"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

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Marquette suffers huge blow; Matthews breaks foot

Apparently sometime during the last non-conference game, freshman Wes Matthews suffered a stress fracture in his right foot. He was held out of practice on Thursday and test revealed the injury on Friday. He will be out indefinitely.

This is a huge blow to Marquette as Matthews is one of the three key freshmen on this year's team and a starter. Matthews is averaging roughly 10ppg and 5rpg.

While MU's backcourt is one of its deepest in recent memory, the loss of Matthews could be devastating. Crean's squad had developed a solid backcourt rotation, with Matthews emerging as a capable ballhandler in addition to his solid scoring and defense.

Whomever replaces Matthews in the starting lineup -- Chapman or Fitzgerald if Crean sticks with a 3-guard set, or a post player if the lineup goes 'big' -- will not be as athletic or talented as Matthews. The injury could force MU to alter its style of play, particularly on defensive where Matthews and his freshmen mates provide MU with its best on-the-ball pressure in years. Without an aggressive perimeter defense, MU might employ more zone defenses to help prevent direct entry passes into the post.

Entering the conference schedule with an unexpected talent deficit will test MU's mettle in ways nobody anticipated.

Click here for the bad news.

Get well soon, Wesley.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

MU Rips Lewis, Looks To Big East

MU defeated Lewis 88-40 last night in Milwaukee. The game was MU's final tuneup before its inaugural Big East opener against UConn on January 3 at the Bradley Center. Dominic James led MU with 22 points as the Golden Eagles improved to 10-3, and the Lewis Flyers fell to 7-4.

Here's Rosiak's recap of the game.

Here is the MJS Box Score.

Please note that Todd Rosiak will host a chat tonight about MU hoops tonight at the MJS Web site. You can click here to join the chat, which begins at 7pm CST.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Book Review: "Tales from the Marquette Hardwood"

The new book Tales from the Marquette Hardwood takes fans on a journey through the highlights and lowlights of the last 40 years of Marquette basketball. The text is built on chapter-length interviews with many notable figures from the MU basketball program. The book, by MU alum Mike Neufeldt and Milwaukee television personality Tom Pipines, sticks to a simple, nearly stenographic format which allows the personality of its subjects to emerge in ways that third-party interpretation could not.

The format, which eschews analysis, works best when the authors allow for a longer discussion with the subjects, as the conversations with Jim McIlvaine, Tom Crean and Rick Majerus demonstrate. Majerus' chapter is the book's best, as he describes his affection for Marquette -- with the benefit of nearly 20 years of separation from the university. Time and distance work wonders for Majerus, as he shares vivid memories of Coach Al, thoughts on the pressure of coaching at MU, along with his assertion that the Big East was a bad move for MU.

McIlvaine is candid throughout, most notably in discussing overly involved parents as well as Kevin O'Neill's treatment of players recruited by Bob Dukiet. More impressively, McIlvaine tells the world why team managers are such fine folks (you'll have to read the book for those details). Crean reflects on the Final Four run, but also offers personal anecdotes that we'd not yet read or heard. The biggest surprise in the book? The pages dedicated to James Langenkamp, which were witty and revealing.

Given MU's colorful history, it's surely an impossible task to capture the perspectives of every memorable player or coach. The authors delivered more than a dozen chapters, though a few lacked depth, and many notable players were not included. For example, the Hank Raymonds chapter is largely a reflection on Coach Al rather than exploring questions related to his own head coaching tenure. Also, the authors curiously spend a chapter with Bill Raftery rather than Billy Packer, a more natural subject for the book. Perhaps most disappointing are the absence of chapters from either Butch Lee or Bo Ellis.

Despite these nominal shortcomings, this book is a worthwhile romp through the last four decades of MU basketball. At its best -- and there's plenty of that in this volume -- this book will ignite your passions for Marquette basketball.

You can order copies of the book here and here at Amazon.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The More, The Merrier

The quality of the basketball blogosphere took a major boost this month with two new blogs that should factor into any fan's required reading list.

