"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

Thursday, March 29, 2007

MU vulnerable? You bet. What if.......

Most don't want to talk about it, but I'm sure you're thinking it. What if? What if Tom Crean leaves Marquette in the next couple of weeks. Maybe it's Kentucky. Maybe it's Florida. Maybe it's Michigan. Maybe it's Michigan State. Maybe it's Arkansas. Who knows, the dominos are starting to tilt, but none have come down just yet. That starts on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week when Billy Donovan kicks off the entire party with his decision on Kentucky, where he is clearly target #1.

What if.

I hope it doesn't come to fruition, but if it does I am a nervous Nellie. Marquette is in a vulnerable position right now on several fronts.

#1) Who's got the list?

There is no athletic director. Sure, Steve Cottingham is currently serving the role of interim athletic director, but that's like having Babe Laufenburg as your backup QB and the starter just ruptured his achilles heel on the field. Cottingham is a solid attorney and has served Marquette well over the years. His taste in Badger friends is suspect, but as a UW-Madison graduate I suspect that is a cross Cottingham has to endure from time to time. But is he ready to be THE GUY after being on the job for 2 months as an interim AD? Call me paranoid, but I also would rather not have a BADger picking our next head coach for hoops, regardless of how loyal he's been to the school. Steve's a good guy, I've had the pleasure of working with him on several occasions. I don't think he has a bias bone at all, but you just never can tell what happens after a few years in Area 51 Madison.

I have no idea if he has his hat in the ring to be the permanent AD or if he is simply keeping the seat warm for the eventual hire. The problem is, if Tom Crean were to leave Marquette in the next few weeks due to some outrageous offer or a school like Kentucky that requires that leap into the firestorm, who's left to hire the next MU basketball coach?

Ah yes...who is left? Pretty scary. Would it be the folks that came up with the genius nickname of "THE GOLD"? That inspires confidence doesn't?

Most Athletic Directors worth their salt always have "the list". It's like the nuclear football. It's either in your head or it's in a file, but you always have a list of names that you believe would be a good fit for your institution for your various coaching positions. Even when you have the guy you want successfully in place, you must have "the list". You work the phones, you talk to other AD's, you talk to other coaches....always in an effort to know who is out there that might be able to help you someday.

Well, our "list" is most likely in the head of Bill Cords who just retired. Now, maybe Cottingham has a list. Maybe it's even a good list, but doesn't that just make you a bit nervous? Has Cottingham ever hired a coach before? Has he ever evaluated what type of coach is needed? I know he can handle the contractual side of things with a high level of aptitude, but often the hiring of a coach takes a bit of experience and a sixth sense. Sometimes it's a gut feeling. Cottingham gets the legal part, understands the sponsorship portion and the business side of athletics, but that's not the same as hiring a coach.

Cords wasn't perfect, but one intangible he had was hiring coaches. He was a coach himself at Washington State. He understood coaches and understood student athletes, that is a quality that I wish we had right now in the athletic department.

No doubt MU would solicit Cords' advice and probably engage in a search firm potentially. Knowing MU, they would probably also have a committee the size of a small African nation involved in the process as well, which only complicates things. This is where a strong AD makes all the difference in the world. An AD that can make a recommendation to the President and that recommendation is as good as gold (no pun intended). MU doesn't have that right now. It would be a committee decision made by a bunch of "feel good" types that want a "nice" guy as head coach and someone that can project the university well. I'm getting more nervous just writing that because you know it's probably true. Maybe they can bring Sherri Coe-Perkins back to lead the committee (heavy sarcasm)......starting to get my drift?

#2) Comfort Level

Related to #1 is comfort level. Coaches like to go to places where they feel they can work with the AD by and large. They want to know the AD that hired him will be there for the long haul because it ads a layer of protection to some extent. Without a permanent AD, if a coach had to be hired in the coming weeks they would have to accept the fact a new sheriff was coming to town to run the department...a sheriff that did not hire this deputy.

Think about it. If you interviewed for a major job and the CEO was to hire you as a VP, but told you he was retiring within a month after the new position was filled, would you take it? You might, but it would certainly factor into your thinking that your "boss" was leaving and here you are at a high level position barely on the job with a new boss about to come in. It's a factor, don't kid yourself.

As I stated, I hope it doesn't happen, but it could in the whacky world of college basketball coaching dominos. I have no doubt in my mind that Crean is interested in Kentucky. His friends Mike DeCourcy, Jay Bilas, and other media types are certainly pumping his name out there. Perhaps they are doing it on their own volition, perhaps not. Crean has high ambitions and so do the Kentucky maniacs they call fans, but it is one of the 5 great historical (hysterical?) jobs in hoopsville so he would be crazy not to want to be considered, even if nothing public is stated.

So in the background with all of this happening one would hope someone somewhere at Marquette University is asking the question.....what if....

Bad news on two MU recruits?

It is still very early in the recruiting process for the freshman class of 2008, but today two media reports dealt an apparent blow to MU's hopes with a pair of highly regarded prospects.

The biggest concern is the signability of Jonathan Baldwin. The 6-6 power forward from Aliquippa is one of the state's top basketball and football players - and a priority recruit for Tom Crean. MU has offered the uber-talented Baldwin......

......of course, so have many of the nation's best football programs. Per ESPN.com, Baldwin is listed as the 12th best football prosect - - in the entire country. Baldwin grades out as the top tight end recruit in the nation per ESPN's analysis. Baldwin already has offers from Pitt in both sports, as well as Michigan, Notre Dame and West Virginia for the gridiron.

Per Ray Fittipaldo's Q/A on the Post-Gazette site yesterday, he expects Baldwin to opt for pigskin at the next level.

"...he (Baldwin) is getting an awful lot of interest from the major Division I football programs and most of those types of athletes over the years from Western Pennsylvania, especially a place like Aliquippa, end up playing football in college."
Sounds like TC needs to break through the culture of the community to secure a commitment from Baldwin, who has indicated that he won't sign until next spring. IMHO, Crean can't wait that long to secure a commitment from him. The roster is far too thin at the PF slot to wait.

Think of it this way. Crean has yet to lure a national top 25 high school basketball player to campus.....how will be lure a top 15 high school football player to MU -- and ask him to give up the sport where he's more dominant? If TC can do that, it'll be his greatest recruiting coup.

Next up - - news about combo guard Mike Rosario. Mike Rosario, the latest in a long line of great guards at St. Anthony's in Jersey City. Rosario already has offers from Marquette, Rutgers, St. John's, SHU, Georgetown, Virginia Tech, and Miami. However, his high school coach threw cold water on those options which are not close to home:
"When it comes down to it, he's going to be more inclined to be a little bit closer to home," Hurley said of Rosario's college options.
It'll be an uphill battle to secure a commitment from Rosario. Per this video from August, 2005 - - he's a nice player. Given Crean's ability recruit and develop post players, the Rosario news doesn't really concern me.

Baldwin? That's another matter entirely.

Coach Al McGuire TEES OFF on the NCAA..30 years ago

It was 30 years ago today, March 28, 1977 that Marquette won the national title beating North Carolina in Atlanta. It almost didn't happen. MU was lucky to get a bid and perhaps even luckier to survive a second round game against Kansas State in which MU won by 1.

After the game Coach McGuire blasted the NCAA for a technical foul that was called against him. The 7 minute episode was recorded and provided by the Appleton Post-Crescent. We sure miss this man. Take a listen

Jerry Karpowicz also writes of the event in today's OnMilwaukee online magazine. Nice article Jerry.

Thanks to the boys over at Marquette Hoops for pointing these two items out.

A hat tip to GE1974

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Damian Saunders, come on down!

You are the next recruit to go under the microscope at Todd Rosiak's blog. Read it here.

Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe reports on Kentucky and Crean

Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe reported this morning on the Tony Kornheiser radio show the following:

Ryan's "inside sources" (take that for whatever they are worth) tell Ryan that Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart wants Tom Crean as the head coach of Kentucky. The alumni and boosters are pushing hard in a different direction as they don't believe Crean is a "sexy" enough hire for the Bluebloods and prefer John Caliprari #2 after Billy Donovan, the clear fan favorite. Ryan went on to say he believes ultimately it will be Billy Donovan who will take the job once the Final Four is over.

Stay tuned....

Meanwhile, an article everyone should read about the web of college hoops expectations.

Colin Chieverton: 2008 recruiting target

77ncaachamps over on MUScoop did a bit of research and identified another kid that Tom Crean is recruiting for the 2008 freshman class. His name is Colin Chieverton from Archbishop Mitty in San Jose.

Looks like Chieverton is a 6-5 SG/SF who is very interested in both MU and Oklahoma for now. Click here to read more and see the action shots of Chieverton.

