Welcome to the annual Cracked Sidewalks predictions!
(if you saw something pop up already, you weren't going crazy. We did post this yesterday and removed it because other MU things were going on with the signing period... and then life got in the way of blogging those other things. Anyways, Marquette announced the NLI signings of Juan Anderson and Derrick Wilson. Rosiak also had stories on the signings for Wilson and Anderson.
Also, for your must-read features, check out Rosiak's additional feature on Wilson's commitment, as well as today's article previewing MU that focuses on Jimmy F. Butler)
Where were we? The season opener is TOMORROW, so here is our set of blogger predictions for the year. Before doing that, let's look at the track record for the past few years.
- 2007-2008 - Cracked Sidewalks consensus was 23.3 - 6.8 (12.5 - 5.5). Actual record was 22-8 (11-7), making us 1.3 games more optimistic than the actual results.
- 2008-2009 - Average prediction was for a record of 23 - 8 (11.4 - 6.6). Actual record was 23-8 (12-6), which puts us right on target. (well, except for MU exceeding expectations until the DJ injury down the stretch)
- And... last year's predictions were here. Blogger consensus was final record of 16.5-13.5 (7.8 - 10.2), making us 3.5 games more pessimistic than the actual results. Boy was that off.
|Nov 12||Prairie View A&M||Home||W||W||W||W||W||W||W||W|
|Nov 16||UW-Green Bay||Home||W||W||W||W||W||W||W||W|
|Nov 20||South Dakota||Home||W||W||W||W||W||W||W||W|
|Nov 22||Duke||Kansas City, MO||L||L||L||L||L||L||L||L|
|Nov 23||Kansas State / Gonzaga||Kansas City, MO||W||L||W||L||L||L||L||L|
|Nov 27||UW-Milwaukee||US Cellular Arena||W||W||W||W||W||W||W||W|
|Dec 7||Texas A&M Corpus Christi||Home||W||W||W||W||W||W||W||W|
|Dec 21||Mississippi Valley State||Home||W||W||W||W||W||W||W||W|
|Dec 29||Vanderbilt||Nashville, TN||L||L||L||L||L||L||L||L|
|Jan 1||West Virginia||Home||L||W||L||W||W||W||W||L|
|Jan 5||Rutgers||Piscataway, NJ||L||W||W||W||W||W||W||W|
|Jan 8||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh, PA||L||L||L||L||L||L||L||L|
|Jan 10||Notre Dame||Home||W||W||W||L||W||W||W||W|
|Jan 15||Louisville||Louisville, KY||L||W||L||L||L||W||L||L|
|Jan 22||Notre Dame||South Bend, IN||W||L||L||W||L||L||L||W|
|Feb 2||Villanova||Philadelphia, PA||L||L||L||L||L||L||L||L|
|Feb 9||South Florida||Tampa, FL||L||W||W||W||W||W||W||W|
|Feb 13||Georgetown||Washington, DC||L||L||L||W||L||L||W||L|
|Feb 15||St. John's||Home||W||W||W||W||W||W||W||W|
|Feb 19||Seton Hall||Home||W||L||W||W||W||W||W||W|
|Feb 24||Connecticut||Hartford, CT||L||W||L||L||L||W||L||L|
|Mar 5||Seton Hall||Newark, NJ||W||L||L||W||L||W||W||W|
The two basic questions for me are "how quickly will MU gel with so many young players?," and "how good is the Big East this year?" I was thrilled to see the love from FoxSports when they listed the top dozen backcourts this year - good news is that we are on the list, bad news is that we play five of the other 11 and none of them at the Bradley Center. I believe the first four of those are losses (Duke Nov. 22, Vandy Dec. 29, Pitt Jan. 8 and Nova Feb. 2), but I believe we will steadily improve and break through at Georgetown Feb. 13 for a huge win. The only other losses I see are the consolation game in Kansas City (certainly a home game for K-State but Gonzaga would be tough to with a young team playing it's 6th game together), and Hartford is still awfully tough despite Jimmy's heroics last year.
While I certainly believe we win at Rutgers January 5, I'm worried that going from there to Pitt and then having only one day rest before facing Notre Dame at home could result in dead legs that leave us with another early 3-game losing streak (Pitt-ND-Lville), but with that behind us I believe we go on a roll the rest of the season including getting ND back in their place, and fly into the tournament on an 11-2 run that will result in another good seed for a team that will this year be deep enough to not die at the Big East tournament or the subsequent NCAA trip.
With the season upon us, expectations for the latest vintage of the Marquette Warriors are rising. And that's just fine. 21 wins overall and 11 conference wins would mark a fine regular season and I think the optimism is warranted. Heck, 21 wins might not be ambitious enough when you consider the (albeit youthful) talent influx. While the team only has a handful of players who have logged significant minutes at the D1 level, roster turnover is a given in college ball and that's no reason to talk down expectations. Fact is that MU's roster is deeper now than it was last season and the replacement talent in the backcourt, where MU must replace two starters, is far greater than the talent that departed. With good health this past off-season across the board (a rarity at MU in recent years) and more talent up and down the roster, I expect the team to play consistent ball throughout the year.