First, welcome to the blogosphere, John Casper. MU fans will remember Casper from his days as a reporter at the Marquette Tribune. John is now toiling as a member of the Fourth Estate up in Oshkosh and started the Wisconsin College Hoops Insider blog recently. Casper is a prolific blogger on all things hoops, so check-in often.

The Big East Basketball Roundup was also launched this month. The site offers thoughtful commentary on the nation's best basketball conference. Earlier this week there was a good discussion of MU's promising future.

Enjoy...and Merry Christmas to everybody.

MU Wins on Festivus Eve

MU outran the Delware State Univerity Hornets last night, running their record to 9-3.

Here's the MJS recap.

Happy Festivus.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Hornets Invade the Bradley Center

MU will be up to its eyes in Hornets on Thursday night as the good guys host Delaware State.

Delaware State buzzes into town with a record of 2-7. The Hornets are coming off of a road loss at the hands of the Bradley Braves over the weekend.

DSU is in the midst of a hellish non-conference schedule that has already included visits to UCLA, Michigan, and Rutgers. The Hornets play only two home games before conference play begins. 6'6" junior Jahsha Bluntt sets the tone for the Hornets, leading the team in minutes, scoring, and rebounding.

MU will look to raise its record to 9-3 heading into the Christmas break.

Here's the GoMarquette preview.

Brotherly Love

Todd Rosiak of the MJS delivers a gem today .... a feature on the relationship between Dominic James and his brother Germayne James, a senior guard at Division III Lakeland College up in Sheboygan.

An excerpt of note:

Raised in a loving but troubled household as youngsters - for a time the brothers lived with their grandparents because their father was absent and their mother was for a time incapable of caring for them - the two quickly latched onto each other, with Germayne in many ways serving as a father figure to Dominic. The two could usually be found on the concrete slab outside their home practicing their dribbling or at the nearby Boys' Club.

Here is the link to the full text. Nice job, Todd.

Monday, December 19, 2005

MU Declaws the Grizzlies

Jerel McNeal owned the first half and Wesley Matthews owned the second half as MU caged the Oakland Golden Grizzlies 90-69 tonight at the Bradley Center. McNeal (18) and Matthews (21) both delivered career highs. Dominic James completed the trifecta with 17 points as MU's freshmen again set the tone for the Golden Eagles.

McNeal poured in 14 first half points as MU built up a 44-32 advantage at the break, highlighted by a 22-15 advantage on the boards. MU stretched the lead to 48-32 early in the second stanza.

The lead did not last as Rutgers transfer Calvin Wooten exploded for Oakland, keying a frantic 17-1 run to tie the game at 49 with 13:45 to play. Steve Novak responded with a jumper to put MU up 51-49, and MU never trailed again.

Wesley Matthews sparked MU in the second half, pouring in threes at critical junctures as MU stretched the lead to 20 points at 80-60 later in the second half. MU coasted from there, winning its second game in three days at the Bradley Center. Matthews scored 15 of his 21 in the second half.

Marquette upped its record to 8-3 on the season. MU hosts Delaware State on Thursday at the Bradley Center.

Many thanks to the guys at the Ring Out Ahoya chat room for updates on the action tonight.

Here is the Yahoo boxscore.

Here is the GoMarquette recap.

Here is the AP recap.

Here is the Journal-Sentinel box score.

Here is Todd Rosiak's recap of the game.

Oakland Takes On Marquette

MU hits the floor tonight for its second game in three days as they host the University of Oakland Golden Grizzlies. I'm excited about tonight's game, how 'bout you? Calvin Wooten, a former Rutgers player, leads the visitors at nearly 24ppg. MU defeated the Golden Grizzlies on the road last season.

Its time for MU to fine-tune its young engine in advance of conference play........MU hosts UConn in its Big East opener in two weeks. After a sloppy win over USF on Saturday a sharp, energetic performance would be a welcome site tonight.

Here's the gomarquette preview.

