"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

Monday, March 30, 2009

Quick updates from all over

Some of us are still recovering from the heartbreaking loss to Missouri that brought an end to Marquette's season and the career of the "Three Amigos" little more than a week ago. While the season is over, there's still plenty of MU news to catch up on that you may have missed:

  • First and foremost, great news today as Jerel McNeal was named an Associated Press 2nd Team All American. That makes Jerel the 26th All American in MU history, and the first since Dominic James was honorable mention in 2007.
  • HoopScoop recently came out with their ranking of the top 20 Up and Coming coaches in college basketball, and Buzz Williams made the list. While the entire rankin requires a subscription, you can check out the Buzz mention on HoopScoop's free page.
  • While you're there, be sure to scroll down just a bit farther, and you'll see another Marquette mention. HoopScoop also put together a list of the top 100 Assistant coaches in college basketball, and MU's Tony Benford checks in at #14.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

NBA futures for the 3 Amigos - An interview with Draft Express President Jonathan Givony

We had the pleasure of chatting yesterday with Jonathan Givony, the President of Draft Express, on the NBA prospects of the Three Amigos from Marquette. Jonathan was kind enough to to answer a few questions and give us his expert opinions on the topic.

Currently, Draft Express has Wesley Matthews, Dominic James, and Jerel McNeal projected in the second round of the 2009 NBA draft.

Question 1 - What goes into your evaluation process when looking at players and determining if they have a chance in the draft.

We attend a ton of games in person....we were just at the Big East tournament for example. After doing this for a number of years, we have a solid understanding of what the NBA is looking for, what type of talents, body profiles, athleticism, etc. that are needed to make an NBA team. We talk to the teams, to their scouts, we share information back and forth and factor all of this into our evaluations. Obviously different scouts have different opinions on the same players and their future prospects. At the end of the day, we use all of this information along with with what we see with our own eyes to make our evaluations.

Question 2 - What is your general opinion of the 2009 draft - weak or strong?

That's difficult to answer this far in advance of the draft. There are too many unknowns at this point in terms of who is coming out early or will stay for another year. However, there are 5 to 6 guys that if they come out could change the draft considerably, and it would have a potential effect on the three Marquette players because of where they are currently slotted in the second round.

Some others are down on this year's draft, but I think it's pretty strong and its deep if these additional players decide to declare. It's potentially missing a bit of star power at the top but there are quality players up and down. You might find an all-star in the group late in the first round. Ultimately you evaluate the draft after the players have played in the league.

Question 3 - Your 2009 mock draft has three Marquette players slotted for the second round. Who has the best chance to have a long term NBA career?

This may surprise some people, but I think it's Dominic James. He is a great athlete and has become a true point guard now. Certainly he is not a great shooter but I think that can be fixed with tweaking. His stroke needs to be dissected but I'm not as down on his shooting as others are because it can be fixed. He's a tremendous defender as well. Good point guards are hard to find and if he can stick, he can have a productive NBA career.

McNeal has a chance for a good NBA career and most experts would say of the three he has the best chance to stick the longest. I like his game a lot.

Wesley has good size but he does things that many other players do. He's at a disadvantage from that perspective because so many other players at his position have those same skill sets.

Question 4 - Do you think the Dominic James injury has hurt him at all with this draft prospects?

I don't think it will affect much. I wasn't able to see the game against Missouri but he will heal, he has time before the draft.

Question 5 - What is your opinion of players drafted in the 2nd round...are they better off being drafted or hoping for a free agency route?

GM's don't like to waste picks. Those are assets and GM's want the players they draft to make the team. It doesn't reflect well on them if they are drafting players that don't make it. So in my opinion it's better to be drafted then go the free agency route because you have a higher probability to make the team.

However, if you're not drafted it's not the end of the world for players because they can selectively target those teams that need their skill set. Of the three Marquette players, James might benefit the most if he's not drafted from the free agency route. James is a true point guard and teams need those skills.

Question 6 - In years past we have seen an influx of foreign players selected in the NBA draft. What are the foreign prospects this year?

This might be the first draft in a number of years where a true foreigner (Brandon Jennings excluded) isn't selected in the first round. It depends who from abroad decides to make themselves eligible. Overall, this draft appears that will skew more toward American players than in years past. The foreign crop isn't as strong.

Question 7 - Lazar Hayward will be a senior next year and should finish in the top 5 at Marquette in scoring and rebounds. What are his NBA prospects?

I like him as a player...he rebounds, he can post up and shoot with range, he defends adequately. We have a profile of him on Draft Express because he has possibilities. However, we do not have him the 2010 board right now. He needs to get better during the summer in some areas, especially putting the ball on the floor. His size dictates that he would be a small forward in the NBA and he doesn't have a high enough skill set right now in putting the ball on the floor (left hand is weak, dribbles in straight line), creating his own shot, etc. He has played the power forward spot at Marquette but his size dictates he would be a small forward in the NBA. He doesn't seem to have the quickness or ball handling ability to play that position in the NBA. We'll be monitoring him next year.

Jonathan has been scouting potential NBA players for years along with consulting for various professional teams. He is currently blogging through the NCAA tournament.

3rd Annual EOY Predictions

For the last couple years, after Marquette hung it's final "L" on the schedule, I've written out predictions for the next year.

Let's see how I did last year:

2008-09 Predictions:
1. DJ, Wes, and McNeal will all be back for their Senior year. Since we are over committed on scholarships, someone will have to leave. One could guess that Pat Hazel may want playing time at another university. Correct, except Hazel didn't leave. Our roster imploded in other ways.

2. It wouldn't shock me if Buzz Williams got a head coaching gig somewhere. Didn't I read TCU was sniffing around? All the other coaches stay. WOW. Buzz did get a coaching gig somewhere. Just didn't know it would be so close to home. All of the other coaches went to Indiana, Indiana.

3. Another Former MU player will join the coaching staff, because it happens every year. What's Scott Merritt up to these days? Totally wrong.

4. Mbakwe will get better. I don't see him exploding like Lazar did, though. Mbakwe exploded on the community college circuit.

5. Scott Christoperson .. won't play many minutes in Big East play next year. While Scott may be our future long distance shooter, I can't see him getting quick enough to defend BE players. Scott played zero Big East minutes.

6. Marquette will go 12-6 next year, 1-1 in the BET, 1-1 in the NCAAs. I think I've seen this movie before. Sadly, bullseye. We went 12-6, 1-1, 1-1. To a large extent, it was indeed the same movie, great expectations, hopes dashed in the end. Even with a different coach, same result.

7. It's going to be a long off-season. Totally wrong. With Crean leaving, Buzz arriving, players coming and going .. it was perhaps the shortest off-season ever, as big news hit every month.

2009-10 Predictions:

1. Coach Buzz will say the following phrases 14,000,000 times next year:

  • "In regards to…"
  • "I'm humbled by…"
  • "I'm not smart enough to.."
  • "I've been on the job XXX days.."
  • "We've had XX practices.."
  • "We had XX paint touches."
  • "Where's my Sweet Tea?"
  • "We were out of character …"
  • "FOUL!" (and get called for a Technical).
2. Attendance decrease? As was explained to me before, the attendance numbers usually reflect the prior year's success. But with this economy .. and as most MU fans know, a great chunk of our team just graduated .. I imagine ticket sales will be depressed.

3. The Jump-Around guy will break his 5th metatarsal bone in his foot during a meaningless exhibition game, tragically ending his season as King of the Jumbotron.

4. Coach Buzz will not freak out on Jim McIllvaine next year. Furthermore, Buzz will refrain from freaking out on anyone with a microphone. Beware, newspaper guys.

5. I can't make predictions about players this year. There are too many questions. Will Coobie get the green light to shoot more? Otule & Fulce played very few BE minutes, will they improve enough to play more? The new recruits have torn up their HS opponents. How does that translate to the NCAA? I have no idea.

6. Season Record? Last year, we could count on 4 seniors. Plus or minus, we won and lost most games we were supposed to win and lose. Next year, lots of variables .. we've got very talented freshmen coming in, but without having see them play versus collegiate talent, one can only wildly guess what will happen. Here's my first stab: 8-10 in BE, 1-1 in BET, 0-1 NIT.