Its still early, but TC is in on yet another high-ceiling talent. BTW - how about Crean's national recruiting base of late?! MU has a 2008 commitment from Nick Williams from Alabama, and is actively recruiting players in New Jersey (Jordan Theodore among many others), Maryland (Maurice Sutton), Pennsylvania (Jonathan Baldwin), and Oklahoma (Rotnei Clarke - -not sure he's a TC priority though) -- just as a sample.

Remembering Al McGuire

Thirty years ago today Marquette University enjoyed its greatest athletic achievement when Al McGuire led the Warriors to the 1977 National Championship.

Al's legacy remains strong -- check out this nice tribute over at Stiles Points, an homage to Al. Nice job.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Patrick Hazel, its time for your close-up

Todd Rosiak's series on the incoming Marquette freshmen continues today with a blog about Patrick Hazel. Hazel, a 6-7 forward from Queens by way of Blair Academy in New Jersey, figures to compete for playing time right away next season.

Take it away, Todd.

The morning buzz

A few nuggets to get you going this morning:

  • I'd like to pass along a warm welcome to all of the Iowa Hawkeye basketball fans who are linking over to us from their Rivals premium board. Based on our tracking several hundred of you are spending time here on the blog checking out the latest Tom Crean 'rumors'. Hawkeyes, is Tom Crean going to Iowa? What is the buzz in Iowa City? Seems like wasted energy to me . . . . Crean might leave MU someday but not for Hawkeye (or Wolverine) nation. The Iowa job is suicidal right now considering the dramatic upgrade in the Big Televen coaching ranks these last couple of years. Sampson, Matta, and Tubby will finally help the Big Ten deliver a better product in the coming years, and at a school like Iowa where you can't outfit a top 20 team consistently with home-grown talent --- that makes a difficult job even more untenable. Kentucky? Well that is another matter.
  • Second item of interest: Rick Majerus was on Mike & Mike in the Morning moments ago talking about the possibility of a college coach taking over the Miami Heat job next season. There are strong rumors that Billy Donovan could get a shot at the manning the sidelines on South Beach. While professing no inside information, Majerus openly speculated that the only other college coach he could see jumping to the Heat (if Donovan didn't take the job) was Tom Crean based on his relationship with Wade. Well, we'll see. College coaches making the jump to the NBA is not exactly a successful fraternity.
Cassie at SomeCheeseWithThat offers perspectives on the 2006-2007 season and a look ahead to next year. Some of it is terrific, but there are problems in spots -- specifically with assertions that are used to support larger points she is trying to make.

For example:
  • Cassie takes McNeal to task far too much, calling him a "disappointment" and teeing off on his shot selection by claiming he had "a willingness to settle for the outside shot that spread to the rest of the team." Where to begin, eh ('disappointment' is so ridiculous I won't address it futher. That's a mindless claim.). While shot selection may have been the case in the non-conference schedule, that assertion does not hold up in conference play. Overall, McNeal shot 31% from three-point range last season, but a closer look shows that he shot a respectable 38% in conference play -- a substantial increase in his final 14 outings. Contrary to Cassie's contention, McNeal actually took fewer three-point shots per game in conference play (3.2 attempts per game) than in non-conference action (3.4 attempts per game) and hit them at a much higher rate.
  • Cassie, you might be disappointed to know that James, Matthews, Fitzgerald, and Cubillan all showed depressed three-point shooting percentages in conference play. Good thing McNeal bucked the trend.
  • MU attempted more than 23 three-pointers per game on the non-conference slate. During Big East play that number decreased nearly 22% to a more palatable 18 attempts from deep each game. The notion that "the team was too content to stand out on the perimeter and jack threes" was true in spurts in certain games (and due to injury late in the season), but hardly a problem that plagued their overall offensive effectiveness as the season played out.
  • One more nit with her blog, "Other than David Cubillan there was not a guy on the team who didn’t make you cringe when he jacked one up." Cassie, Dan Fitzgerald hit more three-pointers than Cubillan last year, and was nearly equal in shooting percentage (.423 to .425). Fitzgerald also made more threes and had a higher shooting percentage from deep in conference play than Cubillan.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Must See T.V.

Two programs of note for college basketball fans. First, tonight on HBO is the tribute to John Wooden and the UCLA dynasty. Some guys at work saw the advanced screening last week here in Los Angeles and apparently it is terrific.

Second, this Saturday during the Final Four, CBS will do a piece on the 1977 championship team...your MARQUETTE WARRIORS...who captured the title in Atlanta, the site of the 2007 Final Four.

Set your DVRs if you're out of town.

Tom Crean: Member of an Elite Club.

A recent message board post suggested that Tom Crean has seen minimal success as coach of Marquette. The fact that MU has only made four NCAA tournaments in the last six years, and only one Final Four seem to be a big bone of contention for some.

While Crean has been on the receiving end of criticism for the recent loss to Michigan State in the NCAA tournament, suggesting that he's seen minimal success at Marquette is a bit of a stretch.

He inherited a team coming off a losing record. Since then, he's never had a losing season, and after a couple years of rebuilding effort, he's guided Marquette to four of the last six NCAA tournaments, including one final four.

Just how rare is a final four coach?

Consider that just 20 active coaches have led their teams to an NCAA final four since Tom Crean became head coach.

Six of those 20 have done so more than once.

And these final four coaches don't always lead their teams to the NCAA tourney.

Just seven of those elite 20 have been to every NCAA tournament since 2002.
Another four coaches have been to 5 of 6 tourneys.
Five coaches (including Crean) have been to 4 of the last six

For the 2002 through 2007 NCAA tournaments, here's how the coaches break down:

Three Final Fours:
Donavan (6 NCAA bids in the last 6 years)
Izzo (6 of 6)
Roy Williams (6 of 6)

Two Final Fours:
Howland (5 bids in 6 years--twice with Pitt, three times with UCLA)
Krzyszewski (6 of 6)
Gary Williams (4 of 6)

One Final Four:
Illinois - Weber (6 of 6)
Texas - Barnes (6 of 6)
Arizona - Olson (6 of 6)
Ohio State - Matta (5 of 6 counting 3 at Xavier, 2 at Ohio State)
UConn - Calhoun (5 of 6)
Oklahoma - Sampson (5 of 6, including once at Indiana in 2007)
Pitino - Louisville (4 of 6)
Crean Marquette (4 of 6)
Boeheim - Syracuse (4 of 6)
Brady - LSU (4 of 6)
Georgetown - Thomspon (3 of 6, one at Princeton, two at Georgetown)
Davis - Indiana (3 of 6)
Hewitt - Georgia Tech (3 of 6)
Larranaga - George Mason (2 of 6)

In addition, three retired coaches have made the Final Four in the last 8 years:
Bennett from UW
Guthridge from UNC
Sutton from Oklahoma State

Minimal success? Hardly.

Jordan Theodore named all-area

Adam Zagoria of NorthJersey.com selected Jordan Theodore to the 2007 first team all-area for northern New Jersey. Zagoria, who covers NJ sports closely, calls Theodore "a tremendously quick and smart player who has played at the highest levels on the AAU circuit, Theodore did well this year to incorporate his younger teammates into the offense."

Congrats, Jordan.

Marquette is aggressively pursuing the 6-0 junior point guard, as are Memphis and Seton Hall.

Read about Adam's all-area selections here.

Congratulations to the Georgetown Hoyas

JTIII has done it -- the Hoyas are back in the Final Four for the first time since 1985. Congrats.

It is good to see a Jesuit university and the Big East represented on college basketball's biggest stage once again. The guys at HoyaSaxa will be all over this one.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Andy Katz -- thanks for reading

We'll keep watching!

For the record Katz gave you all a shoutout on Wednesday when he was on ESPNNews, saying something along the lines of "the Marquette blogs of course are calling me out for my history of bad forecasting regarding Tom Crean."

Pretty cool stuff.
Should be an interesting couple of weeks on the coaching carousel.

Happy Birthday, Tom Crean

Happy Birthday, Coach.

No recruiting on the road today, just kick back and watch a couple of Elite 8 games. Or have Joani and the kids take you to Chuck E. Cheese for your free birthday sundae.

BTW, MUScoop has a handy 'Upcoming Calendar' feature on their home page that includes most key Marquette basketball milestones (like this).

Friday, March 23, 2007

Trevor Mbakwe live on the Web today

MU signee Trevor Mbakwe leads St. Bernard's into the state semifinals against Ellsworth at Noon CDT today. Click here to listen to the game live on the Internet.

Andy Katz separates reporting from rumor-mongering

Andy Katz did a good job on ESPN Radio this morning when asked about the open job at Kentucky. Rather than proclaiming (of his own accord) any 'leader' or 'best fit' for the job he indicated that UK will attempt to speak with Billy Donovan -- and that based on Donovan's situation at UF (father moved there, extended family spends most of the year there, complete control) he will stay put in Gainesville. BTW -- doesn't TC have all of that at MU .... and make the same amount of money as Donovan?

