"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

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Marquette Post-Season Roundtable - Part One

We got some pretty good feedback on our pre-season roundtable but never quite got around to another one during the season. Now that the season is complete we'll give it another shot. With the new voices on the CrackedSidewalks team the perspectives are more voluminous than ever so we're breaking up our post-season roundtable into a two parts. Here's part one:

What's your favorite memory from this season?

bma725: Beyond the wins, and the great individual things like McNeal breaking the scoring record or Matthews breaking the free throw record, my favorite was the bench reaction when Frozena scored against Seton Hall. Seeing the reaction of the players and their joy for one of their teammates who doesn't get much credit shows you what it really is all about for them. That's probably the picture of the year as well.

Rob: The comeback against Providence to make the team 5-0. It was my first indication that this team could be much more special than I thought. In previous years, Marquette would have lost that game, but the players kept battling and took the win away from Providence. I loved how the players on this team never gave up. It may not have always resulted in the win, but they kept fighting.

muwarrior92: The NC State win on the road with DJ hitting the winning shot.

Tim: Beating West Virginia by 21 points. The lopsided victory against the suddenly sensitive Bob Huggins was so dramatic, so convincing and so thoroughly dominant that I finally appreciated the full potential of this team. I learned on that day that this team could really play.

John: It had been the win at the Bradley Center to go 19-2, until Saturday night. The announcement that Dominic James had been cleared to play was my favorite moment of the season. I ran down to the hotel lobby around midnight right after seeing the announcement, and he was standing in the lobby without the boot he had on earlier in the morning. Of course I knew he wasn’t going to be pre-UConn Dominic overnight, but it reminded me of Hunt's column right after the injury, when he said maybe MUs lack of depth and height would eventually prove too much, but it sure would have been nice to have Matthews-McNeal and James riding out until the end. As painful as Sunday was, to see Wes and Jerel respond with final superstar performances to end with 30 and 24 point games with DJ on the court for almost half the game was more than I possibility could have hoped for post-injury, outside of a win of course. Death is always painful, but the second half domination and having DJ on the court made it a good death.

Kevin: My personal favorite memory was walking out on the court to be coronated the Season Ticket Holder of the Game. Oh, and when I was next to the Eagle and he held up the newest Big Noggin, I was on the Jumbotron for about 2 seconds. That was sweet. I am such an attention whore. Ohhh, you meant team memories? Beating UW is always orgasmic. Wes Matthew's rapid development. DJ entering the Missouri game was heroic.

It's the end of an era with the four seniors. How do you think that they'll be remembered?

bma725: At least for me, I'll remember them more as people than as players. I don't know that we've ever had a class that represented the university as well as those four. Dominic James could have gone in a completely different direction and caused problems when he didn't get drafted, but he didn't. Wesley Matthews could have pouted because he didn't become the man like many thought he would, but he didn't. Burke could have been a jerk because of all the crap he got for not being a dominating big guy, but he never became one. Jerel McNeal could have said screw it and turned pro when TC left and no one would have blamed him, but he didn't. The character those four have shown through the years, and the men they've turned into is a testament to them, the coaches and the university.

As players I think they'll be remembered among the best to play at MU, but there will always be the question of "what if"? What if Wes didn't get hurt as a freshman or McNeal as a sophomore or James as a senior. What if Novak hits the shot against Alabama or Lopez misses the shot for Stanford? What if Crean actually let Wes play with the freedom that Buzz gave him? Unfortunately, as a class I think they will be remembered for coming up just short, when it isn't solely their fault.

Rob: It's kind of a copout (especially since it's my question), but I think it's too early to tell. Part of me thinks that the team will be the group that was never quite good enough. They'll clearly get dinged for never doing more in the NCAA tournament. Another part of me thinks that it'll be for their individual achievements. However, my perspective is that these guys will be remembered as the first recruiting class in the BIG EAST. NCAA success set aside, the fact that these guys won over 10 games in every year in the league and made the NCAA tournament every year is a great accomplishment.

muwarrior92: They'll be remembered as four warriors that brought it every day, every game. They were outsized but not out-toughed or out-passioned. Tremendous basketball players that got dealt a lot of bad luck, as life often does. To advance in the NCAAs it's about matchups and luck. We got the short end of the stick in three of the four years on those to ingredients (Alabama we just ran into a hot team). Will be remembered as one of the top 5 classes of all time and had the potential to be higher with a little more luck.

Tim: As I mentioned in my post previewing the final home game, these guys walked into a program that was coming off of back-to-back NIT seasons out of CUSA......and entered the the nation's best conference after losing its best player to the NBA draft, and one of its best 2 returnees to a late and unexpected transfer. Against that backdrop these seniors delivered 4 consecutive NCAA tourneys, 2 NCAA wins, and a bushel of Big East wins. That's a remarkable run for a group who jumped into a program still smarting from a season-ending home loss to Western Michigan in the months before they arrived. The uplift these fellas provided to Marquette hoops was astonishing, as was their grit and toughness.

