Marquette fans celebrated the 35-year anniversary of the national championship today, at the same time celebrating the end to rumors that Buzz Williams might be moving onto another coaching opportunity when the program seems on the verge of having its best chance at repeating the miracle in Atlanta from March 28, 1977.
With Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom joining the list of titans as we near the 100 anniversary of Marquette basketball, I ran the Win Credits for the top duos of all-time. Each duo was ranked based on their total Win Credits per 100 games played adjusted for level of opponents (WC/100) in their best season together, but they had to play together for at least two seasons. I also list their team's record (W and L), and their record in the toughest games (ranked opponents played away from home, WT and LT for winning or losing these “tough” games). Jeff Sagarin’s Basketball Encyclopedia has made it possible to estimate what each team’s adjusted winning percentage (Adj W%) would have been based on how many ranked opponents they played, and how many games were at home, on the road and at a neutral site. Based on that percentage I list where the season ranks as a whole among all MU seasons (Season), and where MU was in the final AP poll or Basketball Encyclopedia poll prior to the AP (Poll).
Here is the countdown at the end of the 35th anniversary, and as we thank Buzz for being part of such a great tradition:
Maurice Lucas and Marcus Washington took MU to consecutive top 5 finishes, including going 3-2 against ranked teams away from home during a 1974 season in which MU made the national title game vs. NC State. MU also went 2-0 at home against ranked teams both years, and went 9-2 on the road in 1973 and 8-3 in 1974 as Maurice Lucas had consecutive 400 point/300 rebound seasons to play two of the best 15 seasons ever by an MU player. Washington was probably the top steals man in MU history to go along with his 300 points and 100 rebounds in 1974.
While you hate to ever separate Dominic James from one of the greatest trios ever, his broken foot in 2009 made McNeal and Matthews step up to close the season. The consecutive 25-10 marks were outstanding since they were the first MU players to have to play so many ranked opponents, and the estimate is that they would have won 76% of their games if playing an average schedule. They went 3-2 at home against ranked teams in 2009, before fighting through Dominic’s injury to lose six away from home against ranked opponents. Subjectively the two have to rate higher as McNeal is one of only six MU players to be picked as one of the top 10 players in the AP All-American vote and Matthews is on pace to being one of the top 5 NBA players to ever come out of Marquette. The team was so close to greatness, losing heartbreakers to No. 10 Stanford and No. 9 Missouri in back-to-back Second Round games.
Future NBA All-Star Don Kojis and national high jump champion Walt Mangham formed one of the most dominant rebounding duos ever when both grabbed more than 370 rebounds to knock off two ranked teams at home and go 8-4 on the road en route to a No. 20 ranking in 1959, before knocking off Bowling Green in the NCAA tournament. They narrowly missed MU’s 2nd Elite 8 in five years with a 5-point loss to #7 Michigan State in the Sweet 16.
Terry Rand missed a 400/400 year by just four rebounds and Don Bugalski ran the point for an offense that scored 84.2 points a game, the best in MU history. The team was ranked #8 and went to the Elite 8, and when you consider that they went 3-1 against ranked opponents with only one of those games being at home, this team would be estimated to win 89.7% of all games playing a balanced schedule, which makes this the fourth greatest season in the history of the program when viewing seasons as a whole. They won a home and home with #20 Louisville, beat Miami of Ohio to open the NCAA, and then beat #2 Kentucky to make the Elite 8 before losing by just 5 points to #5 Iowa to miss the Final Four. You could certainly team Rand up with Rube Schulz or Gerry Hopfensperger to have a great duo, but Bugalski has the 2nd most Win Credits from the 1955 squad.
OK, the rest of the team makes fun of me when I start comparing players from the 1920s and 30s, but what All-American Ed Mullen and leading scorer Raymond Morstadt did in 1933 and 1934 in the context of the times was incredible. Morstadt was having a lot of double digit scoring games while Marquette was holding teams to 20 points or less several times a season – so he was scoring half as many points as MU was giving up – like someone scoring 35 today while MU allows 70. This is further backed up by the Basketball Encylopedia being issued and showing MU was ranked #14 and #21 these two years, and four of their 17 games in 1933 were against ranked teams – calculating it as the 15th best season in MU history at a 82.6% Adjusted Winning percentage.
