"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

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Marquette falls short; season and era end

What if......

Marquette's dreams of the Sweet 16 ended this afternoon with an 83-79 loss to the Missouri Tigers. After storming back from 16 down the Warriors saw a late lead slip away in the game's waning moments when they committed both a shot clock violation and critical turnover in the final 90 seconds of play.

Jerel McNeal led MU with 30 points, tying a career high he established in last season's tournament loss to the Stanford Cardinal. Wesley Matthews added 24 points and 7 rebounds, while Lazar Hayward was good for 13 points and 11 boards. Dominic James hit the floor for 17 minutes though he didn't score. Dwight Burke finished his MU career with 5 points and a season-high 10 rebounds.

Seniors, thank you.


Anonymous said...

despite all the heartbreak (and partially because of it), these guys were fun to root for. they fought back so many times.

won't ever forget this era.

Savwa said...

DJ,Jerel & Wes were studs & made MU b-ball something to be reckoned with,I only wish they reached even more significant heights for all the effort & work they put in. The move to the BE could have relegated MU to a perennial basement dweller like DePaul looks to be for years to come but those 3 kids were everything & more that they could have been since they signed on at MU.
I would expect a down but competitive year for MU next year but with a leader like Lazar & having Butler to jump in as a starter along with their incoming talent they will be fun to watch. If anyone has a problem with Lazar's mistake just remember MU wouldn't even be in the 2nd round without his efforts in game 1 because he was the only one who showed up.
It was a great year.

JohnPudner said...

Wow, I think I've seen this play before. Great effort. I know the perspective is different in person then getting to see replays on TV, but it looked to me like Missouri was completely stumped by the 3/4 court and 1/2 court pressure the whole second half, but had no problem when we were packed back in. Guess my only regret was that we weren't pressuring the last couple of minutes, instead trying to stop them as they went to the basket. A great team, yes a "what if" Buzz had already been here to get a big man to go along with these guys, but is almost made me more attached to the efforts each of them played knowing they were all compensating for not have a 6-11 guy with their back. It was always David and Goliath, and David won most of them even if we fell just short of sweet 16s. Thanks also for letting me share some of my ramblings on these pages this year.

It sounds like a great group coming in, but this one will always be special and I hope to still be catching some NBA highlights and remembering how good they were here.

Waiting for the plane back from Boise to Alabama - a long flight will have lots of memories.

And it was so wonderful to see Dominic back out there, even if he clearly didn't have his 40-inch verticle leap and lateral movement. Acker played great, but it was nice to see DJ on the court one more time, even though not at 100%.

Smoove said...

Watched the game at The Double Bubble on Broadway, which, as an alternative to The Schoolyard, has all the makings of a good Marquette bar. Stop in and see for yourself. Upon the final horn, rode my bike in a fog, and once home, the Mrs. was appropriately gentle. After a fitful nap, went to the gym about 11:30pm and shot around until 1:00am closing. Drove the T-Bird down empty LSD to the office, where I've been on the world wide web, soaking up everything I can find on the game. With dawn approaching, I’ll be removing my “Marquette” sweatshirt for the first time since Selection Sunday. It’s been a terrific week. Brad Forster, thanks so much for the upbeat video; it is, like its subjects, special. A heartfelt thank you to our four seniors, Coach, and the MU administration for putting on the floor a team that in academics and basketball acumen stands second to no one. Go M–U!

Unknown said...

Why can't we all be pissed off for a while at the three amigo's who simply couldnt win the close one's? We should be saying thank you Dominic, Jerel, and Wes for always getting the Marquette faithful to the verge of euphoria only to slam on the brakes and bring everyone to reality.

These last few years have been great and really helped to solidify Marquette as a top 25 team year in and year out. But, I will always remember these guys for the extra step they could not take. I don't know why the close one's never went our way. Was it luck? Was it lack of talent? I don't know. I do know, it's been maddening.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for another great season of coverage, CS. Day one of the next generation begins today.

In Buzz We Trust.

Unknown said...

It was real fun watching the three Amigos the past four years and let's not forget Dwight. Great representatives for Marquette. Got us back in the spot light.

I also wondered that last minute why we did not put pressure on the ball but instead let them run the clock down to 19 seconds and then let them take the time out.

Unknown said...

All good feelings about the "Three Amigos" aside, we blew it. Plain and simple. These three will go down in MU history as the trio that could not close big games. The refs and Lazar's mental gaffe did not help either. But what a terrible possession in the last two minutes that led to Butler hurling a three that missed everything. And that loose ball after a Mizzou miss that they got to first. We played not to lose rather than going in for the kill. McNeal, Matthews and quite frankly, the whole team, took thirty minutes too long to wake up. That first half was nothing short of embarrassing and actualy made me nauseous.