OK, back to Badger Andy. Absent Donovan, Katz believes that Tom Crean, Mark Few and Jay Wright are in a group that UK would consider if/when Donovan turns it down. He refused to speculate on which of these folks might be the best fit. Smart move, this is where Andy usually crosses the line with Crean and other coaches -- and compromises his credibility. TC very well may be interested in UK (he'd be a fool not to be) and the interest may be mutual -- but UK has to go through the paces with Donovan.

Katz also indicated that Barnes and Gillispie might listen if approached but won't go to Lexington. He said that Calipari won't be the next coach in Lexington either.

That's a better way to do it, Andy. No proclamations, no fiction and no rumor-mongering.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Andy Katz the King of Fiction

OK.......so, earlier today on ESPN Andy Katz annointed Tom Crean as one of the early favorites for the Kentucky job.

We know what that means -- Coach Crean is staying at Marquette!

Let's review Andy's track record with Tom Crean over the years:

  • "Tom Crean to Illinois makes more sense than Bill Self to Kansas" That phrase was not enough. Oops. Crean, of course, never interviewed for the job.
  • Katz initially floated Crean as a candidate at Indiana. Doh! Good thing he filled some air time with that.
  • Katz indicated that TC was the leading candidate at Ohio State (probably while Thad Matta was in his car driving around Columbus). Crean, of course, never interviewed for the job.
...and now this.

Andy, MU fans will sleep well tonight. Glad u are on the case.

Anyone order Domino's Pizza? Dominos...anyone?

Well maybe not pizza, but the dominos are about to fall. Tubby Smith to Minnesota. Michigan has an opening, Iowa has an opening after Steve Alford's departure. Hey, that actually sounds like the Big Ten will be a legit conference top to bottom again.

Of course with all of this movement comes the mandatory Andy Katz line: "Tom Crean to ________ (fill in the blank of latest job opening)".

It could happen, in fact it might happen but I won't lose sleep over it. What will be interesting to watch is who takes what and how many dominos fall as a result. For example, if Donovan from Florida were to take the Kentucky job...look out. Now we're talking serious dominos. However, if Billy Gillespie from Texas A&M took the job, not many dominos fall because A&M just isn't a job that people will fall over to get.

Crean to Michigan? Crean to Kentucky? Crean to Iowa? Crean to...Marquette? Crean is paid very well, about $1.7 million per year according to the USA Today article today. That puts him in the top 20 coaches roughly in salary(some make less on a per year basis but have large one-time bonuses that were provided as part of the compensation package).

Whatever happens, the rumors are flying in the blogosphere. A Louisville reporter has already said Crean is at the top of the list for Kentucky. Andy Katz has said he is on the list along with others. Kentucky fans on their message boards have just about attacked every coach thrown out as a possibility that isn't named Billy as a first name.

My favorite is Tom Izzo to Kentucky and another guy named Tom to Michigan State....Andy Katz's rumor machine in full swing.

Sit back and enjoy the show. This is always a crazy time of year to watch the coaching carousel go round and round.

One week hence....

One thing I can say for sure about last Thursday night.

Shane MacGowan, now he is a true Warrior.

As I mentioned last week, I attended the Pogues concert right in NYC immediately following the MU debacle. MacGowan had had an "accident" in Boston two nights prior, so he performed the entire show in a wheelchair, slugging from a bottle of Michael Collins whiskey (find it if you can) and having a jolly old time. He was indecipherable when speaking, but nailed the sweet, sweet lyrics of all the Pogues classics, except, sadly, Fairytale of New York. My younger brother talked me into slam-dancing during the encore, the perfect way to get out Marquette aggression. It was also perfect for it's middle-aged feel, whenever someone fell, everyone would stop and help the person up.

The mosh pit was as warm and familial as MacGowan's hooch, but now that my shoulder has healed, I've turned the page to the 2007-08 MU squad.

More than anything else, the key, I think, is the return of Dominic James. If the Internets are to be believed, his stock is flat-lining. He is the 41st pick at NBADraft.net to Orlando (odd, considering the Magic have a stockpile of point guards including our beloved Travis...maybe a swap for TD to back up Nash?) and is only listed on the 2008 board at Draft Express.

We all saw DJ's shooting issues throughout the year, but what was apparent in the Michigan St. game was that this team is DOA without him, moreso anyway. After watching DJ lock down Neitzel, consider Cubillan having to the same against Edgar Sosa, Eric Devendorf or Jonathan Wallace, not too mention trying to get an open look...ever. McNeal isn't made for the point and double-teaming DJ opens the lanes nicely for he and Matthews. Even in an ice-cold slump, James' ability to get to the rack draws a second defender, plus the non-MacGowan-tough leg cramp dramatics always give the team a needed rest.

Come back and drop dimes, Dommy-J, we need ye and thus there shall be no Marquette fall from the grace of God.

Marquette basketball, revenue generator

Sports biz enthusiasts will enjoy this article about college hoops as a revenue (and profit) generator by John Maher of the Austin-American Statesman.

According to this report, Louisville leads the nation in generating revenue from college hoops -- more than $21M in the 2006-2006 season.

MU? A robust $10.8 million in basketball revenue. Remove the $7 million in reportd expenses and Marquette basketball turned a healthy $3.8 million profit for the 2005-2006 season.

Big money. That's a tidy profit, eh?

More like a necessity, I'd argue.......without fat hoops revenue and a strong profit margin, MU would not be able to field competitive teams in non-revenue sports. There's no detail on what MU considers to be part of its basketball revenue (ie: multimedia rights as an example), nor is there detail in the aritcle about the nature of the expenses -- so its difficult to evalutate the findings.

One way to do gather some detail is via the USA Today compensation sortable database. Tom Crean, the $1,688,487 man. Want more? Here is MU's 990 -- the "Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax" form which lists MU's five highest paid employees (its in .pdf btw)

All of the numbers in the article are supported through forms submitted in compliance with the Federal Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act.

Who is your favorite MU player and why?

A fun off-season discussion going on now over at MUScoop.

Marquette offers 6-11 center Maurice Sutton

Per this blog at the Washington Post, Tom Crean has offered a scholarship to 6-11, 190-pound Maurice Sutton of Largo High School in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. As a junior Sutton averaged 12 points, nine boards, and five blocks per game.

Marquette is the first program to offer Sutton a scholarship. The big fella has attracted attention from Kentucky, UVa, NCSU, UNC and Maryland as well. Led by Sutton, Largo enjoyed a tremendous height advantage against many of its opponents this past season.

Here is an article about Largo's final game of the 06-07 season
, a loss in the 3A state semifinals. This report confirms the Marquette offer.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I predict .. 2007-08

Ok, a few days have gone by, we're all still licking our wounds. Time to talk about the future.

Inspired by this thread on MUScoop, I have some predictions for next year. Most are just speculation from a guy who is dreaming of Midnight Madness 206 days away. Some predictions are locks, others not so much.

  1. I predict ...DJ will be on the team next year. And the "shooting slump" will be a distant memory. I predict he'll be better than he was Freshman year, and stay all 4 years at Marquette and be an Academic All-American.

  2. I predict one guy will leave the team, and one incoming recruit will not arrive.

  3. I predict Mr. Basketball Scott Christopherson will not red shirt.

  4. I predict TC will sign a juco guy this summer. For grins and chuckles only.

  5. Last year, Marquette basketball fans raised over $1,300 for Al's Run. I predict we double that number next year.

  6. We'll start the pre-season ranked about 15th.

  7. I predict Mo Acker will be a fantastic addition to the team. I predict we'll sneak him on the court as a 6th man, being so short, no refs notice. -- But seriously, Mo will be a difference maker next year. Great defender, great 3 point shot, lightening quick.

  8. There'll be a bobblehead next year. I'll guess Jim McIllvane .. or maybe Al McGuire? My vote is for Joe Chapman. And I'm thinking the George Thompson bobblehead is two years away. Scratch that. The bobblehead will be Hank Raymonds.

  9. Oh, who am I kidding. There'll be another D. Wade bobblehead, belt buckle, voodoo doll, keychain, snowglobe, and/or t-shirt giveaway. "Wade Bucks," spendable at the concession stands, will drop from the Bradley Center ceiling.

  10. I'll predict a Lazar Laser Pointer night giveaway .. hmm .. given out after the game.

  11. And someone else's number will be retired. Tony Smith is due.

  12. I predict none of the incoming players will have 3, 11, 14, 15, 20, 24, 41, 43, 44, or 77 as their jersey number. For sure. No doubt about it.

  13. The Jesse White Tumblers will play half time this year. And those inflatable zoo animal guys. Can't remember what they were called. Zooropa or something? They'll be back.