I didn't go outside of the box too much with my predictions, but almost every conference game along with a few others (Bucky, Vandy) made me think twice about my pick. Last season I would never have predicted a 5th place finish. This season, it's obvious that a 5th place finish is completely reasonable - but again, there are so many unknowns about this team that's it's hard to know where we'll finish. Although we competed in pretty much every game last season (home and away), I can't bring myself to pick a road win over any of the top dogs. I have us only losing twice at the BC all season, although I wouldn't be surprised if UConn, St. John's, or Wisconsin were able to knock us off at home. Although ND is a tough place to play, I really see no reason why we lose to the Irish this season. My heart can't take another season like last one's, though, so hopefully we can win in regulation by more than 3 points a few times this year.
Not much to say really. I think the Big East is going to be down this year, more so than years past. I don't think Louisville and Notre Dame are going to be as good as most people think they will, I don't think Seton Hall and St. John's are going to improve the way most people think they will, I think DePaul and Rutgers will still be downright awful. This schedule, with a few minor exceptions, sets up very favorably for MU.
If this year is like the past, I'll probably be on the optimistic end of the predictions. Here's the bottom line up front: 22-9 overall, 12-6 / 5th place in the league.Prairie View A&M, Bucknell, UWGB, South Dakota, UWM, Longwood, TAMU-CC, Centenary and MVSU should give us 9 early wins with plenty of gripes about the schedule and deep bench minutes to go around. Beating Duke would be an upset of historic proportions (Assuming they're still #1, it would be our first regular season win over a #1 ranked team--our only other #1 win was against UK in the 2003 tournament). Gonzaga and Kansas State are almost as tough as Duke so coming home with a win from KC will be extremely tough. MU should hold serve against Wisconsin on the home court. To wrap up the non-conference slate, MU is probably better than Vanderbilt anyplace in the world other than Memorial Gym, with its goofy raised floor and end-court benches (Vandy holds a 125-9 non-conference record since 1990).
Of the home conference games, only Syracuse and perhaps WVU will have a strong chance at beating us at home. Call it a split, beating WVU in the opener, and losing to the Orange. I don't see Cincy, SJU or Seton Hall as improved enough to take road wins at MU. Providence and DePaul should be fighting to avoid 16th.Of the other crossover games, Both Notre Dame and Uconn present challenges and opportunities. On paper we're probably better than Notre Dame, but have struggled in South Bend (and in Milwaukee last year). On paper, Uconn has more talent, but rallying a team through adversity doesn't seem to be a strength of Calhoun. We should get one win from both foes. Villanova, Pitt and Louisville will rightly be favored on their home courts. That leaves road wins for use at Rutgers, USF, and Seton Hall, and a prediction of an upset over Georgetown.
Boy, this is tough. I've seen one scrimmage and one game versus D3 talent. Judging by that, we're going undefeated. Knowing better, I think we go 20-11, 9-9 in the Big East.I divide our schedule into 3 parts:
Non-conference - we have 3 big games, all away from home, Duke. K-State/Zags, and Vandy. I think we go 1-2 there. The cupcakes, we eat.
BE Home games - I think we go 7-2, with losses to WVU because the home crowd will be hungover 10am Jan 1st, and we'll continue to never be able to beat Syracuse just because .. and because that game is National Marquette Day, and that's a big fat L.BE Away games - 2-7, with wins @Rutgers and @USF.
Bottom line, we go as far as our point guards quality of play. That is the one area that scares me the most. Will Junior be what we thought he would be or is he a few years off? Can Reggie Smith step in and fill a void? Does Vander Blue slide over and play some point? Or is the plan that Dwight Buycks is option 1A, 1B, and 1C? The Warriors finally have some passable size with Otule and Crowder and maybe even Gardner and Williams, though I don't expect big minutes from either this year once the meat of the schedule arrives. MU's strength will be the plethora of athletic wings with DJO, Vander, Fulce, Jones, etc.
But back to that thing about the point guard. As deep as we are on the overall roster, my concerns remain youth and play at the point guard position. Maybe Buzz surprises us all and Buycks is the guy. To be that special player, he will have needed to improve his handle considerably since last Summer. He also needs to back off of his shoot first mentality. Can he do it?Bottom line, MU goes 20-11 overall and 11-7 in conference play. If Buycks or any of the guards can play the point position well enough, then MU could expand that to 22 wins and a 13-5 record, but for now I'll go the conservative route. That's my prediction...NCAA berth definitely a possibility but need to pick up a few marquee wins. 10-8 probably won't do it, 11-7 certainly should.
This post is long enough. However, I would like to say that traditionally, the bloggers that are the most accurate with their predictions are Tim, Kevin, and Steve. Keep that in mind. Go Marquette.
note: thanks to all the bloggers for contributions and to KB for doing the table