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

Saturday, February 28, 2009

MU goes to Louisville....WWBD?

Lose a player who is 4th in the history of the program in steals, 3rd in scoring, 2nd in assists, and 1st in games played --how does a coach replace a guy like that for the stretch run? A player who started 127 of 128 career games and will finish among Marquette’s top-10 all-time performers in a total of 10 categories (and top-five in six of those areas).....how do you replace Dominic James?

? Yes, What Would Buzz Do?

Start Jimmy Butler and move Wesley Matthews to the point? Move Jerel McNeal to the point? Start Maurice Acker? Bring Acker in as first man off the bench? Hope for miracle minutes from Joseph Fulce or David Cubillan?

We'll find out at 11am on Sunday when Marquette (23-5, 12-3) hits the hardwood at Louisville on CBS. Louisville (22-5, 13-2) will welcome MU to Freedom Hall with a White Out and serious momentum after blowing out Georgetown 76-58.

Louisville, renowned for its pressure defense and strong home court advantage, are always a difficult match-up with their slew of athletic players. The Cardinals have won four in a row and are led by the productive triumvirate of Earl Clark (13 points and 8 rebounds), Terrence Williams (12.5 points, 8 boards, and a team-high 5 assists per game) and Samardo Samuels (12ppg and 5 boards).

For Buzz Williams the emergence of Jimmy Butler, who scored a career-high 12 points against UConn, appears to be Marquette's best hope for 'replacing' James down the stretch. Dividing point guard duties between Matthews and McNeal would allow Williams to keep the consistent Butler on the floor, and at 6'6" the sophomore would inject more height and length into the Warriors' vertically challenged lineup.

After playing seven empty minutes in MU's road win at Notre Dame, Butler emerged as a consistent contributor. During the last eight games the Pride of Tomball is averaging 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 72% from the field.

Marquette's only reliable bench player, Butler certainly understands his strengths-- he's attempted just one three-pointer in BIG EAST play. With a nose for the ball, his sinewy build and penchant for offensive rebounding send him to the free throw line regularly where he connects 76% of the time.

Also expect to see more minutes from Maurice Acker on Sunday morning. Acker filled in admirably on Wednesday night. With time to devise a game plan for Louisville sans James, expect Buzz Williams to find a productive role for Acker that won't compromise the team's overall defensive effort as it did against the Huskies.

Another key to the game will be Acker's ability to set up both Wesley Matthews and BIG EAST Player of the Year candidate Jerel McNeal. With James playing only four minutes against UConn, McNeal and Matthews missed a combined 25 shots -- a season-worst result for the Warriors' top scoring, yet typically efficient duo.

With three games left in the season, let's find out What Buzz Will Do.

Media Updates

Friday, February 27, 2009

James surgery successful!

Dominic James' surgery went successfully today according to team physician Ted Gertel.

Dominic was upbeat before surgery and thankful to his friends and fans for their concerns about him, Germayne James said: “He is in good spirits and looking forward to a speedy recovery.”

Spiking the Kool-Aid

ESPN The Magazine says, "Don't count Marquette out just yet". Check it out right here.

Despite this loss, we still think Marquette has reason for hope. For one, UConn played one of their best offensive games in the last two years, and A.J. Price simply shot out of his mind. Not every week will Marquette run into such an opponent, and come the Madness, wouldn't have to stop a performance like that until a Saturday or Monday in April. More, the Marquette backcourt is still dynamic.

Need more Kool-Aid? Here's a nifty feature on McNeal and Acker.........backcourt mates since the 5th grade (more or less).

Need more? Signee Dwight Buycks scored 22 points leading his JUCO to a playoff victory.

2009 recruiting target Darius Smith was named first-team all public league in Chicago.

Luke Winn of CNNSI still has MU in his top 16
. And he's a fan of Steve Rushin. Thanks, Luke

Smiles all around.

Oh......and Dominic James is having surgery today. All the best for a speedy recovery, DJ.


Andy Katz' latest podcast evaluates the impact of Dominic's injury on MU -- find the latest from Andy right here.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Video: Buzz's UConn Press Conference

Thanks to MUTVSports.com for providing footage:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Reflections on a rival

Still too numb to post anything new.........but please check out the fine post over at Card Chronicle on DJ's injury, the rivalry, and senior players in general. Nicely done.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Marquette Suffers Two Heartbreaking Losses

I don't know what to say here.

I'm not sure the Bradley Center has ever been louder.

And ever been more sad, as news quietly spread from person to person, that Dominic James career was likely over. The guys at MUScoop are chiming in with their favorite DJ memory - -check it out.

The mood could best be described as manic, as Marquette endured UConn's runs, but fought back time and time again, without #1 on the court. Marquette had a fleeting 1 point lead with 7 minutes to go, but UConn, and specifically AJ Price, proved too tough.

When the clock wound down, the sadness was palpable, as fans realized they'd seen the last of James on the court, what that means to him and his family, the team, and the immediate future.

Fate has been so cruel to Marquette at the end of the past few seasons. Travis Diener, Jerel McNeal, now Dominic James, cut down before they could complete the year -- likely aborting a chance at a deep run in March once more.

"We had a small margin of error all year and now that's completely gone," (Buzz) Williams said. "We have to play perfect."

MU falls to UConn, James breaks foot and is out for season

AJ Price poured in 36 points leading the UConn Huskies to a 93-82 win over Marquette tonight in Milwaukee.

Of course the real story is Dominic James. Four minutes into the game, the 5'11" senior suffered a broken bone in his left foot on a non-contact play and is out for the season. The injury will require surgery. What a shame for the kid. What a shame for his teammates. Truly heartbreaking. Folks are crushed.

Despite the loss of James, the Warriors put up quite a fight against the Huskies, leading 75-74 with 6:35 remaining before running out of gas. Jerel McNeal led MU with 26 points. Wesley Matthews had 20.

Now for the second time in three years, Marquette will head into March Madness down one of its best players. On a team that was executing at such a high level despite a thin rotation, the loss of a key contributor will be devastating.


ESPN Recap
Box Score

UConn Rolls Into Milwaukee

In one of its biggest regular season home games in years, Marquette (23-4, 12-2) will look to deliver an emphatic statement to the BIG EAST on Wednesday night when UConn pays a visit to the Bradley Center.

Already with four seasons of at least 10 wins in BIG EAST play, the Three Amigos have another milestone in sight: a conference title. With 43 career conference wins to date, James, Matthews and McNeal have put MU in position to claim that elusive crown. Of course, MU now faces its toughest stretch of the season -- each of the next three opponents are ranked in the top 10, and two of those three are on the road.

Against the backdrop of Marquette's first-ever midweek sellout at the Bradley Center the storylines here are both obvious and compelling:

  • Two top 10 teams fighting for the BIG EAST title.
  • A ginormous team against a bunch of mites.
  • A home team with a 17 game winning streak against an opponent who is 9-0 on the road this year.
  • The conference's highest scoring team (MU) faces the best defensive team in the league.
It all adds up to what should be an electric environment on 4th and State.