  14. Freeway will be found in a cave near Tora Bora, talking with OBL about the Bucks' chances this year. Where art thou, Freeway?

  15. MU will have its 3rd annual Haunted Hoops scrimmage again.

  16. I'll guess Robert Jackson is some sort of assistant coach next year. I'll predict there'll be some interest for Todd Townsend at another program. Pure speculation, but he needs exposure to another system. Double-T was my favorite player years ago. All the other assistants will stay.

  17. I'll predict our OOC home schedule contains more high interest games than last year's, including homers against UWM and UWGB and a mystery team. Izzo now owes Crean, so maybe MSU will come to the BC gratis? Added to 9 BE home games, the season ticket holders will be happier with the value.

  18. I predict one of the OOC homers is against NDSU so we can get some payback.

  19. I also predict there'll be a lot of complaints about the reseating process for season ticket holders, since it was announced it will be held at the Al, and not the Bradley Center where people can sit down and start their personal ass-groove.

  20. I predict after 11 years of going to the Bradley Center, I will finally get on the jumbotron next season. Come on. My kid is very cute.

  21. I'll predict we win the Maui Invitational in November .. but lose to UW in Madison, extending their streak, and that Christmas will be canceled (again) because of the loss.

  22. I predict 1290/1510AM will boost their power output. Or an angry mob will burn down their antenna tower. One or the other, not sure which.

  23. OH! I know. I predict "Antenna Night Giveaway" where all in attendance at the Bradley Center will receive a powerful AM radio antenna so they can listen to the post-game as they drive home.

  24. And speaking of media, I predict there'll be a lot of complaints about ESPN's contract with the Big East. While every game will be "broadcast," a great number of games will be on ESPNU (satellite only) and herky-jerky ESPN360, which few receive.

  25. I'll predict on a post-game show, Crean will say the crowd at the Bradley Center was phenomenal.

  26. I predict the student section, after half don't show up for a "lesser" game, will be demoted to the "9th best Student Section in the Country."

  27. I predict Marquette will stop giving Allen-Edmonds prizes to fans who aren't wearing gold to the game. (Hint, hint, if you guys are listening, this is a good idea.)

  28. I predict one game there'll be an announcement that the crowd is the biggest in Wisconsin history, beating the record by 1. It happens every year.

  29. I predict Tom Crean will invite the Cracked Sidewalks team on a road game trip. (cough)

  30. I'll predict no hand or wrist injuries to anyone on the team. There'll be a concussion or two, of course. There always is.

  31. I predict we'll go 12-6 in the Big East. (Yes, that adds up to 18 games. Dwell on that for a moment.) 18 BE games, Maui (Arizona State - Duke - Illinois - LSU - Oklahoma State - Princeton - Chaminade), UW, UWM. Nice.

  32. We'll get a better seed next year in the NCAAs, like a #3-4, win 1 game and lose in the 2nd round -- and that one of those games will be against another of Coach Crean's buddies, prompting 2,000 more stories about how tough it is to play against a friend.

Whew! Feel free to add more predictions in the comment section.

Scott Christopherson Update

Nice blog here by Rosiak -- catching up with MU's latest backcourt signee (and Wisconsin's Mr. Basketball), Scott Christopherson. Read it here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Crean recruiting in New Jersey

Tom Crean was sitting courtside with Tom Izzo last night as St. Patricks's, one of New Jersey's best high school teams, took the floor. Why was TC there?

"presumably evaluating St. Patrick's junior forward Quintrell Thomas and sophomore guard Dexter Strickland"
Quintrell Thomas is a 6'7" junior power forward for St. Patrick's. Thomas is rated one of the top 10 juniors in the state of New Jersey -- along with another 2008 target, PG Jordan Theodore of Paterson Catholic.

Dexter Strickland is a 6'3" sophomore guard for St. Patrick's -- check out this fantastic link complete with a video interview. Here is a recent video of St. Patrick's taking on NYC's public league champ Lincoln. Strickland is #15 for St Patricks and Thomas is #13 -- in the white uniforms.

Later this week we'll run through the list of kids that Crean appears to be targeting for the 2008 and 2009 freshmen classes.

Notable freelance writer Ray Floriani, who is based in New Jersey, spoke with St.Pat's coach Kevin Boyle who confirmed Marquette, among others, is recruiting Dexter Strickland and Quintrell Thomas.

Strickland is a 6'3 sophomore guard whom Boyle expects ,"to be the best perimeter player in the state next year". Thomas, a junior, is a solid big man who can battle underneath and move out to hit the fifteen footer. He's a three or four at the next level and his skills away from the basket will serve him well.

Strickland is a talent who happened to be largely overshadowed by the outstanding Villanova-bound Corey Fisher this season. Both Strickland and Thomas are being widely recruited per Boyle.

Another intriguing prospect whom Crean and others are watching is 6'6 Paris Bennett. He's a sophomore forward who battled mono this season. Boyle said a number of schools are involved and Bennett will be heard from significantly next year.

Among other coaches on hand last night were Bobby Gonzalez, Paul Hewitt, Fred Hill, John Dunne (St.Peter's) and Jay Wright.

Per Adam Zagoria's informative blog:
  • Quintrell Thomas has offers from Rutgers, USF and VCU. Boyle expects UF and MU to offer soon.
  • Strickland does not have any current offers on the table right now, though MU, UCLA, UNC and Georgia Tech have seen him play recently.
  • Despite battling mono, Bennett already has offers from Villanova and Rutgers.

Rosiak's blog with TC

Todd Rosiak complements today's hard copy article with a detailed blog. Tons of great info there from a candid Tom Crean. Among the highlights:

  • Expect to see turnover with his assistant coaches.
  • TC threw his baseline under the bus for the MSU game - - "Especially our upperclassmen on the front line did not do what we had to do defensively to help make this game go in our favor, and I’m disappointed in that" That is accurate -- of course it is also proof that TC's ability to sign high-ceiling big men is questionable.
  • Communication: the need for his team to communicate on the floor came up consistently with Rosiak. Sounds like some players needed to get with the program and failed to do so.
  • TC talks of lessons learned in recruiting with a star in the program -- namely getting Acker in case James bails (something he did not do with Wade). Smart move.
  • McNeal is healing nicely and was playing his best ball of the season prior to the injury.
  • Crean essentially calls the Blackledge signing a mistake. TC states that Blackledge "came at the wrong time for this team because we certainly could have used another perimeter player. That was obvious." No kidding -- either a shooter or a bull of a big man. And who recruited Blackledge? That signing was a reach for TC -- now it is hurting MU's ability to transform its roster. To think that Crean might have to redshirt Blackledge -- imagine.......Blackledge could eat up a scholarship for three years just to have one year of productivity.

Looking ahead to 2007-2008

Todd Rosiak takes a much needed look ahead for the Marquette hoops program in today's Journal-Sentinel.

The priority area for improvement? No surprise, its MU's inconsistent front line.

The good news is MU will have Ousmane Barro back for his senior season. The 6'10" junior showed marked improvement last year, averaging better than 9 ppg and 7 rpg. Did Barro disappear at inopportune times last season? Sure -- but he's at least a serviceable big man.

The bad news is that Barro has litle to help to count on along the baseline. Dwight Burke will be back, but during his sophomore season he failed to seize the opportunities presented to him by an underperforminng Jamil Lott an an oft-injured Mike Kinsella. Given his size and strength there's still hope for Burke to emerge as a valuable role player -- but why couldn't he do it this past season?

Its time to look to the kids. MU has three 'big' men signed for next season: Trevor Mbakwe, Damian Saunders and Patrick Hazel. Per Rosiak, "At this point, only the 6-foot-7, 225-pound Mbakwe, a superlative athlete with a 7-2 wingspan, appears ready to make an immediate impact." Good call, Todd. Mbakwe will contribute from day one -- exactly what TC needs next season.

I think Rosiak is underestimating Hazel, a prep-school strong man from Queens. While Hazel won't score effectively as a freshman, his toughness and hustle should make a difference for the 2007-2008 team. Saunders? He's a 6'7" 190-pound forward - - he's a couple of years away from contributing.

And while James will dabble in possibly departing for the NBA -- MU has the 2006 MAC freshman of the year Maurice Acker waiting in the wings to assume the poing guard duties, and super shooter Scott Christopherson joining the backcourt mix as well.

Lots of promise in this program. If James stays and Mbakwe can contribute -- next year could be special.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Need your Warrior fix? 6pm, ESPN2 Tonight.

We don't give the Marquette women enough coverage on Cracked Sidewalks. They got out of the first round, and are shooting for a Sweet 16. -- So for those of you who are jonesing for some Marquette basketball:

Watch #6 Marquette as they take on #3 Oklahoma at 6PM (CDT) on ESPN2.

