"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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Red Storm Rolls Into Town

In a battle between two nicknamed-challenged institutions, the Marquette Golden Eagles host the St. John's Red Storm (10-8 overall, 3-4 in the Big East) on Wednesday night at the Bradley Center.

MU (15-6 overall, 5-3 in the Big East) will look to rebound from a tough loss to Pittsburgh over the weekend. The Panthers clobbered MU on the boards, but turnovers, missed free throws and the strong play of the Panthers's backcourt were the difference in crunch time.

Marquette enters the game with mounting concerns about injuries to key players. Since spraining his ankle badly in practice last week, Steve Novak has been largely ineffective, generating single digit point totals in back to back games for the first time this season. In fact, Novak has only attempted 14 shots in the last two games combined.

The Big East's premier freshman, Dominic James, suffered a sprained right shoulder in the second half against the Panthers and did not practice on Sunday or Monday. Per Rosiak at the Journal-Sentinel, the injured James is expected to play tonight after practicing on Tuesday. In addition, Jerel McNeal appeared to suffer a leg or ankle injury late in the game at Pittsburgh, but is apparently ready to play on Wednesday.

Enough of the M*A*S*H recap.....we've got hoops coming up on Wednesday night -- a game that MU desperately needs.

Here's how it unfolds: If MU holds serve at home on Wednesday night against an improving St. John's team, the Golden Eagles will roll into Villanova on Saturday playing with house money. Lose the game on Wednesday, and the Golden Eagles face the daunting task of traveling to Villanova and then to Rutgers where a sub-.500 conference record could become a real possibility.

Enough speculation. If MU is to win against the Johnnies, they'll have to stop Coach Norm Roberts' effective inside/outside combo of Daryll 'Showtime' Hill and LaMont Hamilton. Hill is an NYC playground legend and the iron man for the Johnnies. Playing more than 35mpg, the slippery Hill leads the team in scoring at nearly 13ppg. Hamilton, a fast-rising sophomore, scores better than 12ppg and hauls in more than seven boards per game.

St John's plays some of the lowest scoring basketball in the conference, leading the league in scoring defense. The stingy defense keeps the Johnnies close in most ball games, a strategy that is beginning to pay dividends. Prior to losing their last two games to West Virginia and UConn, SJU had ripped off three straight wins while holding opponents to 56 points or less.

This matchup pairs two teams with vastly different tendencies and styles of play -- methinks the pace of play could be the biggest determinant on Wednesday night, consider:

  • MU is second in the Big East in field goal efficiency; SJU is second in the Big East in opponents' field goal efficiency;
  • In possessions per 40 mins, MU is 4th overall in the Big East, while SJU is 14th (this stat is a measure of the pace of play that a team looks to create);
  • MU is 9th in the league in defensive rebounding percentage; SJU is 2nd overall in the Big East in offensive rebounding percentage;
  • In conference play, MU leads the Big East in field goal percentage, while SJU is second in the league in FG% defense;
  • In conference play, MU leads the Big East in 3-point field goal percentage, while SJU is second in the league in 3-point FG% defense;
  • In conference play, MU is 10th in the league in rebounding margin, while SJU is the best in the league.

Interestingly, despite the slower pace of their games, SJU is the second worse team in the league when it comes to protecting the basketball, turning the ball over 26% of the time. MU turns it over roughly 21% of the time.

This blogger thinks that the formula for MU is fairly simple: protect the basketball, get to the line and make free throws. I'll take limiting the opposition's offensive rebounds (wow, would that be nice), but ultimately if MU protects the ball good things happen. MU is talented enough to score from any number of spots on the floor -- and if the pace is quick, MU's depth could be a tremendous advantage against the thin SJU rotation.

Here is the GoMarquette preview.

Here is the NYPost preview (free registration required).

Here is the Marquette Tribune preview.

**note on the bulleted stats, the first four are Tempo Free Stats through 1/20. The last two are official Big East stats through 1/20.

St. John's game huge, but NCAA talk is out there

The last thing this team can do is overlook St. John's, an underrated team with some quality talent. They have scored some good wins to date. Tomorrow night will be a tough game especially with some of the injuries to MU.

That being said, MU fans are quite excited by the start of this year's squad. The thought of the NCAA tournament crossed very few minds of MU fans just 6 weeks ago, but now the talk is out there and it includes the national pundits.

The key for MU is they must win the games left on their home schedule: St. John's, Providence, Georgetown and Pittsburgh. If they can do that, they are in solid shape to make an NCAA appearance. A stumble in one of those games means probably forcing a win at Rutgers and/or at Notre Dame which will not be easy. Of course, if MU is able to pull off a win at #4 Villanova or at Louisville, that would do wonders as well.

MU currently sits at 31 in the RPI. Traditionally the top 40 schools in the RPI make the NCAA tournament with some minor exceptions year to year. For example last year #39 Miami-OHIO was snubbed. For MU to retain a top 40 RPI it is critical to beat the teams ranked lower than MU at home (St. John's 105, Providence 66) and if they can knock off Georgetown (29) and Pitt (5) then the Warriors will sit pretty.

Road wins under the new RPI formula are a very valued commodity. They are worth 1.3 wins while a home win is worth .7 wins. As a result, a loss on the road is not as harmful (-.7) as a home loss (-1.3).

St. John's right now is the key. Must beat the Johnnies.

In the meantime, there are 12 sites out in cyberspace that have posted their projected brackets. Marquette finds itself in the field of 64 in all 12 of these brackets with an average seed of 9th.

To view the projected bracket breakdowns, click here.

On Milwaukee also has an excellent article today talking about MU's NCAA chances. Click here for more.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Novak Named to Wooden List; James Injury Update

Congratulations to Steve Novak. Novak is included on the Wooden Award's 'Midseason Top 30 Candidates' list announced earlier today. The Big East has a total of 9 players on this midseason list, the most of any conference.

Tonight on his radio program, Coach Tom Crean addressed Dominic James' injury. In a nutshell, he's day to day with a shoulder sprain (but we're all day to day, as Olbermann loved to point out on the Big Show). James did not practice on Sunday or Monday, and its unclear if he will on Tuesday. Coach praised James' toughness and hoped he'd be ready to play on Wednesday.

On the bright side, Novak apparently had a good practice today -- showing more improvement in his recovery from an injured ankle.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Upping the Ante

15-6. 5-3.

