"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, November 13, 2010

Blue, Gardner & Williams show MU's depth with Bucknell up next

Since joining the Big East, MU has had to worry about quick turnarounds or a single twisted ankle due to a lack of depth and the physical abuse they took against teams that towered over them. Not anymore.

Friday night 11 of 13 players on the roster registered steals and/or blocked shots, and 11 of 13 players scored against Prairie A&M. Three questions jump out about the game Sunday against a Bucknell team that only trailed at sixth-ranked Villanova by 54-46 with 6:10 to play. An impressive win against Bucknell on Sunday might indicate that Marquette is once again closer to the top of the Big East than anyone thought in the preseason, but three things may determine if that will happen:

1. Can Marquette come anywhere close to their defensive pressure from Friday night against a team that protects the ball as well as Bucknell?

Vander Blue started and led the defensive barrage with incredibly quick hands that resulted in 7 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and 4 steals, all team highs to lead a suffocating defense. Bucknell was one of the best teams in the country at protecting the ball last year, and in the first 10 minutes of the second half only had one turnover against Villanova to pull within 44-38. MU forced 13 turnovers in the first 17 minutes against Prairie View, more than Bucknell had all game.

2. Can Virginia 1st Team All-State center Davante Gardner come anywhere close to his dominating second half performance having to face a much taller 6-foot-10 Mike Muscala Sunday?

Many thought Gardner was too heavy to contribute this year, but all he showed was incredible strength and soft hands. If a rebound or pass hit his hands, he had it. Gardner made all 7 field goals and all 3 free throws he attempted, and is now averaging 17.0 ppg as a Division I player. However, Prairie View was small, and if Gardner gets in Sunday it may be against 6-foot-10 Mike Muscala, who had a strong freshman year himself last year and put up 10 points and 8 rebounds at #6 Villanova Friday.

3. With all the great recruits, will 4-star, 6-foot-7 sophomore Erik Williams get another surprise start?

After seeming to be the odd man out in the exhibition, Williams made the most of a surprise start when he came out of the gates on fire with a jumper and a traditional 3-point play in the opening minutes en route to 12 points on 4-6 shooting and 4-4 free throws. The surprise performances of Williams and Gardner as well as having Blue playing so big as a guard helped MU to one of its most dominating inside games in memory. When was the last time MU blocked 11 shots and out rebounded a team 51 to 19, while scoring 62 points in the paint?

We know we can expect a lot from Jimmy Butler, DJO and Jae Crowder most nights, and Joe Fulce (7 rebounds in 12 minutes) and Dwight Buycks (7 assists) will contribute. However, with the potential contributions coming from the entire roster, whether it was Blue, Gardner and Williams Friday or Reggie Smith, Junior Cadougan, Jamail Jones and Chris Otule in the exhibition, MU has a lot of options.

Just 1-0, but a lot of potential already.

No comments: