"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Dominic James, First Team All-State

Richmond's Dominic James was named first-team All State by the Associated Press yesterday. James, who led the state in scoring at better than 31 ppg, is joined on the team by future overall top draft pick Greg Oden (still a junior), as well as Josh McRoberts (Duke signee), Luke Zeller (Notre Dame signee), and Deonta Vaughn (IU signeee).

James is the fourth MU signee to receive first team All State honors this year - - a perfect sweep for Tom Crean's recruiting class. Congrats, Dominic!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Jerel McNeal, First Team All-State

Jerel McNeal's dominating senior season at Hillcrest High School is still drawing rave reviews. Over the weekend, McNeal was names first team All-State by the Chicago Tribune. McNeal had an incredible season for Hillcrest, leading the Hawks with 20 ppg while notching many impressive wins including victories over Homewood-Flossmoor and Thornton. Jerel was also tabbed as a first team All State player by the Associated Press.

Congrats, Jerel!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Wesley Matthews, Mr. Basketball

The accolades keep rolling in for Wesley Matthews. The Madison Memorial standout was named Mr. Basketball in Wisconsin today, capping off a year in which he lead his team to the state title, and earned tournament MVP honors as well as first team All State recognition.

Matthews won the award in a rout over Milwaukee Vincent's Marcus Landry.

Congrats, Wesley!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Silly Season

March and April have emerged as the silly season for the coaches' version of musical chairs. Not so amazingly, Tom Crean's name is dropped by so-called 'sources' that appear in a few newspaper articles (if any) which then fuels mad speculation around the Internet. What I find most amusing is that these 'sources' are never named, and the last couple of off-seasons, reps from interested universities only confirm the names of coaches they actually interview (as you'd expect).

Yet the 'sources' can boil the blood of passionate fans, creating a maelstrom of speculation and alleged insight into Crean's psyche, or better yet, opining on the 'tale of the tape' between MU and another program (during which of course, MU loses out -- it wouldn't cause agita if it didn't). In addition, some folks call for MU and Crean to make statements in response to these rumors, if for no other reason than to calm the Internet masses.

I just don't understand the madness, nor the calls for a flurry of statements from MU or Crean (which would only ignite a fire where one did not previously exist). During the last several off-seasons, Crean has not emerged as an interviewee much less a front-runner for any other job. And let's face it -- he's had plenty of opportunities to make himself available (Illinois, Pittsburgh, Georgia, Ohio State, among others). Along the way, Crean never gave any indication that his commitment to MU was wavering, or vice versa.

In fact, the opposite has happened; Crean appears to be further entrenching himself into the Marquette community with a long-term view of what it will take to build on the success he's already enjoyed. For instance, Crean moved last season's exhibition game with Lewis University to accommodate an alumni gathering in New York City, headlined by Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese. Also last year, Crean single-handedly pushed to rename the strength training facilities at The Al after Bill and Gwen Cords (and did a wonderful tribute to the Cords at The Al's dedication). From afar, it also appears that Crean is re-energizing MU's hoops heritage - - - I'm not sure how else to explain the recent flurry of retired numbers as well as the welcoming back of past MU greats at every home game last season.

Along the way, Crean secured early commitments from one high school sophomore in each of the last two years (Anthony Green and Scott Christopherson). Realize also that by going into the Big East with MU's new facility and expanded Blue and Gold Fund support - - the MU job is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was just seven season ago. All of that, and its well-known that Tom Crean is paid handsomely by MU and has tremendous control over the program and related matters.

While others take the bait of baseless speculation, I'll avoid the temptation of the chum and keep sailing along into the Big East with Tom Crean. I expect to be on this ride for quite sometime despite the storms of the silly off-season.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Wesley Matthews, Player of the Year

The accolades keep pouring in for Wesley Matthews. Earlier today, the Madison Memorial senior was named was unanimously selected as the Associated Press' Player of the Year. In addition, Matthews was a unanimous first-team all-state selection as well.

Matthews, who capped his high school career by scoring 85 points in his final three tournament games, will join talented backcourt mates Dominic James and Jerel McNeal as freshman at Marquette later this year.

Also, a couple of other 'must-reads' on MU's incoming freshmen :

Monday, March 21, 2005

Marquette lands another tremendous talent

Although Marquette's season ended in disappointment, the future continues to look brighter and brighter. On Sunday night, Scott Christopherson, a 6'2", 180 pound sophomore from Melrose-Mindoro High School in Melrose, Wisconsin, committed to the Warriors.