We will miss them dearly because MU may not be relevant on the national scene for years to come.

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with people being frustrated, but in my opinion, this crew achieved exactly what they could with the talent they had. They had NO INTERIOR HELP in all four years of playing in college basketball's toughest, most physical conference. You give this group a big who can provide 8 and 8 a game, not to mention the hint of an interior defensive presence, and I think they could've ascended to the next level.

They averaged out to be a very good squad, but not an elite squad. How can anyone expect more from a group that so consistently demonstrated they were not able to be Great? Of course we WANTED them to be great, but the body of evidence proved that was never in the cards.

MUJourn said...

Wait a minute . . . no one is questioning heart, but judgment and coaching, absolutely. On the aborted inbounds by Hayward, there were only two players that I could see in the television screen -- Acker and McNeal. No idea where the other two players were standing and they never entered the frame.

Acker immediately took off towards the MU basket with his man right with him (Note to Buzz and Maurice -- you first sprint towards the inbounder, get your defender running with you, then stop, reverse, and head up court towards the basket -- simply breaking away from the inbounder and towards the basket does nothing but reduce the possible options for the inbounder; pretty fundamental Jr. High basketball mechanics).

McNeal, on the other hand appeared to attempt a half-ass curl (again without first taking his man away and then cutting back towards the inbounder, which would have been the proper Jr. High basketball technique in this instance) that his defender played stong ball side, causing Hayward to double clutch and step over the line.

That was it -- that was the play drawn up in the huddle during the timeout? Are you kidding -- put the rose colored glasses away guys when it comes to coaching, Buzz fell into a dream first year job and when cruch time hit, he blinked, big time and multiple times. Perhaps he will learn from his mistakes and get better, but while you cannot question the players' hearts in this game, you certainly can question execution and planning.

Hillmen66 said...

I hate to continue this growing trend of pessimism but there’s a few things I’ve been hearing lately that are really starting to irritate me. First of all, as much as I appreciate the seniors for what they’ve done for Marquette, I will never remember them for anything other than never being able to win the big one. As a sophomore, I’ve really only seen the Three Amigos play for the past 2-3 years. However, I cannot seem to pick a defining win in their careers. The seemingly “big” wins they had (Wisc, Pitt last year, Nova this year) are overrated and completely lost amongst the inability to pull down victories in truly elite games, esp those that were close. I have never seen a team more incapable of playing in a close game than these last 2 years. They were always good enough to have a chance, but never good enough to get that last stop or that last bucket. The play of Wes and Jerel the last few weeks has had me looking forward to the day I can watch a new team out there next year.

For those that want to argue that these three brought the program to the top-25 caliber level it’s currently at, then have the expectations of a top-25 caliber program. If they so-called “brought us to the next level,” then 2 tourney wins in 4 years is simply not good enough. Any satisfaction with a 25-10 record and another early exit in March is bullshit. This talk of a “great” season needs to end. This was not a great season in any way. They won just about every game they should have and lost about every game we expected them to, plus or minus a couple either way. Ranked #16 in the preseason poll, they will undoubtedly finish lower than this. Even the supposed good wins lost value as the season went on. To consider this season great is further proof that expectations at MU are not at the level they should be if our program is truly at the “next level.”

Thank you to CS for another great season. CANNOT wait to see what Buzz has in store for Maymon, Cadougan, and Williams next year.

rugbydrummer said...

Hillmen, you don't know what you're talking about. You, as you say, apparently weren't around for "quality" wins, so stop commenting on it. These guys are special no matter what, and I hope you can appreciate that.

Unknown said...

Wow, what a bitter tone. Do I have to be the Big East champs and win a sweet sixteen to enjoy the season? No way. To each his own. I thought it was a great season. In my opinion to be sour and pout till next season to just do it again next year is pitiful. I am not a cub fan but I also know we aren't a run of the mill program.

Packer Pat said...

Buzz was a better game coach than Crean ever was or will be in the future. I realize that's not saying much but he held it together this year.

McNeal was being McNeal on the last play that went awry...sure they could have had more people back but would they have gotten it up the court for a decent shot with all the traffic?

If MU's all-time leading scorer makes two free throws we are very likely talking about Memphis. The guy also had his career high so I'm over it.

Buzz has proven he can recruit with the best of them. Lets see how he does with a big man that someone forgot to bring in for the last few years.

I'm going to miss the Seniors and agree that they have helped us huge in the BE and with future recruits coming to beer city.
Of course winning is important but
it's nice to know that all four will graduate and on time.

Has Huggins graduated four total?

Championships Matter said...

Look, I'm as disapppointed as anyone about what happened Sunday and in five similar games during the past seven weeks. But let's not forget, we're watching young men with exuberance and determination, not pros who make millions and forget everything about joy and humility.

