"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

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Blue's chance to make history

I’m sure Vander Blue, Jamail Jones, Reggie Smith, Jae Crowder and Davante Gardner don’t keep a copy of the “ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia” on their desk like I do – but Marquette’s five newest players have a chance to make history in 11 weeks.

When they take the court in Kansas City against Duke, they likely will have a chance to be part of only the second Marquette team to beat a #1 ranked team. Using the Encyclopedia’s rankings up until the AP started, the results so far have been:

1939 – lost at Long Island 34-41
1953 – lost at Kansas State 72-88
1956 – lost at home to San Francisco 58-65
1974 – lost to NC State 64-76 in NCAA title game
1976 – lost to Indiana 56-65 in Elite 8
1986 – lost to UNC 64-66 at home
2000 – lost to Cincinnati 60-72 at home
2003 – defeated Kentucky 83-69 in Elite 8
2011 – vs. Duke (likely #1) in Kansas City Nov. 23

In fact, even defeating a top 3 team is rare. Despite all the great teams in Marquette history, MU is 4-40 all time against top 3 teams, with the other three victories being:

1941 – defeated #2 Wisconsin 40-30 at home (Badgers later won NCAA title)
1955 – defeated #2 Kentucky 79-71 in Sweet 16
2006 – defeated #2 UConn 94-79 at home

Even all of Al McGuire’s great teams went 0-7 against Top 4 teams – though no one really cares that UNC and UNCC were not in the Top 4 in 1977.

Want to know why Marquette has one of the deepest, most talented rosters in history? You can start with the fact that players like Vander Blue are offered the chance to play against the best teams in the country. When Marquette defeated UNC for the title on March 28, 1977 it was MUs 11th game that season against a ranked team. It didn’t happen again until 2009 for the Three Amigos senior year, and then it happened again last year:

11 ranked opponents – 1977, 2009, 2010
9 ranked opponents – 1994
7 ranked opponents – 1924, 1927, 1928, 1974, 1996, 2003, 2006, 2007
6 ranked opponents – 1929, 1930, 1961, 1973, 2004, 2008

One other fascinating note for me in the Encyclopedia was that the 1923 team is picked as the 8th best team in the country that year. Since there was no tournament until years later, maybe we need to claim the 1923 squad as an additional Elite 8 team and the 1933 squad (ranked 14th) as a Sweet 16 squad! MU was also pegged as the 18th best team in 1939 and the 21st best team in 1934 – but back to recent history …

The 2007 team went 5-3 against ranked teams to become only the sixth team in Marquette history to beat five ranked teams (only the 1977 team beat six ranked teams).

It’s rare to get a chance to take out a #1, and I’ll be in Kansas City just in case.
Sure, MU will be underdogs against a team coming off a national title and adding Curry to the squad. While I believe this is a team that can win 25+ this year and 30 games next year, this test may be coming too early with so many new parts. However, if Marquette plays the same kind of tenacious defense that destroyed three teams in Orlando last year for 2 ½ games, only this time with the depth to keep the pressure up through fresh legs and fouls to give, the new guys could truly get some minutes and be on the court for history.

The Three Amigos took the same court in Kansas City as sophomores for the same CBE tournament in 2007 and stunned a #9 Duke team 73-62. The other time MU defeated a Duke team in the Top 10 was in 1980, with a 80-77 win in Madison the season before Doc Rivers came to campus. Here are the all-time records against teams with various rankings, with game vs. ranked Duke teams noted.

Vs.No. 1 – 1-7
Vs. No. 2 – 3-20
Vs. No. 3 – 0-13
Vs. No. 4 - 5-9
Vs. No. 5 – 5-14
Vs. No. 6 – 6-18 (lost to Duke 1961, 1991, 1994)
Vs. No. 7 – 6-12 (lost to Duke 1979)
Vs. No. 8 – 3-12
Vs. No. 9 – 10-15 (beat Duke 2007)
Vs. No. 10 – 10-15 (beat Duke 1980)

Vs. No. 11 or lower – 73-93 (lost to #13 Duke 2008)

What a chance to make history and how great it is that even if MU doesn’t, this class will have so many more chances to go up against ranked teams.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

f.y.i. the 1956 loss to san francisco wasn't really a "home" game. it took place at the chicago stadium, a "neutral floor."