the sort of "one-and-done" guy that fans lust over, but I think over a four year career, they will all develop into good Big East players.

5. Which place is tougher for a visiting team to play at, The Pavilion or Wells Fargo Arena?  Which is a better environment for college basketball?  Which do you prefer?

The Pavilion. Easily. It's smaller, more intimate, and when the student section is packed, it is much louder than the WFC. I get to the WFC more often because it's easier to get tickets, and I have a lot of great memories in that place because we play a lot of big games there, but it's always just a little more "special" to go to a game at the Pavilion.

6. Marquette and Villanova have played each other pretty close in the last couple years.  What do you think will decide Wednesday's matchup?

Defense. Darius Johnson-Odom killed the 'Cats last year in that second game and it will be important to stop him from doing any more damage. Villanova is a little bigger than in years-past, but these are still both athletic teams that play at a similar pace, so limiting mistakes and defending will be very important.

Honestly though, whatever I usually think will be the deciding factor isn't.

7. What will make Villanova a dangerous team in March?

Defense! Getting stops without fouling was something the 'Cats could do last season. The offense will need to come around a bit and get more comfortable in the half-court as well.

8. Is it true that Jay Wright wears a three-piece suit to bed?

Ever heard of suitjamas?