Last time out the previously top-ranked Huskies (25-2, 13-2) buried USF in Hartford 64-50. UConn is led by its bruising frontcourt where Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun has the BIG EAST's only teammates averaging double-doubles. 7'3" Hasheem Thabeet averages 13 points, 10 boards and 4.4 blocks per game while power forward Jeff Adrien is good for 13 points, 10 boards and one block per night.

While the Huskies have arguably the most intimidating front line in the nation, the loss of shoooting guard Jerome Dyson and his 13 points per outing could play right into Marquette's hands. AJ Price (12 points, 4.5 assists) runs the show for the Huskies, and they must now rely on senior Craig Austrie and freshman Kemba Walker to control the action against MU.

Tipoff is scheduled for 6pm Milwaukee time on ESPN. Dick Vitale will be in the house, so it's a great time to mute your television and use your DVR to sync with Homer and Jim McIlvaine on the Marquette Radio Network for the play by play.

Now let's look at the numbers. As always, this information comes from Pomeroy's scouting report.

1. Defensive Field Goal percentage – Connecticut is #2 in the country at defensive eFG% (41.9%). They're #4 at preventing two-point baskets and #20 at preventing threes. A lot of this is because they are #4 in the country at blocking shots. They block shots on almost one in five possessions... think about that.
2. Winning the free throw battle - UConn is #1 in the country at defensive free throw rate. Opponents only have a FTA / FGA rate of 17.8%. Plus, they're #10 in the country at offensive free throw rate. They get to the line at a percentage of 46.7%. Don't expect Marquette to make more free throws than our opponent attempts on Wed.
3. Offensive ReboundingUConn is #13 in the country at offensive rebounding. They get 39.7% of all missed field goals.
4. Protecting the ballUConn is #33 in the country at protecting the ball. They turn it over on only 18% of all possessions

1. Forcing turnoversUConn only forces a turnover on 17.4% of all possessions (#324 in the country)
2. Nothing else

UConn is good at a lot of things. So how does Marquette beat them tomorrow night? Here are specific recommendations in order of importance:
  1. Stop Connecticut from making shots -- hold the Huskies to an eFG% of 48% or less, which is just under their average. At an eFG% of 53% (28 FGM), UConn wins.
  2. Make shots -- at an eFG% of 44% or higher. This is 21 FGM, which is six less than MU's average. At their season average, MU wins by 15. In other words, don't let UConn's defense completely melt down MU's offense.
  3. Protect the ball -- at a turnover rate of 15% or less. This is ten turnovers for MU (two less than season's average). At thirteen turnovers, MU loses.
  4. Force turnovers -- force a UConn turnover rate of 27% or higher. This is six more turnovers than their season average. At their average, UConn wins by three.
  5. Prevent offensive rebounds -- hold UConn OR% of 38% or less. This is three more offensive rebounds than their average -- UConn is a great rebounding team.
  6. Get offensive rebounds -- ensure an MU OR% of 33% or higher. This is right around Marquette’s average
The Bottom Line
Pomeroy only predicts a 42% chance of MU victory. However, our model expects Marquette to win by four points (66% chance of victory). Why do we think Marquette will win? A significant advantage on turnovers and that’s it. UConn is predicted to control each of the other three factors: field goal percentage, offensive rebounding, and free throw rate. Whatever can be done to keep the disparity relatively close on field goal percentage will be critical.

The need to have a pronounced turnover discrepancy highlights why Dyson's absence is potentially huge. Coming into tonight's game, UConn's turnover margin is basically flat, whereas MU enjoys a +4 advantage on assists to turnovers.

The last fifteen minutes of the Georgetown game were a great example of how important forcing turnovers are for Buzz Williams' guys. By limiting GU's field goal attempts and possessions down the stretch, MU created more opportunities for itself and mitigated many of the other factors that were potentially less favorable. The same holds true tonight.

Must reads
In case you missed it, today's revealing New York Times feature story addresses Buzz Williams' focus on stats in game planning (among other interesting points).

Also, here's a fantastic feature in USA Today on Buzz......its a banner day for the MU athletic department's media relations team.

Media updates
**Tim and Rob collaborated on this post.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Videos: Dwight Burke & Team Academics



CBS Blog Poll, Week 3

After a one week hiatus I jumped back into the CBS Blog Poll hoping to make a splash -- and I did, being named the Coulter/Kos Award winner (read: I'm a biased homer). Here's the full poll results and analysis.

More on the Coulter/Kos Award after a look at my weekly ballot (which was posted late in deference to Steve's essay).

1 Pittsburgh
2 Connecticut
3 Oklahoma
4 Louisville
5 Memphis
6 North Carolina
7 Missouri
8 Marquette
9 Duke
10 Wake Forest
11 Villanova
12 Arizona St.
13 Michigan St.
14 Clemson
15 Kansas
16 Dayton
17 Gonzaga
19 Washington
20 Louisiana St.
21 Purdue
22 Texas
23 Butler
24 St. Mary's
25 West Virginia

  • MU at #8 based on the Warriors' strong road record, 12-2 overall in BE.
  • Xavier is out of the top 25 for now -- the Flyers look like the class of the A-10.
  • Trent Johnson at LSU is giving Buzz Williams a run for his money for the title of "winningest new coach" this season
  • I still think Purdue will out-perform their ranking in March.
  • Illinois sucks and will never be ranked again (by me) this season. 33 points at home?
  • Mizzou wins 10 of 11 -- I can't ignore them anymore.
  • Still have doubts about Memphis -- CUSA is horrible.
On the Coulter/Kos Award:

"You can't fault Marquette blog Cracked Sidewalks too much for voting their beloved Golden Eagles eighth , not when several other bloggers had them just as high or higher and MU is--after all--23-4 overall, 12-2 in the Big East, and coming off of an impressive road win over a truly desperate Georgetown squad. Nonetheless, eighth is enough to hand Cracked Sidewalks this week's CK Award, and fair or not it probably wasn't the best week to tempt karma: Marquette has a home date with UConn and a trip to Louisville on tap between now and next week's poll."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Untucked, a guest essay from Steve Rushin

Most of you know Steve Rushin for his inspired work at Sports Illustrated where his "Air and Space" column was required reading for nearly 20 years. One of his most memorable SI columns was his take on the Warriors' run to the 2003 Final Four.

Steve remains a prolific writer and dedicated Marquette hoops fan. As the team enters the home stretch of the season Steve was gracious enough to author a personal reflection on the basketball program for Cracked Sidewalks, a gem we'll call "Untucked." Steve, thanks very much.


