"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

Saturday, August 21, 2010

5-star dominance: WVU last year, Pitt this year, MU in 2011-12

Basketball prospects around the country got a great look at Marquette this week when Rivals posted a lead story about Marquette’s first 5-star, Vander Blue (seeMarquette looks for immediate impact from Blue”):

While Blue should have an immediate IMPACT, history suggests he may not dominate and lead MU to the Sweet 16 until his sophomore year.

5-star SOPHOMORE = NCAA Run?

Eight Big East teams have won between 60% and 70% of their games since expansion, and MU is the only one that has done it without any 5-star players. But come tournament time, the fact is Big East teams make NCAA runs when they have 5-star players on the court with at least a year under their belts. Consider:

Through 2008, the five Big East schools who horded 31 of 36 Five Stars (UConn 9, Louisville 7, Syracuse 7, Villanova 5, Georgetown 3) had combined for 11 Sweet 16s and three Final Fours while WVU, Pitt and MU had many disappointing exits.

In 2008, Devin Ebanks became WVU’s first 5-star recruit and was a decent freshman. In 2009-10, five of seven 5-star sophomores in the Big East exploded - Greg Monroe (16.1, 9.6), Samardo Samuels (15.3, 7.0), Kemba Walker (14.6, 4.3), Yancy Gates (10.4, 5.9) and Devin Ebanks (12.0, 8.1), while only two failed to get double figures. Ebanks actually started slowly before scoring double figures in 17 of his last 19 games including six double-doubles to help senior De’Sean Butler take the Mountaineers to the Final Four.

In 2009, Dante Taylor became Pitt’s first 5-star recruit and showed occasional signs of promise for next year, so he could emerge to lead Pitt this season. Last week I told my counterparts in Pitt about my study showing 5-stars usually emerge to dominate during their sophomore years, and they confirmed that all the talk this year is that Taylor is dominating.

In 2010, when Vander Blue takes the court as Marquette’s first 5-star we can certainly hope he is a star right away like Lance Stephenson was for Cincinnati last year as the only 5-star with a big freshman year. However, it is very rare that a 5-star dominates in his freshman year in the Big East, and even on those rare occasions (Carmelo Anthony and Dante Green are really the only two in recent history), it usually results in them achieving one-and-done status.

If Marquette can develop two 3-stars (Wade and Novak) and three 4-stars (Diener, Matthews and Hayward) into NBA players in 8 years, we certainly can expect our first ever 5-star to dominate. However, while we can expect immediate IMPACT, we probably have to wait until Vander’s sophomore season before we will see DOMINANCE.

Let’s keep expectations for Vander Blue reasonable this year and not panic if he shows the same selfless defense-first attitude that wins him praise in the Rivals piece. As an earlier post documented, the typical Big East five-star is worth about 2.4 extra wins to his team as a freshman, but 4.7 extra wins as a sophomore.

I wouldn't be shocked if Pitt finally breaks through with a Final Four run this year, and Marquette is right behind them in 2011-12, with Vander Blue and Company cutting down the nets after a Regional Championship.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Media updates: Arrivederci, Travis Diener

Marquette graduate Travis Diener signed a one-year contract to play for Dinamo Sassari of the Italian League this season. Based on the island of Sardinia the team will play in that country's top professional league this season, Italian Lega Basket Serie A.

During his five-year NBA career Diener averaged 4.8 points and 2.4 assists per game. Last season injuries and crowded rosters in both Indiana and Portland limited Diener to just nine games played, a career low. Diener obviously hopes to have an opportunity to log major minutes in one of Europe's top leagues in hopes of someday returning to the NBA or securing a longer-term contract.

The Fond du Lac Reporter talks with Travis about his new team here.

But wait, there's more.....
From the "It's Never Too Early To Think About The Regular Season Department" the guys over at South Orange Juice, a Seton Hall blog, are previewing the BIG EAST season in a series of posts. The Juicers slot MU in as the conference's 9th best team, a position we're confident the Warriors will surpass this winter.

Rush the Court sees more promise for MU this season (we agree), picking the Warriors 6th in the BIG EAST as part of their must-read 'Summer School' post today. Still, Buzz Williams and MU take a well-deserved smack from the authors for the debacle surrounding the perceived swap of former signee D.J. Newbill for transfer Jamil Wilson.

With the success of the Big Televen Network lining the pockets of those institutions with cash and influence, the BIG EAST is formulating plans for its own network.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Marquette hoops in the news

Summer is rapidly coming to a close and Midnight Madness is less than two months away. While we await the merciful end of the off-season, here are a few noteworthy items to start your week:

While Travis Diener, Steve Novak and Jerel McNeal remain unemployed for the time being, all-time Warrior great Dominic James appears to have agreed to terms with Lukoil Akademik in Sofia, Bulgaria, according to a Shamsports Twitter post (James' photo and vitals now appear on the team's website). While the Bulgarian league is not traditionally strong, Lukoil Akademik are the Celtics/Lakers of that league, dominating every year. Lukoil won the title last year finishing at 25-3 - - the 8th consecutive title for the team.

Last season James played for Mersin in the Turkish Basketball Association averaging 14 points and 4 assists per game. Mersin finished the year at 12-18, 12th in the 16 team league. Prior to the Lukoil Akademik agreement James played with the Milwaukee Bucks summer league outfit.

In the NCAA's ongoing crackdown on street agents and similarly influential middlemen in recruiting, the Pump brothers are now off-limits. The Pumps defend themselves in this article which notes that MU head man Buzz Williams backed out of an appearance with the power brokers at the last minute. Yahoo! Sports' profile of the Pumps from earlier this year remains a must-read.

Villanova By The Numbers delivers an in-depth analysis on nine rising juniors to watch in the BIG EAST and it's no surprise that Darius Johnson-Odom figures favorably in the mix. Accoring to VBTN, DJO "...proved to be a good combo guard, sliding over to the off guard where could find his shot (eFG% -- 56.4%) both inside and outside (ranked #7 in conference for 3 pointers made)"

Marquette continues to produce top-notch content for its official site. Most recently the site offered interviews with freshmen Vander Blue and Davante Gardner.

Don't forget -- if you are interested in helping the Marquette Alumni Club of Kansas City in their quest to bring the Al McGuire one-man show to town please click here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Al McGuire wants to play Kansas City

...and could use your help.

The Marquette Club of Kansas City is undertaking an initiative to bring the Dick Enberg-authored stage play, "Don't Undress Until You Die: The Wit and Wisdom of Al McGuire," to Kansas City this November, just days before the Warriors hit the court at the 2010 CBE Classic.

The Marquette Club has the full support of both Dick Enberg and the booking agency responsible for promoting the newly expanded one-man show. Now the Club needs to raise money ASAP to secure a performance in Kansas City on November 20. Michael Grimaldi and Dick Cook from the MU Club in Kansas City are spearheading the effort and are working to secure $25,000 of financial or in-kind support. The guys are working with several local businesses and the MU alumni network in Kansas City, with promising results.

If you’re planning to attend the CBE in Kansas City and want to see the show – or if you’re just interested in helping fellow Marquette alums share the institution's karma via the Patron Saint of Marquette Hoops please contact Dick Cook at dick.cook@hostessbrands.com or Michael Grimaldi at mgrimaldi@trozzolo.com

If you need a refresher on the critically acclaimed one-man show about Coach Al please check out our interview with Enberg from last year.

The CBE Classic is scheduled for November 22 and 23. The Classic this year features Marquette, Gonzaga, Kansas State and current national champion Duke.