By any measure, the Marquette Golden Eagles are exceeding expectations so far this season. Sure, the wheels could still come off the Overachievers Express, which is an all-to-real concern as MU fans hold their breath for news on the health of Dominic James and another starter, Wesley Matthews. However, the upward trajectory of the program has been firmly re-established and fans have every reason to expect a heartier helping of wins in the immediate and not-so-distant future.

The tough loss to Pittsburgh over the weekend points out how far the MU program has come in such a short period of time. A pre-season pick to finish 12th in the league, MU is currently the only CUSA refugee with a conference record above .500, and is the only team in the country to beat the nation's top team UConn.

And with the wins, come the expectations. Which brings me back to the Pittsburgh game. Before the season started, most smart-minded MU fans penciled in a loss for the tilt at The Pete .... yet 30 minutes into the game it was abundantly clear that MU not only could play with the best in the league, but should expect to beat the best in the league -- wherever the games are played.

Perhaps I am a late comer to this realization, but I actually enjoy feeling that MU let one get away over the weekend. Did anybody expect to feel this way four weeks into MU's first Big East conference season?

I am strangely excited about expecting this team to win games on the road against ranked opponents -- especially one where the squad came tantalizingly close to swiping the victory, only to see injuries and carelessness compromise a laudable 30-minute effort.

Point taken, Coach Crean. I'll happily be disappointed with tough road defeats to nationally ranked conference foes. Where before the season, losing a game like this might have been an expectation, now its a disappointment.


Wasn't it just last season that MU was as painful to watch as the Mike Deane-era teams that once prompted Chris Fowler to rhetorically ask, "Don't you get the feeling that the other team could leave the court and Marquette still couldn't score?" Didn't MU lose at home to Western Michigan to close out its listless '04-'05 campaign? Didn't MU lose Travis Diener, Marcus Jackson, Todd Townsend and Dameon Mason? Wasn't MU going to be overmatched in this new league?

In less than a calendar year, the program has been injected with talent and youthful enthusiasm that merely whets the appetite for the future. Of course, as fans we want that future to be now - - which is why the Pitt loss hurt so much. In my mind, the loss was not made worse by the Dominic James injury and the alleged shove soon thereafter. Physical play is part of the diet in the Big East, and so are missed calls and unclear intentions.

Big deal.

Injuries, bad calls and no-calls are part of the game, and MU let Pittsburgh take advantage of James' absence ignite a 22-11 run built around lazy ballhandling, poor execution and missed FTs. MU turns the ball over roughly 22% of the time in conference play -- a poor percentage for a team built around a stable of interchangeable parts in the backcourt, rather than a burly, lumbering frontcourt.

What's most laughable though are the cat calls from a few corners of the Big East fan base that MU should "toughen up", "learn to rebound" or worse, "toughen up and go back to CUSA". Perhaps this is just the requisite bullying from other fan bases, but many in the Big East would be interested to realize that the team they are all chasing, West Virginia, is the worst rebounding team in the league. Where should they go? Perhaps to Indianapolis.

But I digress.

The passion with which Pitt fans reacted and responded to winning a tight game against a CUSA refugee merely proves the point: they were fortunate to win against Marquette. Much in the same way MU was fortunate to win against Seton Hall, Rutgers was fortunate to win against Louisville, and on and on.

Wins are tough to secure in this league. New rivalries are developing. And if the reaction from both camps this weekend tells us anything, Marquette is a tough out in conference play; the opposition's reaction to victory validated this point. So too, then, do our own expectations as MU fans......our new, loftier expectations.

The time to win is now. On to St. Johns.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

MU suffers loss and injuries at hands of Panthers

Marquette suffered not only a loss at #10 Pittsburgh on Saturday in the Win and Loss column, but was hurt in the injury category as well. Star freshman guard Dominic James was hurt at the 13 minute mark of the second half with MU still leading. After stealing an outlet pass, he ran into a Pitt defender and clutched his shoulder immediately. To make matters worse, he was pushed in the back by a second Pitt defender causing him to tumble into the table by the baseline of the court. James was taken to the locker room but with his departure, the Panthers took their first lead of the game only a minute later.

James managed to come back into the game with 3 minutes to play, but was clearly in pain as his right arm was limp for the remainder of the game. He dribbled almost exclusively with his left arm and managed to take another violent hit on a blocking call under the basket. Somehow James was able to hit a 3 pointer and a 2 pointer in the final minute, but his status is unknown for the MU's next game on Feb. 1st against St. John's. An x-ray was to be taken today.

To add to the injury bug, Jerel McNeal was also injured as he got tangled up with a Pitt defender with 2 minutes to play. It appeared McNeal hurt his calf or ankle. He did not play the final two minutes and no word on his status was available.

For the game, MU came out on fire and led by as many as 12 points in the first half. Ryan Amoroso hit two three pointers while Novak, Barro and James all contributed with balanced scoring in the half. MU led 40-33 but got killed on the boards.

The second half Pitt closed the gap to 3 on several occasions but MU kept the lead until the 13 minute mark. That is when James was hurt after stealing the ball. The entire complexion of the game changed at that moment. MU went nearly 4 minutes without making a basket while Pitt went on an 8-0 run to grab the lead.

To the Golden Eagles credit, despite being down and the Pitt faithful in a full lather, MU fought back. A Jerel McNeal lay-up put MU back up top 56-54 with 8:01 to play. Two minutes later Joe Chapman's field goal gave the Eagles a 58-56 lead, the last lead MU would have in the game. The Panthers went on a 10-0 run and led 66-58 with 2:33 left when an Amoroso free throw finally stopped the bleeding.

MU had other opportunities in the final stretch, including 4 straight missed free throws by McNeal and two more misses by Amoroso. The Golden Eagles were dominated on the boards 45-29 and shot a woeful 5-12 from the line.

The final score was #10 Pitt 77, MU 71. Pitt was favored by 11 and MU gave them a huge scare, but this game becomes one of those "what could have been" if James had remained on the court. With him playing MU led the all 27 min to start the game.

Steve Novak finished with only 8 points, his second straight game below double digits. He has to be more selfish and take more shots, finishing with only 9 attempts today. MU has a chance at redemption in a few weeks when Pitt comes to the Bradley Center. I'd expect a very physical game and some payback in that contest. Some of today's fouls were rougher than MU is used to. We won't say dirty, just very physical.