The Golden Eagles (26-6) hope to contain Paris as they look to advance to the round of 16 for the first time in team history. Marquette earned its highest seed in seven NCAA tournament appearances after setting a school record with 25 regular season victories, including a program-record 14-game win streak.

Dumb and Dumber...the state of the coaching wardrobe

Guys have always been accused of dressing poorly unless you're some kind of metrosexual or have had the recent Queer Eye For the Straight Guy makeover. For the rest of us, well it's in our genes. We just dress the way we dress. We get it right some of the time and accept the fact that the rest of the time it just is what it is.

But I have to tell you, after seeing some of the coaching wardrobes of late, they are really giving guys a bad name. It's like a Dumb and Dumber convention on steroids.

How did Mrs. Pearl let Bruce out of the house with this. Did Mrs. Weber?

And Maurice "Bo" Ryan....wow. I think a clown convention is looking for it's missing coat....or perhaps Denny Crum had a garage sale.

Even the gals have gotten into the act with Pat Summitt's cheerleading ensemble recently.

The trend of late has been to take the Crayola box out, pick the most obnoxious color in it and have your tailor craft a clownsuit.

I'm all for school spirit. Hell, I love it....but for those of us that wish to keep our retinas attached to our eyeballs, would it be too much to ask to wear an Orange Tie and keep the dinner jacket at home?

I yearn for the days of Wimp Sanderson's plaid coat

Dairlyland USA.....who laid the bigger egg...voting now

The early precinct votes are in and Wisconsin leads 74% to 26% at this point. The Journal Sentinel online poll has the question:

Who laid the bigger NCAA tournament egg. Marquette or Wisconsin?

Both wasn't an option.

Vote early, vote often.

Gene Frenkel drops the cowbell in favor of the keyboard

One of our most faithful blog readers is the eponymous (lol) Gene Frenkel......if you read the comments on many of our entries, you've undoubtedly read his thoughtful points of view. Well, today Gene Frenkel gets the spotlight based on two comments he made in response to those in the 'quick-to-judgement corner' of the MU fan base. As an alum who suffered through the 1987-1991 seasons while at MU, and one with a strong recollection of the 'glory days' between 1980 -2000, Gene's comments hit home.

Here are Gene's two most recent comments re-pasted here for a broader audience:

Seriously. Get rid of Crean?? What are you people smoking? Why? Because expectations are now higher than "Gee, I really hope we can make the tournament"? C'mon.

Look, wanting Crean's teams to win in the first round is one thing. But, if he doesn't get that done in three consecutive NCAA tournaments, (some of) you are ready to run him out of town? My God people, what is your attention span and patience and loyalty.

Be honest with yourselves. This is Marquette. Not Kansas. Not Duke. Not North Carolina. It's Marquette. If you get rid of Crean for not making for supposed shortcomings in the NCAA, do you not think he'd have about 100 offers coming his way?

Sure, I'm disappointed like everyone else in the tournament results the last couple years. But for God's sakes. Look at some of the track records of other "great" coaches and how many/few accolades have they had compared to Crean?

As for his coaches leaving, many of them leave for HEAD COACHING JOBS...the sign of a good coach and program.

Crean's done nothing but throw himself into this job, the school, the alumni, and the tradition. If it weren't for Crean, MU would still be in C-USA and wouldn't have nearly the national recognition the school is finally getting.

I'd like to think that his program should get a little more loyalty from "fans". How short attention spans do some of you people have? What would you replace him with? It would be a PR debacle the size of "Gold".

The number of coaches out there that have been to more than one final four are few and far between. If Crean doesn't get to one every five years, you want to can him? Fine. And what do you replace him with? Hope MU gets lucky and finds what... another "Crean". This is just ludicrous the thought of getting rid of him.

The Badgers lost!!! How many final fours has he been too? If they don't make it to the sweet 16 next year, they should get a new coach!!!!!

Sound ridiculous, right? That's what this 'fire Crean' stuff sounds like.

Again. How many sweet 16's did MU go to between 1980 and 1993? How many NCAAs? How many final fours? I'll ask again, did everyone enjoy the 80s?

You don't change Crean unless his team has totally shut him out, or they aren't getting to the NCAAs consistently. There's more to Crean's "success" than winning a national title. He doesn't need one to be a success and MU fans should feel the same way.

Thanks, Gene.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Ticking Clock


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.

Friday, March 16, 2007

MU recruit Scott Christopherson named Mr. Basketball

Tom Crean has brought another Mr. Basketball into the fold. Scott Christopherson was honored today as the co-winner of Mr. Basketball in the state of Wisconsin. It is the first time in the 26 year history of the award that two players have won the award.

Congratulations to Scott.

You can find a complete article on Mark Miller's WisHoops Basketball Site

Searching for answers

A 24-win season with 10 Big East wins wasn't supposed to end this way.

Marquette went to battle without its rudder, absent its best player in Jerel McNeal and lost in embarrassing fashion to Michigan State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Only Tom Izzo's willingness to surrender some of the keys to his Supermax complex spared the Golden Eagles further tournament humiliation. In the end, a twelve-point loss to a perennial power looks palatable in the media guide.

Too bad Roy Williams didn't realize the virtues of winning gracefully in 2003.

Still, based on the way MU hit the floor last night, Jerel McNeal might not have made any difference. Once again, MU was not ready to play in the opening half of an NCAA first round game.

In each MU's four NCAA appearances during the last six seasons, the Golden Eagles have emerged from the tunnel impossibly flat and uninspired. Only Travis Diener's sublime performance in the second-half of the Holy Cross game in 2003 stands between Crean and an o-fer in NCAA tournament competition. Diener's heroics erased the memory of a listless performance against Tulsa in 2002. After the glory of 2003, MU reverted to form with their not-ready-for-primetime opening half against Alabama last season. And now the unfathomable effort against Michigan State, where one might have expected Crean to gameplan even more effectively given his familiarity with the opponent, makes the pattern undeniable.

Certainly fans can analyze each season and rationalize each first-round defeat. It was Marquette's first NCAA appearance in years. The team was young. MU was down a man.

All are true of course, but if fans have rationalize their team's play in March everybody loses.

While Crean is rightly praised for being a program builder par excellance, it is time for his program to turn the corner once more. Unless the program breaks through this first-round stagnation, frustration will mount.

Questions about the roster already abound after last night's mauling. Can Crean take his program to the next level without bringing in more substantial baseline talent? On a team built around strong guard play, why is the roster nearly devoid of consistent shooters? Why do Crean's teams show such great improvement after the Christmas break, and tend to plateau in February and March? What can be done differently to prepare for NCAA tournament games?

Mounting questions come with the territory when you have a nationally-recognized program, one with higher expectations than at any time since the glory days of the 1970s. Higher expecations are nice to have in Milwaukee, we've missed them for so long. For that, MU should thank Tom Crean.

Ultimately these are great times for the Marquette University basketball program. The Bradley Center is filled, the team is all over ESPN, the Big East schedule is unparalleled, national rankings are routine, the players and coaches represent the University well, and Crean's players graduate.

This is a program to be proud of.

Winning reguarly in March is all that's left for Crean to master. And with a young team returning along with several talented newcomers, once again the ingredients will be there for a breakthrough in 2008.

Once again.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Marquette speared by MSU Spartans in NCAA

No other way to put it, MU had no answers. MSU defeated Marquette 61-49 ending Marquette's season with a first round NCAA defeat. MU came out tentative, scared, uninspired...who knows. It took MU ten minutes to score their first points after trailing 14-0 to start the game. David Cubillan did the honors with a 3 pointer. In fact Cubillan hit three of them in the first half and seemed to be the only guy that came to play in the first half. MSU came into the game ranked 4th in FG% defense and it showed why as they frustrated MU completely.

MU trailed 30 to 18 at halftime against one of the best zone defenses seen all year by MU. MU scored ZERO two point baskets the first half. ZERO.

The second half wasn't much better, though Dominic James did heat up a bit. MU managed to hit five two point baskets and in the process tied a NCAA Tournament record by scoring the fewest two pointers in a NCAA basketball game in history. MU broke it's own record of 5 (held also by Louisville and Samford) which it set against Arkansas in 1996 under Mike Deane.

MU shot a horrid 32% for the game while MSU shot a solid 54%. James led MU with 18 points. Barro finished with just 1 point, spending much of his time on the bench with foul trouble. Fitzgerald, who scored 40 points in two games in the Big East Tournament, did not hit his first shot until 32 minutes had expired on the game clock.

The Carolina Curse continues. MU is now 3-25 all-time in the state of North Carolina.

MU finished the season 24-10.

Mike Kinsella and Jamil Lott graduate and a class of five new players (two guards and three forwards) will come in next season.


Rosiak's Article

AP Recap

Marquette Tribune recap with Paul Day.

