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?
WWBD? 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.
- For a sublime collection of Dominic James video clips, please click here. The man was quite a player for Marquette University. Wow.
- Rich Bozich, columnist for the Louisville Courier-Journal, says James is worthy of an ovation. I agree.
- The AP on MU post-James.....time to move on.
- The Courier-Journal on the improving Cards.
- The Card Chronicle on the 10 most memorable MU/UL moments of recent times (Warning: from a UL perspective).
- MU game notes
- Despite the injury James hopes for a shot at the NBA.