Rosiak says James has sprained shoulder. Outlook uncertain

Box Score from ESPN

Associated Press Recap

Friday, January 27, 2006

Conference Only Stats Now Available

We are now far enough into the conference season to provide conference only stats. Tempo free stats for the entire Big East are now updated through games played January 25. Some MU individual stats of note. Steve Novak leads the Big East in Points per Weighted Shot (1.51), is 2nd in FG Efficiency (72.7%), and is 1st in True Shooting% (76.3%). You also may be surprised at who is leading the conference in Offensive Rebounding %! Click here to find out who it is.

On the team side, it's easy to see why this year's team has been so enjoyable to watch. We are 4th in pace of play at over 68 possessions per 40 minutes, 4th in Offensive Efficiency at 1.09 points per possession, and 2nd in FG Efficiency at 54.9%.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Blog Exclusive: PittSportsBlather Previews the Panthers

One of the best aspects of the Big East Conference is its passionate fan base -- and we're lucky to have so many well-written blogs to chronicle the proceedings. The PittSportsBlather is certainly one of the best of the bunch, with up to date analysis of Panther athletics. Following an invitation from Chas, the mind behind the PittSportsBlather, here's a Q/A he prepared on the state of the Panthers program and what MU can expect from them on Saturday.

We've done the same thing on his blog, offering perspectives on the Marquette program. Please click here for the link. Check back throughout the day -- we'll try to update these Q/As before game time.

Without further adieu, lets get caught up on the Pittsburgh Panthers:

1) On the surface, this seemed like it might be a rebuilding year for Pittsburgh after losing Taft, Troutman and Demetris from last year's team. What are the biggest reasons for the Panthers' surprising success so far?

PSB: I think most Pitt fans were anticipating a rebuilding year. From the end of last year to the start of this one, I was saying that Pitt could go anywhere from 6-10 to 10-6.

You have to start with the players. Krauser is playing better than ever and usually in much better control. Gray is showing a scoring touch inside, and wants every rebound -- not just assuming that it will come to him because of his size. The players seem to be taking their cues from those two. They're out there playing hard, and trying to get the ball to the open man for the good shot, rather than just looking for their shot each time. It rubs off, and spreads. The players know they will get a chance.

There are plenty of underclassmen who seemed to get "it" from the start. Namely, that you don't get the playing time unless you play defense. You can struggle offensively, but if the effort isn't there on defense you will be sitting down for most of the game.

There is also growth from the head coach, Jamie Dixon, that has facilitated the kind of season Pitt has had (which I will address a little later).

2) Carl Krauser is the best PG in the Big East, but he almost didn't return for his senior season. Can you breakdown his strengths and weaknesses - particularly his ability to defend the dribble penetration? Also, which players benefit the most from Krauser's style of play?

PSB: Actually, I think Marcus Williams at UConn might be the best PG, but I digress. Krauser is actually playing off the ball more. He's playing Shooting Guard this season, but really seems to be co-PG when you see him on the court.

Usually, announcers talk about his toughness and his willingness to get inside. That is one of his strengths, but I think his biggest on offense is a deceptively fast first step. He is strong, but when he wants to take it inside, the big thing is that he will make a first step to get past his defender that catches them off guard. He plays a tough defense, happily going body to body with the player to not let them get space and separation. Passing the ball, he is still the best on the team at getting it inside to the frontcourt guys.

His weakness, is forgetting about the team at times. That was the big grumbling about him last year. That he would hold the ball too long looking for his shot rather than getting it to someone else. That it would cause the team to stand around and disrupt the team's game. Part of why he is at SG is so he won't think he has to do something everytime. The only outburst of that sort of behavior happened in the loss to St. John's last week.

3) What sort of team gives Pittsburgh the most trouble, offensively and defensively?

PSB: Offensively, there are two types of teams that can hurt Pitt. A team that shoots a lot of threes is scary. Pitt's perimeter defenders do a lot of slapping at the ball, trying to get it loose. That means their hands aren't up often enough to contest the shot and they can be taken out of position on a fake, to free the shooter.

The other is a team with an individual player that can go inside and out from the frontcourt -- a big guy or power forward. It can be a guy like Pittsnogle who can shoot the 3, or play inside. Or a guy like Curtis Sumpter who has a nice mid-range jumper, but also has such a first step that he can easily blow past a defender who steps out on him.

Defensively, it would be the teams that get physical back. Teams that will go body to body and deny the passing lanes. Pitt is very big this year on getting the ball to a guy for a good shot. If a team closes off the passing lanes, it forces the Pitt players to start putting up their own shot and seems to disrupt the team.

4) Coach Jamie Dixon has managed to maintain the momentum created by Ben Howland. What's Coach Dixon's greater strength: developing talent or recruiting talent?

PSB: I'm really not sure. This is only year 3.

A lot of the credit for recruiting the talent tends to go to Associate Head Coach Barry Rohrssen, at the same time it still comes down to a head coach who can close the deal. Clearly Dixon is doing that.

As for the development, if you asked fans last year, that would have been a big issue considering the way Taft played, the fact that the team never seemed to improve during the season, and the underclassmen rarely got time on the court -- suggesting they weren't ready.

This year, the development of Gray and DeGroat; and the freshmen players who are visibly improving each game has silenced a lot of criticisms (or at least mine).

Again, I don't mean to be wishy-washy, but this is just his 3rd year as head coach and the answer isn't clear to me at this time.

5) What was the reaction within the Pittsburgh community to a) the defections of the VaTech, BC, and Miami, and b) the addition of the four CUSA institutions?

PSB: Got a couple of hours?

Lots of anger. Plenty at the ACC. Also, though, a lot of it actually at the Big East for letting it happen, i.e., not doing the hard step of splitting the conference a few years back between football schools and basketball only schools. There's a sense of inevitability to that considering the interests and money are so different between the two types of programs.

Miami was never liked, because, well, they are Miami. Still, I don't sense the real hostility to them that there is to BC and VT. Those two schools looked worse. VT because they were originally left out of the ACC expansion and led the charge to preserve the BE and talked nobly about it, then when political pressure in Virginia forced the ACC extend an offer they jumped at it like a crack-whore.

BC was even worse because they were out, in then out of the BE. Oscillating between naked self-interest and high-minded statements.