As Catholic school kids in the 1970s, my buddy Mike and I passed the time in class sketching basketball uniforms to replace the ones our 7th-grade team was forced to wear – the ones with "B.V.M." sewn across the front, the monogram of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Mike's dad had gone to Marquette and the dream jerseys we drew up were always some variation on the Warriors': Untucked and untuckable, the way we wanted to wear our uniforms – school and basketball uniforms – at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Though mine was a hockey family, I was influenced by those '77 Warriors in ways I wouldn't realize until later. Al McGuire seemed to have, even for that era, an extraordinary number of buttons on his vest and suit jacket. And then there was that poster from '77, of all those Warriors in pastel prom tuxes spilling out of a Packard convertible. To a 10-year-old, those tuxes said, "You've arrived." Precisely where you had arrived dressed like that – eleven men piling out of a single clown car – was a question I hadn't yet entertained.

In 1983, when my Dad was driving home from 3M headquarters in St. Paul, he heard on Sid Hartman's radio show that a local high school sports star – Tom Copa of Coon Rapids, Minnesota – had signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Marquette.

"You should apply to Marquette," my Dad said. I thought of basketball warm-up pants and tuxedo ruffles and nine-button suits, and I instantly agreed with him. I had never been to Milwaukee.

Only then did I begin to follow Marquette basketball. From this remove, a quarter-century later, those days are a blur of hairdos. In 1984, when I arrived on campus – not in a Packard convertible, alas, but in the back of my Dad's Buick Regal – Marquette basketball was in transition. The magnificent jheri curls of Terry Reason were yielding to the eventual flat-top of Tom Copa.

There's a famous episode of "The Simpsons" in which Grandpa Abe is watching Super Bowl III: The flowing locks of Joe Namath are about to vanquish the buzz-cut of Johnny Unitas, both in the game and in the culture at large.

"Johnny Unitas," says Grandpa Abe, middle-aged and out of touch. "Now there's a haircut you can set your watch to."

Twenty-five years ago, Marquette basketball was going precisely the opposite way – the bohemian, Samsonian locks of Reason making way for the regimental 'dos of Copa & Co. Players tucked in their jerseys. Rick Majerus, of all people, wore a blazer and tie. The MU sports information department couldn't find room in its budget for luxury automobiles or large-scale tuxedo rentals. And the Warriors suffered for these sins.

It was no coincidence that Notre Dame beat us eight times in four years, led by a point guard – David Rivers – whose listed six feet of height included a full four inches of 'fro. Style matters.

And so to me, it wasn't Dwyane Wade or Tom Crean who ultimately signaled the return of Marquette basketball. To me, it was the introduction of the powder blue uniforms that said Marquette had arrived again. Arrived in a metaphorical Packard, wearing a lime-green tuxedo.

My daughter was three last spring when I bought her one of those jerseys. It remains way too big, so she wears it like a dress.

Which is to say, untucked.


Steve Rushin graduated from Marquette University in 1988 and promptly joined the staff of Sports Illustrated, where he was a writer for 19 years. Among his many accolades, Rushin was named the National Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association in 2006. Rushin also delivered the commencement address at Marquette University in 2007. For more information please visit SteveRushin.com.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Best case: Win the next 3 and MU wins Big East title, Worst Case 5th place

I was just looking back at some of the preseason magazines that had MU finishing 7th in the conference this year, and who would have thought that as of February 22 we could make the following two statements?:

1. If MU wins its next three games, it would lock up the Big East regular season title no what happens in any other game
2. After Nova’s win over Syracuse, the worst case scenario would now be a 5th place finish in the Big East.

Not that any of this has stopped the skeptics. Yesterday www.kenpom.com predicted Georgetown by 5, and Las Vegas predicted Georgetown by 2 ½, but when asked after the game which Big East team could make an NCAA run, ESPN's Adrian Branch said Marquette, admitting he had underestimated them before watching the Georgetown game.

Everyone has underestimated this team all year, and now the only question is, “BY HOW MUCH did everyone underestimate the team that now has three projected NBA draft picks and has beaten more ranked teams than anyone but UConn?”

ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb has been the harshest, calling MU the most overrated team in the US when we hit #8 in the polls, a statement that yesterday he only offered to recant if MU went 4-1 during this final gauntlet. I pointed out to him on a comment on his blog that this means he is saying MU would have to win two of three against teams ranked HIGHER THAN THE 8th RANKED SPOT he says we don’t deserve (expect Monday’s rankings to show UConn at #2, Louisville at #6 and Pitt at #1). If MU were the 8th best team in the land they would not be expected to beat MOST of the teams ranked HIGHER THAN 8th, particularly with two of three games on the road. I’m hoping Gottlieb will concede that winning one of these three games would prove MU belonged in the Top 8 nationally and would thus deserve a No. 2 seed for the Big Dance.

Now that MU is down to a 5-team race in the Big East, here are the records that www.kenpom.com projects in Big East play, along with the percent chance each team has of winning each game:

1. Pitt 15-3 (at Pr 84%, at SH 84%, MU 83%, UConn 66% - wins tie-breaker with UConn due to projected sweep)
2. UConn 15-3 (at MU 57%, ND 88%, at Pitt 34%)
3. Louisville 14-4 (at Gtown 43%, MU 75%, SH 92%, at WV 31% - wins tie-breaker with projected home win against MU)
4. MARQUETTE 14-4 (UConn 43%, at Lville 25%, at Pitt 17%, Syr 74%)
5. Villanova 13-5 (at DeP 93%, Gtown 65%, at ND 46%, Prov 89%)

In short, we are about to start a run that would be every bit as tough as an Elite 8 run. At first glance, the percentages don’t look good, but under the category of “the other team has problems too” I think MU has a shot at all three games:

Can UConn handle MUs pressure now that Dyson is gone? Obviously we have a problem if Hasheem Thabeet and the tallest team in the country get the ball three feet from the basket, but the Three Amigos have overcome huge height disadvantageous in two of three matchups against UConn the past three years by pressuring opposing guards and with Dyson gone, MU can win this game 25 feet from the basket.

Can Louisville stop MU by packing under the basket to prevent drives and conceding the 3-point shot like last year? I don’t think so. Last year Wes, Jerel and Lazar combined for only 7.8 three-point attempts a game and hit 36% of them. This year the trio is putting up 11.5 per game and hitting 41% of them even from the deeper arc.

Will Pitt’s slow pace play into MUs hands? Four of the top 12 teams in the Big East play at a slow pace – 66.7 possessions per game or less. So far MU has EXCELLED in every game against one of these slow-paced teams. MU has actually SLOWED the pace even further against these teams (Cincy, Gtown twice & WVU). The results? Only 63 possessions per game for a 4-0 record with an average win of 83-64! Pitt is the last team MU plays at this pace, and Pitt rarely forces turnovers while MU rarely gives it up.