That being said, 4 years ago, I had sub-500 thoughts, but after watching the Three Amigos at the scrimmages and first exhibition game, I bumped my expectations, thinking: These guys are going to win way more than people expect. The result was a shocking 4th place finish in the BE that year, when we were predicted 10th. Let's hope we have the same type of surprising year.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Last night proved just how good Marquette was this year

Duke … welcome to the Big East.

I was almost still too sick from the Missouri loss to watch the games last night, but thank goodness I did.

After watching the four games last, is there any doubt Marquette would have had a shot to win ANY other conference in the US this year except the Big East?

Reflect on last night's games. Marquette was eliminated from the Big East tournament by Villanova on a last second shot. Last night, that same Villanova team beat the ACC TOURNAMENT CHAMPION DUKE by 23 points. You're telling me Marquette couldn’t have won the ACC tournament?

Marquette was eliminated from the NCAA tournament in the final seconds by Missouri. That same Missouri team beat the Conference USA champion Memphis, ranked No. 1 by Pomeroy, by 11 points to advance to the Elite Eight. In their six tournament games so far (Big 12 and NCAA), Marquette has been by far their closest challenge – Missouri’s margins in those games have been +21 Texas Tech, +19 Cornell, +13 Baylor, +11 Memphis, +8 Oklahoma State, and only +4 Marquette.

True, Marquette didn’t win the close games against great/hot teams – but the measure of how great this squad was is that they played at an incredible level to make them close games. Just reflect on how much BETTER Marquette was in their two narrow tournament losses than two No. 2 seeds – Duke and Memphis – were in losing by 11 and 23 points.

Good and bad criticisms

There have been some fair criticisms of MUs team by Chicosbailbonds, Championshipsmatter and others this year that proved accurate – despite the incredible trio at guard, the team couldn’t go deep without a center and with no depth. Fair enough, those proved to be accurate.

But there are also silly criticisms by others; 1) blaming the Three Amigos instead of a lack of depth/big men for not being able to pull out close games, 2) arguing that if we bloggers stay angry and not content with “mediocre” results it will somehow make the team better as if the team won’t try their hardest unless irate posts are blogged, and finally; 3) no one will remember the Three Amigos because fans only remember deep NCAA runs and Conference and Tournament titles.

Based on that last criteria, how many of Marquette’s seasons are memorable for blog commenter James? Assuming a deep run means at least three NCAA wins, so it takes 3 NCAA wins or a conference title to be "memorable," there have been five memorable seasons for James; 1974, 1977, 1994, 1997 and 2003. So less than one of every 18 seasons is memorable. Let’s say James considers TWO NCAA wins a deep run – at that point you can add 1955, 1969 and 1976, meaning Marquette has had 8 memorable seasons – less than one in every 11 seasons!

And what of the idea that MU would have had to finish in 1st place of 16 teams in the best conference ever this year for it to be a "memorable," season? How about the memories from just competing for the title until James' injury in the first conference to ever put FIVE teams in the Sweet 16, three of which already have advanced to the Elite 8.

The bottom line is, anyone who complains about the past four years is spoiled.

Why the last 4 years will be remembered

To understand just how well we’ve had it the past four years, consider this:

Marquette is one of only EIGHT teams in the country (out of 343) to finish the last three seasons ranked. The others are Kansas, Memphis, UNC, Pitt, UCLA, Louisville and Butler. No other fans in the country get to root for a team that has finished ranked three years in a row.

As you may recall, MU also got enough votes the Three Amigos freshman year to finish 33rd in the country. How many teams have received votes in the final AP poll for four years in a row? Only nine: Duke, Kansas, Memphis, Michigan State, UNC, Pitt, Texas A&M and UCLA.

And I'll say it again - this is the only group that has ever beat 14 ranked teams in a four-year stretch.

Either way, this team will be remembered

Let’s get serious, this team will long be remembered. If the subsequent team drops in the rankings in the brutal Big East, it could be remembered as the ONLY team besides Pittsburgh to win at least 10 games EVERY year from 2006 to 2009. No other Big East team has done that all four years, so no other class can compete with Marquette’s graduating class.

If Marquette does go to new heights, the Three Amigos will be remembered as the guys who got Marquette over the Big East hump and made Marquette a place that new recruits would want to go. Do you really think any of the blue chippers who will be on campus next year would have considered Marquette if the Three Amigos had not shown up and MU had been flattened the first couple of years in the Big East?

Thanks Three Amigos! Thanks Dwight for giving us our only muscle these past few years. I really don’t know what we would have done this year without your defensive minutes and ability to muscle up with the likes of Cunningham.

At full strength, you were the No. 8 team in the country, and even with Dominic out/playing hurt, you were on the verge of the Sweet 16 and left it all on the floor in giving us two memorable efforts against a couple of 7-footers, and a Missouri team that has flattened everyone else including Memphis. Every year 342 of 343 teams end on a down note, but you left it all on the floor the last two years.

For the rest of the year - GO BIG EAST!

For laughs, Coobie and Lazar Sumo Wrestling

This was shot during the Lady Warriors' WNIT game on Monday:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Marquette Post-Season Roundtable - Part Two

In part one of our Postseason roundtable (or you could just scroll down), we took a look at our favorite memories from this season as well as how we think the seniors will be remembered. In part two, we look at Buzz Williams and our thoughts his first season at the helm.

We've gone through almost an entire season with Buzz. What are your thoughts?

bma725: I'm just happy that for the first time since the Kevin O'Neill era we actually scored a basket off an inbounds play, and I'm only half kidding.

I like what I've seen so far. I think there are some coaches out there who would have come in and tried to impose their system on this team because that's the only way they know how to coach, and he was smart enough not to do that. There were some minor on the court issues, but all in all I liked his philosophy. I like the player development we saw from Wes, DJ and Jimmy. That shows me this staff can actually develop talent. I like what I've seen and heard so far in recruiting. Buzz is a very well respected guy among the top AAU coaches in the country, which bodes well for the future.

For right now, he's exceeded my expectations. I didn't think the team would do this well, and I didn't think the players would develop like that. With the make up of the team changing so much next year, we'll have to wait and see if he can continue to prove the doubters wrong.

Rob: Color me pleased. Despite my vociferous initial objections, I think Buzz did a pretty good job this year. In every area that I'd want to grade Buzz (representative of the university, recruiting, regular season success, and NCAA success), I'd give him at least a "met expectations" or "exceeds expectations". The big key for me was seeing how well he coaches, and I thought he did a pretty good job. Plus, anyone that is as big of a numbers freak as he is can't be that bad.

muwarrior92: Overall, I'd give him an AB using the MU grading system (is that still used today?) He exceeded my expectations for wins and losses but finished the conference where I expected (5th). He's passionate as hell which I love. He's too honest which in a weird way is not good. He has to know sometimes that honesty should be kept with the inside voice and not told to the media. He seems to be a good motivator and he assembled a wonderful staff. I'm not wild about his lack of timeout usage or his rotations at times, but will evaluate more based on a fuller compliment of players in the coming years. The program is his now, he's off to a good start. He didn't bomb this season and a few things out of his control kept him from making a bigger mark. All in all, job well done.

John: I am very high on Buzz, and particular the fact that he has a national recruiting plan and can obviously bring in big men. I think he has all the scenarios down and can recruit. I thought he made some late game mistakes, but will fix those with a year of Big East coaching under his belt.

Kevin: It's hard to give Buzz anything but a high grade for what he did this year. You can kibbitz around the edges of his coaching decisions, but generally, I thought this team would come in at 12-6 when Crean was here, and Buzz hit that same mark, which means Buzz lived up to the expectations of how this team could perform. The future recruiting classes seem to be great, and Buzz will continue to grow into his position. He's got lots of upside, and we'll see how that plays out over the next 1-2-3 years. Next year, the expectations will be really low, which sets him up very well to exceed them.

