"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

Monday, March 03, 2008

Recapturing Momentum (plus numbers)

What do we have here (again)?

As NYWarrior eloquently pointed out in , "What do we have here?", it's true that Marquette is susceptible to bad matchups. His basic conclusion is that Marquette definitely has a ceiling, and that we are likely to face a first round loss unless the matchup is good. NYWarrior is absolutely right. After all, we are a team that is only 3-7 against top 50 teams. When it matters, we don't beat the good teams. There is legitimate concern that this team will not get it done in the NCAA.

What is causing even more consternation is that this is the most likely window for the team. With the loss of Barro, Fitz, and probably James, we'll lose our most experienced post player and one of the most important members of the team. The post play will be Burke and sophomores/freshmen, and our point guard options will be Acker/Cubillan and freshmen. Despite the return of Matthews/McNeal/Hayward, I fully expect some sort of downslide next year. Couple that with the mantra oft-repeated by Crean-haters of "zero wins without Wade", and the fear is that the team's best opportunity just isn't good enough and the trend of zero wins post-Wade will continue. No true Marquette fan wants that.

Meeting Expectations

I want just one win this year in the NCAA tournament. That is "meeting expectations". It's kind of a bitter pill, honestly, because I had hoped, when the Amigos were freshmen, of a potential Elite Eight / Final-Four type run this year. Now, Sweet Sixteen or beyond is "exceeds expectations". This team has potential and could be special, but let's start with just one win.

Recapturing the Momentum

Heading into the Georgetown game, NYWarrior and I agreed on the following. Excluding Florida Gulf Coast, Marquette needed to win two of the next three games for us to feel confident about the team. This meant beating either Georgetown or Syracuse and winning the first game in the Big East Tournament. The logic behind this statement is that failure to win two out of three would portend that the team was likely to suffer yet another late season fade and NCAA first round flameout.

The opportunity is still there for this team. It's just that the margin of error has been eliminated. Thankfully, the team has the ability to shake out the cobwebs against Florida Gulf Coast. Then, it's time for Marquette to go and step on the dreams of a team just fighting to make the NCAA tournament. Given the right matchups in the BET, MU could even make the semis and win a few games. But it all starts with winning the next two (really three) games and recapturing that momentum heading into the NCAA tournament.

Give Us a Reason to Believe

Here's the deal with the team. We're searching, hoping, and praying for a reason to believe in this team. On Saturday, in front of 19K rabid fans and a national audience, we screamed and we believed and got collectively kicked in the teeth. The team and the fans are heartbroken. Marquette was close to breaking through with a statement win but just fell short.

It's gut check time in Marquette-land.

Give us a reason to maintain that hope. Come out strong against Florida Gulf Coast. Win against Syracuse and we'll believe. The refrain of "We Are Marquette" will ring out loud and clear in Madison Square Garden and wherever we play in the NCAA tournament.

We'll believe that on the first day of the NCAA tournament, MU will meet expectations.

Onto the numbers (with no individual ratings today due to length)

Four Factors Review

Looking at the Four Factors shows something fairly interesting. Each team was able to utilize their strengths. Yet again, Marquette was able to keep their turnovers down and force their opponent into more turnovers than normal. However, Georgetown was able to win the effective Field Goal % battle, which ultimately made the difference. Remember that Georgetown is number one in the country at effective Field Goal defense and number eight in the country at effective Field Goal offense. Although Marquette won the Offensive Rebounding battle and Georgetown won the Free Throw Rate battle, the two percentages were close enough such that the result was a wash.

Of course, there was also another factor at play in the game...

The Fifth Factor

Just kidding, folks. After all, it's not like we've ever complained about officials, ever. Despite what seemed like lots of calls going in Georgetown's favor, Marquette had the opportunity to win and did not. A few more free throws and a non-foul by James and this is all moot.

Time to move on to Florida Gulf Coast and Senior Night. Let's recapture that momentum.


Anonymous said...

I really hope people turn out for the FGC game if for no other reason than to show support for the seniors. Despite the recent painful loss to Georgetown and whether or not people are particular fans of Barro, Fitzgerald, Blackledge and Brice, everyone should come to show appreciation for the blood, sweat, tears and time these kids have dedicated to representing Marquette.

The season may not unfold exactly as we'd like and we may not think certain players have performed as well as we'd like over their career, but no one can claim that they aren't working hard and accurately representing true "Warriors"!

Anonymous said...

Well said. These guys have battled for us and really created some great memories.

I hope this game gives them the chance to get some playing time and have some real fun.

Go Marquette!

rugbydrummer said...

i know it was a home game and all . . . but doesn't Georgetown normally allow much fewer points by their opponents? just trying to focus on the positives :)

Anonymous said...


So we are all "Crean haters" just because we point out the lack of correlation between his salary and the teams NCAA success? That's what bugs me about this site: anyone who dares to point out that TC is paid well above his success rate is deemed a hater.

Last time I checked I have 2 degrees from MU and 2 season tickets, but if I fail to drink my daily koolaid, then I'm a hater.

Jack 82

Anonymous said...

Jack, work on becoming the AD also.

Henry Sugar said...


Yet again you miss the point. There was no mention of Crean's salary anywhere in this post. There was no mention of anything about the criteria to be considered a Crean hater. There was no mention that everyone had to drink the Kool-aid.

The point was that this appears to be the best opportunity to win, and if the team does not, the trend of not winning will likely continue for several years.

In fact, my personal image of a Crean hater is an Illinois alum that reminds me all the time of how there are "zero wins without Wade".