As for the new kids. Don't take this the wrong way, but there is a strong belief that this is a stop-gap measure to give the conference time to regroup and strengthen both sides. That the present configuration can't last, and that the BE will finally split around 2010 (when the agreement to stay in this form ends). At that time the football schools will go their own way as will the basketball schools.

So, for Marquette and DePaul, I would compare it to a buddy's new girlfriend, who you know he'll eventually dump, because he always does. So you treat them nice enough, but almost at a distance because there's no real point in getting to actually know them. (Okay, the analogy kind of sucks, but you get the idea.)

6) When did you realize that this team would be able to successfully compete in the Big East this year, despite such a young roster?

PSB: The South Carolina and Wisconsin games at the end of the non-con clinched it. Those were supposed to be the stumble/tough games. Pitt won them, and saw the young players make key contributions. Sam Young was the reason Pitt won at South Carolina and in the Wisconsin game all three freshmen made big contributions to lead the win. When you see the underclass lead the way against the good competition, it is exciting.

Earlier, though, the 37-point blasting Pitt put on Auburn. That opened eyes because both teams were supposed to be rebuilding. To have Pitt absolutely dismantle an SEC team, even one that was down, was stunning and started raising expectations.

Thanks for your time today, Chas.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Fitz is Titz!

No wardrobe malfunctions this evening. In a performance that even Janet Jackson would admire, FITZ IS TITZ. In what's become a tradition, the Marquette Golden Eagles soundly defeated the DePaul Blue Demons by a final score of 62-47 at the Bradley Center on the strength of 18 points by Dan Fitzgerald.

Marquette, which has beaten DePaul in 26 of the last 32 meetings, was led by the extraordinary play of Dan Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald poured in a career-high 18 points on 6-7 shooting from 3-point range, admirably stepping up on a night when Steve Novak was ineffective due to injury.

The Golden Eagles and Blue Demons both opened the game in sloppy fashion, battling to an 18-18 tie. DePaul's offense struggled to produce points, but the Blue Demons stayed in the game on the strength of seven second chance points early.

Marquette soon hit its stride, and raced to a 36-24 lead at the break, on the strength of an 18-6 run to close the last seven minutes of the half. The run was keyed by the spectacular shooting of Fitzgerald, who drained four three pointers during the stretch. Incredibly, Steve Novak failed to score in the first half, while Fitzgerald accounted for a dozen.

In the second half, Marquette used an explosive 12-4 run to stretch their lead to 54-36 with just under eight minutes to play. Dominic James, Dan Fitzgerald and Ousmane Barro all delivered during that stretch, which was made all the more painful for the Blue Demons following Sammy Mejia's game-ending injury late in the first half. DePaul was simply lost without him.

Dan Fitzgerald led MU with a career high 18 points in 30 minutes of action. Dominic James chipped in 12 on six of eleven shooting. James also had seven assists. Jerel McNeal was solid, with 11 points and seven rebounds. Ousmane Barro contributed seven points and three boards in 14 valuable minutes. Steve Novak, hobbled by an ankle injury, scored a season-low five points.

With the win, MU moves to 5-2 in Big East Conference play and 15-5 overall. MU will hit the road for three of their next four games, starting with a visit to Pittsburgh on Saturday at 11am CDT. Marquette has won 9 of their last 11 games.

BTW, in Coach Crean's post game comments he sounded certain that Wesley Matthews would return to action in February, "hopefully sooner than later".

Many thanks to Jim McIlvaine for the gratuitous mention of the blog in today's post-game recap!

Post Game Comments from Tom Crean, courtesy of Marquette84:

  • Last week against DePaul three things didn’t go well in the 2nd half: Lost the defensive intensity, didn’t block out or rebound well, and rushed the offense—fixed all those things tonight.
  • Team played 40 minutes of defense, good rebounding, got good looks.
  • DePaul’s defense closed off the middle so the drop offs weren’t there, however team recognized it and the kickouts were working.
  • DePaul is a solid team—difference tonight is that we didn’t let them make it close.
  • On the lineup with four 6’9 players: We’re evaluating. Let Jamil play defense on the perimeter. Not a lot of offensive options with that lineup because guys are out of position, but we’re trying to prepare for the rest of the league—experimenting with different ways
  • Fitz is a tribute to the coaching staff—he’s out there working hard on shooting after practice.
  • At times, Fitz played the point with James in the game—why? Give James a chance playing off guard. Make it interesting, fresh and exiting. Not trying to mess with the game, just play a lot of different lineups, make them think, react in different ways. Keep things fresh.
  • Jerel McNeal made great plays—DePaul took away the middle, team reacted well.
  • Pitt plays a tough defense—toughest, most complete team in college basketball.
  • Turnovers were a key. Team did a great job holding down the turnovers.
  • James beginning to get good at recognizing when to run and when to pull back.
  • Matthews: No target date, but sometime in February. Perhaps by the middle. Not going to rush things.
Here is the Yahoo box score.

Here is the AP recap.

Here is the gomarquette recap.

Here is the gomarquette boxscore.

Cracked Sidewalks' First Blogiversary

Holy mackeral . . . . . . We're one!

Who knew that we'd still be at this one year later, much less with 82,000 hits and counting. And from the looks of things below, through the first 322 posts we're just hitting our stride.

Thanks for making us a part of your Marquette basketball online experience -- we'll keep this going, doing our part. And to my fellow contributors on the blog -- thanks for the time and expertise.

Cracked Sidewalks' Blog Traffic Totals, January 2005 - January 2006, courtesy of Sitemeter

Now, lets beat DePaul. MU won't lose on the Blogiversary.

Here's the link to our preview of tonight's tilt with DePaul.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Some Surprisingly Good Press from Milwaukee.

On the basis of articles like this and online polls implying MU fans are whiners (right hand column, half way down), MU fans have recently had trouble deciding whether the hometown newspaper was better for lining the birdcage or for wrapping dead fish.

They better hold off before tossing out the January 26th edition with the trash--columnist Mike Hunt has posted a complimentary story on MU and its surprising Big East success.

He says:

Everyone who predicted that Marquette would have a chance to make the NCAA tournament during its first season in the Big East may claim his or her prize at Uncle Duke's Unicorn Farm, just down the road from La-La Land. For the rest of the skeptics and cynics who prefer to be called realists, the Golden Eagles are trying to make suckers of us all.