So MU really does have a great chance to make some more history. MU is 3-23 all-time against Top 3 teams, so this is a great chance to add a 4th or even 5th win against Top 3 teams in the closing days of the season. And unlike the tourney, we have nothing to lose. If MU falls short in any or all of these potentially historic games, they will live to battle another day.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Warriors Start Final Five with W @Georgetown

After the game, Buzz Williams said "We went 11-2 in the first 13 games of the Big East. Every week, 25% of the questions people ask me is 'yeah, but what are you going to do those last 5 games?'"

Williams' Warriors answered that question: Start off with a win. On the road. When no one thought they could sweep Georgetown.

Marquette started the brutal 5 game stretch today by beating the Hoyas 78-72 on the road. Senior leadership proved too much for the Hoyas, with Wes Matthews pouring in 23 and Jerel McNeal following closely with 22 and 7 assists.

Lazar had an amazing double-double, 11 rebounds, 17 points and Jimmy Butler snagged 6 crucial rebounds, plus 8 points. All of them could have been considered for MVP of the game, with their contributions.

The game was a see-saw battle through the first 32 minutes. The final 8, Marquette slowly outlasted Georgetown, playing tight defense, nurturing a 2 point lead into a 4 point lead, into a 6 point lead, outscoring GTown 17-10 over the final stretch, not counting an uncontested 3 as time expired and the game decided.

Georgetown sinks to 5-9 in the Big East, their NCAA chances slipping away, despite their schedule, which is the 3rd toughest in the country. One could see them winning the NIT with their talent, unless they go on a serious run in the BET.

Marquette is now 12-2 in Big East play, with 4 games to play. They will fly home tonight, if the Milwaukee airport stays open after 8" of snow and will take on #1 Connecticut on Wednesday at the sold out Bradley Center.

Short AP Recap
AP Photos

Friday, February 20, 2009

Marquette Travels to Georgetown for Mirror Game

The pursuit of Marquette's (slim chances) of a first-ever BIG EAST title continues on Saturday afternoon when the Golden Eagles (22-4, 11-2) travel to Washington, D.C. to take on the Georgetown Hoyas (14-10, 5-8). Much has been made of The Gauntlet that MU faces during the final two weeks of the regular season, and while the Hoyas are the only one of the final five opponents not ranked, John Thompson's squad is playing better of late.

After enduring back-to-back overtime losses at the hands of Syracuse and Cincinnati, the hard-luck Hoyas embarrassed USF in Tampa earlier in the week, 65-40. With a bounce-back win in hand, the Hoyas will surely ride a wave of emotion on Saturday as they'll celebrate the 25th anniversary of its national title by welcoming back the members of that dominant squad.

In the teams' first meeting of the season, MU ran away with a convincing 92-84 victory. Marquette was able to overcome a gallant effort from the Hoyas' DaJuan Summers (22 points, 7 rebounds) thanks to a Herculean performance by Jerel McNeal and a huge disparity in free throws (Marquette made 30 freebies while Georgetown attempted just 8).

Life on the road figures to be much tougher for Marquette, though the Hoyas have lost three BIG EAST conference games at home so far this year. DaJuan Summers leads the Georgetown in scoring at 14 points per game, while freshman big man Greg Monroe adds 13 points and 7 rebounds. Sophomore point guard Chris Wright also scores 13 per game and is averaging 21 points in the last two outings.

Game time is 1 pm CT on ESPN. This is Marquette's ninth national TV broadcast of the season. By the way, the three games after this are all national broadcasts too.

Strengths and Weaknesses
Not a lot has changed since our first preview of the Georgetown game, although the Hoyas are shooting better from behind the arc. Check out out Pomeroy's scouting report for the most up-to-date info. What has changed, however, are the statistics recommendations.

Specific Statistics Recommendations (In order of importance)
1. Stop Georgetown from making shots (eFG% of 55% or less) - this is 24 FGM (including six threes), which is right at their average
2. Protect the ball (turnover rate of 15% or less), which translates to ten turnovers, or two less than average
3. Get offensive rebounds (OR% of 22% or higher), which is 8 offensive rebounds (three less than season average)
4. Prevent offensive rebounds (GU OR% of 29% or less)... this is one less offensive rebound than their average
5. Force turnovers (GU turnover rate of 21% or higher), which is right at their season average
6. Make shots (eFG% of 55.7% or higher)

Model conclusion (Bottom line)
Pomeroy thinks we're going to lose (28% chance of victory). However, my predictions give us a 63% chance of victory and three point margin. Let's see who's right this time, because this is the most winnable road game Marquette has left on the schedule. The model predicts that Marquette will have an advantage on turnovers and field goals, but lose on offensive rebounds and free throw rate. The game is predicted to be an offensive game, with Marquette around season average, but defense worse than average.

Media Updates

joint post from Rob and Tim

Predicting the Rest of the Season

I wanted to take a look at the predictions for the rest of the season.

First question - with every team having at least two losses, how many wins will take home the BE championship?

Looking over here on the right, we can see that the most likely scenario (54%) is that 15 wins will be the best record at the end of the season. There's a 32% chance that one team will win out and have the best record, and a slim chance that every team beats each other up for 14 wins.

16 wins for Marquette is a pipe dream (2%). 15 wins is a slim possibility (15%), and 14 wins is about a 50/50 shot. Although Marquette may have had a chance at these types of wins before, it's not very likely now.

Second question - how does Marquette stack up against the other top teams in the BE?

Okay, it's a bit of an eye chart, but here's the information.

  • Pitt - The most likely scenario for both Pitt and UConn is that they finish with fifteen wins, followed closely by fourteen wins. However, Pitt has more chances of getting to sixteen wins.
  • UConn - While Pitt may have the most upside, UConn has the best chance of getting to fourteen wins or more. Their most likely scenario is also fifteen wins, although fourteen wins happens almost as much.
  • Louisville - Louisville's most likely view is that they'll finish with fourteen wins. They have a good chance of getting to fifteen wins as well, but their second most likely view is finishing with thirteen wins.
  • Marquette - As mentioned, Marquette's most likely views are either 13 wins or 14 wins, with the chances of either being about 50/50.
Net predictions - There's a lot of variability here, but if I were to predict the final standings, here's where I see things shaking out.
  1. Pitt - the most favorable schedule
  2. UConn - solidly at number two or better
  3. Louisville - wildcard, but they have some tough games coming up
  4. Marquette - see: schedule, brutal
Third question - If Marquette's chances of finishing better than fourth are slim, how solid are the odds of finishing with the Bye-Bye?

For this, I looked at the predictions for Marquette versus Villanova. Villanova's most likely view is that they finish with 12 wins, followed by 13 wins. In other words, Villanova's upside of 13 wins is less likely than MU's downside of 13 wins.

When we consider Pitt, UConn, and UL in the mix, what are the odds of finishing with the worst record in the group? According to my calculations, Villanova has an 85% of having the worst record (missing the Bye-Bye). Marquette is next, with a 25% chance, followed by UL (18%). (Teams can tie for the worst record). Pitt and UConn are both less than 5%. There's still a one in four shot MU misses out, but that's not nearly as high as for Villanova.