Anonymous said...

henry, I think you miss the point. His statement was general about this blog site. Maybe not about this particular post, but the general feeling of you guys that write for it and your reaction to others comments. I have to agree with henry. There may not be a mention of having to drink the "kool-aid" to be a true marquette fan, but there are usually negative comments by those who run the site if you are not pro marquette all of the time. Look, I love marquette basketball, but I am generally a pesimistic fan, as most Marquette alum tend to be from chicago (given our sports teams pasts). Henry you give the tone like your a better fan than one like me. To be a good fan does not mean we have to fit into your definition of it.

Anonymous said...

Here it is the last week of the regular scheduled season and we are ranked 20/21. Out of some 400 division 1 schools. Not bad. Will we win a tournament game? I feel pretty confident. If we lose our tournament game should we rag about how much this team sucks and we need a new coach? In my opinion hell no. I am proud of what this team has done. We have been one of the other 380 teams and it sucks. Go root for DePaul if you want to be in that category. They can use you.

Anonymous said...

If Crean can't win the "big games" with fair consistency there is no doubt that he is overrated and overpaid when one considers other coaches. And that doesn't mean win ONE NCAA tournament game! However, if Father Wild feels this scenario is best for Marquette I'll accept it and continue to support Marquette. That doesn't mean I agree with it.

Anonymous said...

Keep smoking your pipe. There are probably 5 schools identified as elite. They have the history/tradition. For the rest of us we have to scratch, claw, and improvise to get to the top. Crean has been getting us to dance consistently.

Henry Sugar said...

I love it. We are now accused of being both overly negative AND too optimistic at Cracked Sidewalks.

The general tenor at this site will almost always be somewhat optimistic. That's just the kind of attitude that our bloggers have.

People are more than welcome to disagree with our opinions. We always want reasonable discussion. However, don't be surprised when we defend our point of view.

PS - I'm also a Chicago area sports fan, and yet I'm optimistic...

ultimatemaxim said...

It's actually zero Tourney wins without Robert Jackson. MU had a first round flameout against Tulsa in Wade's sophomore season.

jce said...

My pro-Crean comments have been mostly centered on the fact that he is clearly the best coach we have had since McGuire and that we should embrace that. I really don't care what he is paid - it's none of my business. (It's not as though they would be lower if he were making less.)

Anonymous said...


This should be the headline of every loss. It has been THE problem for years. Tom Crean teams do not perform well against the zone and if you go back and look at the losses... it is usually to teams that run a zone defense and run it well.

Hasn't anyone noticed that Pitino out coaches TC in every game for the last couple of years? What does UL do to MU every time they play them now? ZONE DEFENSE. Prove you can beat it or they are going to use it every game.

Are we all just too in love with a man that has brought us ONE deep tourney run. Open your eyes Warrior fans and see the team for what it is instead of being blind homers, and then calling anyone who disagrees a hater.

I love MU as much if not more than the next guy and cheer for them every game. As an alumni I had the chance to go to the N.O. final four run and it was great. But 'what have you done lately?' is a question that has to be asked. Face it, TC is a good coach that can build a program up, but he isn't a guy that can bring home banners. He lacks the X's and O's knowledge that some of his constituants posess.

Perhaps take a step back and be objective. I know some of you are going to throw stats me and say 'be objective'. Perhaps this is the take home message for those people.

Wins speak louder than stats.

Anonymous said...

I wish that there wasn't such a view of black and white about Crean. People who support Crean are "blind homers" and people who criticize Crean are "haters".

The polarizing rhetoric is inaccurate on both sides.

Crean has many flaws and has made many mistakes, and he also has the built the program up and it's still moving upwards.

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem is that many feel that TC salary should be correlated with his record as though we are purchasing program wins. When infact it is a simple business decision on the part of the school.

MU pays Crean so much because

1. we have to pay above market rates due to the size of our city and the fact that our coach does not have as good of alternative sources of income.

2. He is a consistent face to Alum (read donators).

3. He is filling the seats.

4. He is winning the games (read league contendor on a regular basis, not wins every game).

5. We are not under investigation.

6. The future appears bright - recruits are comming, unlike Deane era.

The absolute dollar value that the program has produced in terms of ticket sales and donations far exceeds the premium we are paying on his salary. Good decision. Period.

If you want a turnstyle of flavor of the month coaches who are willing to compromise the schools values in order to win and move on to a bigger school every 3 years, be my guest and route for DePaul.

I think the administration

Anonymous said...

Crean as I see it is not a good enough critic of himself ( improvements and changes have come very slow at best) plus his main supporters are guys outside of college coaching and finally the "Crean family" phrase is okay to a point. However it is the "Marquette family" which I feel he needs to do a better job of recognizing. Remember MU pays not only TC but his father in law, and for what? I'd love to see that job description. How many other Big East programs have hired the BB coach's father in law? Yikes!

Anonymous said...

I don't think we will ever hire the coach who has no short comings. Hence, if people want to criticize Crean, there is evidence he is not perfect. We have climbed quite a few rungs on the ladder with Crean. It be pretty easy to slip back to the lower tier of the conference without him. How easy? Look where Villanova and Syracuse are. What really differenciates us from DePaul? Not a heck of a lot. I think a lot of fans just don't get how competitive it is out there.

ultimatemaxim said...

***3. He is filling the seats.***

Except for the student section. Half the student body has Fanatic tickets and the section's barely half full on most nights.

mu_hilltopper said...

Last night, the Student section was officially demoted to the 19th best student section in the country.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a current student can help here.

What else is there to do during a game?

Are the students studying? Not interested in traveling downtown to the game? Is there some conflicting entertainment? Do they watch it on TV?

I ask this as a real question because it baffles me. Perhaps this could be a part of a student's behavioral science project?