Tim: Buzz Williams did a terrific job. When MU was hit in the mouth this season, they responded pretty well. Lose to Dayton? Beat Wisconsin. Lose to Tennessee? Beat NCSU. Lose James? MU still took UConn down the the last few possessions and only a few mental mistakes by veteran players kept the team from winning a few more games. Williams recruited exceptionally well and throughout the season made a number of in-game adjustments which put his team in position to win games in the second half. A fine maiden voyage by the coach.

What has you most excited about next year's team?

bma725: One word, length. For so long we've been the undersized team in nearly every game, that won't be the case anymore. Conceivably, MU could put out a lineup from PG-C at 6'3, 6'6, 6'6, 6'10, 7'0. We haven't had that in awhile. I'm really looking forward to having guys that are actually the appropriate size for their position. That, and I have a hunch that everyone who dropped Erik Williams' stock when he got hurt is going to regret it. The kid is special.

Rob: Growth. With the influx of talent and some of the returning players, I'm most excited about watching the players grow and develop. It's going to be fun watching the contributions from the new players like EWilliams, Cadougan, Buycks, Maymon, and Roseboro. I'm excited to see how Butler, Lazar, and Acker improve. I'm really curious to see what a full offseason does for the development of Fulce, Otule, and McMorrow. Next year's team should consider 0.500 and an NCAA berth as a widely successful season. With such modest expectations, it's going to be fun watching development.

muwarrior92: Seeing what other players can do. This team has been roughly the same for four years and goes through a major change next season. We will certainly be taller which is good as long as the guards can keep it going. I'm a firm believer in guards are the most important in college basketball due to the sheer lack of quality bigs. Can't wait to see Liam McMorrow as he is intriguing. The star studded recruits I suspect will be fantastic based on their hype. Lazar as a senior will be fun to watch, especially as he will be able to play the 'three' next year as well.

John: The only silver lining to DJs injury was the play of Butler and Acker. I was obviously already excited about the great incoming height, and finally being able to bring in the size we would have died for during these past four years – but seeing how well Butler and Acker played might be just what we need to make the transition as the new class gets used to stepping up to Big East play. But with all that aside, the thing I am most excited about is seeing what Lazar will do with legit big men underneath that can let him go out to the perimeter and bury shot after shot. His touch is so perfect, that I believe once he no longer has to take a physical beating inside every game, he will truly blossom into one of the great shooters behind only Novak and Wolf.

Kevin: That's a really tough question to ask just after a nut puncher game. Next year will be really challenging, and Warrior Nation could easily see their first sub-.500 conference season in 4 years, so to be excited about something, you need to think about player development, both new and old. We're all curious what Otule and Fulce will do next year, let alone what Williams, Maymon, Buycks, Cadougan, Rosoboro, and McMorrow will bring to the table. Could we slip into the NCAAs on that young talent? Hope springs eternal.

Tim: The high level of incoming talent. For the first time in ages, Marquette has a diverse skill set hitting campus at the same time. Buzz covered every position on the floor with the soon-to-be freshman. When you throw in seasoned veterans like Hayward, Butler and Acker there's reason for optimism even in the brutal BIG EAST. Surely the program will take a step back next season -- back-to-back 25 win seasons is a high bar -- but with a solid foundation going forward, a bit of patience should pay off handsomely for MU fans.


As always, thanks for reading Cracked Sidewalks and keep visiting! We are Marquette.

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.


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.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Buzz, DJ, McNeal Post-Season Presser Video

MUTV posted up these 4 videos:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:



Jeronne Maymon makes room in his trophy case

Call it a clean sweep for Jeronne Maymon.

The 6'6" forward, Buzz Williams' first commit as head coach, last week was named the state's Mr. Basketball and last night was announced as the 2008-2009 Associated Press Player of the Year. Maymon, who won the AP award last year as well, secured his legacy as one of the most dominant high school players in the history of the state.

Maymon averaged 18 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game this season. The 6'6" strongman saved his best for last as he dominated the state title game with 25 points and 12 boards in Memorial's convincing 56-41 victory over Racine Horlick.

Maymon was a unanimous choice for first-team all-state in this year's AP balloting along with fellow first-teamers Jamil Wilson and his Memorial high school teammate Vander Blue. Maymon compiled a gaudy 94-9 record in four varsity seasons at Madison Memorial.

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.

Some more pre-game optimism

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
Bring your optimism, people. Game time is coming up in an hour and a half.

Dominic James returns as MU takes on Mizzou

In case you missed the news overnight, senior point guard Dominic James has been cleared to play this afternoon against Missouri. Incredible. Rosiak broke the news from Boise -- apparently James even practiced with the team for 90 minutes.


Nobody can expect James to be in peak physical condition or to control the game on both ends of the floor as much as he did when 100% healthy, but against a Missouri team that can go 11 deep the return of the most indispensable of the Three Amigos could not come at a better time. Bravo, Dominic and the MU medical staff. And hey, Pudner's faith in this team was strong before this news. Of course, we know Rob is optimistic this week.

Tipoff is scheduled for 3:50pm CDT today.

Now let's look at the numbers, starting with Missouri's strengths and weaknesses.


  1. Forcing turnovers – Missouri is #8 in the country. They force a turnover on one in every four possessions (25.6%). Mizzou forces a steal on almost 15% of all possessions. James' return could help off-set this strength.
  2. Protecting the ball – Missouri is #12 in the country at protecting the ball. They only turn it over on 16.8% of all possessions.
  3. Offensive effective Field Goal percentage – Missouri is #42 in the country at eFG%, where they have a percentage of 52.9%
  4. They make the majority of their points from inside the paint (#29 in the country), where they make 52.5% of their shots
  5. Defensive eFG% - Missouri is #53 in the country at defensive eFG%. Opponents only achieve an eFG% of 46.3%
  6. Their perimeter defense is #23 in the country. Opponents only make 30.7% of three point shots

  1. Fouling – Missouri allows opponents to shoot a free throw rate (FTA / FGA) of 39.3%. This is #242 in the country. This is likely a distinct positive for MU.
  2. Free throw shooting – Missouri only hits 66.8% of their free throw attempts (#242 in the country)
  3. Defensive rebounding – Missouri is #229 in the country at defensive rebounding. Opponents achieve an OR% of 34% against them. MU will need to do even better than that to win.
Specific Statistics Recommendations (In order of importance)
  1. Make shots (eFG% of 55% or more). This is 30 FGM, or three more than our average. At our average, Marquette loses by four.
  2. Stop them from making shots (eFG% of 47% or higher). This is 25 FGM, or one less than their average. Least efficient major contributors are JT Tiller (eFG% of 46.3%), Marcus Denmon (eFG% of 48.9%), Zaire Taylor (50.7%), and Leo Lyons (50.7%). Most efficient major contributors are Matt Lawrence (61.3%) and DeMarre Carroll (58.5%). Keep in mind that MU (potentially) adds its most potent defender to the lineup today.
  3. Get offensive rebounds (OR% of 51% or higher). This is 19 offensive rebounds, or seven more than average. At season average, Marquette loses by eight.
  4. Combining multiple Recommendations:
  • Protect the ball (TO% of 14% or less). That’s 10 turnovers, or two less than averge
  • Force turnovers (TO% of 30%). That’s 22 Missouri turnovers, which is eight more than they average.
  • Prevent offensive rebounds (Tigers OR% of 18% for a Marquette victory). That’s 7 offensive rebounds, or six less than their average.
  • Get to the Free Throw Line. A Free Throw Rate of 50% means Marquette only loses by six
Model conclusion (Bottom line)
In a fast paced game (73 possessions), Marquette is expected to lose the game by seven points (25% chance of victory). Of course, the model is skewed by MU's performance in the last several weeks without James, and to be fair there's no way to account for his return in the model since we don't know how effective he'll be.

The model predicts that MU will have a slight advantage on offensive rebounds and a modest advantage on free throw rate. Missouri is expected to win the game based on forcing Marquette into more turnovers than normal and by field goal percentage advantage -- but again, perhaps James mitigate the Tigers' effectiveness in these key areas. Today's game is predicted to be more defensively oriented with Marquette being held well under season average and Missouri doing okay offensively but not great.

