"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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

JJJ Surges; Remembering Beating Nasty Big East Turned ACC Team; New Big East to New Heights Without Stars

Reflections on Marquette's past March battles with the former nasty Big East opponent still alive this year and the fact that the current Big East team representing one of the top three conferences - but a conference with no stars.

JuJuan Johnson was one of the biggest breakthroughs, surging to join Henry Ellenson and Luke Fischer among the top 30 Big East players in the Value Add rankings listed below.

Daniel Ochefu overcame injury to make Villanova the only team in the country with four top 100 players - and that quartet is in the Final Four. The Big East, Big 12 and ACC are the top three conferences based on www.kenpom.com, and are the only three with teams in the Final Four as well as the only three with a winning record in the NCAA tournament, so how can the other two conferences have 10 players rated higher in Value Add than any Big East player?

Yes, Syracuse roughed MU up in the last NCAA match-up, but that memory is eclipsed by DJO and Crowder hitting the consecutive three-pointers in Cleveland to send them home.

This year while the Big East had two stars is you go by likely NBA potential. But our own Henry Ellenson was too inconsistent as most freshman are to be a superstar this year (275th final ranking of 4000+ players).

Which begs the question, "What about Kris Dunn?"

Kris is my favorite non-Marquette player - a great kid when I interviewed him at the Big East tournament  last year where he talked about his trust in God, and he will be a great NBA player. He was my preseason National Player of the Year, and I am thrilled the AP selected him as a 2nd Team All-American. However, he dropped to 74th in Value Add and I dropped him to 5th team All-American.

When you really crunch the numbers, Dunn just did not live up to his projected value for one reason - he couldn't stay on the court. Obviously missing some games with the flu is tough. But Dunn just couldn't resist reaching fouls that really hurt Providence by forcing him to sit.

The team barely survived Illinois, USC and Arizona despite Dunn missing more than 14 minutes a game due to foul trouble. He has at least four fouls and averaged missing 10 minutes in two losses to Seton Hall and Michigan State, and if he was on the court to keep them in those games and pull one out then Providence may have improved from an 8-seed and avoided UNC in the second round.

Once they played UNC, he was once again brilliant while on the court - 29 points in 26 minutes - but if Providence could have pulled ahead in the first half while Dunn was sitting on the bench with fouls they might have had a chance. So on the court, no one is better - but resisting those cheap fouls might have given the Big East an additional Sweet 16 team in what is nonetheless a great year.

Season RankPlayerTeamClassTotal Pts/Gm ValueNBA%
37Bentil, Ben 0Providence2 So7.6980%
74Dunn, Kris 3Providence3 Jr6.7894%
81Smith-Rivera, D'Vauntes 4Georgetown4 Sr6.7117%
87Rodriguez, Desi 20Seton Hall2 So6.61
99Arcidiacono, Ryan 15Villanova4 Sr6.4911%
102Hart, Josh 3Villanova3 Jr6.4736%
110Jenkins, Kris 2Villanova3 Jr6.32
114Whitehead, Isaiah 15Seton Hall2 So6.2632%
115Bluiett, Trevon 5Xavier2 So6.2636%
171Ochefu, Daniel 23Villanova4 Sr5.7220%
200Groselle, Geoffrey 41Creighton4 Sr5.54
225Farr, James 2Xavier4 Sr5.27
233Jones, Roosevelt 21Butler4 Sr5.21
265Dunham, Kellen 24Butler4 Sr4.9825%
272Carrington, Khadeen 0Seton Hall2 So4.93
275Ellenson, Henry 13Marquette1 Fr4.9191%
291Delgado, Angel 31Seton Hall2 So4.8126%
296Henry, Myke 4DePaul4 Sr4.79
298Martin, Kelan 30Butler2 So4.7816%
331Davis, Myles 15Xavier3 Jr4.59
360Fischer, Luke 40Marquette3 Jr4.4535%
370Chrabascz, Andrew 45Butler3 Jr4.42
374Macura, JP 55Xavier2 So4.42
400Peak, LJ 0Georgetown2 So4.2724%
430Wideman, Tyler 4Butler2 So4.17
468Watson, Maurice 10Creighton3 Jr3.9616%
470Huff, Cole 13Creighton3 Jr3.95
515Zierden, Isaiah 21Creighton3 Jr3.82
523Bridges, Mikal 25Villanova1 Fr3.7918%
524Johnson, JaJuan 23Marquette3 Jr3.7921%

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Nova Hopes to Add to Big East Breakthrough Tournament

Butler and Xavier could have made it an incredible tournament for the Big East, but this is still a strong one for the conference. As I just posted on Breitbart, the Big East is one of only three conferences with a winning record even if Nova loses tonight. When you look at the disappointments of the first two tournaments of the new Big East, this may be the breakthrough year.