Here is the link

Christopherson has been favorably compared with Travis Diener at the same stage. He apparently has a very high on court IQ, is a deadly shooter and passer, and has enough athleticism to throw down nasty dunks on the opposition. In fact, one avid poster and recruiting guru on the Dodds Marquettehoops.com board said he saw Christopherson throw down a two-handed dunk over Wisconsin commit, JP Gavinski, who is 6'10". This guru referred to Scott as "Diener with hops."

Things are looking way up for the future of Marquette basketball. Expect to see many three guard lineups, with Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, Anthony Green, Matt Mortensen and Scott Christopherson all coming in the next three years. If Crean is able to land a top flight big man, this team will soar in the New Big East.

Wesley Matthews, State Champion

March Madness has many contributors, and while the Warriors are sitting out this year's NCAA tournament, future Warrior Wesley Matthews took care of business in the WIAA.

Over the weekend, Matthews led Madison Memorial to its first-ever state championship by topping Milwaukee Vincent, 63-55. Matthews led Memorial with 29 points and 10 rebounds, including a clutch dunk late in the game to ice the victory. Coming into the game, Vincent had won five state titles since 1996.

In leading his Spartans to victory, Matthews out-dueled UW-Madison recruit Marcus Landry......surely this is a trend that will continue!

Congratulations, Wesley.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Examining the carcass.....looking for a phoenix

Well, the loss to Western Michigan in the NIT on Monday night was a disappointing end to a frustrating season. 'Nuff said.

Todd Rosiak pens an honest assessment of MU's season here, though I'd argue that he's underestimating MU's returning big men as he assesses next year. If anything, MU had more questions about inside play coming into '04-'05 than the team will have in '05-'06. And with the influx of four talented guard and wing players, MU's overall talent level will be greater next season than it was in the recently competed campaign. But, with the depth of the Big East, MU might have a better team next year -- but will the record improve?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

MU Bound Mortenson makes 1st Team All State in Utah

For the second straight day, a Marquette men's basketball signed student athlete has been named 1st team All-State, this time in Utah. Congratulations to Matt Mortenson on this achievement. Mortenson will go on his Mormon mission and join Marquette in two years.

Article from the Salt Lake City Tribune

Monday, March 14, 2005

AP Names MU bound McNeal to First Team All State Illinois

From the Associated Press

Three seniors headed to big-time college programs and another senior and a junior expected to follow suit lead the Illinois Class AA boys basketball all-state team announced Monday.

The first team features seniors such as Homewood-Flossmoor’s Julian Wright, Chicago Brother Rice’s Bobby Frasor and Country Club Hillcrest’s Jerel McNeal. Wright has signed with Kansas, Frasor with North Carolina and McNeal with Marquette.

Also making the first team were Chicago Westinghouse senior DeAndre Thomas and junior Jon Scheyer of Northbrook Glenbrook North.

There were no unanimous selections on The Associated Press team, selected by a statewide panel of sportswriters and broadcasters and compiled by Marty Maciaszek of the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald.

The 6-foot-9 Wright is a McDonald’s All-American rated among the top 10 seniors in the country. The versatile Wright averaged 18 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots and hopes to lead Homewood-Flossmoor back to the Elite Eight after the team finished second last year.

The 6-3 Frasor is also a McDonald’s All-American who persevered through back and ankle injuries to average 20 points, five rebounds and five assists as Brother Rice reached the supersectional.

McNeal is an electric 6-foot-1 guard who averaged 20 points, nine rebounds, six steals and four assists as Hillcrest was eliminated by Homewood-Flossmoor in the sectional final.

Thomas, a 6-8 center from Chicago Public League champion Westinghouse, is regarded by many as the state’s most dominant post player. He averaged 22 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and three blocks. Illinois and Kansas are among the schools recruiting Thomas.

Scheyer, a 6-6 junior, will be one of the most coveted players in the country next year as he averages 26 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals. He led Glenbrook North to the supersectional after helping the school finish third in the state as a freshman.

Scheyer’s coach Dave Weber is the younger brother of Illinois coach Bruce Weber, and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was in attendance for Scheyer’s sectional semifinal game.

The second team is led by two Big Ten guard recruits in Tony Freeman Jr. of Westchester St. Joseph and Jamar Smith of Peoria Richwoods. Freeman (16 ppg) has signed with Iowa, and Smith (21.5 ppg), who has signed with Illinois, overcame early-season injuries.