Oh -- and one last thing about Dominic James........"Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years."

*Joint post by Tim and Rob

Final Hours for the Seniors? 3-star test still predicts a win today

It is surreal here nearing the end of my first visit ever to Idaho. It will be a high stress moment when me and the children make our way to the hotel lobby to join the MU cheerleaders, pep band and other fans to cheer the team on as they get on the bus. Two years ago I was in line for a high five from every player – and we didn’t score for 9 ½ minutes against Michigan State – so I’ve made a point of standing behind the high five line prior to the games again Kentucky, Stanford and Utah State, and save my bad shooting touch for the YMCA.

Marquette is a 4-point underdog against Missouri, with ESPN Accuscore calculating a 78-72 loss and Pomeroy predicting a 78-74 loss.

I’m not going to lie, I’m scared to death of this being the end and fully prepared for a very long and depressing flight home – BUT that is only because the stakes are so high, not because I don’t believe we will win the game.

3-star theory still predicts a Marquette win

I wrote in my tournament preview blog that Al McGuire’s old, “it takes 3 ½ stars to win a championship” theory pointed to an Elite 8 run for Marquette, even with DJ out. To recap, MU has three potential NBA players on the court (shorthand “stars”) while Utah had none and Missouri had two (6-foot-9 power forward Leo Lyons and 6-foot-8 shooting forward DeMarre Carroll).

I watched them intently against Cornell, and they are a very good duo that will get some easy baskets against our inside defense as we try to match up. However, like MU, neither of their stars are a point guard OR a center, and neither are bigger than Dwight Burke. They are trying to make a run with these two “in-between” stars, while Marquette has three. And historically, teams with 3 future NBA draftees are well over twice as likely to make a Final Four run as teams with 2.

In an email to a couple of thousand people prior to the tourney tipoff, I ranked all the teams in the tournament based on the number of NBA prospects and how high they are projected to be drafted – noting what an accurate predictor this had been of NCAA tourney wins this decade. Marquette was the 17th best team in the tournament with Jerel (26th highest projected draft from any NCAA team), Wes and Lazar. Missouri ranked 16 spots lower at 33rd with Lyons (49th projection) and Carroll.

With Marquette ranking 16 spots ahead of Missouri in potential NBA players on the floor, how likely are they to win? This year the team that ranked higher by this measure has gone 31-9. Only three teams have won in this tournament despite being ranked more than a dozen spots behind their opponent - Siena over Ohio State, Dayton over West Virginia and Cleveland State over Wake Forest. Other than that, the team with more NBA talent has won every game except a few in which the two teams were within a few spots of each other in NBA talent.

What about cases in which one team has a higher seed (Missouri) while the other team (Marquette) ranks higher in NBA stars? Marquette will be the fourth lower seed to rank at least eight spots better than their opponent in NBA talent. The good news is the first three all won – USC over Boston College, Texas A&M over BYU and Arizona over Utah.

Oh, and did I forget? President Obama picked Marquette tomorrow and he was 8 for 8 in his Saturday picks. And there's no way we can be eliminated two years in a row on my birthday! Seriously though, despite my optimism I know it won't be easy.

Three other players that cause problems today

Obviously Lyons and Carroll are not the only players trying to end the careers of Wes, Jerel and Dwight tomorrow. They didn’t win the Big 12 championship without a lot of ways to beat you.

Matt Lawrence looks like he has a great 3-point shot, and we don’t get around the high screen well to cut it off. JT Tiller and Zaire Taylor are great passers, giving Missouri a chance to get the ball in for easy baskets against our small inside. But they are passing to two guys who are about the same height as Dwight Burke, not the Lopez twins.

If these guys prove to be too much tomorrow, we can reflect on the seniors great careers and play the “what-if” game over Novak’s missed 3-pointer at the end of the Alabama game to end the Three Amigos freshman year, Jerel’s injury (sophomore year), Lopez’s lucky shot (junior year) and Dominic’s injury (senior year). But until and unless that happens, I’m anticipating a much happier (Sweet 16) final chapter to the seniors careers.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dominic James will play against Missouri (BREAKING NEWS)

Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that Dominic James will play tomorrow against Missouri in Marquette's second round game against Missouri.

Whether this is a good idea, or not, I guess we'll find out tomorrow. Here's the article

Will he be in shape? Will he be a distraction? Does he risk further injury? How much lateral movement does he have? Will it be a boost to the team's morale? Tune in Sunday to find out.

Wes and Buzz on CBS

Friday, March 20, 2009

Marquette wins .. whew!

NCAA First Round: Utah State Aggies v Marquette Golden Eagles
Marquette nipped Utah State 58-57 to advance to the ........ Tremendous Thirty Two in this year's NCAA tournament.

Marquette had a comfortable 13 point lead after playing 17 minutes of the first half, and looked to be cruising to an easy victory, when our shots stopped falling and USU figured out how to score against our much quicker squad.

MU was outscored 39-32 in the 2nd half, and was down by 6 with 5 minutes to go, yet slowly chipped away, mostly with the help of USU fouling and putting MU on the line. -- Marquette hit 19-23 (83%) from the charity stripe, hitting 11 of 14 in the last 3 minutes to seal the game.

With a 4 point lead, USU was allowed to streak down the court and hit an open 3 to end the game, 58-57.

Lazar Hayward was the player of the game, shooting 9-14 with 26 points and 8 boards. Jerel and Wes shot a dismal 6-26 combined, and collected most of their points from the FT line.

This game is very reminiscent of the MU vs. Holy Cross game in 2003, when 3rd seeded MU barely survived 72-68 versus #14 seed Holy Cross. It took 29 points from Travis Diener, 6 in the last 35 seconds to eek out that win.

Who was Marquette's next opponent in 2003? Missouri, who Marquette will play this Sunday at 4:15pm.


And what of the quick turnaround for the Sunday game against Missouri -- especially since MU had five days to prepare for Utah State? After the game we asked MU great Jim McIlvaine about the tight turnaround during the NCAA tournament and how that might impact players' preparation, their approach, and their own expectations heading into Sunday's tilt with the Tigers:
I don't think the approach changes at all for the players. Coach Williams has done a very good job of keeping things loose, but focused within the team and they have been very consistent throughout the year in terms of their game preparation. I don't know what expectations the team has for themselves or what the general consensus is outside of the team, but I have to think these kids, especially the seniors, wouldn't feel like any weight of expectation has been lifted with this win.

I don't want to sell them short, but I have to think the seniors would be disappointed if they weren't able to make it to the second weekend of the tournament. Of course, I'm hoping for a Final Four run and a national championship, but I'm now in a position to do that, because I'm no longer a player, who can only focus on the next opponent and the task at hand.

Jim, thanks. We'll be listening on Sunday.

Enjoy the victory!!

*edit - McIlvaine comments.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pushing some Optimism - Marquette's Path to the Sweet Sixteen

I'm a pretty pessimistic (and often wrong) person when it comes to Marquette basketball. It's weird, because I'm generally optimistic overall. My epiphany came shortly after the end of the Syracuse game. After Syracuse went up by three points early in overtime, I sat down for the rest of the game and said, "I don't believe in these guys. This team never wins anything." My wife derided me afterwards, saying, "You are no fun to watch games with... hiding behind your numbers and pessimism. Be more optimistic." Of course, she was right. Lots of times I look at the numbers and see a low probability of winning percentage and then get ready for a loss.

Needless to say, when I first looked at the numbers for the opening round matchup, they were kind of daunting. The pessimism was rearing its ugly head. After all, Utah State has a lot of strengths and not many weaknesses (taken from Pomeroy's site). But you already know that, and seriously, if you aren't familiar with their team by now, just take a look at the posts from the past few days and any one of the links below. The Aggies are #13 in the country at offensive efficiency. This is a concern because defensive eFG% is our achilles heel. They don't foul much at all, they grab a lot of defensive boards, and they protect the ball great.

Even the weaknesses for Utah State (not forcing turnovers, three point defense) are not areas that Marquette can easily exploit. Throw in the fact that the matchup is a virtual road game for Marquette, and the concerns are compounded.