If we have a few upsets, there could even be a reunion of the old Big East in the Final Four with Nova, Notre Dame and Syracuse winning. Pomeroy gives Nova a slightly better than 50-50 chance, but only a 2% chance of all three of those winning.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Former MU asst coach, Trey Schwab, has passed away

I was saddened to learn that Trey Schwab passed away today.  He had been fighting for his life while waiting for another lung transplant, but had been in touch via social media with many of us over the years and last few months.  

A wonderful man, so genuine to the core.  Not a nicer person that you could ever meet.  He would call me in my early days at DIRECTV to get the MU basketball team hooked up with satellite on the road, so he could scout various games as a member of Tom Crean's staff.  It was always good to catch up with Trey, get his two cents on the team and the prospects for success on the court.

When it was learned he would need a transplant, the MU and UW communities responded.  He underwent double lung transplant surgery and suffered a heart attack while recovering.  That would be only the beginning as a major blood clot left him dead on an operating table for 40 minutes, with no pulse.  Somehow he survived....and thrived.  


After coaching, he spent the last 11 years working for the Donate Life Wisconsin, where the state finally had an official organ registry program in 2010, thanks in large part to Trey's efforts.

Fox 6 News in Milwaukee had recently done an interview with Trey by MU's own Tim Van Vooren

A few articles we wrote about Trey over the years on Cracked Sidewalks.  



RIP Trey

Your friend, JD

Friday, March 18, 2016

Dunn Delivers Huge for Marquette and Big East after Failing to Beat MU

Thank you to my Breitbart Sports Preseason Player of the Year, Kris Dunn for delivering for my bracket but most importantly for the Big East. With Seton Hall looking for oxygen in Denver, it looked like the conference might take a double hit before the team that Marquette swept rallied late for a huge win.

I know we are down about Marquette not still playing, but really the long-term success if more dependent on the Big East's performance this year. Here was my recap of the opening day and what credentials helped, or did not seem to help, teams get over the top. (see also "Kris Dunn Leads Breitbart Sports All-American Team")

Monday, March 14, 2016

Seton Hall Kept Ball from MU Bigs, Now They Get Gonzaga and Utah

Another season without post season play, and in fact I did not have MU anywhere close to an NIT bid. However, the future looks bright assuming the Big East can break through with a couple of big NCAA wins this year. I believe the Midwest offers the best hope, and in the brackets and analysis  I published today I see the Seton Hall team that handled MU's big team so well having the potential to do the same with a match-up against both Gonzaga and Utah.

Gonzaga may have the best front line in the country, and Utah has the best center. However, Seton Hall showed how they could pressure the ball to keep MU from getting the ball into our twin towers. Two wins by Seton Hall would finally give the Big East a nice story line at tournament time. Butler also might be the team that could frustrate UVa for a huge upset.

Certainly we can watch Villanova and the rest, but here is the Midwest:

Monday, March 07, 2016

Ellenson 2nd Team All-BE, Fischer 3rd Team, JJJ Surging

Henry Ellenson, Luke Fischer and JaJuan Johnson combined to hit 49 of 63 two-point shots the last three game of the season (78%). The performances were enough to propel Ellenson to 2nd Team All-Big East in the just released list here, with Fischer just missing the list. Fischer's 15 of 17 during that span left him ranked as the 117th most valuable player in basketball at Value Add, while JJJ is one of the most improved players in the country moving up to 433rd in the past month of more than 4000 players.

The Breitbart All-American list proved prophetic in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and is being released this morning for the 2016 season. Like the All-Conference lists, it is based on a combination of the Value Add calculation of the point value each player has to his team and his NBA potential, as well as subjective awards for Conference and National Players of the Week and the running CBS Sports rankings. The 32 All-Conference teams are released at the same time here and the top three teams are listed below:

Player1st Team All-Big EastHtClassVANBA%Subj
Dunn, Kris Providence6' 4"Jr5.9394%2.96
Whitehead, Isaiah Seton Hall6' 4"So5.7132%1.85
Bluiett, Trevon Xavier6' 6"So5.0336%2.59
Bentil, Ben Providence6' 9"So7.308%3.63
Hart, Josh Villanova6' 5"Jr6.3736%


2nd Team All-Big East





Watson, Maurice Creighton5' 10"Jr3.7516%
Arcidiacono, Ryan Villanova6' 3"Sr5.0311%
Jones, Roosevelt Butler6' 4"Sr5.14
Ochefu, Daniel Villanova6' 11"Sr5.1520%
Ellenson, HenryMarquette6' 11"Fr4.5691%3.59


3rd Team All-Big East





Smith-Rivera, D'Vauntes Georgetown6' 3"Sr5.9317%
Jenkins, Kris Villanova6' 6"Jr4.97
Rodriguez, Desi Seton Hall6' 6"So5.50
Fischer, Luke Marquette6' 11"Jr5.5835%
Martin, Kelan Butler6' 6"So4.2916%

If JJJ gets more minutes and Fischer stays out of foul trouble to give Ellenson support, MU could be a tough out in the Big East tournament. With JJJ and Fischer on the bench for large periods wins will be tough. Traci Carter is now in the top 1% of all players in assist rate at www.kenpom.com, and Carter and JJJ are one of only 11 duos in college basketball to combine to steal the ball more than 7% of opponents' trips when they are on the floor, while Haanif Cheatham and Duane Wilson need to hit some three-pointers to open driving lanes.