  • In conclusion, it's looking like 15 wins (or even 16 wins) will be required to win the BE
  • Marquette has only slim odds of getting to that level, or finishing ahead of Pitt, UConn, or UL
  • However, things look solid for getting the Bye-Bye
Obviously, everything starts with playing well this weekend. However, this all leads to one final question... What NCAA seed do you think Marquette would get from finishing fourth in the BE?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Checking in with Max Ivany, Texas Recruiting Expert

When the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first published the story of Monterale Clark's commitment on February 4th, most people were shocked at the news. Most people that is, except for the readers of Max Ivany's Texas Basketball Inc. blog where the story originated a day earlier. It may seem a little strange that the story about a Marquette commitment would be broken on a blog about Texas High School basketball, but it's only strange until you find out a bit more about Max Ivany.

For starters, Max is better known to those in the recruiting world as Coach Max for his role as the founder of the Texas D-1 Ambassadors, one of the most successful AAU programs in the country. Coach Max is also the founder of Texas Basketball Inc. a service that specializes in helping talented but unknown players in Texas and Louisiana get noticed by college coaches in the hopes of getting them a scholarship. Further, Coach Max is also a long time friend of Buzz Williams going back to his days at Colorado State.

In short, Coach Max Ivany is one of the most knowledgeable and most well connected people in the business when it comes to Texas recruiting. Who better to give Cracked Sidewalks readers some insight into Buzz and the great state of Texas? We chatted with Coach Max to get his thoughts on Buzz, Junior Cadougan, Erik Williams, and Marquette's future in Texas.


Coach, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Before we go any further, can you give us a little background on what you do and what Texas Basketball Inc. is all about for our readers that may not follow recruiting that closely?

Texas Basketball Inc. has become an all encompassing one stop place for serious young basketball players to go to for information and opportunities. The mission, quite simply has evolved into "giving basketball in Texas & Louisiana, but specifically in the Central Texas/San Antonio area as much positive publicity as possible to continue to grow the sport". Don't forget that we're football heavy here in terms of the resources being allocated. However, according to most college coaches not only is Texas the most fertile recruiting grounds for ballers in the country, but the CenTex/San Antonio area may be the most under recruited. So, we're trying hard to change that. Our services range from player evaluation, development, travel teams, uniforms, tournaments, and publicity for the kids. We've recently added audio & video streaming capabilities for high school & club games which will continue to put the kids on the map.

You are also the man behind Texas D-1 Ambassadors, one of the top AAU teams in the country. Tell us a little bit about that and who are some players the casual fan might have heard of that have been involved with your program?

The Texas D-1 Ambassadors was the foundation for what has now become Texas Basketball Inc. I appreciate your kind words about the quality of the program. We do it without "shoe money" even though we consistently beat many of those teams. The character and academics of the players are in line with their basketball abilities as well. One does no good, without the other.

Our first graduating class was 2006 with all the players heading to Division 1. They got their first national notoriety on center court in Las Vegas when we were supposed to be sacrificial lambs for the Portland Legends who amongst others had Kevin Love & Kyle Singler. At halftime we led them by 23 points with a packed house of who's who in college coaching. That's when the Ambassadors attained national respect. We've followed that up with multiple teams and now close to 100 players who are either playing at the college level or have committed to do so.

We've had some wonderful guards come through including Bryan Beasley at Rice, Jason Ebie at TCU and Garland Judkins who is at Arizona. However, I'd challenge anyone to match our 5 year run on big men. 2006 6'10" Brandon Webster (Fresno State), 2007 6'8" Carleton Scott (Notre Dame), 2007 6'8" A.J. Hardeman (New Mexico), 2009 6'9" Cory Jefferson (Baylor signee), and 2009 6'10" John Henson (North Carolina) who was recently selected to the Jordan Brand Classic.

We'll follow that up this year with 2010 6'9" Daniel Alexander (offered by Marquette and a slew of others) as well as 2011 6'7" Tre Drye who is the #1 player in Louisiana in that class and 6'6" Mark Nwakamma who is projected to grow to 6'10".

Looking at your blog, one can't help noticing the picture of you shaking hands with Buzz Williams(above left). How long have you two known each other and how did you first meet?

Buzz holds a special place in my heart. In the spring of 2002 when my first group of guys, including my son were freshmen we had just finished waxing the Southern Cal All Stars in the Vegas Easter Classic. On our way out of the gym this guy sticks his business card in my hand as I was walking by. At the time it was the first D-1 coach we'd ever thought were interested in our players. Myself and my sidekick Coach Beasley went back to the hotel room and were so excited I jumped up and down on the bed. (Keep in mind that I was 43 years old at the time...wow, I'm embarrassed...lol) Sure enough Buzz followed up a few days later. It was the beginning of a nice friendship.

On your blog, you've described Buzz as "one of the hardest working coaches in the country" and "a relentless professional recruiter", what in particular leads to those kind of statements?

Like every profession, you have some guys who punch a clock and then you have guys who work until the job is done. That's Buzz. He's relentless. I remember one time when he was at Texas A&M I mentioned some obscure player that I'd gotten a tip on that lived in some isolated Louisiana town. I mentioned it casually to Buzz. The next day I got a 3AM phone call form Buzz waking me and cussing me out that he was driving 6 hours to see if this guy was a prospect. Turns out he was Southland Conference caliber. No stone unturned...lol.

Recruiting is a high pressure business. You're putting your future in the hands of 17-20 year old kids. This causes a lot of the D-1 guys to blow smoke to the kids to close the deal. I have never known Buzz to do this. He's honest to a fault, and he believes in cultivating long term relationship and not just living in the moment. As a man who raised his own son solo I've got to say that the coolest thing about Buzz is that he's done all the above while being dedicated to his family. That's a juggling act that's hard to pull off.

How would you describe Buzz's recruiting style, and do you think that style has changed as he moved to different schools?

I think Buzz would recruit the same way if he was at D-3. He is going to give 100% effort, being completely organized and developing relationships at all times. The people working for him are all class guys too. In fact, the bios of his assistants are impressive in and of themselves including Scott Monarch who is the White Tiger of basketball. He was the first white boy to play at Mississippi Valley State, in the traditionally Black SWAC.

In your experience, when Buzz first starts recruiting a player, what would you say he's looking for? Is it simply skillset and athletic ability? Is it an ability to play a specific position or in a specific system? What about things like a player's basketball IQ or competitiveness, how much do they factor in to whether Buzz will or won't recruit a particular player?

I think the first thing Buzz looks for is a kid's character, integrity, willingness to be coached, his capacity for hard work and a burning desire to be a winner.

Given the high profile of the University of Texas as well as the resurgence of schools like Baylor and Texas A&M, most people would think it would be hard for a coach to come in and get so many players for a school on the opposite side of the country. How is it that Buzz is able to go in and get so many Texas players to come to Marquette?