And yet, I'm wildly optimistic about this game and Marquette's chances to make the Sweet Sixteen. Here are some reasons to stay positive.

1. As referenced in the article linked by Tim, conventional wisdom is picking Utah State to upset Marquette. Roll into Friday's matchup thinking like a hedge fund. I love betting against the conventional wisdom.

2. We're due for some good luck. After last year's Stanford game, and then the close games against teams like Villanova and Syracuse, it's time to have the charm on our side. As Pudner pointed out, a team that gets unlucky with the bounces tends to have things even out. If you don't think luck evens out, I point you to Georgetown and Notre Dame (ha!).

3. I'll admit to being concerned about Utah State. They have some definite strengths. However, we are the best team that Utah State has played all year. Think about that. Remember what we did to Northern Iowa? Also consider that Marquette played 12 ranked teams this year, ten of whom are playing in the 2009 NCAA Tournament. Where do you think Utah State falls on that list.

4. Remember this picture of Barro? Multiply it by four and add it to one of the most significant classes in recent Marquette history. Our guys are NOT going out like that tomorrow.

5. Jesus wants Marquette in the Sweet Sixteen. Not really, but a friend of mine has been saying it all week and I think it's great. Of course, remember that Marquette plays on a Friday, so gimme some of that filet o fish.

At the end of the day tomorrow, it'll be the Aggies that want to Pray.

Tipoff is scheduled for 11:30am CDT from the Taco Bell Arena in Boise. Bring it on!

6. For the stats purists, here are the keys to victory

  • Stop them from making shots (eFG% of 52% or less) - Their most efficient offensive players are Gary Wilkinson (eFG% of 60.1%), Tai Wesley (eFG% of 60.5%), Tyler Newbold (eFG% of 56.2%), and Jared Quayle (eFG% of 55.5%). Their least efficient players are Brady Jardine (eFG% of 33%) and Pooh Williams (eFG% of 52%)
  • Force turnovers (TO% of 30% or higher), which is about 8 more turnovers than they average. Most likely to turn the ball over are Jardine (TO% of 20%), P. Williams (19.9%), and Wesley (18.6%). Least likely to turn the ball over are Newbold (TO% of 10.7), Wilkinson (13.6%), and Quayle (16.2%)
  • Make shots (eFG% of 58% or higher), which is slightly higher than average
  • Combining multiple Recommendations
    a. As many offensive rebounds as possible (OR% of 45% or higher)
    b. Protect the ball (TO% of 10% or less)
    c. Prevent offensive rebounds (Utah State OR% of 30%)

Worth reading

In case you missed it:

Deadspin has a smart analysis of tomorrow's matchup. Key excerpt:

More Dominic James Melodrama The oft-maligned Dominic James was Marquette's most important player, despite Doug Gottlieb-esque 46% free throw shooting. In his absence, opponents are shooting 49% and point guards are pouring in nearly 20 ppg. Watch how Marquette's defense holds up, particularly Maurice Acker, against dribble penetration and fighting through high screens. Marquette will rarely go over a high screen, increasing their vulnerability to a hot shooting guard (paging A.J. Price).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gameday closes in: media updates

Plenty of coverage for the opening round of the 2009 tourney:

As always, get over to MUScoop to see what the MU fanbase is saying about the tourney.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Getting to Know Utah State, Part Two

Now it's time for the second part of our primer on the Utah State Aggies. It's our pleasure to welcome Martin Renzhofer to Cracked Sidewalks. Martin has worked at the Salt Lake Tribune since 1990. He is responsible for coverage of collegiate basketball, soccer and volleyball as well as professional baseball. For the first part of our "Getting to Know Utah State" feature click here.

CS: Over the years Stew Morrill has enjoyed much success at USU. What are the most impressive aspects of his coaching and leadership?
MR: After watching Stew Morrill’s teams for five seasons, I am impressed with how he manages to coax the best effort from of his players. He demands a lot, but athletes who buy into his system are usually rewarded. Morrill is also loyal to his guys. He’s given a questionable character or two – those who have fouled up one way or prior to coming to Utah State – a second chance and his decision has typically been proved correct. His teams have not been successful in NCAA Tournament, but this is not due to lack of preparation. This 11th seed has been the school’s best, which should tell you the caliber of competition the Aggies have faced.

CS: What has been the most surprising aspect of this year's Aggie squad?
MR: The entire season. USU’s career scoring leader graduated and, while the Aggies were picked for second in the WAC, there was no indication that this team would have accomplished everything it has. They have become a team in the real sense. On any given night, there are five or six players who can step forward. The sum is greater than the parts.

CS: The most disappointing?
MR: USU’s performance at St. Mary’s. The game came following a 19-game winning streak and the Aggies may have been mentally bushed. They didn’t have the normal spark. Yet, USU still came close at the end.

CS: Utah State has only played six teams with an RPI of better than 100. Is their strength of schedule a concern heading into the NCAA tournament?
MR: Utah State’s strength of schedule is a hot-button issue. Morrill will not schedule 2-for-1 games with higher-profile programs, so there is no incentive for a team from a high profile conference to travel to Logan where the Aggies have not lost in more than two years. So, Utah State winds up playing teams from the Big Sky, Big West and so on. USU does benefit from in-state rivals BYU and Utah every year, which helps. The one positive going into the NCAA Tournament would have to be Utah State’s performance in the WAC title game against Nevada on Nevada’s home floor in front of a hostile crowd. But USU has not played anyone close to the caliber of Marquette. If the Aggies don’t adjust quickly, it might be a long game.

CS: Utah State only lost four games -- were there any similarities in their defeats that Marquette might exploit?
MR: The loss to BYU came while USU was still trying to find itself, and I’ve explained the St. Mary’s loss. However, Boise State and Nevada shot lights out in the first half, built big leads and hung on. In both cases, the opposing guards were the difference. I understand Marquette has two very fine guards, so…

CS: Which Utah State player is most likely to figure in the final outcome of Friday's game?
MR: To have a chance, they all have to play at their best. But center Gary Wilkinson and point guard Jared Quayle I believe are the keys for USU.


Martin, thanks very much for your help today. Fans, please follow Martin's work all week long on the Salt Lake Tribune as he chronicles the Aggies' preparation for the NCAA Tournament on Friday.

Getting to Know Utah State, Part One

After an 18-game conference season that offered a host of familiar opponents and styles of play the Marquette Golden Eagles head out to Boise to face an unfamiliar foe, the 30-4 Utah State Aggies in the opening round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

Don't know much about the Aggies? We have you covered today with two Q/A segments featuring Aggie beat reporters Jared Eborn of the Deseret News and Martin Renzhofer of the Salt Lake Tribune. We asked Jared ad Martin different sets of questions, hoping to learn as much as we can about the Aggies in preparation for Friday's game. Check back later today for Martin's Q/A.


First up is Jared Eborn's response to our Q/A. Jared is a sports writer for the Deseret News.

CS: In general how would you characterize the Aggies' season?
Eborn: Utah State graduated an All-American guard named Jaycee Carroll who is the school’s all-time leading scorer. In the eyes of many, that made this a rebuilding season. So this has certainly been a year where expectations were exceeded. I’d guess winning 30 games would exceed the expectations for almost every school. The season was never really in trouble, but the team began to play at a higher level when junior Jared Quayle made the move from shooting guard to the point.

CS: What are the Aggies most defining characteristics?
Eborn: The Aggies do not play above the rim or at a very high tempo. But they are capable of that if needed. USU likes to run its offense and execute its plays. They patiently wait for good shots, then make another pass of two for a better shot. They are older than most teams, but not necessarily more experienced. Two years as a Mormon missionary does not include much basketball, weight lifting or condition other than walking door-to-door and riding bikes to and from appointments. That said, Utah State uses the mental maturity to make good decisions and stay focused. They do have good athletes on the wings, but the pace of the game typically does not allow them to fly high because transition baskets are rare. USU shoots a high percentage and defends well.