In another article, the J/S Bob Wolfley explains the frustrating lack of television for MU fans.
ESPN owns the rights to all of the Big East Conference men's basketball games, including home games of Big East teams when they play a non-conference opponent. But because of cost, ESPN does not produce every Big East game and make it available nationally or regionally or in the markets of the competing teams.

Marquette Hosts DePaul

Fresh off an emotional victory over Notre Dame, the Marquette Golden Eagles jump back into action on Wednesday night when they host the struggling DePaul Blue Demons.

The Blue Demons enter the game as a frustrated, wounded team. Wainwright's bunch is 8-9 overall and 1-5 in the Big East after a last minute loss to Providence last week. The team has been plagued with suspensions and injuries of late, most notably to Wesley Green and Wilson Chandler. Per the guys over at DePaul's Rivals.com message board, both Green and Chandler are expected to play against the Golden Eagles. The Chicago Sun-Times is not so sure, indicating that Chandler's status is 'day-to-day'. Chandler had missed the Blue Demons's last two games due to an unspecified violation of team policy.

MU will look to build on its 14-5 record (4-2 in the Big East). MU's fast start in conference play is drawing plenty of attention. The Associated Press is the latest to take notice of MU's progress, Steve Novak in paticular.

With their early success in conference play, so-called 'winnable home games' are all the more important for MU. DePaul is not as bad as their record indicates (they could have easily won each of their last three games), and will fight like hell to save their season.

MU, shooting 40% from beyond the arc, will continue to rely on Novak's extraordinary play, along with that of Dominic James. Both are coming off of an exceptional week in leading the team to two victories.

A key for Marquette will be containing the Blue Demon's athletic backcourt of Draelon Burns, Sammy Mejia, Cliff Clinkscales, and Karron Clarke. Burns was particularly effective against MU last week, throwing in 22 points to go along with seven rebounds.

With Wilson Chandler returning to the lineup, MU will have to answer on the glass -- where the Blue Demons dominated the Golden Eagles in the second half last week. The Blue Demons made a furious run to close a 24 point gap to just two, largely on the strength of exceptional offensive rebounding and careless ball control from MU.

Another interesting note for the game -- DPU has fallen behind by double digits in each of their last three games (all losses).

Here are a few previews:

BlueDemonsNation preview.

GoMarquette.com preview, which dispels those Steve Novak injury rumors.

Prelude to a Rivalry

Slow day today.........big game tomorrow. The Blue Demon(s) travel to Milwaukee to take on Marquette.

Clearly MU has the homecourt advantage.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Novak, James Earn Big East Weekly Honors

Steve Novak was named the Big East's player of the week for the second time.

Dominic James was named the Big East's freshman of the week for the second week in a row, and for the third time this season.

Here is the announcement.

Dominic James was also named the 'Diaper Dandy of the Week' by Duke Vitale.



Tempo Free Stats for the entire Big East Conference have been updated. The numbers reflect games through January 21. Please check them out here.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Random Notes on MU

Kevin McNamara at The Providence Journal sees the light, "The best freshman in the Big East looks like Marquette's Dominic James. He scored 28 points in a loss to West Virginia, then beat that with 29 points in Tuesday's victory over DePaul."

Tom Noie of the South Bend Tribune offers an interesting assessment - - - that 6'1 K yle McAlarney and 6'2" Chris Quinn were 'vertically challenged' . . . "against Golden Eagles freshman Dominic James." Ummm.....ok, whatever you say, Tom.

Per the Connecticut Post, "Senior Steve Novak has 303 career 3-pointers, a Marquette record. He is also one of four active players in Division I with at least 300. Duke J.J. Reddick, St. Peters' Keydren Clark, and Syracuse's Gerry McNamara are the others."

Jim McIlvaine.......local guy, done good, a nice article in the Racine Journal-Times.

Anybody craving Real Chili? Here's the recipe, courtesy of Avenue Commons.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Novak Slays The Irish


Steve Novak. Steve Novak. Steve Novak. Steve Novak. Steve Novak. Steve Novak. Steve Novak. Steve Novak. Steve Novak. Steve Novak. Steve Novak. Steve Novak. Steve Novak. Steve Novak. Steve Novak. Steve Novak. Steve Novak.

18.874 ......the largest crowd to ever see a college basketball game in the state of Wisconsin watched Steve Novak pour in 28 points including a ridiculous jumper (while drifting out of bounds) with 1.1 seconds to go to seal the victory.

Dominic James chipped in with 11 points, six assists and five rebounds. Jerel McNeal contributed 12 points and five assists in the comeback victory.

Other keys:

  • MU responded to a 30-19 deficit with a 30-16 run to close the first half and open the second half on their way to a 49-46 lead.
  • Dominic James made a huge bucket to tie the game at 65 with 45.9 seconds remaining;
  • Jerel Mcneal scored all 12 of his points in the second half, showing the aggressiveness Marquette fans have already come to expect;
  • Dan Fitzgerald with 6 points (two three pointers -- one the old fashioned way) to go along with an assist and three boards.
  • Mike Kinsella's inspired play, particularly defensively with three blocked shots, was key in helping to contain Torin Francis.
  • Marquette outrebounded the Irish 33-27 and limited second half turnovers to merely six (14 total).
...........MU rah-rah.

Marquette improved to 14-5 overall and an impressive 4-2 in the Big East with the victory. The Irish fell to 10-6 and 1-4. Marquette welcomes the DePaul Blue Demons to the Bradley Center on Wednesday.

Courtesy of SJS1 on the Rivals site (and notable blog contributor) -- a recap of Crean's post game comments from WISN with Homer and McIlvaine:

--Thinks this game will go down as one of the great MU/ND games.
--Defense, blocking out much better in the 2nd half.
--ND is a potent offensive team
--Both teams made the other earn things
--Ben Sheets gave pre-game talk, Tony LaRussa spoke post-game
--Liked Kinsella in practice
--need the size in the lineup
--Kinsella has intuition. Need better post defense. Got winded quick.
--Crean not happy with McNeal first half
--came out with focus and desire in 2nd half
--Deflection average record set by Wade--12.2. Record is "safe, for now"
--Crowd: Phenominal thing
--people came despite the weather. Great record crowd.
--Five home games left--Hopefully some more sellouts.
--Want Novak to shoot in practice behind the NBA line. If he keeps this up, no way is he not a 1st rounder. NBA GMs in the house tonight.
--Complicated explanation of last play--basically, was to get Novak open off the high post, with an option to McNeal. McNeal was open, but Novak kept the dribble and got the shot. Afterwards Mac suggested that it's as sophisticated as an NBA play.
--Showed tape of highlights from great MU/ND games over the years. Really important that players understand what rivalry is all about.
--Many thanks again to everyone for being there.