Going into the season, I did not know what to expect. Buzz was an unknown and we still didn't have a center. Our recruiting class for 2008-2009 was decimated and our bench was suspect on a good day. Crean left us with a good senior class but nothing in the cupboard for 2009 and precious little with which to make a real run at the Big East and NCAA.

Through all that, our guys were both entertaining and fun. That's what college basketball is about. I'm disappointed they did not go further in the tournament, but probably far less disappointed than they are in themselves.

Twenty years from now, I'll be smiling about the nice moment I had with my 14 year old daughter at the Syracuse game. Twenty years from now, I'll bet Lazar will still be having nightmares about that baseline step he took yesterday.

I'll betcha anything it's no different than the free throw Ric Cobb missed in 1969 that cost Marquette a trip to the Final Four. People (unfortunately, like me) remember the free throw but forget everything else Ric did to get us there. Kinda like Lazar. Without him, we're not even close to being in the NCAAs.

I hope that when this team reunites 20 years from now to swap stories, someone reads this and realizes a father and his daughter had a wonderful time watching a very fun and entertaining team. This old Warrior fan would have loved a National Championship, but the moments in Milwaukee, Winston-Salem, Nashville, Rosemont and elsewhere were more important in the long run.

Thanks guys and Buzz, here's hoping to a great renewal next fall.

Unknown said...

I am quite pleased with the level of anger many of you fans are displaying. Fan complacency can only be tolerated if you're willing to accept only mediocre results from your team. Adios amigos. I think Buzz will keep the dissappointment of this year and the 3 guard scheme close to his heart to make sure it never happens again.

JohnPudner said...

Let's face it guys, the season ends in disappointment for 342 of 343 teams every year, either not getting a bid or losing their final game. Only 1970 and 1977 ended on a high note. My guess is Crean left because he wanted to win at least a conference title, and he didn't think he could in the Big Ten. The success of the Three Amigos for me is this - Marquette was a sub-.500 team in Conference USA the two years before they came. THAT is mediocracy. They took them near the top of the best conference in the US FOUR YEARS IN A ROW. The success of this year is that they refused to sulk when Crean, then two recruits, then Mbakwe left.

These four years were a HUGE step forward. Yes, I think looking at Buzz's recruiting he fully understands that we can't make the next guards be expected to double down to help our guys giving up several inches underneath AT THE SAME TIME they are covering everyone at the arc. Something had to give, and I think in the close losses in big games, the underbelly of the defense was just too small and soft to stop the game winning shot or drive by our opponents. And we had NO margin for error. Once anyone went down injured, and it turned out to be Dominic, our thin margin of error for victory was gone.

For me the legacy of the Three Amigos era was that instead of going from a sub-.500 Conference USA team to a 5-13 Big East team every year, the Three Amigos took Marquette to a level where it could land big recruits moving forward. The Big East was either going to devour MU, or toughen MU, and they made it do the latter.

As the Three Amigos walked through the Boise airport last night they were shoulder to shoulder, hoods up, all three staring at the floor in complete disappointment and not saying a word to each other. Of course, they are even more sick than any of us that we aren't talking about the Sweet 16 right now. But like "It's a Wonderful Life," I shudder to think where the program would be right now without them. In all likelihood, none of us would even be wasting our time posting here since we probably would have stopped following the team seriously a couple of years ago.

Thank you Three Amigos!

New recruits, we need you to build on their success to get MU where we really want it to be: Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four and another Title!

JohnPudner said...

BTW, in my travels back from Boise, I didn't get to see any coverage of the game except a clip of Lazar stepping on the line. I just had someone tell me that Bobby Knight said that Marquette should have won because the call on the final drive to the hoop should have been called a drive.

Seashells&Balloons said...

Nice tribute, but country music???

You can complain about not making the Sweet 16, but the ball didn't seem to bounce there way in the Tourney: Novak's shot, McNeal's injury, Lopez's shot, Mizzou game. We were lucky to have them for 4 years -- it's very rare to have 3 players that good stick around for four years. Plus, you won't find three tougher players in the country.

Victor E. Panther said...

Good job MU. Don't get so down on your team. You should have gotten much further (I pegged Marquette to be in the Final Four (Elite 8 at the very least) at mid-season), but the season had it's share of great accomplishments (broken ALL-TIME scoring records, dominated the Big East for much of the season, and were top 10 for several weeks).

You guys were definitely fun to watch, and with the kind of recruiter Buzz is, I'm sure MU will be back fighting for the top spots of the Big East in no time.

Disappointments suck yes, but be happy with what you had, and know that this is hardly the end of an era (well- the end of the Big 3, but MU basketball will be very competitive as long as Buzz is around and as long as the school dedicates so much time and energy to making it a major focus of the extracurricular environment).

Cheers and good luck next year!