"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, February 17, 2010

Be the Difference Against Pitt

(Cracked Sidewalks - where we aren't afraid to be a little cheesy in our titles)

First, bone up on previous online content by reading the Q&A from PittBlather.com down below, or go and check out the Media Availability with Buzz down below, or even at the official GoMarquette.com site. MU's site also has player interviews.

Correctly, Rosiak leads with a story about all the chatter on MU making the NCAA tournament, even as the team itself stays focused on its winning recipe. If we're being cynical, we say that it's his own paper talking about it. However, since we're inspired by Conan O'Brien to not be cynical, we will note that this has been picked up by Andy Katz on ESPN, SI.com, Lunardi, and (oh hey) this humble blog. Heck, even Basketball Prospectus is getting close to calling Marquette the best team in the Big EAST. (Please don't write that iconoclastic article, John)

But it's all crap if Marquette doesn't win against Pitt. After all, that's life on the bubble. Luckily, all the pieces are in place to make this the biggest must-win-big-game since the last must-win game with a big game feel. It's a national broadcast game (ESPN2) on a Thursday night at 8 PM. The student section needs to bring it, and the alums in the stands need to lead as well. To add a little emphasis to the game, Marquette is encouraging a "Gold Out" for the game. Since there's been a little bit of online debate about wearing gold, here's our position. We are Marquette Warriors, refusing to buy or wear anything with the chicken on it, but We Are Marquette more than anything. Wear gold and be a part of something larger than yourself. Or don't (whatever), but the sea of gold looks awesome on TV.

Of course, how on earth are we going to beat Pitt? After all, they already won at Syracuse, at Cincy, and at UConn, plus they're coming off an epic 3OT Victory against West Virginia. Still, we're calling a victory thanks to the Marquette fans being the difference (no, seriously).

Digging into the numbers, we see that both teams are really well matched up on multiple levels. (Check out specifics for Marquette and Pitt at Pomeroy's website if you want the numbers)

First, our strengths in general match up really with their strengths. We're great offensively and they're great defensively. They get to the line a bunch and we don't let opponents get to the line that much.

But even in some matchups, it doesn't really matter. Does it matter if you protect the ball well if your opponent doesn't care about forcing turnovers? Or if you prevent opponents from getting to the line if they never get to the line?

Heck, even when the teams are mediocre, they match up well. Our defense is lame, but so is their offense.

The few advantages are really around turnovers and rebounding, which I'm sure is a big shock to all the MU fans out there. Honestly, it's not even that big of an advantage on either side. But surely this is where the game will be won?

No. With all of the even matchups, this game will be won because life is hard on the road. We're predicting a slower-paced game with both teams not shooting particularly well. However, we expect Marquette to shoot better than Pitt due to the friendly (and unfriendly) confines of the BC. Despite losing on the boards, we are also predicting that Marquette wins on turnovers and free throw rate too.

But mostly it's the shooting percentages that will matter, which brings us back to you, the Marquette fans, and how difficult you make life for Pitt. Just picture Jamie Dixon calling a timeout after yet another turnover leading to Marquette three pointer. In summary, Marquette absolutely has to win this game and when the matchup is this close, it'll be the fans that make the difference in good (or bad) shooting. Wear your gold, get "eager", and be loud.

Marquette wins 66-59.

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