The regular season is over, now what?

Marquette's 99th regular season campaign has drawn to a close and we are left with the question now what. We discuss the deflating Butler game, officiating, Henry's health and why that was such difficult loss from a post season standpoint. We also discuss the Georgetown result, the excitement of which feels long ago, but we do talk a little Traci Carter and how significant his improvement has been. We then talk post season, first the Big East tournament hopes and then what the NIT prospects are when the likely happens and Marquette doesn't win the whole Big East tournament. Finally, we wrap up with another pitch for the great #mubb tshirt that is being sold for a great cause, link is here: https://www.booster.com/mubb-support-for-als-run Download this episode (right click and save)

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Critics Get a Clue: Buzz and Crean 2 of Top Coaches in Country

Don't look now, but the haters of the last two Marquette coaches are having a bad year.

As I keep up with my running total of the bid chances for all 351 teams, I suddenly realized Virginia Tech had a bye in the ACC tournament and was up to 67th at www.kenpom.com. What? Weren't we all in shock when Alabama State of the SWAC started the season by going into Va Tech to stun Buzz and the Hokies?

Suddenly Virginia Tech has won five straight games to close out the ACC season and earn the buy as the 6th seed. No one expects them to win, but their most likely path would be to beat Florida State and Miami - both of which they beat by double digits during the current five game winning streak - to play a UVa team they beat once this year in the ACC semifinal.

The arrows directed at Buzz despite an unheard of three straight Sweet 16s at Marquette are unwarranted - that almost never happens and we will very likely never see it again despite my hopes for a great future at MU.

Then there is Tom Crean, who has clinched a Big Ten title. There was some glee in some MU circles on the "Tom Crean is on the hotseat" reports after the blow out loss at Duke early this season but guess what - the coach of Indiana is always on the hot seat. You cannot question the ability of a coach that is playing the final game of the season having already won the Big Ten regular season title.

We have a great coach and kudos to Marquette for the wonderful hiring of Steve Wojciechowski and making MU a part of the incredible effort to get the new Big East the Fox Sports deal that has us on TV almost every game and playing in Madison Square Garden.

But as soon as a new regime comes in - whether it is a coach or a CEO of a company - everyone starts telling a new story of how terrible the past regime really was and the gross incompetence that the team or company somehow survived.

Get a clue.

No Tom Crean, no Dwyane Wade. No Wade, and no Final Four run and in turn invitation to the Big East. We needed a sales prep to make Marquette basketball relevant again and he did.

No Buzz Williams and MU gets one final year of the Three Amigos and then the program goes second tier. Call me the next time MU makes three straight Sweet 16s. That just doesn't happen.

Wojo will be great too - but we were very lucky to have the last two.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Big East Fans Rooting for Butler over Marquette at Tip-Off

In a piece this morning for Breitbart I graded the bid chances of all 351 teams with Seton Hall, Providence and Butler as teams that likely just needed to avoid an upset to a lower team today to wrap up a bid.

I hate to say it, but for Big East fans, a Marquette loss probably locks five Big East teams into the tournament, with a chance to get a sixth team if one of the "have nots" make a surprise UConn like run through the tournament.

Obviously I want MU to pull out the huge upset and would love Creighton to lose to give MU momentum and the fifth seed in the Big East tournament to have the best chance at that UConn type run.

Right now the top four seeds are set with Providence's just completed win - so I have all four of those teams rated as a "B" - in the tournament. (Not all agree, but I can't see any of them missing based on a first round loss in the conference tournament. Marquette and four others are a "E" meaning only a tournament win gets us in. The problem for Big East fans is that Butler is a C+ meaning probably in but a loss to MU that dropped them to a 7-seed and then a loss to St. John's in the opening round of the Big East could well leave them out on Selection Sunday.

Oh well, I root for the conference unless it hurts Marquette. Go Warriors, and hopefully after we upset Butler they can win a conference tournament game or two and make it six teams along with Big East Tournament champions Marquette after our wins over Providence, Nova and Xavier next week!

1. Nova 16-2
2. Xavier 13-4
3. Seton Hall 12-6
4. Providence 10-8

5th through 7th
Creighton 9-8
Butler 9-8
Marquette 8-9 (with tie-breaker in a 2-way or 3-way)

8. Georgetown 7-11
9. DePaul 3-15
10. St. John's 1-17