Marquette Tribune look at Sparty's defense with John Keegan


Be Honest Now

In the spirit of journalistic integrity, I will tell you where Marquette stands in my brackets.

I filled out two tourney sheets, coughed up $25, and had Marquette beating Michigan St. twice...and North Carolina once. And that's it.

Any one take MU any farther? If so, I am in awe of you.

Unless, of course, you picked the Marquettes to go to the Final Four in a "friendly" pool for no money. That pool is no friend of mine.

Bring on the Spartans!!

Once again, Man's Greatest Four-Day Weekend begins.......the 2007 NCAA basketball tournament. Workplace productivity be damned. There are games to be played.

And for the fourth time in the last six seasons, the Marquette Warriors are part of the fun --and this time have a sizeable chip on their shoulders for several reasons:

  1. Disrespected by their seed: check
  2. Key player injured: check
  3. Fashionable pick to lose in the first round: check
  4. Whispers that the team peaked too soon: check
Perfect. Now its time to go to battle.

Keys to tonight's game.....well, there are several but a few points to watch for:
  • Turnovers: Despite playing at a slower pace (only two teams scored as many as 70 points against them this season) and relying on superior guard play to win, Michigan State turns the ball over on 25% of their tempo-adjusted possessions. Can MU turn the Spartans over at this clip or better if McNeal is not ready to go?
  • Rebounding: MSU's inside rotation is more consistent than Marquette's, and the Spartans are one of the very best offensive rebounding teams in the nation. MU is not far behind in that category, but in aggregate the Spartans are a stronger rebounding team. Can MU make the backboards a break-even proposition?
  • Raymar Morgan: Folks, here's another versatile 6'7" forward. Yuck. Let's remember what Jeff Green, Demetris Nichols, Alando Tucker and most recently Sam Young have done to MU this season. Can Fitz and/or Lazar slow down MSU's talented freshman?
  • David Cubillan: Let's say McNeal won't play. Cuby will have to defend Neitzel. Sack up, Cuby.
  • Dan Fitzgerald and Wesley Matthews: MU could have mismatches in their favor with each of these guys on offense. If MSU plays much man-to-man, Neitzel could be matched up on the taller Matthews. Advantage MU. Same thing with Fitzgerald -- as we've seen over the years, MU's tall shooters often gain advantage in man-to-man schemes if they are defended by a traditional post player. This could be the case tonight -- hopefully it is for MU. MSU is a great defensive team (especially inside the arc) so these matchups are key.
Time to lace'em up folks. And we know that Al McGuire is on MU's side - check out this fantastic segment from WTMJ on Al. GOOD KARMA!


The Sunny Side of the Street


Allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Patrick J. Sauer. I am a new contributor here, class of '93, Communications and Rhetorical Studies major.

That particular degree has been eliminated, so I can't say for sure if I am technically an alum.

That being said, I am freelance writer in Gotham who loves MU hoops --give or take a 2.6 GPA-- who is currently enjoying Spring Break '07.

To wit:

MON: I worked, but it was my wife's birthday (MU, class of '93), so we had a nice fish dinner and a bottle of wine.

TUES: A former roommate, John "Norm" Henert, got engaged in NYC and wanted to meet up for lunch. Our lunch consisted of salads and Bud Lites...too many to accomplish much.

WED: I took my wife to the Shins concert for her birthday ("The Shins will change your life, dude.") I accomplished umm, my brackets. Going to bed though, I'm like Ralphie waiting for his Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. And yes, I am dressed like a deranged Easter bunny.

THURS: Christmas Day. I am surprised Tom Keller said Drew Neitzel "is a less effective (but still surprisingly dangerous) scorer off the dribble." Every time I see Neitzel, it seems like he is unstoppable if he gets a step. That being said, I think DJ and the David "Venezuelan Villain" Cubillan can handle Neitzel. Per usual, I am much more concerned with our interior D, but I will take our chances with a guard-heavy team every time.

Of equal importance, my brother Dan is coming to NYC for the Pogues concert tonight. Show time is 9:30 ( I may be late), but as long as McNeal and Shane MacGowan are upright, we will be all right in the Dirty Old Town of Winston-Salem.

FRI: Remains to be seen...win or lose, chances are, I won't be up before noon.

Enjoy Spring Break 2007.

Did I mention I'm 35?

Go Marquette.

p.s. Did anyone notice that the MU representative on the "find your team" cover of SI is our deplorable "golden" Eagle/bird that needs a taste of buckshot...no way that qualifies as the SI jinx.

p.s.s. Let's just officially draft Freeway as our mascot.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Jerel McNeal practiced today and wants to play

This is interesting.

What do you think?

Tom Crean radio interviews

Tom Crean appeared on two Michigan radio programs yeterday --- the Staudt on Sports radio show and later with WDFN-AM's Bob Wojnowski and Tom Kowalski.

Check'em out here.

Marquette-Michigan State Preview

For the fourth time in the last six seasons, Tom Crean's Marquette Golden Eagles will lace'em up in the NCAA tournament later this week. I'd venture to guess that Thursday's opening round matchup will immediately become the most memorable of those four as MU squares off against perennial power Michigan State in Winston-Salem.

Now its time to know our opponent. We've enlisted the help of Tom Keller, MSU's beat reporter from The State News , MSU's Independent Voice.

Tom covered the mentor v mentee angle yesterday, and was kind enough to work on a detailed Q/A to help us get up to speed on the Spartants. Tom, take it away ..........

CS: What types of teams generally give MSU the most trouble?
Keller: No surprise with an Izzo team - it's all about defense. The Spartans have only allowed 15 opponents to top 60 points this season, which has helped mask some of their offensive deficiencies. A team that can push the tempo and shoot from the outside (like, say, UNC, or to a lesser extent, Marquette) is a threat - this team isn't built to be playing in the 70s.

What types of teams do the Spartans generally handle well?
Keller: The Spartans have four respectable bigs they can rotate down low, so few big men have presented much of a problem - MSU put a reasonable clamp on Greg Oden and D.J. White, at least comparatively. Zone defense has also been pretty ineffective against the Spartans.

Raymar Morgan could give Coach Izzo his biggest matchup advantage. Can you breakdown the freshman's game?
Keller: Morgan's a 4 playing the 3 out of necessity. He's got good range out to about 18 feet, and MSU has been getting him more touches on the block of late. Has a great knack for contact. MSU was plus-6 with him in the lineup against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament; minus-19 without him. It's funny that he's MSU's biggest matchup problem now - it was exactly that mid-sized swing forward that the Spartans glaringly lacked last season.

Every team gameplans for Drew Neitzel, yet he stil averages 18ppg, 4 apg and shoots 41% from deep. What does Izzo do to free him up?
Keller: Relentless downscreens, a la the Detroit Pistons with Richard Hamilton. Neitzel's shifty enough to get a step on his man and quick enough to get out and shoot right off the catch. The teams that have slowed him have hedged way out on those screens - he's a less effective (but still surprisingly dangerous) scorer off the dribble.

MSU is 2nd in the nation in assists/field goals made, yet turns the ball over on nearly 25% of their possessions. Are MSU's guards susceptible to full-court pressure?
Keller: Without a deep roster to do much fast breaking, the Spartans have instead relied on a very meticulous half-court offense, a big reason for the high assist/high turnover count. (A lot of those turnovers come from mistimed sets or illegal screens for Neitzel.) Opponents pressed with pretty good success early in the season, but MSU adjusted well and hasn't seen much of it lately.

The Spartans enter the NCAAs losing three of their last four games. Is this team struggling right now?
Keller: The first loss came with Neitzel severely hampered by flu-like symptoms, the second by two at Wisconsin on Kammron Taylor's late 3, the third a legitimate handling by the Badgers at the Big Ten Tourney. None was a bad loss (the only one that would really qualify all season was the 30-point drubbing at Purdue), so it's not a complete freefall. This team has undeniably had problems winning away from home, but neutral wins over Texas and BYU and two-point road/neutral road losses to Maryland, Wisconsin and Ohio State bode well.

Goran Suton is a greatly improved big man, averaging roughly 10ppg and 6 rpg. Is he a legitimate threat on the blocks?
Keller: Suton's a remarkably skilled Euro-style 4 with good rebounding skills and range out to 18 feet. He's also the Spartans' best back-to-the-basket scorer. They don't get him the ball there as much as they probably should, instead using him a lot in pick-and-pop sets. When he's hitting that mid-range shot, the rest of the offense flows a lot better.

Other than the players mentioned, are there others who might step up and surprise MU on Thursday night?
Keller: Travis Walton is a hawkish on-ball defender who will likely draw most of the James assignment. (Ironic, because each could easily be playing for the other's school right now.) He can be very disruptive, and he's improved his jumpshot enough to add a few baskets a game. Drew Naymick's a steady defender in the post who's averaging almost two blocks a game the last month. Other than that, though, this team doesn't have a whole lot of options. It's got to come from the top seven (maybe even the top one or two), or it's not coming at all.