The Official Mascot of the Oakland Golden Grizzlies

Saturday, December 17, 2005

MU rides Novak's 3's to victory over San Francisco

MU shot a horrible 26.5% in the first half and trailed 26-24 at the break to the Dons. In the second half, however, MU rode the 3-point shooting of Steve Novak and defeated USF 61-48 to move to 7-3 on the season. Novak buried six 3-pointers on the way to victory. Novak finished with a team high 22 points while Jerel McNeal added 15. Dominic James only scored 4 points, the first time in his college career he was held below double digits. Ryan Amoroso started in place of Barro today. Barro received one minute of playing time.

The Dons fall to 4-6 on the season, but do own wins over Texas Tech and Cal State Fullerton.

Click here for the ESPN Box Score

Link to JS article

Ling to AP article about Crean tucking note in Novak's shoe

Battling for Jesuit Supremacy

The Marquette Golden Eagles return to action this afternoon as they host the University of San Francisco Dons at the Bradley Center. MU will look to bounce back from a humbling defeat on the road against the University of Wisconsin @ Madison last Saturday.

Thanks to the inept Urinal Sentinel, we'll continue to rely on GoMarquette.com for detailed information about MU's upcoming games. The Dons are 4-5 on the young season highlighted by an 18 point win over Texas Tech. Here's a bit about the Dons:

San Francisco is a balanced squad, with all five starters each accounting for 9.3 points per game or more. The starters have scored 577 of the team’s 658 points (87.7 percent) and San Francisco has some big wins under its belt, including a 90-72 win over Texas Tech.

"They have five guys on the floor who can score in bunches," Crean said. "They beat Texas Tech by 18, so everything we say to our team begins and ends with that. It's really hard to beat a Bobby Knight team with numbers like that."

Here's a look at the Dons' roster and schedule/results over on ESPN.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Comparing the Big East's Top Freshmen

As finals week turns into the home stretch, let's take an early look at some of the best from the Big East's promising freshman class.

Craig Austrie7.13.62.9
Wilson Chandler7.30.47.0
Eric Devendorf8.71.92.1
Devan Downey14.42.62.0
Anthony Farmer9.93.22.7
J.R. Inman7.80.65.9
Dominic James14.46.64.7
Wesley Matthews9.12.63.7
Geoff McDermott9.62.36.1
Jerel McNeal9.32.23.3
Sam Young7.00.62.6

Not surprisingly, each of MU's leading freshman are at least as productive as the top performing freshman on any other Big East roster. It's notable that Providence's talented trio of McDermott, Efejuku and Curry are nearly on par with the productivity of MU's big three - with McDermott slightly more productive than his teammates. We'll have to analyze these guys head-to-head later in the year.

Both statistically and in terms of his indispensability to the team, Dominic James is easily the top freshman in the league at this point. For example:

  • James is one of only three freshman in the conference to average more than 30mpg (Geoff McDermott and Farmer are the others);
  • James is tied with Downey for the lead in scoring among freshman;
  • James averages nearly double the number of assists as the next closest freshman;
  • At nearly five boards a game, James out-rebounds many leading freshman post players.

While the start to James' career has been spectacular, let's be careful not to downplay the performances of Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal. With both players averaging roughly 25 mpg, they have ample opportunity to contribute -- which they do so across the board with numbers that are amazingly similar, and demonstrate well-rounded skills. For example, both Matthews and McNeal average better than 9 ppg, 2apg and 3rpg -- Dominic James, Geoff McDermott and Anthony Farmer are the only other freshman in the league to match or better these results.

Were it not for Dominic James' fast start, both of these players would be front-runners for the Big East Freshman of the Year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Lookin' for a New Bookmark?

It's finals week at Marquette, when the STUDENT in student-athlete reigns most supreme, so its a slow news week for the program. MU heads back to Al McGuire Court on Saturday when they host the USF Dons.

We'll get to that later in the week, but in the meantime here's a link to the Richmond (IN) Palladium-Item's special section on Dominic James. The sports eds there have faithfully updated the site throughout the young season, focusing on DJ (as you'd expect).