CS: In looking quickly at the Aggies it seems they start their offense inside-out, preferring a slower pace....is this an accurate read on their offense?
Eborn: A good read, actually. USU goes to Wilkinson and Wesley first, then looks for open shots from the perimeter. While the pace can be slowed down, it’s actually not that bad and USU will take quick shots if they are open. On defense, if the Aggies can get a team to take a quick bad shot, they are very happy. Otherwise, USU is content to play tough defense and let opponents work the clock down.

CS: Which types of teams have presented problems for the Aggies this season?
Eborn: Exceptionally tall teams or lightning quick guards are USU’s problems. While the Aggie post players are strong and ‘court savvy’ the do not have big lift or long arms. And USU’s 3-guard lineup can be pressured into turnovers by fast guards.

CS: Marquette is decidedly guard-oriented and very quick. How have the Aggies fared against teams with a similar profile this season?
Eborn: USU has fared pretty well against all types of teams they have faced – a 30-4 record testifies to that. But quick guards to play tough defense and deny passes to USU guards in the flow of the offense can disrupt the play and often create turnovers. Defensively, USU is deceptively good and has had tremendous success shutting down guards. But if someone is hitting 3-point shots with success, it will stretch the Aggie defense and can create problems when USU tries to play help defense.

CS: In Gary Wilkerson the Aggies have a skilled 6'9" big man and a talented post in Tai Wesley. Are these guys the focal point of the Aggies offense?
Eborn: Absolutely. Wilkinson is a skilled player who can get a variety of shots off and has surprising range with his jumper. Wesley is a bull inside. He’s Polynesian and not afraid to mix it up with players and show he’s got some strength to go with his skill. He can get into foul trouble, though, because of those tendencies. But more and more this season, point guard Jared Quayle has become Option 2 on offense. He is a mature player who takes care of the ball and creates shots for others. He’s also as good a rebounding guard as there is in the West with great leaping ability and a knack for the ball.

CS: Defensively, how do you expect Coach Morrill to approach Friday's game?
Eborn: Morrill will take advantage of the time to scout Marquette well and draw up a good game plan. The Aggies will also take the extra day and rest. They are tired after three games in three days and have a few injuries to tend to. I have no doubt USU will be full of respect for the type of program Marquette has, so there will be no overconfidence even though USU has 30 wins. The Golden Eagles will most likely be the toughest team USU has faced this year. But they will not be intimidated – Utah State’s age and maturity will help with that. But my guess is Morrill will try to have wings Tyler Newbold and Pooh Williams guard Marquette’s talented backcourt and try to exploit any advantage they can inside. USU will have five players crashing the defensive boards to try and prevent second-chance points. The margin of error for USU will be small and allowing Marquette to get second looks will not work.

Jared, thanks very much for your time.

Fans, please follow Jared's work all week long as he chronicles the Aggies' preparation for the NCAA Tournament on Friday.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

MU got a good draw vs. Utah State & Missouri based on the 3-NBA star rule

Rob will follow-up with a more comprehensive statistical analysis soon, but here is an initial check on how MU matches up this weekend based on the NBA talent on both opponents' rosters.

On this basis, Marquette's talent ranks as the 16th most suited to make a run, while Utah State and Missouri are two of 35 teams that do NOT have at least three players being even considered by the NBA at this point. Marquette is one of only 18 teams in the tournament with at least two players projected to go in the draft this year or next (Jerel McNeal now projected 32nd pick and Wes Matthews 48th), as well as a 3rd player with a shot to picked (Lazar is ranked just outside next year’s draft as the 48th best prospect among juniors according to www.nbadraft.net).

Utah State (Friday in Boise) actually is one of the teams with ZERO players being even considered by the NBA at this point, while Missouri (Sunday if we win 1st round) has one projected NBA pick (6-foot9 forward Leo Lyons, picked to go after both Jerel and Wes at 55th this year) and one other player in the same spot as Lazar, as just outside the draft (DeMarre Carroll picked as the 43rd best senior).

Obviously two big forwards can provide a match-up problem, and Utah will have a huge home advantage, but as far as the history of teams needing 3 players ready to be drafted by the NBA within a year, Marquette got a good bracket.

History proves, it usually takes 3 NBA stars for a run

As I pointed out in a blog on March 3 (http://www.crackedsidewalks.com/2009/03/lazar-needs-to-be-3rd-star-for-elite.html), one of the best predictors of NCAA tournament success is the number of players on a team that will be drafted by the NBA this year or next. In the last 8 years, 67% of teams with MORE THAN three players who will be drafted this year or next make the Final Four (only UConn and UNC have more than three this year). Of teams with exactly 3 such players, 35% make the Final Four, and only 3% of teams with two such players make it. Marquette is one of 19 teams that legitimately could have three draftees based on www.nbadraft.net.

Of course, Al McGuire said you need 3 1/2 stars, and is there any doubt at this point that Jimmy Butler doesn't qualify as at least a half star? Memphis John Calipari just backed up the 3-star theory on CBS by saying, "We lost 3 pro players last year. To be where we are, we must have 3 pro players on this team."

Note that two of the top 8 teams under this system, Ohio State and USC, didn’t even look like they’d make the tourney when I wrote the March 3 column (USC was 7-9 in the Pac 10 and had lost 6 of last 7 at the time, while Ohio State was 8-8 in the Big 10 and had lost 4 of their last 5). However, both shocked everyone as USC won the Pac 10 tourney and OSU whipped Michigan State in Big 10 semis and fell just short in the title game – more evidence that future NBA draftees is a key indicator of the ability to win come tournament time.

How does Buzz’s coaching philosophy play into the “3-star” theory

For years the great Dean Smith played 10 deep to dominate regular seasons, but usually came up short come tournament time as teams that relied on more minutes from key stars were more suited to win come tournament time. What does this say about Buzz’s practice this season of playing Jerel, Wes and Lazar almost 40 minutes a game?

Critics may worry that he wore down our stars by not resting them. However, it may be that Buzz was conditioning Jerel, Wes and Lazar how you play when you are tired. How many other teams have three stars that are used to coming up with big plays after being on the court for 38 or 39 minutes? With all the rest before the opening round, and then another day before the second round game, it could prove that Buzz has been preparing three future NBA players better than anyone other coach for the NCAA tourney experience.

No question, championshipsmatter and chicosbailbonds have made good contrary observations – that a team with one of these stars at point guard and/or center might be better suited to a run, but purely playing the percentages, Marquette is one of the 18 teams who could have enough talent to be playing a second weekend.

What 31 teams have the best shot to advance based purely on NBA talent?

Obviously balance this list against overall rankings, but based PURELY on the 3-star rule, these are the 31 teams with three or more players that could go in the NBA draft this year or next. The following is how they would rank based on how many, and how high they are expected to go in the draft: 1) UConn, 2) North Carolina, 3) Wake Forest, 4) Ohio State, 5) USC, 6) LSU, 7) West Virginia , 8) Oklahoma, 9) Duke, 10) Louisville, 11) Pittsburgh, 12) Texas, 13) UCLA, 14) Tennessee, 15) Marquette, 16) Gonzaga, 17) Kansas, 18) Syracuse, 19) Villanova, 20) Boston College, 21) St. Mary's, 22) Memphis, 23) Oklahoma State, 24) Miami, 25) Michigan St., 26) California, 27) Texas A&M, 28) Florida St., 29) Washington and 30) Purdue.

The 35 other teams in the tournament do not have three players even being considered for the NBA draft.