Expectations are always high in East Lansing. How have the 2006-2007 Spartans performed relative to those expectations?
Keller: Izzo was realistic from the beginning of the season - this team has NIT talent. But the Spartans relished that underdog role, got some big wins early, and have been playing as a sum greater than their parts ever since. They've acknowledged their deficiencies and embraced a system that hides them well. Getting to the tournament was a huge accomplishment in itself, but there hasn't been any back-slapping over it. They've still got a little bit of a chip on their shoulder, and they're not a team I'd want to see on the other side of my bracket.

Tom Keller of The State News, THANKS VERY MUCH!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Time to play the underdog card...get in a lather boys

As Andy Katz said on ESPN after the McNeal breaking news, "take your pencil and erase Marquette and put in MSU in ink".

I love it. Everyone is going to take their swipes on MU now. No one gives MU a chance. This is a great opportunity for MU to rise above it just like they did against Pittsburgh 9 days ago and beat someone despite the lack of one player.

Seize the moment. Tremendous opportunity in front of you

Jerel McNeal out for NCAA tournament


Rosiak has the scoop today on his blog. McNeal is done for 2006-2007.

Or not -- see, Todd Rosiak re-filed a second news brief on the JS site today......now he says that McNeal is out only for this weekend.

Ahem. Sounds fishy to me. Ya think MU made a few phone calls to the Journal-Sentinel? That's odd because I bet Rosiak checked with multiple sources before filing his initial news brief.

For my money, I'm guessing Rosiak's original scoop -- that McNeal is done for the year -- is the right call. It was confirmed later by ESPN. ESPNews then confirmed the story as well in their Breaking News segment.

The MUScoop guys are all over it.

The Carolina Curse.....revisted

More than two years ago we documented the Carolina Curse on this very blog.

Marquette is an abysmal 3-24 all-time in the state of North Carolina (though we have won 2 of the last 3 in that state).

However, we are on a one game winning streak there going back to February 12, 2005 after our defeat of East Carolina. Both Barro and Kinsella made the trip, but only Kinsella tasted any action in the tobacco state.

Let's keep the winning streak alive!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Jerel McNeal Injury Update

Here's a post for the (literally) hundreds of you who have found Cracked Sidewalks while Googling on "Jerel McNeal injury" or similar.

What is Jerel McNeal's status? There is some Internet buzz out there which claims that Jerel McNeal is done for the year. If you keep looking, some even claim he had surgery on his injured thumb.

Want more? MU has its own crack staff of online physical therapists and physicians evaluating McNeal. Free medical advice via message boards, good for him!

There's no shortage of negativity on his prognosis. Heck, Tom Crean effectively said that McNeal was done for at least this week in the coverage we saw earlier today.

And there's plenty more to go 'round. Anonymous tips, 'people in the know', et al.

Bottom line? We think McNeal is done for the year, at least as an effective contributor for Marquette. Sure MU is doing its best to rehab McNeal in hopes that he'll recover from the right thumb injury quickly enough to play again -- but after missing practice for nearly two weeks, a return to good health in time to help this team is unlikely.

Maybe MU is sandbagging everybody on this - - don't forget that last season Wesley Matthews returned from a stress fracture earlier than anticipated. Of course, it took Wesley more than a few games to regain his early-season form once he returned -- so it's only logical that McNeal would endure a similar recovery, particularly since he injured his right (shooting) thumb -- a hand that was still splinted (at least) at the Big East tourney a few days ago.

Could there be a Willis Reed Moment for MU? Perhaps, but remember that Reed's 'moment' (all of 4 points in fifteen minutes) is only notable because Walt Frazier delivered one of the greatest playoff performances in NBA history -- 36 points, 19 assists and five steals in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals.

Moral of the story? Somebody else better step up for MU. We hope we're wrong, we really do..........but we think he's done (at least as the player he was earlier this season).

MSU and McNeal

The build-up to Thursdays' opening round game against Michigan State will reach a fever pitch soon. Two storylines will dominate the week: Izzo/Crean, and McNeal's injury. The mentor v mentee storyline will be old quickly, but we'll hear the ins and outs of that all week. Then there's McNeal - will he or won't he play.

Great stat for this matchup: MSU is in the NCAA tourney for the 10th straight year -- the second-longest streak in Big 10 history. Impressive.

Tipoff on Thursday night is scheduled for 6:20pm CDT. Dick Enberg and Jay Bilas will broadcast the game for CBS Sports. GoMarquette.com has the details.

Anyway, a few media updates:

"I'm not holding out great hope," said Crean. "Would we love it? Would he love it? No question about it. Are we going to go into the week planning on having him? Probably not. But we'll just wait and see how it turns out, see what goes on with him. We'd love to have him but it's not there yet."
"It's never fun to play against some of your best friends, and I've had to do that on more than a couple of occasions," Izzo said. "It'll be weird ... you know, there aren't many secrets. Not only do we have 20 tapes on each other, we kind of know each other's programs."

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Selection Committee Hoses MU

What a crock. MU gets in as an 8 seed in the East Region. WTF? This is an absolute joke.

MU's 'reward' for a 24-win season (including a 10-win conference season while playing the Big East's second-toughest intra-league schedule)? ........a Thursday game in Winston-Salem against #9 seed Michigan State (who also deserved a higher seed). Mentor vs. Mentee, how cute. The winner gets UNC.

Its been said that the selection committee factored in unbalanced conference schedules in choosing Texas Tech over K-State - - but they must not have considered it with Marquette. Imagine if MU was 26-7 (12-4) because the team had beaten St. John's and Cincy instead of losing on the road to G'town and ND. MU was a victim of the unbalanced schedule.

A few cases in point:

  • ND as a #6 seed? I guess conference road wins don't matter (unless you beat RU and Cincy like the Irish did -- their only road wins in Big East play and part of their 13th ranked Big East intra-league schedule. The Irish lost at SJU, btw. And don't forget the Irish played 10 teams north of 200 in the RPI. 10! MU played 5 such opponents).
  • Duke as a #6 seed? 4-6 in their last 10, one and done in the ACC tourney. Get Vitale off of the committee.
  • Vandy as a #6 seed in MU's region? They have fewer road/neutral wins and a lower RPI. Losing to Furman and Appalachian State must not matter. The Commodores are the most over-seeded team in the field.
  • Boston College, I mean Betting Central, as the #7 seed in MU's region? Again, a team with a lower RPI than MU and fewer road/neutral wins.
  • Indiana as a #7 seed? The Hoosiers have a worse RPI, fewer top 100 wins, twice as many road losses as wins, and were 5-5 in their last 10 (like MU). How on earth is IU a #7 seed?

With this appearance, coach Tom Crean has taken MU to the Big Dance in four of the last six seasons including the last two in row. Congratulations. Too bad the committee felt like going Ned Beatty on MU and the Big East though.

The Big East sent six teams to the tournmaent. MU is joined by Georgetown (#2), Louisville (#6), Pitt (#3), Villanova (#9 seed), and Notre Dame (#6 seed). Everyone of these teams (sans ND) have a legitimate complaint about their seed.......the selection committee's Big Ten (Purdue a #9!) and ACC (Duke #6) bias is sickening.

Can anybody guess which league did not have an AD on the selection committee?

Inexplicably, Syracuse was left out. The 'Cuse won 10 games in the Big East and one game in their conference tourney.

Again, what a joke. Tranghese --- DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN AGAIN.

Folks are venting, check this out

***keep it here on Cracked Sidewalks for wall-to-wall updates on MU's tourney journey.

Quick thoughts on the BET final

Courtesy of Ray Floriani of Hoopsville.net and Basketball Times:

The Big East final reminded us of the old coaching cliche’, the late Al McGuire (if he didn’t coin) used many an occasion, ‘you can’t teach height’. Simply, 7’2 Roy Hibbert of Georgetown was too much. All season the media (yours truly included) and other observers wondered when Hibbert would, or could, get aggressive inside. The criticism was the lack of touches or take-charge stance in setting up down low. A look at Geogetown’s stats show Hibbert averaged just over 13 ppg. He took 15% of the Hoya shots. Jeff Green, a wise option, led the club entering tournament play with 24% of the Hoya FGA.

Against ND Hibbert had 6 points on 3 of 4 shooting. 'Should be a better presence on the blocks', was the assessment of Hibbert, forgetting the Irish packed the 2-3 zone and John Thompson III is not one to force things on offense.