Second-team guard Brandon Ewing of Chicago Julian has signed with Wyoming, and guard Sherron Collins of Chicago Crane is considered the second-best junior behind Scheyer. Chicago Simeon guard Derrick Rose is regarded as one of the country’s top sophomores.

Carbondale senior Josh Tabb, a Class A all-stater at Ullin Century last year, leads the third team. The 6-4 Tabb has signed with Southern Illinois.

Maywood Proviso East guard Phillip Perry has signed with Wisconsin, and Hillcrest’s Maurice Acker has signed with Ball State.

Harvey Thornton 6-foot-6 junior Joevan Catron is already being recruited by Illinois. Lake Zurich senior Mike Kolze finished his four-year varsity career as the school’s career scoring leader.

Marquette Hosts Western Michigan

Marquette opens up play in the NIT tonight when they host the Western Michigan Broncos at the Bradley Center. The game is on ESPN - - something MU fans might loathe given MU's struggles on national television this year.

Tom Crean offers a very honest assessment of his team's ability to handle pressure defense in Todd Rosiak's curtain raiser on tonight's game: "We've looked like a junior-high team at times with the way we've handled the pressure, and that's no disrespect to the junior-high players and coaches out there. But we've got to do a better job of protecting the ball, looking up the floor, attacking, advancing the ball, not running away from it."

Here is the preview from the Kalamazoo Gazette. Western Michigan, which won the MAC West division, stands at 19-12 following a loss to Buffalo in the semi-finals of the MAC conference tournament. The Broncos shoot nearly 38% from behind the arc, with three players hitting at better than 41% from that distance. Seniors Ben Reed and Levi Rost lead the Broncos attack, combining for 34 points and 12 rebounds per outing to go with their exceptional three-point shooting. Clearly, MU will have to defend the perimeter well to win the game tonight.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

MU to play Western Michigan in NIT on Monday

Marquette will play Western Michigan on Monday evening at the Bradley Center in the NIT at 8:00 pm. The game will also be broadcast on ESPN.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a complete write-up here.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Purple Haze

.....And so ends a frustrating regular season for Marquette basketball in 2004-2005. MU fell into a familiar pattern today when it failed to hold onto a 49-42 lead with 2:44 remaining in regulation, eventually losing to TCU in overtime, 60-57. This marks MU's fourth-straight defeat at the hands of the Horned Frogs, and the third time in less than a month that MU was unable to bring home the 'W' despite maintaining a sizeable lead late in the game (see Louisville and TCU in the regular season).

MU was victimized late in regulation by an effective press from TCU, which at one point accounted for five turnovers in a one minute span. During the close of regulation and in overtime, TCU seemingly was able to turn MU over at will as the Warriors looked tentative and timid against the pressure. MU landed up with 23 turnovers for the game, and lost despite holding TCU to a mere 15% shooting in the second half and outrebounding the Frogs by 38-25. But turnovers were the story down to the wire, as TCU's Marcus Sloan tipped away an MU inbounds pass that quickly led to a Corey Santee 3-pointer with 12 seconds to play. Santee just kills MU, it seems.

Steve Novak led MU with 16 points, with only three points coming after halftime. Todd Townsend contributed 14 points and eight rebounds, while Marcus Jackson delivered a workman-like 16 rebounds and five assists. Perhaps the most telling statistic though, were the 14 combined turnovers from Novak, Chapman and Townsend, many of which came in crunch time. Now, MU waits to see if the 19-11 effort is enough to attract a bid to the NIT.

Journal-Sentinel Recap
AP Recap

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Does it help to play on the road Non-Conference?

First, it's awfully difficult to win on the road in CUSA. Just 3 teams had winning road records. 2 more with .500 road records.

But I wanted to see if the oft-repeated saw about playing road games to better prepare you for the conference season holds up to scrutinty based on the final C-USA records.

I've assigned a point scale, giving 2 poins for a road game, 1 for a neutral site game.

When we add up the points for the road and neutral games, we find that Houston was supposedly THE best preparerd team for the road in conference play by playing the toughest schedule--13 total points based on 5 road games and 3 neutral site games.

MU has been criticized for it's lack of road games--just 2 total points.

Yet amazingly, both these teams tied for the 6th best confernce road record!

Cincy, who played the second easiest non-conference road schedule with just 1 road and 3 neutral games actually had the second best overall road record in conference play.

UAB, who played the second tougest non-conferecne road schedules, had came in 3rd.

Best conference road team Louisville has a slightly easier non-conference road slate than worst conference road team ECU.