I don't want to tick off the Big East folks, but the Big XII is as talented a basketball conference as any. More Texas kids are playing at the highest level and you're correct about programs like Texas & Baylor. It's always a battle for top players, but I would not bet against Buzz. As noted in previous questions above, he's going to WORK and stay humble. He's a guy who you can trust your son with. Mine would have played for him, but I was not enamored with sending my son to New Orleans in the aftermath of the hurricane, which is where Buzz was at the time.

Buzz went into Texas and got players for the Classes of 2008, 2009, and now 2010. Should we expect more of the same for 2011 and beyond?

I'm sure Marquette will keep working Texas hard. One of his other Assistants, Tony Benford who I know as well has many ties in the Lone Star State too. I'll leave the specifics of who he's recruiting to them to reveal but yes I'm sure you'll see other big time Texas kids heading up your way.

Lastly, Buzz got two highly regarded recruits from the Houston area for the class of 2009, Junior Cadougan from Humble Christian Life and Erik Williams of Cypress Springs. I'm sure you've seen both of them play, any thoughts on their respective abilities?

I love Cadougan. He's strong, smart and battle tested having represented Canada for several years in international play. He's a little bit chunky (kinda like me..lol) but don't let that fool you. It's rare when he doesn't come out on top regardless of who he's matched up against. Williams suffered a tough injury last year, and to be honest I have not seen him play in almost a year. My guy in Houston, Jimmy Hicks of RCS Sports says he's the man though. If Jimmy says it, then I'm on board with that.


Cracked Sidewalks would like to thank Coach Max Ivany for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat with us. Be sure to check out the Texas Basketball Inc. blog for the most up to date information on college recruiting and AAU news in Texas. Even if it's not Marquette related, its very rare that you get this type of insight into one of the top AAU programs in the country, plus you never know what you might find out.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Videos: McNeal .. & Remembering Al

Videos from the Buzz Show:


Remembering Al:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Marquette blows out Seton Hall

Sometimes 20 minutes of hell is enough.

After trailing Seton Hall by three points at halftime, Marquette ripped off a 25-7 run in the first eight minutes of the second half to seize control of the game. Fueled by a spate of Seton Hall turnovers, MU extended the lead to 23 points with five minutes remaining before settling for a convincing 79 - 67 victory. Marquette now stands at 22-4 overall and 11-2 in the BIG EAST.

The Three Amigos combined for 50 points tonight led by Wesley Matthews' 24-point effort which included 15 in the second half. Jerel McNeal, who became the program's all-time leader in thefts tonight, finished with 13 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists. Dominic James had 13 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists -- and passed Butch Lee to move into third place on MU's all-time scoring list.

Oh, and walk-on Robert Frozena connected on his first field goal of the season. Thankfully Kevin was there to capture the glorious moment on film (see photo to the right), and the guys at SportsCenter took note as well. Frozena now has as many made field goals in BIG EAST play as Maurice Acker.

Now it's time to move on. As Carl Spackler famously said, "I guess the kidding around is just about over."

After vanquishing the Pirates, Marquette begins its most challenging stretch of regular-season basketball to date:

2/21 at Georgetown
2/25 vs UConn
3/1 at Louisville
3/4 at Pittsburgh
3/7 vs Syracuse

......now things really get interesting.

Media Updates


Golden Eagles look for 17th in a row at home


Marquette (21-4, 10-2) puts its 16-game home winning streak on the line on Tuesday night against the Seton Hall Pirates (14-10, 5-7). Marquette has won five in a row against the Hall, including a three-game sweep last season.

Fresh off their win against St John's the Golden Eagles are back in the driver's seat for a double-bye in the BIG EAST tournament. With West Virginia's win over Villanova last week, MU now enjoys a two-game lead for the free pass in New York City. More importantly, after UConn's home loss last night Marquette is now tied for first place in the loss column with six games remaining (three at home, three on the road). However with a murderer's row in season's final five games, a slip-up against the upstart Pirates would be costly for both BIG EAST Tournament and NCAA tournament seeding.

Despite a sub-.500 conference record, the Pirates are playing their best ball of the season having won five of six with the lone blemish a tough 62-54 loss at home to UConn on Saturday. Bobby Gonzalez has a perimeter-oriented squad once again, led by sharpshooter Jeremy Hazell's 23 points per game on 43% shooting from deep.

Duquesne transfer Robert Mitchell has been solid in his first year of BIG EAST action contributing 15 points and eight rebounds per night. Here's a great story about Mitchell from NJ.com. Point guard Eugene Harvey chips in with 13 per outing to go along with 5 assists. Paul Gause scores eight per game and leads the BIG EAST in steals.

Tonight's game promises to be a relatively high-scoring affair. MU continues to set the pace in scoring offense in conference games, while the Pirates are one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Of course, we know Marquette has struggled defensively in league play as well.

Jerel McNeal, Marquette's answer to Hazell's gaudy numbers, should have ample opportunity to extend his current MU record streak of nine games with at least 20 points or more. McNeal is averaging 23.5 points per game in BIG EAST action, and needs just four steals to become the school's all-time leader in thefts.

Tipoff for tonight's game is schedued for 7pm CT. The game will be broadcast on the BIG EAST Network, including WMLW in Milwaukee.

Opponent Strengths and Weaknesses
As always, this information comes from Pomeroy's Scouting Report

1. Protecting the ball – Seton Hall is #7 in the country at protecting the ball, turning it over on only 16.5% of all possessions
2. Making free throws – Seton Hall is #48 in the country from the charity stripe.
3. Perimeter defense – Seton Hall is #79 in the country at 3-point defense. Opponents make only 32.3% of their shots

1. Defensive rebounding – Seton Hall is #334 in the country at defensive rebounding. Opponents get a rebound on almost 40% of all missed field goals
2. They foul too much – SHU is #320 in the country at letting their opponents shoot free throws
3. Making three pointers – SHU is #292 in the country at shooting threes (31%)

Specific Statistics Recommendations (In order of importance)
1. Make shots (MU eFG% of 55% or higher). This is 29 FGM (including seven threes), which is two more than average and predicts a 12 point win
2. Prevent shots (Seton Hall eFG% of 49% or lower)
3. Protect the ball (Turnover rate of 17% or less), which translates to 12 turnovers (one less than season average)
4. Force turnovers (SHU turnover rate of 20% or more), or one more TO than they average

Bottom Line
Pomeroy predicts a 87% chance of victory and 12 point win (83-71). Pretty much, we do too (85%, 86-74). The model predicts that MU will have an advantage on every factor, with a significant advantage on offensive rebounds and free throw attempts. The key areas are to make sure that the advantages in those areas maintain. If something goes different than the predicted results this evening, it'll be because of field goal percentage and turnovers. As mentioned, expect an offensively oriented game tonight.