Hibbert scored 18 points, pulled down 11 boards and dominated Pitt’s Aaron Gray ( 3 pts 5 rebounds) who didn’t get a field goal until just under eleven minutes were left. It was classic inside -out. Hibbert established down low. When Pitt was making a challenge and had the deficit to 13 with 12 to play, Jon Wallace buried two treys. Game, set, match. Classic inside-out.
Over those last dozen minutes Pitt managed three field goals. Classic Hoya defense. In fact it was a classic night for Georgetown who earned their first Big East Tournament title since 1989. They did it the same was as days of old, a dominant big man and outstanding defense.

GU 65 eff 114
Pitt 42 eff 74
(57 possession game)

Ray, thanks very much!

Big East Tournament Pool..."THE BALLS"

Congratulations to "The Balls" for winning this year's Cracked Sidewalks Big East Tournament Pool.

He correctly picked every game in the tournament and won on the tiebreaker by selecting 122 total points for the final.

Here are your top ten

1) The Balls
2) Tamiz
3) mghoya
5) Schererdog
6) Kruckster
7) LocoKP
8) Dan'l B
9) Murph
10) NY Warrior (our very own from Cracked Sidewalks)

All of you can check your final standings by clicking on the link below the Big East Flag.

Thank you to the 426 that signed up this year. Let's all home for a all Big East Final Four in the NCAA Tournament.

See you all next year.


Cracked Sidewalks Staff

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Quick notes for tonight's Big East final

Courtesy of Ray Floriani of Hoopsville.net and Basketball Times.

Quick notes heading into the finals. Three keys to the game

  • Gray must stay out of foul trouble. Jamie Dixon did a great job, sitting Aaron Gray down with two first half fouls and leaving him in after the third nine minutes into the second half. It was a gamble but Gray's a veteran and Dixon trusted his judgement. I do not feel Roy Hibbet can necessarily get Gray in foul trouble, but Jeff Green with Patrick Ewing Jr can.
  • Georgetown must locate shooters. Colin Falls and Russell Carter got great looks last night. For Pitt Antonio Graves is not bashful and can knock down the trey. Panthers also have a few other players (Mike Cook, Levance Fields to name a few) not afraid of launching from three so the Hoya defense has to be cognizant of the perimeter.
  • Rebounding. Pitt was out rebounded 44-32 by Louisville. That was related to Gray's foul trouble. It wasn't the only reason, though. Levon Kendall for instance at 6'10 had 6 boards, one less than the 5'10 Fields. Georgetown pounds the glass, Pitt needs a team effort.
The efficiency totals from last night:

GU: 84 efff 131
ND: 82 eff 128

PITT 65 eff 105
UL 59 eff 95

Eff based on points per possession with possessions based on: FGA + (FT * .475) - OR + TO

Back tomorrow with a wrap up.

Big East Pool Updated....6 still perfect

Sorry for the lateness in the update....too much partying last night in New York after two fantastic games at the Garden (didn't get in until after 3:00am). Tonight's final should be doozy.

There are six of you still with perfect records:

The Balls

Five of these six have Georgetown winning so we would go to a tiebreaker. Patman has Pitt winning...so if the Panthers pull it off, Patman would be champion.

The remaining 400+ of us are battling for spots all over the board. Check out the scenarios page to see what your best finish is and who you have to cheer for. Click on the link below the Big East Flag to find your results.

Best of luck

Cracked Sidewalks Team

Wonderful Al McGuire Retrospective

In case you missed it, Steve Yanda of the Marquette Tribune penned a wonderful retrospective on Al McGuire this week entitled, 'Walking away a winner'. Steve spoke with Bo Ellis, Jerome Whitehead, Bernard Toone and many others to shed light on Coach Al and his decision to retire back in 1977. Check this out:

The night before McGuire's retirement announcement, Jerome Whitehead had a dream.

In the dream, McGuire announced that he would not leave the team, but Whitehead, then a junior center, knew better.

"I knew it was the opposite," Whitehead said. "I knew it was his way of saying, 'I'm leaving.' "

Nice job, Steve. Read it all right here.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Marquette chicks know hoops

This is great....Ray Floriani, a freelance basketball writer who often reports for Basketball Times and on Hoopville.net, penned a quick review of the opening night of the Big East. As you'll see, Ray gives fans 'pop quizes' on their basketball knowledge. Let's just say MU passed with flying colors while others failed miserably:

Marquette cheerleaders and dance teams know their school's history. Several recent DePaul grads I spoke with had no idea who George Mikan was. When I asked sophomore Biana Pallotto who Al McGuire was, the Marquette cheerleader replied, "He was a legend. His name is on our court and he put Marquette basketball on the map." That reply was "top shelf" as the late McGuire would say.
Ray will be at MSG tonight covering the Big East semis....look for coverage on Hoopville.net.

Try, try again

Apologies for the less-than-timely update on last night's loss.....back to back late nights with work sandwiched in between can get in the way of blogging (sadly).

Anyway, Pitt finally broke through and topped Marquette this season with a 89-79 win in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament. With the loss, MU falls to 24-9 on the season and now looks to Selection Sunday. According to the Bracket Project figures, MU could be slotted as a dreaded 5 seed. Gimme a 6, please, gimme a 6!

Back to the game. Aaron Gray dominated the lane last night ending up with 22 points and 10 boards (six on the offensive end). Honestly it felt like he scored 40 points last night-- MU had no answer for the assertive Pitt center.

Pitt's efficient offense extended beyond Gray's big night -- I'd love to see the shot chart for the Panthers. I'd guess that in the first half, 70%-80% of the Panthers points came from inside the lane (or at least from within 12 feet of the basket). Things didn't seem to change much in the second half as the Panthers displayed new-found aggressiveness in attacking the basket with just about every player on the floor. For the game, Pitt shot nearly 50% from the field -- and seemed to do just about anything they wanted to do offensively.

Despite the Panthers' effectiveness on offense, MU was able to stay within striking distance for most of the night. With the Panthers overplaying every James drive, MU's offensive rhythm was choppy at best but Dan Fitzgerald's hot hand, Lazar Hayward's soft touch, and Ousmane Barro's ability to finish kept the Golden Eagles in the mix for most of the night.

Everything was labored on offense for MU. With only one player who can drive and dish, Pitt overplayed James in the lane realizing that for any kick-out ,MU had no player who could take advantage of an opening and create a scoring opportunity off the dribble. Pitt was able to rotate and recover defensively on any James move to the basket. Save a few nice layups by Barro on DJ passes or a handful of curls from Hayward, Matthews and Fitz the Golden Eagles were unable to get the Panthers' defense on its heels. In short, MU missed McNeal a ton tonight on both ends of the floor.

MU was led by the sublime play of Dan Fitzgerald who had 20 points and four rebounds. Fitz is positively dialed in from deep, hitting 50% of his attempts from downtown (4-8). With McNeal sidelined, Fitz has clearly stepped up his game. Impressive.

James recovered from Wednesday night's lousy shooting performance to score 16 points on 5-for-12 from the floor, including 2-8 from deep. Still, in two Big East Tournament games, DJ was a disappointing 2-17 from three-point territory.

A few other Big East Tournament observations:

  • Pitt fans travel VERY WELL to MSG -- nice job by their fan base. I was proud of the MU contingent last night though -- the atmosphere at MSG was fantastic despite the long wait for the opening tip. While that WVU/Louisville game was an instant classic - it needed to end so that we could get to the main event.
  • Pitt fans....handled themselves well last night. In general, most Big East fan bases are respectful and smart. With one notable exception which I'll get to.
  • Cubillan is a nice player -- but he's not a PG. Still, MU has lacked an effective combo guard in past seasons......Cuby is a keeper.
  • Lazar Hayward's improvement since I last saw him in-person back in January is remarkable. The kid must be a very hard worker in practice.
  • First Novak, now Fitzgerald. If you were a big man with a terrific outside shot -- why go anywhere else?
  • James. Look, he's in a shooting slump but I think that his shot selection in the pair of games out here was pretty good. Absent McNeal, the game is much more difficult for DJ -- nobody else on the team can get to the rim off the dribble. He played another good floor game last night, particularly when he was able to find an open man in the lane.
  • Notre Dame fans are a$$holes. At least the three turds in my section. The classy Cuse fans in our section took so much abuse from a couple of Domer hoops 'diehards' -- what a joke. Act like you've been there before. Good luck to the 'Cuse next weekend.
  • Wesley Matthews is darn near a defensive liability. Heck, he is when the offensive player can put the ball on the floor -- something that surprised me here at MSG.
  • The Ville/WVU game was awesome.
  • MU Alumni Office and Blue and Gold Fund -- nice job this week!
  • MU fans -- we need more of you out here in NYC for this event. Keep it in mind for next year.
  • As noted in one of the comments below, folks in the crowd generally like Marquette. I noticed this last year too -- the atmosphere at MSG is positive. And its a great place to see a game.
much more to come.......