Conclusion: despite all the blather about how much playing more on the road would have helped--the bottom line is that there are only five teams in CUSA that had a better road record than MU.

Team, Road Record, non-conference road/neutral games played, points
1. UL 7-1; 3 Road/2 Neutral--8 total points
2T. UC 5-3; 1 Road/3 Neutral--5 total points
2T. UAB 5-3; 4 Road/3 Neutral--11 total points
4T. Charlotte 4-4; 3 Road/2 Neutral--8 total points
4T. Memphis 4-4; 2 Road/4 Neutral--8 total points
6T. MU 3-5; 1 Road/0 Neutral--2 total points
6T. DePaul 3-5; 3 Road/0 Neutral--6 total points
6T. Houston 3-5; 5 Road/3 Neutral--13 total points
6T. SLU 3-5; 3 Road/3 Neutral--9 total points
10T. TCU 2-6; 4 Road/1 Neutral--9 total points
10T. USF 2-6; 3 Road/3 Neutral--9 total points
12. Tulane 1-7; 3 Road/3 Neutral--9 total points
13T: ECU 0-8; 4 Road/1 Neutral--9 total points
13T: USM 0-8; 1 Road/4 Neutral--6 total points

The ultimate irony is that this order is pretty darn close to the C-USA coach's pre-season picks. Here's the link to the way the CUSA coaches saw things last October:

In other words, it's not how many road games you play, but rather, how good a team you are that dictates how you play on the road.

Playing Time for Big Men: A Comparison

There's been a lot of discussion on playing time for the 4 and 5 positions--both the players on this year's roster, and the projected minutes for the big men that MU is still recruiting.

What stands out is that big men that get significant playing time are few and far between. Ryan Amoroso logged more minutes than all but three of the 16 4's and 5's ranked 50-100. Ousmane Barro played more than 11 of them.

For comparision purposes only, here are the playing times for the centers and power forwards the RCSI ranked between 50-100 for the 2004-05 season (going into conference tournaments:

RCSI Player Team MPG
99 Thompson Iowa 9.7
97T Kurz Notre Dame 3.6
97T Longar Oklahoma 9.9
87T Leunen Oregon 19.7
87T Harden Cal 15.9
94 Sharpe Miss St. 8.9
80 Mata UCLA 10.1
74 Heylvelt Gonzaga 0.0/Redshirt
82 Noah Florida 10.5
69 Jackson Kansas 7.2
68 Giles Kansas 8.2
66 Tangara Arizona 5.2
63 Grimes Missouri 10.0
60 Brackman NC State 17.6
58 Rhoads Miss. State 6.1
51 Dickey Georgia Tech 10.4

Now let's compare those minutes to MU's freshman 4's and 5's (and Kinsella, who is playing his first year in Division 1.

N/R Barro Marquette 10.2
N/R Amoroso Marquette 15.2
N/R Kinsella Marquette 5.3

Now let's compare some other MU big men over the years.

N/R McCaskill Marquette 8
N/R Crawford Marquette 6
N/R Abraham Marquette 5
N/R Harris Marquette 11
N/R Mueller Marquette 4
N/R Claussen Marquette 8
T100 Key Marquette 29
T100 McIlvaine Marquette 19
N/R Streator Marquette 4

The conclusion is clear. Except for the exceptional talents of Damon Key and Jim McIlvaine (who let's face it, only had to beat out Bob Dukiet's recruits for playing time) our current big men are playing more as freshman than is typical--not only by Marquette's recent standards, but by other top 100 players by which we can compare them.

Dwyane Wade & Travis Diener make All Decade CUSA

Congratulations to Travis Diener and Dwyane Wade for making the Conference USA All-Decade team. Cincinnati placed three players on the squad while Marquette and Louisville placed two.

For the complete list of those honored, click here to visit the C-USA article.

Onward and Thanks

As you can tell, this blog was rendered speechless by MU's abysmal performance on Senior Day this past weekend. The St. Louis Billikens delivered a knockout blow to MU's NCAA tournament chances with a dominating second half, outscoring the Warriors 27-11 to close the game. The loss leaves MU with a 19-10 regular season record, which considering the injuries and illness this team endured, could have been worse. However, losing the home finale along with a chance to secure that reassuring 20th win of the season hurts.

Or maybe not.

MU has a shot at both redemption and a 20-win season on Wednesday when they take on the TCU Horned Frogs. TCU has beaten MU three times in a row, and without Diener, MU's guards could be overmatched against the Frogs' talented backcourt of Shropshire and Santee. The winner of this game earns the right to face Louisville in the second round.