Teams with more than 3 projected NBA draftees (87% make Elite 8):
1. UConn has 6 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 7: Hasheem Thabeet 7-3 265 C UConn Jr. (No. 2 of 2009 Draft), AJ Price 6-2 190 PG UConn Sr. (No. 17 of 2009 Draft), Jeff Adrien 6-7 245 PF UConn Sr. (No. 34 of 2009 Draft), Kemba Walker 5-11 172 PG UConn Fr. (No. 12 of 2010 Draft), Stanley Robinson 6-8 220 SF UConn Jr. (No. 35 of 2010 Draft), Jerome Dyson (INJ) 6-3 180 SG UConn Jr. (No. 49 of 2010 Draft), Gavin Edwards 6-9 230 PF UConn Jr. (Honorable Mention of Jr.).
2. North Carolina has 6 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 7: Ty Lawson 6-0 195 PG North Carolina Jr. (No. 23 of 2009 Draft). Tyler Hansbrough 6-8 245 PF North Carolina Sr. (No. 25 of 2009 Draft). Danny Green 6-6 210 SF North Carolina Sr. (No. 42 of 2009 Draft). Ed Davis 6-9 225 PF North Carolina Fr. (No. 8 of 2010 Draft). Wayne Ellington 6-5 194 SG North Carolina Jr. (No. 28 of 2010 Draft). Deon Thompson 6-8 240 PF North Carolina Jr. (No. 40 of 2010 Draft). Larry Drew 6-0 160 PG North Carolina Fr. (Honorable Mention of Fr).
Teams with exactly 3 projected NBA Draftees (47% chance of Elite 8)
3. Arizona has 3 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 4: Jordan Hill 6-10 235 PF Arizona Jr. (No. 3 of 2009 Draft). Chase Budinger 6-7 218 SG/SF Arizona Jr. (No. 16 of 2009 Draft). Nic Wise 5-10 177 PG Arizona Jr. (No. 52 of 2010 Draft). Jamelle Horne 6-7 210 SF Arizona So. (No. 48 of So).
4. Wake Forest has 3 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 6: Jeff Teague 6-2 175 PG Wake Forest So. (No. 6 of 2009 Draft). Al-Farouq Aminu 6-9 215 SF Wake Forest Fr. (No. 11 of 2009 Draft). James Johnson 6-8 235 SF Wake Forest So. (No. 18 of 2009 Draft). LD Williams 6-4 210 SG/SF Wake Forest Jr. (Honorable Mention of Jr.). Tony Woods 6-10 240 C Wake Forest Fr. (No. 7 of Fr). Ty Walker 7-0 220 C Wake Forest Fr. (No. 28 of Fr).
5. Ohio State has 3 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 7: BJ Mullens 7-0 275 C Ohio State Fr. (No. 12 of 2009 Draft). Evan Turner 6-6 200 SG Ohio State So. (No. 14 of 2010 Draft). William Buford 6-5 190 SG Ohio State Fr. (No. 24 of 2010 Draft). David Lighty 6-6 220 SG Ohio State Jr. (No. 49 of Jr.). Dallas Lauderdale 6-8 250 PF Ohio State So. (No. 33 of So). Jon Diebler 6-6 200 SG Ohio State So. (No. 49 of So). Anthony Crater 6-1 165 PG Ohio State Fr. (Honorable Mention of Fr).
6. USC has 3 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 4: Demar DeRozan 6-6 210 SG USC Fr. (No. 7 of 2009 Draft). Taj Gibson 6-9 225 PF USC Jr. (No. 37 of 2009 Draft). Daniel Hackett 6-5 205 PG/SG USC Jr. (No. 60 of 2010 Draft). Dwight Lewis 6-5 215 SG USC Jr. (No. 40 of Jr.).
7. LSU has 3 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 3: Marcus Thornton 6-4 210 SG LSU Sr. (No. 46 of 2009 Draft). Chris Johnson 6-11 205 PF/C LSU Sr. (No. 57 of 2009 Draft). Tasmin Mitchell 6-7 230 SF LSU Jr. (No. 48 of 2010 Draft).
8. West Virginia has 3 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 4: Alex Ruoff 6-6 220 SG West Virginia Sr. (No. 59 of 2009 Draft). Devin Ebanks 6-8 185 SF West Virginia Fr. (No. 19 of 2010 Draft). DaSean Butler 6-7 225 SF West Virginia Jr. (No. 42 of 2010 Draft). Kevin Jones 6-8 220 SF West Virginia Fr. (Honorable Mention of Fr).
Teams with 2 projected NBA draftees, and a 3rd that could be drafted:
9. Oklahoma has 2 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 5: Blake Griffin 6-10 252 PF Oklahoma So. (No. 1 of 2009 Draft). Willie Warren 6-3 207 PG/SG Oklahoma Fr. (No. 15 of 2009 Draft). Taylor Griffin 6-7 238 SF/PF Oklahoma Sr. (Honorable Mention of Sr). Tony Crocker 6-6 193 SG Oklahoma Jr. (Honorable Mention of Jr.). Ryan Wright 6-9 240 PF Oklahoma Jr. (Honorable Mention of Jr.).
10. Duke has 2 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 6: Gerald Henderson 6-4 210 SG Duke Jr. (No. 7 of 2009 Draft). Kyle Singler 6-8 220 SF Duke So. (No. 21 of 2010 Draft). Lance Thomas 6-8 215 SF/PF Duke Jr. (Honorable Mention of Jr.). Nolan Smith 6-3 180 PG/SG Duke So. (No. 14 of So). Elliot Williams 6-4 175 SG Duke Fr. (No. 27 of Fr). Olek Czyz 6-7 235 SF Duke Fr. (Honorable Mention of Fr).
11. Louisville has 2 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 5: Earl Clark 6-9 230 SF Louisville Jr. (No. 8 of 2009 Draft). Terrence Williams 6-6 220 SG/SF Louisville Sr. (No. 30 of 2009 Draft). Samardo Samuels 6-8 245 PF Louisville Fr. (No. 24 of Fr). Terrence Jennings 6-10 225 PF Louisville Fr. (No. 32 of Fr). George Goode 6-8 205 SF Louisville Fr. (Honorable Mention of Fr).
12. Pittsburgh has 2 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 5: DeJuan Blair 6-6 287 PF Pittsburgh So. (No. 13 of 2009 Draft). Sam Young 6-6 220 SF Pittsburgh Sr. (No. 22 of 2009 Draft). Gilbert Brown 6-6 190 SG Pittsburgh So. (No. 35 of So). Brad Wanamaker 6-4 200 SG Pittsburgh So. (Honorable Mention of So). Nasir Robinson 6-5 210 SG Pittsburgh Fr. (No. 42 of Fr).
13. Texas has 2 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 7: Damion James 6-7 227 SF Texas Jr. (No. 21 of 2009 Draft). Dexter Pittman 6-10 290 C Texas Jr. (No. 39 of 2010 Draft). Connor Atchley 6-10 230 PF Texas Sr. (No. 31 of Sr). AJ Abrams 5-11 155 PG/SG Texas Sr. (No. 45 of Sr). Justin Mason 6-2 194 PG/SG Texas Jr. (No. 46 of Jr.). Gary Johnson 6-7 235 PF Texas So. (No. 38 of So). Varez Ward 6-2 190 PG/SG Texas Fr. (Honorable Mention of Fr).
14. UCLA has 2 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 8: Darren Collison 6-0 170 PG UCLA Sr. (No. 24 of 2009 Draft). Jrue Holiday 6-3 205 PG/SG UCLA Fr. (No. 22 of 2010 Draft). Josh Shipp 6-5 220 SG UCLA Sr. (No. 34 of Sr). James Keefe 6-8 220 SF/PF UCLA Jr. (No. 45 of Jr.). Malcolm Lee 6-5 175 PG/SG UCLA Fr. (No. 8 of Fr). Jerime Anderson 6-2 165 PG UCLA Fr. (No. 25 of Fr). J'Mison Morgan 6-10 260 PF/C UCLA Fr. (No. 29 of Fr). Drew Gordon 6-9 230 PF UCLA Fr. (No. 33 of Fr).
15. Tennessee has 2 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 6: Tyler Smith 6-7 220 SF Tennessee Jr. (No. 28 of 2009 Draft). JP Prince 6-6 205 SG Tennessee Jr. (No. 56 of 2010 Draft). Wayne Chism 6-8 240 PF Tennessee Jr. (No. 47 of Jr.). Scotty Hopson 6-6 185 SG Tennessee Fr. (No. 14 of Fr). Renaldo Woolridge 6-7 210 SF Tennessee Fr. (No. 46 of Fr). Emmanuel Negedu 6-6 225 SF Tennessee Fr. (No. 47 of Fr).
