A loss like Thursday's against MSU creates internet fury, as one thing Coach Crean has created in his eight years is high expectations. Two 10-6 Big East seasons and a constant Top 25 ranking has that effect. When you bow out in the first round every year, the natives get restless.
I love Coach Crean. He's the best thing that's happened to Marquette basketball in decades. He's taken a historied program in the dumps and has improved it in countless and priceless ways. He's superb with the media, the students, and the alumni, not to mention the Milwaukee community. He's brought us a Final Four, the Big East, the Al McGuire Center, dozens of weeks in the Top 25, big wins, ESPN coverage, and a complete explosion of excitement at the Bradley Center with a commensurate increase in attendance figures.
And, sure he's highly paid. He deserves every penny and then some. If Marquette told you they were spending $2m/year on advertising and marketing, no one would bat an eyelash. The investment Marquette has made in Tom Crean has paid off in triplicate.
On a micro-level, Marquette's implosion on Thursday night was not unexpected. MSU is a quality team. Jerel McNeal, our Big East Defensive POY was out. Our seed wasn't representative of our tournament resume. The pundits on ESPN predicted a loss, as did Vegas, and Marquette obliged. Every one of our losses have valid micro-level excuses.
On a macro-level, while Coach Crean has brought so much to Marquette, one area that needs dire improvement is post-season play. There are disturbing statistics. 8 years, 15 post-season tourneys (CUSA/BET included) - 10 one and dones. With the exception of 2003, Crean's teams have faded down the stretch, year after year.
So what does this all mean? Crean gets superlative marks for so many elements as head coach. But post-season is how you measure the success of a program, i.e., five years from now, no one will remember that ESPN's GameDay was at Marquette. But March Madness is forever.
We're currently at the level where we can make the NCAAs each year, 4 of our last 6. The next level is WINNING an NCAA game in March. Had Travis not gone nuts to win that game vs. Holy Cross in 2003, we would be sitting on zero NCAA wins in the Crean era. The object is no longer to get to the dance. It's to win one.
If in 12 months, we lose in the first round of 2008, look out. -- There's a finite number of post-season failures that can be absorbed. I don't want to find out what that number is.
Saturday, March 17, 2007