I’m guessing a few more people care about Crowder and DJO than Mullen and Morstadt. I showed that based on the more precise Value Add DJO and Crowder were the 2nd best duo in the country behind Anthony Davis and whatever other Kentucky starter with which you want to team him up. They are the only duo besides 1976 and 1977 to take an MU team to multiple NCAA wins in consecutive seasons. DJO had more honors over the two years as an All-Conference selection both years, while Crowder received the biggest honor in 2012 as one of six MU players ever chosen as one of the 10 best in the AP All-American vote. In 2011, the duo had to go up against a ranked opponent 14 times AWAY FROM MILWAUKEE, which is four more times than any other teams in the history of the program. In the great run of the 1970s, Marquette averaged playing 3.5 ranked teams away from home a year even counting all tournament games – so DJO and Crowder travelled to play as many ranked teams in 2011 as the 1970s players would play in an entire 4-year career. To come through that grinder with their numbers and have enough left to win at the eventual national champ and then beat two more ranked teams in the tourney to make the Sweet 16 is the biggest overachievement in MU history – and the Sweet 16 was wrapped up with Crowder burying a trey to tie it, and DJO following with a trey to win. To add to that another Sweet 16 off a 27-8 season that included a win at Wisconsin and in a virtual road game vs. #12 Murray State to go to another Sweet 16 caps them as one of the top few duos in the 95 years of MU basketball.
The Milwaukee Journal noted Dave Quabius as a surprise pick as the 11th best MU player of all time when I first rated them a few years ago, but as an All-American and NBA player, his 150 points/100 rebound season was dominant in light of how few points were scored at the time. When the Basketball Encylopedia came out and showed that MU was actually 3-2 against ranked teams and ranked #18, it further backed up just how strong the 1939 season was to go on top of the 14-5 year in 1938. Robert Deneen almost topping 200 points meant that he scored more than one-third of how many points MU allowed in most games – and MUs losses were to the first two national champions.
If you choose to focus just on one season as a whole, then 1971 was by far MUs best season ever and Dean Meminger and Jim Chones are by far MUs best duo ever with 49.0 Win Credits per 100 games. The 60-59 loss to #10 Ohio State in the NCAA tournament was the only loss in a 62 game stretch that started with Meminger’s NIT title the year before, and ended when Chones left for the ABA with MU undefeated late in the 1972 season. Meminger and Chones are two of MUs AP 1st team All-Americans, and during 1971 they won at #11 Fordham, vs. #20 Miami 62-47 to open the tourney, and then came back after the Ohio State loss to destroy #8 Kentucky 91-74 in the consolation game IN GEORGIA. Chones 520 point, 333 rebound performance in those 30 games averaged him well over a double double for the 4th best season played by an MU player ever, and if the 1972 season was not cut short with MU off to a 20-0 start, he may have challenged Wade for the best season ever played by an MU player. Meminger chipped in 616 points and more than 100 assists for the second straight year. Because I am only comparing duos with two years together, I teamed up Meminger with Gary Brell, who averaged 370 points and 250 rebounds in these two seasons – and together they make up the third best duo in MU history.
I already had Red Dunn and Richard Quinn ranked as Marquette’s 30th and 31st best players of all time, but when the Basketball Enclopedia came out it shed ever more light on the 1923 campaign. Not only was MU 19-2, but that included a 3-1 mark against ranked teams and MU was selected as the 8th best team in the country. Again, I know almost none of you care, but that really makes that season the 3rd best in MU history.
Which leads us to MUs greatest duo ever on the 35th anniversary of their national title. Their 45.6 Win Credits per 100 games is second only to Meminger-Chones 49.0 for the 1971 season, but just counting players who played together for two years they are the best duo in MU history. And while their 21-7 regular season mark included an 0-2 mark against ranked teams away from home, MU closed by beating four consecutive ranked teams on neutral courts in the NCAA to claim the title in what was really only MUs 11th best season overall. To add to that the previous year being MUs 2nd best season overall – including a 27-2 mark and three wins away from home against ranked teams until finally losing in an Elite 8 matchup that pitted #2 Marquette against #1 Indiana – the last undefeated team in hoops history – and you really can argue that Lee and Ellis combined to make MU one of the top 2 teams in the country two years in a row. Like DJO and Crowder this year, Ellis came in as the star having the greatest career of any MU player ever with a Final Four run in 1974, but in the end Lee received more accolades for the season going 1st team All-American to Ellis 3rd team All-American, as Lee eventually became MUs only National Player of the Year.
When you add to this that MUs 7th best year ever was Chones partial 1972 campaign, the 8th best year ever was Ellis 1975 effort and 9th best ever was Lee’s 1978 campaign, you have to say Lee-Ellis or Meminger-Chones are the best duos in MU history, depending on if you care if they played together more than one year. However, if you ignore my archaic pre-NCAA tournament data, DJO and Crowder do rate as the 3rd best Marquette duo since the NCAA tournament took over in 1941.
Happy Anniversary on the National Title, and as the TV commercial says, Marquette appreciates and learns from the past, but isn’t stuck in it and welcomes DJO, Crowder and all of the other players and recruits who will still play in the Bradley Center to the Titans of the National Championship and all the other great seasons as we approach the 100th anniversary of Marquette basketball.
Winning percentages in MU history used to adjust season-by-season estimated Winning percentages:
|vs. ranked||vs. unranked|