A few recaps of the game:

Here is Rosiak at the MJS.

Here's the GoMarquette recap.

Here's the AP's recap.

Here's the box score.

Here's the Chicago Tribune.

Here's the South Bend Tribune.

Here's the Palladium-Item.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Marquette Hosts Notre Dame

Fresh off three games away from home, Marquette returns to the Bradley Center on Friday night to take on Notre Dame. These longtime rivals will clash for the 106th time, and the first time ever as conference rivals. A sellout crowd is expected.

For a look at how MU and ND stack up statistically, visit the updated Tempo Free Stats site.

Notre Dame enters the game at 10-5 overall, and 1-3 in conference play. In their last outing, Mike Brey's squad defeated the Providence Friars 92-77 in South Bend on the strength of nearly 61% shooting from beyond the arc. Chris Quinn led the Irish with 31 points.

Like MU, Notre Dame is a perimeter-oriented team with senior Chris Quinn leading the charge. Quinn has picked up the pace in the last few weeks, averaging an impressive 19;7 points per game in his last seven outings, and 17 ppg overall while shooting 44% from 'three'. He's joined in the backcourt by sharpshooter Colin Falls, who contributes nearly 14ppg on 40% shooting from beyond the arc. Add in freshman Kyle McAlarney's 50% from deep, and its clear that MU will have to defend the perimeter better than they have all season if they expect to win the game.

Inside the Irish are paced by burly senior Torin Francis, who nearly averages a double-double. Francis' strength will present problems for MU's post players, and Golden Eagles fans hope the team will not be forced to double team or 'dig' into the post to defend him . . . not with Quinn, Falls and McAlarney floating around the perimeter.

MU is 12-5 overall and 3-2 in the Big East after a successful trip to DePaul on Wednesday night. The Golden Eagles are exceeding expectations early in the conference season, largely because of the play of the backcourt and their outside shooting. Dominic James, coming off of back-to-back career high performances, Jerel McNeal and Joe Chapman will look to counter the Irish's backcourt prowess. Steve Novak, averaging better than 22ppg in conference play, figures to be MU's biggest matchup advantage against the Irish.

Inside, both Ryan Amoroso and Ousmane Barro are coming off of disappointing performances at DePaul - -perhaps TC will look to establish one of them early on Friday night.

Here are a few previews:

ND Athletics preview.

Elkhart Truth preview.

GoMarquette preview.

South Bend Tribune preview.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Tempo Free Stats: The Blog Goes Sabermetric

Basketball fans love numbers, and to some extent numbers help us understand the game better, and the tendencies of teams and players. Since we launched the blog nearly a year ago, we've considered offering statistical analysis, but until now had not figured out how to get it done.

Enter Marquette graduate and faithful blog reader 'MUTPM'. He stepped up and volunteered to run the numbers for the Big East basketball community -- and our Marquette basketball community in particular. We're happy to provide him with the forum to share the knowledge.

Here's what we've done:

  • Since Blogger does not offer a categories feature, we've created a separate blog called Marquette Basketball: Tempo Free Stats. We added the link in our blog roll as well.
  • Every week (more if we can make it work) we'll update as many as 15 separate statistical categories.
  • These stats will be updated for the entire Big East Conference, not simply MU.
  • Every week, we'll notify you of those updates here at Cracked Sidewalks.
  • We'll do our best to look 'behind the numbers' but give us time to digest this stuff.
  • Coment as you see fit -- or if you'd like to guest author a post about the numbers -- just email us.
  • Don't understand Tempo Free Stats? Read the definitive primer on the subject over at the BigTenWonk - - great info.

Enjoy the new feature, and THANKS again to Marquette's answer to Bill James, MUTPM.

Please follow this link to Marquette Basketball Tempo Free Stats. The categories are:

  • Team Turnover Percentage
  • Team Possession Per Game
  • Team Offensive Rebound Percentage
  • Team Offensive Efficiency
  • Team Field Goal Efficiency
  • Team Defensive Rebound Percentage
  • Team Defensive Efficiency
  • Team A/TO Percentage
  • Individual TO/1o0 possessions
  • Individual Rebounding Percentage
  • Individual Points per Weighted Shot
  • Individual Free Throws per Field Goals Attempted
  • Individual Field Goal Efficiency
  • Individual A/100 possessions
  • Individual True Shooting Percentage

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Marquette Nearly Blows Big Lead, but Still Beats DePaul

Without a doubt, this game was a tale of two halves.

The Marquette cagers had a 2nd half they soon will want to forget. Fortunately, MU's first half was so dominant that the Golden Eagles were able to drive out of Chicago with a big road win against the DePaul Blue Demons, 82-79.

Playing without super freshman Wilson Chandler, who was suspended for violating team policy, DePaul started slowly and was steamrolled by Marquette in the first half, 49-30. At one point in the first half, MU handed out 12 assists with just three turnovers as they built a 24 point lead late in the first half before the Blue Demons began to chip away. Dominic James led MU with 17 first half points to go along with three steals and three assists. Steve Novak poured in 15 points on 5 of 7 shooting from behind the arc.

Marquette seemed to lose defensive focus in the second half and got killed on the boards and with missed free throws. DePaul 'won' the second half 49-33, and Marquette ended the game with 15 assists and 17 turnovers. Ouch.

Marquette highlights included 29 points from freshman superstar Dominic James, and 24 from sharpshooting senior, Steve Novak. It was Novak's two free throws with 14.6 seconds to play that extended the MU lead back to four, 80-76, following a pair of Draelon Burns free throws. Jamil Lott, who was five for six from the charity stripe tonight, sank a pair of freebies with 9.5 seconds to go to seal the victory.

Even though the Marquette team will want to forget this second half, Coach Crean will not let them do so. MU fans can only hope that the 2nd half weaknesses are ironed out in practice this week.