Of course all of that success is tempered, at least for now, by this team's inability to win close games in March for a variety of reasons. These guys will always be the "Coulda Been Kids" to some degree since both injury and bad luck hampered deep runs into March.

John: I think they will be remembered as the true “David vs. Goliath” lovable team that did more than possibly could have been expected without a legit center for four years. I think they always will be the most loved team for some of us, just because they had to put out so much effort and had no margin of error to win, and yet win they did. Dwight Burke had to play center, when he was a power forward, and even Wes had to often match up against big men, and even Dominic and Jerel were happy to draw an assignment against an opposing center and reject them or steal the ball. I also hope they will be remembered as the team that, despite all that, beat 14 ranked teams during their four regular seasons. The best totals before that were 12 regular season wins against ranked teams (1994-97), 10 (1975-78), 9 (1971-74), 8 (2002-2005) and 6 (1955-1958). No class ever had to face nearly the competition they did, and to go 14-14 against ranked opponents, despite being a small team in a physical league, should be appreciated.

Kevin: Super talented, hard workers, great kids, brought the program to a new level. They fought hard, never gave up, but part of their legacy will be a 2-4 NCAA record, mostly due to Crean's problems recruiting for the front court. Honestly, I think when I remember those guys in the future, it will be with some sadness, as they were the hard luck crew. Such great opportunity, such great torment.

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Thanks for reading. Check back later for part two of our roundtable, where we look at Buzz and what has us most excited for next year. By the way, in addition to the comments below there's a thread about this post over at MUScoop.

7 comments:

James said...

You're all full of shit and this forum/round table shouldn't be littered with fluff and stuff. How will this team be remembered? The better question is will this team be remembered? Regular Season Titles, Conference Tournament Titles, and Deep NCAA runs are what keeps team in the minds of fans forever.

20 years from now I doubt much will spoken about these 3 because they never left us with anything tanigle. In the next twenty years Marquette will have regular season and conference toury title banners, it wouldn't surprise me to see a national title banner and several final 4's as well. Those teams will be talked about, those teams will be remembered.

McNeal has a nice individual record, but nothing to go with it. He'll be a nice trivia question at the BC. Unless these guys make a big impact in the pro's and Marquetter's want to make it known who our alumni are they'll just drift away... the 3 amigos crammed into the front of an old beat up Ford Ranger. Adios.

Oliver said...

Give me a break, James. The three will be remembered for their individual achievements and how they played. Unique players are remembered regardless of the team. We remember certain plays or playing styles.

James: Ton of natural talent, but never met hype.

McNeal: Tough. People will wish we had a player like McNeal on future teams.

Matthews: Body type and ability to get to the line.

James said...

They won't be remembered in the long haul, Oliver. They have no major accomplishments. Other teams in the future will blow by them now that Buzz will never let MU go without a Big Man again.

John said...

James I love the fact you are #1 fan in regards to Marquette's future. I look forward to the future National Championships. But relax, whats wrong with really appreciating the Three Amigos. I liked the guys, lets hope they are a prelude to future times at Marquette basketball. I bet they are remembered as the players that helped turn this program into a BB power again. I can remember Gary Brell, Bob Lackey, Larry McNeil and Dean Meminger and they didn't win the National Championship but were great players at Marquette. And that is close to 40 years ago.

Championships Matter said...

These guys were like the early Al McGuire teams. hard working, lots of heart and successful.

No the teams in 1967 and 1968 did not win NCAA championships (though in 1969, they got a lot closer than anyone expected). Those guys were undersized leapers -- they played hard, they were quick and while they did not hang any banners in the Arena, they paved the way for what was to come.

Look, star recruits choose star programs because they want the chance to win. The Three Amigos may not have won national championships, but they paved the way for what Buzz is doing. Heck, you didn't see this group losing to Western Michigan, for example.

What the Amigos didn't do was a function of recruiting and coaching. Suppose, for a moment, Brian Butch had managed to come to Marquette. If Crean had pulled that off, they would have been Final Four last year.

Or if Crean had stayed and maintained his recruiting class, we'd have had a bench this year.

I agree with James on one point -- we'll see banners in the future. We'll do so because of what the Amigos did today.

a young man said...

It isn't about the future, but about the memories of their time with us.

For me I will remember the 2008-2009 season as the year I lived far from Milwaukee, WI desperately searching my southern town for a sports bar on which I could enjoy a Miller beer and an afternoon game.

Some may not remember these guys names twenty years from now, but I will remember the way I felt when I watched them play, and quietly smile knowing they represented all things that are good and right about Marquette University.

Simple.

Gene Frenkle said...

Good to see Gary from The Big Show has a handle on blogspot!

Gary, your show sucks!