16. Marquette has 2 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 4: Jerel McNeal 6-3 200 SG Marquette Sr. (No. 32 of 2009 Draft). Wesley Matthews 6-5 215 SG Marquette Sr. (No. 51 of 2009 Draft). Dominic James (INJ) 5-11 180 PG Marquette Sr. (Honorable Mention of Sr). Lazar Hayward 6-6 205 SG/SF Marquette Jr. (No. 48 of Jr.).
17. Gonzaga has 2 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 6: Josh Heytvelt 6-11 238 PF Gonzaga Sr. (No. 39 of 2009 Draft). Austin Daye 6-10 200 SF Gonzaga So. (No. 26 of 2010 Draft). Jeremy Pargo 6-2 219 PG Gonzaga Sr. (No. 30 of Sr). Micah Downs 6-7 180 SG/SF Gonzaga Sr. (No. 35 of Sr). Matt Bouldin 6-5 214 PG/SG Gonzaga Jr. (Honorable Mention of Jr.). Robert Sacre 7-0 255 C Gonzaga So. (No. 50 of So).
18. Kansas has 2 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 6: Cole Aldrich 6-10 250 PF/C Kansas So. (No. 6 of 2010 Draft). Sherron Collins 5-11 200 PG Kansas Jr. (No. 36 of 2010 Draft). Tyshawn Taylor 6-3 180 PG Kansas Fr. (No. 30 of Fr). Travis Releford 6-5 190 SG Kansas Fr. (No. 34 of Fr). Markieff Morris 6-9 230 PF Kansas Fr. (Honorable Mention of Fr). Marcus Morris 6-8 230 PF Kansas Fr. (Honorable Mention of Fr).
19. Syracuse has 2 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 7: Jonny Flynn 6-0 186 PG Syracuse So. (No. 27 of 2010 Draft). Arinze Onuaku 6-10 275 PF/C Syracuse Jr. (No. 41 of 2010 Draft). Paul Harris 220 6-4 SG/SF Syracuse Jr. (No. 57 of 2010 Draft). Eric Devendorf 6-4 175 PG/SG Syracuse Jr. (Honorable Mention of Sr). Rick Jackson 6-9 235 PF Syracuse So. (Honorable Mention of So). Kris Joseph 6-7 220 SF Syracuse Fr. (No. 39 of Fr). Mookie Jones 6-6 210 SF Syracuse Fr. (Honorable Mention of Fr).
Teams with 3 players that could work their way into the NBA draft
20. Villanova has 1 projected NBA draftee, possibly as many as 4: Dante Cunningham 6-7 230 SF Villanova Sr. (No. 33 of 2009 Draft). Scottie Reynolds 6-1 185 PG Villanova Jr. (No. 41 of Jr.). Corey Stokes 6-5 210 SG Villanova So. (No. 31 of So). Corey Fisher 6-1 185 PG Villanova So. (No. 37 of So).
21. Boston College has 1 projected NBA draftee, possibly as many as 3: Tyrese Rice 6-0 190 PG Boston College Sr. (No. 41 of 2009 Draft). Corey Raji 6-5 211 SG Boston College So. (Honorable Mention of So). Rakim Sanders 6-5 225 SG Boston College So. (Honorable Mention of So).
22. St. Mary's has 1 projected NBA draftee, possibly as many as 3: Patrick Mills 5-11 180 PG St. Mary's So. (No. 17 of 2010 Draft). Diamon Simpson 6-7 230 SF St. Mary's Sr. (No. 50 of Sr). Omar Samhan 6-11 265 C St. Mary's Jr. (Honorable Mention of Jr.).
23. Memphis has 1 projected NBA draftee, possibly as many as 7: Tyreke Evans 6-6 219 SG Memphis Fr. (No. 20 of 2010 Draft). Robert Dozier 6-10 215 SF/PF Memphis Sr. (No. 40 of Sr). Antonio Anderson 6-6 214 SG Memphis Sr. (Honorable Mention of Sr). Willie Kemp 6-2 175 PG Memphis Jr. (Honorable Mention of Jr.). Doneal Mack 6-5 170 SG Memphis Jr. (Honorable Mention of Jr.). Jeff Robinson 6-6 205 SF Memphis So. (Honorable Mention of So). Wesley Witherspoon 6-8 200 SG/SF Memphis Fr. (No. 16 of Fr).
24. Oklahoma State has 1 projected NBA draftee, possibly as many as 5: James Anderson 6-6 195 SG Oklahoma State So. (No. 23 of 2010 Draft). Terrel Harris 6-4 190 SG Oklahoma State Sr. (No. 28 of Sr). Byron Eaton 5-11 210 PG Oklahoma State Sr. (Honorable Mention of Sr). Obi Muonelo 6-4 210 PG/SG Oklahoma State Jr. (Honorable Mention of Jr.). Ibrahima Thomas 6-11 238 PF Oklahoma State So. (No. 36 of So).
25. Miami has 1 projected NBA draftee, possibly as many as 3: Dwayne Collins 6-8 240 PF Miami Jr. (No. 34 of 2010 Draft). Jack McClinton 6-1 185 SG Miami Sr. (No. 36 of Sr). DeQuan Jones 6-6 190 SG Miami Fr. (No. 22 of Fr).
26. Michigan St. has 1 projected NBA draftee, possibly as many as 5: Raymar Morgan 6-7 210 SF Michigan St. Jr. (No. 43 of 2010 Draft). Chris Allen 6-3 190 SG Michigan St. So. (No. 39 of So). Kalin Lucas 5-11 180 PG Michigan St. So. (No. 40 of So). Durrell Summers 6-5 186 SG Michigan St. So. (No. 41 of So). Delvon Roe 6-7 215 SF Michigan St. Fr. (No. 35 of Fr).
27. California has 1 projected NBA draftee, possibly as many as 3: Patrick Christopher 6-5 210 SG/SF California Jr. (No. 44 of 2010 Draft). Jerome Randle 5-10 160 PG California Jr. (No. 50 of Jr.). DJ Seeley 6-4 185 SG California Fr. (Honorable Mention of Fr).
28. Texas A&M has 1 projected NBA draftee, possibly as many as 4: Chinemelu Elonu 6-10 235 PF Texas A&M Jr. (No. 54 of 2010 Draft). Josh Carter 6-7 195 SG Texas A&M Sr. (No. 37 of Sr). Bryan Davis 6-8 240 PF Texas A&M Jr. (No. 44 of Jr.). David Loubeau 6-8 215 SF/PF Texas A&M Fr. (Honorable Mention of Fr).
29. Florida St. has 0 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 4: Toney Douglas 6-2 196 PG Florida St. Sr. (No. 38 of Sr). Solomon Alabi 7-1 237 C Florida St. So. (No. 25 of So). Chris Singleton 6-8 220 SF Florida St. Fr. (No. 15 of Fr). Xavier Gibson 6-10 230 PF Florida St. Fr. (No. 44 of Fr).
30. Washington has 0 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 5: Jon Brockman 6-7 250 PF Washington Sr. (No. 46 of Sr). Justin Dentmon 5-11 185 PG Washington Sr. (No. 49 of Sr). Quincy Pondexter 6-7 210 SF Washington Jr. (Honorable Mention of Jr.). Isaiah Thomas 5-8 180 PG Washington Fr. (No. 49 of Fr). Scott Suggs 6-6 190 SG Washington Fr. (Honorable Mention of Fr).
31. Purdue has 0 projected NBA draftees, possibly as many as 3: JaJuan Johnson 6-10 215 SF/PF Purdue So. (No. 20 of So). E'twaun Moore 6-3 180 PG/SG Purdue So. (No. 24 of So). Robbie Hummel 6-7 208 SF Purdue So. (No. 27 of So).
Key: A teams first number indicates how many of its players are projected to go in the 2009 or 2010 draft if it were held today, while the second number indicates how many total players are being at least considered by NBA teams according to www.nbadraft.net. Players are listed from best down. A players notes in parenthesis indicate what order he is expected to go in the draft (e.g. Blake Griffin of Oklahoma is expected to go as the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft, so “(No. 1 of 2009 Draft).” If a player is not currently projected in the draft, then his number indicates where www.nbadraft.net ranks him among all players in his class.