The bottom line, though, is that a BIG EAST road win is BIG, no matter how it is accomplished, and Marquette now goes back to Milwaukee at 13-5 overall and 3-2 in conference, with a big game against Notre Dame on Friday night at the Bradley Center.

Here is the AP recap of the game.

The Sun-Times recaps the game.

The Chicago Tribune recaps the game here. And Lew Freedman compares Dominic James to current NFL great, Steve Smith.

Dominic James played fast and furious Tuesday night, but DePaul could not cover Marquette's freshman point guard any better than the Bears shadowed the Carolina Panthers' Steve Smith on Sunday.No surprise, the result was the same for the Blue Demons in basketball as it was for the Bears in football.

Here's the MJS effort.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Marquette Travels to DePaul

Marquette finishes its three game road trip when they storm into the Rosemont Horizon on Tuesday night to take on the DePaul Blue Demons. Marquette (12-5, 2-2) jumps into the fire after a road loss to West Virginia. The Blue Demons (8-7, 1-3) enter the game after a gut-wrenching overtime loss at home to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

The game will mark the 102nd meeting between these long-time rivals, a series MU leads 59-42. The universities have split the last four contests. Marquette has won 24 of the last 30 matchups, but has lost the last two games at their unofficial 'Home Away From Home'.

The game will feature a battle of two of the Big East's most productive freshmen, Dominic James and Wilson Chandler. James, averaging 14.6 points to go along with 5.8 assists and more than four rebounds per game, has emerged as the front-runner for the Big East rookie of the year honor. Wilson Chandler is not far behind, averaging nearly 10 points and eight rebounds per contest.

MU will look to re-ignite Steve Novak, who is coming off of his worst outing in conference play. Novak, MU's leading scorer at nearly 16ppg, has not endured back-to-back single-digit scoring performances yet this season. After the WVU speedbump, expect Novak to deliver early for the Golden Eagles.

Jerel McNeal has also struggled of late, shooting 7 for 19 and coughing up 11 turnovers in his first two Big East road games. McNeal will likely draw a tough matchup with DePaul's Sammy Mejia on Tuesday night.

Mejia is having his best season as a Blue Demon, averaging better than 15ppg on nearly 50% shooting. The emergence of Miami transfer Karron Clarke affords Coach Wainwright a number of options, particularly defensively against teams that lack legitimate post scoring options. Expect Wainwright to be creative with Burns, Mejia, Clarke, Clinkscales, and Currie. With DPU's deep and athletic backcourt, this could be the first game where the absence of Wesley Matthews is particularly damaging for MU.

Ryan Amoroso, coming off an encouraging eight point, seven rebound outing against WVU, might be primed for a breakout game. Amoroso's ability to score both inside and out could make him a difficult matchup for DePaul's lumbering post players, Wesley Green and Marlon Brumfeld.

Here are a few previews:

By the way, how great is it when a major Chicago newspaper leads their preview of the MU/DPU tilt with a sensational assessment of the Marquette program. Good morning, Coach Wainwright and any number of future Golden Eagle basketball players!! Anyway, The Chicago Sun-Times notes that Marquette is 'ahead of schedule'.

Here's Rosiak's preview, with a focus on McNeal.

Here is the DePaul.Scout.Com site preview.

Here's the Chicago Tribune preview.

Dominic James: Big East Freshman of the Week

Dominic James was named the Big East's Freshman of the Week for his sterling performances last week. MU, which went 1-1 in its first two Big East road games, was paced by the dynamic James who averaged better than 20 points to go along with six assists. James has been named freshman of the week twice this season.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Mountaineers Clobber Marquette

.......Consider the preview for today's game..."In recent years, the Golden Eagles have struggled to defend the perimeter" .....ugh.

West Virginia set school and Big East conference records with 20 made three-pointers as the Mountaineers exploited a porous Marquette defense to win 104-85 this afternoon in Morgantown.

Mike Gansey led the Mountaineers with a career-high 33 points on 8-of-11 from behind the arc, and Kevin Pittsnogle was dominant in the second half, finishing with 30. West Virginia improved to 4-0 in the Big East and 12-3 overall. Marquette fell to 2-2 in league play and 12-5 overall.

The Mountaineers used an 21-7 run midway through the second half to run up a 73-56 lead with eleven minutes to play and coasted from there. The West Virginia run was keyed by the offensively efficient Pittsnogle, who connected on a series of three pointers during the run. Marquette had no answers in the second half, as the turnover-prone Golden Eagles routinely sacrificed possessions and failed to defend the perimeter. MU finished with 21 turnovers while forcing just five.

Dominic James led MU with a career-high 28, including 19 in the irst half. James also grabbed six rebounds and handed out eight assists as he further strengthened his case for Big East Freshman of the Year honors.

In the first half, MU withstood an incredible three-point shooting barrage from the Mountaineers and entered halftime down only 48-43 after trailing by as many as 12 early. During the first half, West Virginia connected on 12 of 25 three-pointers, keyed by 20 points from Gansey.

Joe Chapman played well off the bench for MU, finishing with a season high 18 points. Jamil Lott also turned in a nice performance, contributing 8 points. Remarkably, MU shot nearly 57% from the field this afternoon --- and lost by 19 points.

The second half was a different story, as the Golden Eagles were unable to get Steve Novak going. Novak, coming off a 25 point outing at Seton Hall, managed only 6 points on 2 of 8 shooting.

MU next visits the DePaul Blue Demons on January 17.

Here is the Yahoo box score.

Here is the ESPN recap.

Here is the sportsnetwork recap.

Here is the gomarquette recap.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Marquette Rolls into Morgantown

The Marquette Golden Eagles, fresh off a road win at Seton Hall, travel to West Virginia to take on the surging Moutaineers on Saturday. Marquette enters the game at 12-4 overall, and 2-1 in conference play.

West Virginia is 3-0 in the Big East, winning their first two conference road games of the season before dispatching Georgetown in their home opener on Wednesday night. The Moutaineers are 11-3 overall.

WVU is a talented, veteran team led by seniors Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnogle. Pittsnogle, the 6'11" senior center, is having a terrific year averaging more than 20ppg to go along with 6rpg. He's shooting a blistering 48% from behind the arc. Gansey, who transferred to WVU from St. Bonaventure, scores nearly 19ppg and is hitting trifectas at a 48% clip as well. Gansey and Pittsnogle are the only Mountaineers averaging double figures.