Monday, December 12, 2005

Doc Rivers elected to Marquette Board of Trustees

I'm sure some wished this old Warrior was on the BOT prior to this new BOT term cycle, but that is my own personal view and not shared by everyone on Cracked Sidewalks.

Good to see Doc on the Board.

For the press release, click here.

Tip of the hat to lj854 for the information

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Wisconsin defeats their biggest rival, Marquette

Coach Maurice "Bo" Ryan earned his 100th victory at the University of Wisconsin - Madison by defeating Marquette 77-63. Ryan said after the game it was especially satisfying since Marquette is Wisconsin-Madison's most important rival.

The game was a fast paced affair early as both teams got up and down the court at a frenetic pace. Wisconsin jumped out to an early lead on some 3 point shooting by Chris Rock...err Kam Taylor. MU bounced back with some nice play by Chris Grimm to take a 23-19 lead midway through the first half. The Badgers responded and took the lead for good 26-25 on a layup by Nixon. They continued to close out the half with a 23-10 run putting MU down 44-31 at the half. That was the killer run of the game as the second half was decided by just one point.

The Golden Eagles were plagued with 11 first half turnovers to only 2 by the Badgers.

MU scored the first 4 points of the second half and on several occasions closed to withing 10 late in the game but could not mount any significant run. Steve Novak led with 14 points while freshman Dominic James had 10.

Jerel McNeal and Dan Fitzgerald both fouled out. MU was whistled for 28 fouls to the Badgers 16 and received 12 more free throw attempts than Marquette. In the last three games in Madison, MU has taken on average 13 fewer free throws than the Badgers and they simply weren't able to overcome those advantages in other areas. In years past, the fouls were a huge factor in the outcome. This year they were not, many of the ft's coming at the end of the game. MU just shot poorly and despite outrebounding UW-Madison and holding Tucker to 8 points, they were simply not the better team today.

Next year's game will be at Marquette. The two schools have won the last 5 games on their home court. MU's turn in 2006.

Here is the ESPN Box Score

Friday, December 09, 2005

Give'em Hell Marquette!

With history accounted for, here's a few previews and predictions for Saturday's tilt in Madison, where Marquette takes on the University of Wisconsin @ Madison, one of the many institutions in the University of Wisconsin system.

Todd Rosiak notes Wesley Matthews' progress leading into today's game.

MJS previews the matchups and gives the coaching edge to Tom Crean.

Gregg Doyel boldly picks a wisconsin victory.

Marquette Hoops offers a lengthy article that examines the rivalry between Marquette and the University of Wisconsin @ Madison (not Whitewater, don't get confused)

Here's the Wisconsin State Journal's preview.

Here's the perspective of the athletic department at the UW @ Madison.

Here's the GoMarquette.com preview of the game.

UW @ Madison Awaits Marquette

Alert, Alert! Garry Howard decided to run two articles on the upcoming UW-MU game! Well, I sure hope this means the MJS is not depriving local readers of generic AP wire coverage to fill the hallowed pages of his sports section.

Rosiak takes a look at what the Big East's best trio of freshmen can expect in their first tilt with UW-Madison. Madison native Wesley Matthews offers that "The Marquette-Wisconsin rivalry has been going on for a long time and when you’re a part of Marquette, you know who your rivals are, and Wisconsin is definitely one of them. They’re just an hour away," Matthews said. "It’s going to be fun for us to play, it’s going to be fun for the fans to watch. It’s going to be a good game: two teams going at it, trying to win."

Meanwhile Mark Stewart fawns over Alando Tucker here. Stewart notes that MU had success against UW-Madison's best player last season:

Crean had the answer for Tucker last season, when he used 6-10 Chris Grimm against him. Tucker went 26 minutes without scoring in the Golden Eagles' 63-54 victory and scored nine of his 13 points during the final 6 minutes, when the Badgers were playing catch-up.

But it's hard to say if such a strategy would work this season. Tucker has been stronger with the ball and though he still gets a lot done in the paint, he is more apt to get there with his dribble than in past years.

