Been there, done that and that and that and that again. Albert Einstein once defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."
Marquette with a lead in the second half finds way to squander it away and lose again. We have this one down pat it seems. It's not the first time this year, hell it's not the first time in the last 4 days. Once again Marquette finds a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Up 60 to 55 in the second half, MU allows a 13-0 run to #5 UCONN killing any hopes Marquette had of a victory tonight against the Huskies. If this sounds familiar, it is. MU led by 11 at Notre Dame on Saturday and let that game get away. Only 7 days earlier MU led by 18 points against Louisville with barely five minutes to play and had one of the biggest collapses in NCAA history. Three blown games in 10 days...that's impressive. Of course earlier in the year MU also blown a late lead against Vanderbilt and nearly blew a game against a dreadful UW-Milwaukee team. This doesn't even get into last year's NCAA game against Washington in which MU collapsed after a double digit lead in the second half.
Why is this happening? For starters, our defense is brutal. The easy baskets we allow teams to "earn" is amazing. We seem to value this concept of shooting more free throws than our opponents take, but that has made us into a defensive team that fears fouling. Fears physicality on the defensive side of the ball. That's strange, because offensively our guys are tough as nails, they take it to the hoop, they get hit, they bang, they're warriors. Flip to the defensive side of the ball, and you would think they were playing flag football instead of tackle.
Ok, enough of the defensive lapses, what about offense. Marquette scored at the 11:25 mark on a Jimmy Butler layup and foul. Butler made the free throw for the old fashioned 3 point play. MU had the Big Mo, we were leading by 5 points and the crowd was rocking. So what happens? Marquette notches it's next field goal over 9 minutes later at the 1:50 mark on a DJO layup. Incidentally, that was DJO's first bucket in 15 minutes. In our 9 minute drought, MU managed to miss 7 shots, several free throws and turned the ball over 4 times (three of them by our point guards).
Some will argue it is because we aren't deep. Wait a minute, don't we have more top 100 players on our team than anytime in decades? We have plenty of depth, we just don't want to play these kids or have no confidence in them. Either that, or the kids were overrated and we made bad recruiting mistakes. It has to be something because there are plenty of warm bodies on the bench that have lots of pretty stars next to their names according to the recruiting services.
But should any of this really surprise anyone? Harken back to what the University of New Orleans fans said about Buzz several years ago. Two points stick out like a sore thumb.
- He has a short rotation
- His defenses stink
Sound familiar? Quotes like this from Jimmy Butler raise an eyebrow as well. "We were so concerned on offense that we were ready to get the ball back and try to score on that end," Butler said. "We weren't even worried about guarding them on the defensive end of the floor." We missed the context in which that answer was given and will provide an update if we can find it.
MU still has a chance to turn things around. Their RPI is in the zip code of an at large berth, they have plenty of top teams still to play to get back in it and the with 68 NCAA bids and seemingly ho-hum teams scattering the landscape nationwide, the opportunity is there. Will MU be tough enough to take it? Another opportunity presents itself against Syracuse later this week. A team MU has never beaten since joining the Big East. A team that is on a 3 game losing streak and looked beyond pathetic tonight against Seton Hall. Dare we say a MUST WIN for MU? Yes, it's a MUST WIN for MU at this point.
Three years into the Buzz Williams regime many didn't expect a potential NIT year this season, especially coming off 5 straight NCAA appearances and several stellar recruiting classes. In year three of the Tom Crean era MU went to the NCAA tournament after two misses. We may be seeing the reverse of that in year 3 with Buzz. We're not ready to throw in the towel yet, but the time to get things in gear is right now without a moment to waste. There is no more room for errors. There are no more games that can be blown at this point. Marquette needs to start winning and winning now.
On a positive note, Jimmy Butler's 21 points put him over 1,000 for his career. He is the 42nd player to accomplish that feat at Marquette.
Author's Note: I changed the headline on my own. I received a number of thumbs up for this article on Facebook and here as well, but also some folks that were upset over at MU Scoop and here. For them, I've changed it. For the players I've changed it. For the good guys at CS I've changed it. It's a great blog and as one of the founding members I'm not going to want to sully it for them with a title that turned off some people.
Never have I or anyone here at CS questioned players efforts or desire to win. They bust their rear and I'm sure they are hurting after this loss as they have with other losses. What is troubling is how MU continues to lose big leads, especially in the second half and our coaching staff has no answer. Losing to #5 UCONN is not troubling if it was a one off, losing the way we do is what remains troubling. You know every coach of every team we play is telling their players, DON'T GIVE UP, this team has a tendency to fold. Very similar to remarks made by Phil Jackson last year to the Lakers huddle about the Celtics. You're never out of it when playing MU because we just can't close games out. The coaching staff will have to answer those questions.