Even before last night's stunning news about Dominic James, I was feeling pretty good about this game. Here's some more optimism going into the matchup today.
1. No more road game - For all practical purposes, Missouri is no closer to Boise than Marquette is. Plus, with a fired up Marquette section, this will be a neutral game at worst. I'm expecting the Marquette fans (including Pudner) to represent us well.
2. We've got Kryptonite - Missouri's team is keyed off of their ability to force turnovers. Too bad we are the #10 team in the country at protecting the ball. And it's not as though we were that much worse with James out. Even against Louisville on the road, we only turned the ball over at a rate of 17.3%. Plus, I have an (unproved) theory that teams are less likely to turn the ball over in the post season, simply because opponents are likely to value each possession.
3. Playing with house money - Although Mac may not agree, Marquette has the monkey off their back. As Buzz has previously said, Marquette plays better when they are the hunter instead of the hunted. The team will be more relaxed. This season is already a success!
4. Toughness - Seriously, you got a little worried on Friday when it was 49-43, right? And what did the team do down the stretch? What about the much-maligned McNeal (and his marvelous magical moose... sorry... getting giddy here) and his shot in the final minute? Plus, lost in the heartbreaking loss to Villanova is that the team came back from being down 16! These guys are tough... and where do you think Missouri stacks up against UConn, Louisville, Pitt, Syracuse, and Villanova? #4 at best, probably #5, and maybe as low as #6.
5. Jesus wants us in the Sweet Sixteen - Even though we're (mostly) saying it in jest, I have to admit the freakish return of James makes me think there may be a little more. So at church this morning, I said a little prayer. Not for a Marquette victory... but for Marquette's players to give their best effort and for the Marquette community to come together as part of a greater mission. After all, isn't that what sports are all about?
Of course, these were all thoughts even before James came back. With his return, I'm practically exuberant. James will clearly not be as effective as before, but here are some quick hits:
- With James, we were in contention to finish first in the BE. I request that you consider how good of a team that makes us
- Remember how Wesley and 'Rel's numbers have suffered?
- The bench, including Butler and Acker, have improved their game. Butler is NOT going to have two stinker games in a row
- James' return means that Marquette will be more able to crash the offensive glass because of improved transition defense