The Badger Herald opines that "it will not only be the first 'big' home game of the season, but for some of Wisconsin’s freshmen, it will be their first hyped-up Kohl Center contest ever." How can that be true of some of the freshmen but not all of the freshmen given the first clause in that sentence? I'm just asking.

By the way, congratluations to Coach Tom Crean who is now the 3rd all-time winningest coach in MU history. Per Rosiak,
Crean, who is 127-67 in his seventh year, had been tied with Hank Raymonds (126-50 from 1977-’83) and now trails Bill Chandler (193-198 from 1930-’51) and Al McGuire (295-80 from 1964-’77).

Recent badger roadkill statistics indicate more work needs to be done by a concerned citizenry. Vermin, specifically badgers, remain a clear and present danger.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

MU Crushes the Crusaders

Faced with a 10-1 deficit at the hands of the visiting Valparaiso Crusaders, MU responded with a 41-19 run to close out the first half and never looked back enroute to an impressive 69-54 win.

Ryan Amoroso and Jerel McNeal led MU's balanced attack in the first half with eight points each -- while Wesley Matthews stepped up in the backcourt to control the game when Dominic James sat with two fouls. Matthews was impressive running the offense for MU, while McNeal earned his nickname -- McSteal -- a few times including one that led to a Matthews flush. James played just eight minutes in the first half.

MU was never threatened in the second half where despite abyssmal shooting, the good guys clamped down on Valpo and slugged it out for the win. MU led by as much as 16 in the second half, following the first of two Joe Chapman three's late in the game.

Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews starred for MU tonight. Their swarming perimeter defense helped to neutralize Valpo's productive bigmen, and led to countless deflections and a host of steals. McNeal and Dominic James led MU in scoring with 12. MU's attack was incredibly balanced tonight -- Novak with 8, Ammo with 8, Fitzgerald with 8.

Nice job by MU tonight, particularly in the second half when the team went into a four minute drought -- yet didn't allow Valpo to score during that same stretch.

On to Madison on Saturday.

Here is the CNN boxscore.

Here's the AP's brief take on the game.

Here is the GoMarquette recap of the game, including a box score and running tally.

Here's the box score from the good folks at Rivals.com.

Here's Rosiak's recap of the game from the MJS.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

MU Hosts Valparaiso

On Wednesday, MU welcomes Homer Drew's tough Valparaiso Crusaders to the Bradley Center. Valpo is led by 6'8" senior power forward Dan Oppland, and former MU guard Ron Howard. Oppland scored 22 to lead Valpo to a win over Tulane last week, and will be a tough matchup for MU on the blocks. Oppland led the Crusaders with 23 and 11 in a loss at Iowa last week. In the 2003 Blue & Gold Classic, Oppland gave MU fits though the good guys prevailed 75-70.

With the hellish Big East conference slate looming, winning home games is critical for the Golden Eagles. Valpo rolls into town as a formidable, yet beatable opponent -- and offers a chance for a solid out-of-conference win. As Coach Al once said (I think), "Old coaches win at home. That's why they're old coaches."

Time for MU to hold serve.

Here is the GoMarquette.com preview. Of note, "Valparaiso comes into the Marquette contest sporting a 3-1 record. The Crusaders’ leading scorer is Dan Oppland, a 23.3 points per game scorer. He started the year hitting for 26 against IPFW..........A solid inside team, Valparaiso is good on the glass. They grab 40.0 rebounds per game and own a +3.5 rebound advantage. Those numbers are skewed, however, thanks to a 44-16 rebound advantage over Ind.-South Bend of the NAIA. In its three games against NCAA Division I teams, Valparaiso has lost the rebounding battle. That’s not to say the Crusaders can’t rebound. Senior center Mohmaed Kone leads the squad with 9.0 boards per game, grabbing a season best 11 in the opener against IPFW."

Here is the Appleton Post-Crescent's preview.

Here is a feature in the Post-Tribune about Ron Howard coming back to Milwaukee to face his former team.

Here is the Northwest Indiana Times on the game.

John Dodds' Marquette Hoops team previews the game here.

Mortensen redshirt confirmed

After the South Dakota State game on Saturday, Marquette radio announcer, Steve "the Homer" True, confirmed that Coach Crean has decided to use a redshirt season on freshman, Matt Mortensen. Matt is a 6'6" wing from Provo, Utah. Originally expected to go on his Mormon mission straight out of high school, Mort instead decided to start his Marquette career this year. It is unclear at this point whether Mortensen will stay 5 consecutive years at Marquette or if he will break up his tenure with his mission.

New Book on MU Hoops

Good news for MU hoops junkies - - there's a new book on MU basketball hitting the shelves soon called Tales of Marquette Basketball. The book was written by Mike Neufeldt and Tom Pipines. Neufeldt is an alum, and Pipines has been covering MU hoops for decades as a TV sports anchor in Milwaukee -- familiarity that should factor into an entertaining account of MU hoops.

Per the publisher's Web site, "In "Tales of Marquette Basketball", fans can take a look at all the high and low points, from McGuire to Crean and everything in between. Personal interviews with many great Marquette players and coaches, including Hank Raymonds, Dwyane Wade, Rick Majerus, Mike Deane, Tom Crean, Glenn "Doc" Rivers, Jim McIlvaine, Travis Diener, and Tony Smith, give insight to memorable moments both on and off the court."

The interview list is impressive - one would expect that the personal experiences of these past players and coaches will deliver a memorable romp through the last several decades on the hardwood. Its good to see a publisher give a book like this a shot - - its not personality driven (at least not driven by a single personality) and while the audience might be niche, MU's cast of characters tend to be more memorable and colorful than most.

The book is not available just yet, but you can pre-order it HERE.

Finals Run

The 5-2 Marquette Golden Eagles conclude the first phase of the young season with a tough, two-game stretch leading into finals week on campus. Coming off of a confidence-building win over SDSU (which was good scheduling on the part of TC -- after four straight games away from home, this young team needed an injection of confidence and home cooking), MU hosts the Valparaiso Crusaders on Wednesday night before traveling to take on the University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers on Saturday afternoon.

After this two-game stretch, MU is off for finals before hosting the USF Dons at the Bradley Center on December 17.

FWIW (which ain't much), here is the underwhelming MJS weekly MU report that doubles as a preview for the Valpo game.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Marquette crushes South Dakota State 87-52

MU shot a sizzling 61% from the field and held the Jack Rabbits to just 34% in a romp at the Bradley Center on Saturday afternoon. MU moves to 5-2 on the season.

Dominic James led Marquette with 14 points in a balanced scoring attack by the entire team. Seven players had 8 or more points for the Golden Eagles. Kinsella saw his first action of the year as well, coming off a foot injury. Matt Mortenson did not play, leading to speculation that he will redshirt for the 2005-06 season.

It was Travis Diener bobblehead day for the 11,342 in attendance. Marquette also revealed the Great Alaska Shootout Championship banner.

Click here for the boxscore

OMG, the Journal-Sentinel Previews the Game Today!

.......clearly a snowball made it through hell (sorta). The Marquette Golden Eagles take on the South Dakota State Jackrabbits this afternoon at the Bradley Center, where the good guys will look to rebound from a decisive loss at Nebraska.

Marquette enters the contest at 4-2, and will look to drag the Jackrabbits out to the woodshed for the second season in a row.

All kidding aside (and though its not a true preview of the game, per se, we'll take any MJS coverage not related to a game recap), Rosiak's article today offers a good perspective on MU's Ryan Amoroso. Stringing together consistently strong outings remains an issue for Ammo, partly because of the inconsistent minutes he's received early this year. But as Rosiak points out, "..everything came together against South Carolina" - - - now its time to take it to the Jackrabbits.

And don't forget.....today is Travis Diener Appreciation Day at the game. TD will be at the game -- welcome home, Travis. The first 10K fans into the Bradley Center will claim a Travis Diener Bobblehead doll.