Media Notes:

Finally, ESPN's Ombudsman responded to the grassroots effort launched by Rob to rid the world of Interactive Tuesday. Great work by Rob, and thanks to all of our readers who aired their respective grievances with the Worldwide Leader.

Also, due to personal travel I missed the deadline for this week's CBS Blog Poll. Here's the link to Week 2 -- MU checks in at #13 in the nation this time around.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Ombudsman Listens

Last week, after the abomination that was "ESPN Interactive Tuesday", we had enough and decided to vent our frustrations online. The result was a Letter to ESPN's Ombudsman. The frustration we felt had been echoed elsewhere on the web, and our blogging friends Villanova by the Numbers and I Bleed Blue and White also chipped in. In addition, Dan from the great blog Yet Another Basketball Blog had his own light-hearted commentary.

However, what was far more important than the blog impact was the decision by countless fans (Villanova, Marquette, and whoever) to write their own letters to the Ombudsman.

Evidently we got her attention. After scrolling through paragraphs and paragraphs of ARod coverage, Le Anne Schreiber concludes with,

I have been remiss in not using this column to relay to ESPN the unanimous dislike my correspondents have expressed for a certain Interactive Tuesday feature employed during college football and basketball games. They have called the top screen scrolls of text messages from viewers silly, bothersome, worthless and "the dumbest, most distracting gimmick I've ever been subjected to." After the Feb. 10 Marquette-Villanova game, fed-up fans of both teams mounted a write-the-ombudsman campaign that outweighed, by far, any mail I received about the A-Rod coverage. Thanks for the feedback, but you can stop now. You have been heard, loud and clear.

Well done, everybody. Well done, indeed.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Part 1 - MU is 5th best bet for a run based on who they've beaten

Note for Cracked Sidewalks readers: These two posts of emails I sent to several hundred people at other college basketball programs as well as sports reporters around the country. Therefore these are not rah-rah arguing points for Marquette, since our fans are not the primary audience on this. However, I think it is helpful every time we worry about our lack of depth and size to realize the old adage, "the other side has problems too." When you really look at which teams have the talent Coach McGuire said you needed to win, and which teams have shown the ability to beat the tough teams they would have to beat for an NCAA run, Marquette looks like one of the teams most likely to make a deep run in the tourney. With that:

2 criteria you should consider when filling out your Top 25 and NCAA bracket

Whether you are ranking the weekly Top 25, or just getting ready to fill out your NCAA bracket for an office pool in a couple of weeks, there are two factors that deserve strong consideration.

First, is the team able to beat ranked teams? By that criteria, UConn is clearly No. 1 in the country with an 8-1 mark that gives them at least twice as many wins against ranked teams as all but one other team (Marquette is 5-2). However, Wake Forest (4-0) and UNC (4-1) are the only two teams to beat three teams ranked IN THE TOP 10, and Oklahoma (4-0) and Missouri (3-0) are also undefeated against ranked opponents. Those are some pretty good bets to be at top of your rankings and going deep in your bracket.

Second, does the team have enough talent to be ranked at the top and make a run? Legendary commentator Al McGuire said you need 3 ½ stars to win a championship, and according to the mock NBA draft from a couple of weeks ago, only 11 teams have three players expected to go in the 2-round NBA draft either this year or next. At the top of the list are UConn (6 projected draft picks, though Jerome Dyson may be out for the year to give them 5), and UNC (5). Since those two teams are at the top of both lists, they aren’t a bad bet to make the title game. But this list may also give you a sleeper or two. UCLA is 0-3 against ranked teams, but they are the only other team with 4 projected NBA picks on the court.

The following two lists are how the teams would be ranked using these two different criteria. It might make a good cheat sheet when filling out that bracket or ballot:

Part 1 – Rankings According to Ability to Beat Ranked Teams

The following are the 48 teams that are currently receiving votes and/or in the top 40 of the RPI, ranked by how they have done against ranked teams. The first record is their record against teams ranked in the ESPN Top 25 when they played them (no bias against the AP, which would have only minor differences), and the second record only counts those games against Top 10 teams. The order was determined by giving teams a point for every win, taking away a half point for every loss, and adding 1/3 of a point for each game against a Top 10 team, win or lose. Judging just by their ability to beat ranked teams, the Four top teams and No. 1 seeds today would be UConn, Wake, UNC and Oklahoma:

1, Connecticut (8-1, 2-1)
2, Wake Forest (4-0, 3-0)
3, North Carolina (4-1, 3-1)
4, Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0)
5, Marquette (5-2, 0-0)
6, Louisville (3-1, 1-1)
7, Michigan State (3-1, 1-1)
8, Missouri (3-0, 0-0)
9, Duke (3-3, 1-3)
10, Ohio State (4-4, 1-1)
11, Pittsburgh (3-2, 2-0)
12, Arizona State (2-0, 2-0)
13, Washington (3-1, 0-0)
14, Gonzaga (3-2, 0-1)
15, Dayton (2-0, 0-0)
16, Clemson (2-2, 1-2)
17, Arizona (2-2, 2-1)
18, Syracuse (4-5, 0-1)
19, Minnesota (3-3, 1-0)
20, Villanova (3-4, 1-1)
21, Georgetown (3-6, 2-3)
22, California (2-1, 0-0)
23, Texas (2-3, 1-2)
24, Purdue (2-2, 0-1)
25, Florida State (2-4, 1-3)
26, UNLV (1-0, 0-0)
27, Xavier (1-1, 0-1)
28, Penn State (2-3, 1-0)
29, Temple (1-2, 1-1)
30, Butler (1-1, 0-0)
31, South Carolina (1-1, 0-0)
32, Utah (1-1, 0-0)
33, Utah State (1-1, 0-0)
34, Florida (0-0, 0-0)
35, West Virginia (2-7, 0-4)
36, Illinois (1-3, 0-0)
37, Memphis (1-3, 0-0)
38, LSU (0-1, 0-0)
39, San Diego State (0-1, 0-0)
40, Wisconsin (2-6, 0-1)
41, Brigham Young (0-2, 0-1)
42, Sienna (0-2, 0-1)
43, Saint Mary's (0-2, 0-0)
44, UAB (0-2, 0-0)
45, Davidson (0-3, 0-1)
46, Kansas (0-3, 0-1)
47, UCLA (0-3, 0-1)
48, Oklahoma State (0-5, 0-3)

Part 2 - MU is 11th best bet for a run based on talent

This is the 2nd of two posts being placed back to back, and intended to be read after "Part 1 - MU is 5th best bet for a run based on who they've beaten"

Part 2 - Do you have the talent to win a championship?