Regardless, here's a belated THANK YOU to MU's outgoing seniors, Travis Diener, Todd Townsend and Marcus Jackson. Guys -- its been a terrific ride. Thanks for the effort, the victories, and for the first-class way in which you represent Marquette University. Here's hoping you have a few more weeks of collegiate basketball left to play.

Thank you, gentlemen.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Travis Diener named 1st Team Conference USA

Congratulations to Travis Diener for his second straight selection to the Conference USA First Team. An honor richly deserved.

Click here for the official CUSA release (in Adobe Acrobat)

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Marquette is #1 in Conference USA

As reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel today, Marquette is the top school in Conference USA under the new academics rating system used by the NCAA. In fact, Marquette's score would be highest in the Big Ten too, including Northwestern. Congratulations to Marquette and thank you to Shot of Wisky for bringing this to my attention, always good of him to do so....especially in light of how some of the other schools in the state did in their perspective conferences.

Marquette is the Class of Conference USA article from the Journal Sentinel


Marquette 987
South Florida 976
Army 974
DePaul 972
Tulane 968
So. Miss. 965
St. Louis 964
Charlotte 957
Louisville 950
Texas Christian 944
Memphis 941
East Carolina 940
Cincinnati 929
UAB 912
Houston 912


Northwestern 980
Michigan 973
Illinois 973
Iowa 972
Minnesota 965
Indiana 964
Michigan State 963
Penn State 963
Wisconsin_madison 960
Ohio State 938
Purdue 936


Loyola 978
UW-Green Bay 977
UW-Milwaukee 975
Detroit 967
Illinois-Chicago 959
Butler 959
Wright State 955
Youngstown St. 953
Cleveland State 952

Marquette Declaws Cougars for 19th Win

Led by the surging Steve Novak, Marquette turned in an inspired performance last night defeating the University of Houston, 76-55. Novak led the Warriors with 23, his third straight game of more than 20 points. Todd Townsend continued his resurgence with 15 points, while Joe Chapman delivered a workman-like 13 point/5 assist performance. The key to the victory was MU's suffocating defense, which held Houston to a mere 28% shooting from the field, and contributed to MU's ridiculous 42-22 advantage on the boards.

MU jumped out to a quick 13-0 lead, and never trailed in the game. Houston, the hottest team in the conference coming into the game, cut the lead to four early in the second half after an Andre Owens 'three' (this guy likes to shoot), but MU steadied the ship with a balanced attack and pulled away.

Other perfomances of note: freshman walk-on Rob Hanley played well in 18 minutes of action, turning the ball over just twice against a much quicker team. Ryan Amoroso scored seven points and snared three rebounds - - but it was his power move (and one!) that keyed a late MU rally which buried the Cougars for good.

With one regular season game to go, Marquette stands at 19-9 overall, and 7-8 in conference play. MU closes the regular season on Saturday when they take on the St. Louis Billikens, impressive winners last night at home over Memphis. Saturday marks Senior Day as well - - the last home game for Travis Diener, Marcus Jackson and Todd Townsend.

Senior Day, a chance to secure the 20th win of the year, and perhaps a way to sneak back on the bubble - - Saturday presents a tremendous opportunity for MU.

Here are a few recaps of last night's impressive win:
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Houston Chronicle
Associated Press
Box Score

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Marquette takes on Houston

MU takes on the Houston Cougars tonight at the Bradley Center in their final matchup as C-USA rivals. With 18 wins and two home games remaining to close the regular season, MU still has a shot to secure 20 wins and maybe more. Here are a couple of previews of tonight's action:

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Houston Chronicle

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Turnaround Tommy's Troops Prepare for MU

Tom Penders' re-entry into Texas basketball has been an unmitigated success. This article by the Associated Press lays out just how impressive Penders' quick turnaround at Houston has been: the Cougars have already won more games this season than they did in the last two seasons combined, and are within reach of the program's first NCAA bid in 13 years. The Cougars are now 18-10 overall, and 8-5 in C-USA. Penders himself seems re-engergized, and if he can keep the local talent at home, this could be the start of something big in H-Town.

But hey - - that can all wait until after tomorrow night's tilt with MU in the Bradley Center. MU is coming off a loss to the UC Bearcats, and in need of a win at home to re-establish momentum after the Diener injury. Marquette, which played a gritty second half against the Bearcats, could benefit from the extra few days of practice to prepare for the UH game. Penders' Cougars have won six of their last seven games - - a tough matchup for Marquette.