The following ranks every team that has at least one player projected to be picked in NBA draft either this year or next. Based on this criteria, the top 11 teams would have the best chance to make the Final Four since they have three or more projected NBA draft picks. Ties are broken based on how high the teams best player is expected to go, so while eight teams have three projected draft picks, OSU ranks higher in raw talent because 7-foot center BJ Mullens is expected to be the No. 3 pick next year, while Marquette’s guard Jerel McNeal is expected to be the 42nd pick this year. Likewise, 10 teams with two stars may find that is one star too few, but there’s a much better chance that projected No. 1 pick Blake Griffin can lead Oklahoma (12th on this list) to the Final Four than No. 39 pick Marcus Thornton leading LSU (22nd) there.

1, UConn, 6 NBA Players, Hasheem Thabeet (C) picked as the No. 3 pick in 2009
2, North Carolina, 5 NBA Players, Ed Davis (PF) picked as the No. 11 pick in 2010
3, UCLA, 4 NBA Players, Jrue Holiday (PG/SG) picked as the No. 8 pick in 2010
4, Ohio State, 3 NBA Players, BJ Mullens (C) picked as the No. 3 pick in 2010
5, Wake Forest, 3 NBA Players, Al-Farouq Aminu (SF) picked as the No. 6 pick in 2009
6, Texas, 3 NBA Players, Damion James (SF) picked as the No. 12 pick in 2009
7, USC, 3 NBA Players, Demar DeRozan (SG) picked as the No. 15 pick in 2009
8, West Virginia, 3 NBA Players, Devin Ebanks (SF) picked as the No. 17 pick in 2010
9, Gonzaga, 3 NBA Players, Austin Daye (SF) picked as the No. 23 pick in 2009
10, Syracuse, 3 NBA Players, Jonny Flynn (PG) picked as the No. 23 pick in 2010
11, Marquette, 3 NBA Players, Jerel McNeal (SG) picked as the No. 42 pick in 2009
12, Oklahoma, 2 NBA Players, Blake Griffin (PF) picked as the No. 1 pick in 2009
13, Arizona St., 2 NBA Players, James Harden (SG) picked as the No. 2 pick in 2009
14, Arizona, 2 NBA Players, Jordan Hill (PF) picked as the No. 4 pick in 2009
15, Georgia Tech, 2 NBA Players, Derrick Favors (PF) picked as the No. 5 pick in 2010
16, Kansas, 2 NBA Players, Cole Aldrich (PF/C) picked as the No. 7 pick in 2010
17, Louisville, 2 NBA Players, Earl Clark (SF) picked as the No. 7 pick in 2009
18, Duke, 2 NBA Players, Gerald Henderson (SG) picked as the No. 9 pick in 2009
19, Georgetown, 2 NBA Players, Greg Monroe (PF) picked as the No. 10 pick in 2009
20, Kentucky, 2 NBA Players, Patrick Patterson (PF) picked as the No. 17 pick in 2009
21, Tennessee, 2 NBA Players, Tyler Smith (SF) picked as the No. 26 pick in 2009
22, LSU, 2 NBA Players, Marcus Thornton (SG) picked as the No. 39 pick in 2009
23, Fresno St., 1 NBA Player, Paul George (SG/SF) picked as the No. 10 pick in 2010
24, Mississippi St., 1 NBA Player, Jarvis Varnado (PF) picked as the No. 14 pick in 2010
25, Davidson, 1 NBA Player, Stephen Curry (PG/SG) picked as the No. 16 pick in 2009
26, Oklahoma State, 1 NBA Player, James Anderson (SG) picked as the No. 16 pick in 2010
27, VCU, 1 NBA Player, Eric Maynor (PG) picked as the No. 18 pick in 2009
28, Memphis, 1 NBA Player, Tyreke Evans (SG) picked as the No. 20 pick in 2010
29, St. Mary's, 1 NBA Player, Patrick Mills (PG) picked as the No. 21 pick in 2009
30, Iowa St., 1 NBA Player, Craig Brackins (PF) picked as the No. 22 pick in 2010
31, Pittsburgh, 1 NBA Player, DeJuan Blair (PF) picked as the No. 24 pick in 2009
32, Vanderbilt, 1 NBA Player, AJ Ogilvy (C) picked as the No. 25 pick in 2010
33, Nevada, 1 NBA Player, Luke Babbitt (SF) picked as the No. 26 pick in 2010
34, Xavier, 1 NBA Player, Derrick Brown (SF) picked as the No. 27 pick in 2010
35, Tulsa, 1 NBA Player, Jerome Jordan (C) picked as the No. 29 pick in 2009
36, Baylor, 1 NBA Player, Curtis Jerrells (PG) picked as the No. 32 pick in 2009
37, California, 1 NBA Player, Patrick Christop... (SG/SF) picked as the No. 32 pick in 2010
38, Miami, 1 NBA Player, Dwayne Collins (PF) picked as the No. 33 pick in 2010
39, Temple, 1 NBA Player, Dionte Christmas (SG) picked as the No. 33 pick in 2009
40, Michigan St., 1 NBA Player, Raymar Morgan (SF) picked as the No. 34 pick in 2010
41, NC State, 1 NBA Player, Brandon Costner (SF) picked as the No. 35 pick in 2009
42, Clemson, 1 NBA Player, Trevor Booker (PF) picked as the No. 36 pick in 2010
43, Boston College, 1 NBA Player, Tyrese Rice (PG) picked as the No. 37 pick in 2009
44, UAB, 1 NBA Player, Robert Vaden (SG) picked as the No. 38 pick in 2009
45, Alabama, 1 NBA Player, Alonzo Gee (SG) picked as the No. 40 pick in 2009
46, Central Florida, 1 NBA Player, Jermaine Taylor (SG) picked as the No. 43 pick in 2009
47, San Diego St., 1 NBA Player, Lorrenzo Wade (SG) picked as the No. 47 pick in 2009
48, Maryland, 1 NBA Player, Greivis Vasquez (PG/SG) picked as the No. 50 pick in 2009
49, Missouri, 1 NBA Player, Leo Lyons (PF) picked as the No. 51 pick in 2009
50, Texas A&M, 1 NBA Player, Chinemelu Elonu (PF) picked as the No. 52 pick in 2010
51, Arkansas, 1 NBA Player, Michael Washington (PF) picked as the No. 54 pick in 2010
52, Notre Dame, 1 NBA Player, Luke Harangody (SF/PF) picked as the No. 58 pick in 2010
53, Cal State Ful..., 1 NBA Player, Josh Akognon (PG) picked as the No. 59 pick in 2009
54, Utah, 1 NBA Player, Luke Nevill (C) picked as the No. 60 pick in 2009

Obviously there are other factors, but I believe these are two pretty good starting points for figuring out how good teams really are. A team that clearly can beat the top teams even if they play down to their competition at other times (Wake Forest), and a team that hasn’t shown their best but has NBA players all over the court (UCLA) can certainly make a run. Both of these approaches point to UConn and UNC as the most likely title showdown, but looking down both of these lists you can see just how wide open the tournament could be this year.