According to official Big East statistics, "West Virginia leads the league in assists (19.6), turnover margin (+9.1) and assist/turnover ratio (2.1) " Will McNeal, James and company be able to rattle the steady Mountaineers?

In recent years, the Golden Eagles have struggled to defend the perimeter so expect MU to throw a variety of defenses at the Mountaineers. In the Seton Hall game, MU used a matchup zone effectively in spots - - but the Pirates also landed up with a handful of open jumpers. When MU slips into man-to-man, the McNeal/Gansey matchup will be fierce but Pittsnogle will create a matchup advantage with any defender MU throws his way.

Of course, with Steve Novak averaging 27ppg and 11rpg through his first three conference games, Coach Beilein will have a few matchup concerns of his own.

This game is a tough matchup for MU but if the first three Big East games have proven anything, its clear that this young team can compete with the league's best (at least at home). Will it be enough to secure a road victory against the nation's 16th ranked team? We'll soon find out.

Here is the GoMarquette preview.

FoxSports compares Novak and Pittsnogle.

Charleston Gazette-Mail looks at Novak.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Fun with Numbers: Keegan Runs the Numbers on MU

Keeganoids rejoice...Tom Keegan of the Lawrence Journal-World has graciously returned to the blog with another offering. Enjoy......!

Fun With Numbers
by Tom Keegan

Stephon Marbury represents the litmus test of Larry Brown's greatness as a coach. Can Brown turn the ultimate stat-monster of a point guard into a winner? If anybody can, Brown can. But for most of his career, Marbury has monopolized the basketball, dribbling, dribbling, dribbling, and then passing for an assist or shooting. He seldom made the play that kept the offense moving along to a point where someone else would get the assist and points.

As Marbury has shown for much of his defensively challenged career, statistics can be misleading. They can also be tons of fun and in many cases revealing. Just for fun, here are the numbers for Marquette's roster, per 40 minutes of playing time:

Rebounds per 40 minutes played


Points per 40 minutes played


Points + Rebounds per 40 minutes played


Thanks for your time, Tom!

There's an interesting thread on this blog over at the Ring Out Ahoya! board. Please link to it here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Novak Sinks the Pirates

Just back from the game -- what a thrill to see MU open up its conference road season with a victory. Steve Novak....I'm glad he's on our side. Here's the recap:

Novak continued his impressive play of late with 25 points and 9 rebounds tonight as MU topped the Seton Hall Pirates at the Meadowlands, 67-63.

The key play in the game came with roughly four minutes remaining and Seton Hall leading MU by a point, 60-59. The Pirates battled back from an eight-point deficit early in the second half, and were holding MU at bay for several minutes. With the shot clock winding down and MU's offense noticeably out of synch, Novak somehow sank an off-balance three-pointer to put MU up 62-60. MU never trailed again.

Dominic James had 13 points for the Golden Eagles while Jerel McNeal had nine.

Tonight's game was rarely played crisply, as both teams struggled to find any rhythm throughout. MU committed 16 turnovers, six by McNeal. Of greater concern was the lack of defensive intensity, particularly in the first half when Seton Hall failed to capitalize on several open looks from the perimeter that MU did not aggressively contest.

The win moves MU to 2-1 in the Big East, with a road game at West Virginia looming. MU is now 12-4 overall.

Prior to the game, the Marquette Office of Alumni Relations hosted a well-attended reception at a nearby hotel. More than 60 alums attended the event, which were highlighted by remarks from Bill Cords. MU was well represented at the game as well with gold shirts scattered throughout the arena (MU sold 200+ tickets to the event via their allotment -- there were many more who bought tix on their own).

A few other observations:

  • The Meadowlands is a terrible place for college basketball. I don't understand why SHU doesn't simply shut down the upper deck for midweek games and try to fill the lower bowl. At times the arena was as loud as a mausoleum.
  • Despite thousands of empty seats, the ushers at the arena would not allow patrons from the upper deck (the dozens and dozens of us who weere there) to move to seats in the lower bowl.
  • Marquette's home court advantage relative to SHU's is beyond compare.
  • SHU has more cheerleaders than any university I've ever seen. Thankfully, none of them are men.
  • I give the SHU students who attend these games alot of credit.......The arena is at least 30 minutes from campus, but the kids worked hard to support their team. They just need more help.
  • I liked the SHU band. I didn't hear 'Final Countdown' or 'Elvira' tonight. But I did hear a cover of a Blink-182 song - - nice touch.
  • Wesley Matthews was on crutches on the bench -- a sad sight.
  • Dominic James is spectacular.
  • Ousmane Barro has the best hands of any of MU's big men. He tallied five points in the last seven minutes of play and turned in nice defensive work down the stretch against Kelly Whitney. Well done.
  • The officials were brutal down the stretch. Time for these guys to move over to the MEAC.
  • It was pleasure to see 'Avalanche Archie' and 'MUfanatic82' (I hope I got that right) at the game tonight.
  • Per gomarquette.com -- Steve Novak is now MU's all-time leader in three-point field goals. Extraordinary.

Here is the box score.

Here is the Yahoo recap.

Here's the AP recap.

Here's the gomarquette recap.

Here's the Newark Star Ledger's take on the game.

Here's the Journal-Sentinel's recap from Todd Rosiak. Tom Crean summed up the night this way:

"I'm exhilarated to have a win like this, here," said coach Tom Crean, whose team was playing its first game away from the Bradley Center in more than a month. "Any win you get on the road in this league is a very valuable and precious commodity."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Marquette Visits Seton Hall

MU plays its first conference road game of the season on Wednesday night at Seton Hall. The Pirates are 9-1 at home this year, and are led by power forward Kelly Whitney. Whitney will look to extend his streak of three straight 20-point outings .......outings that produced nearly three dozen trips to the free throw line.

MU enters the game at 1-1 in conference play. The Seton Hall tilt kicks off a three-game road trip for the Golden Eagles, who visit West Virginia and DePaul next.

A few previews of tonight's action:

Here's the Newark Star-Ledger.

Sportspage Magazine sizes up the battle.

The GoMarquette preview.

An update on SHU from the Courier-News.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Steve Novak named Big East co-Player of the Week

Steve Novak was named Big East co-Player of the Week for his performances against UConn and Cincinnati last week.

The senior forward set a BIG EAST mark with 41 points in his first league game, which was a 94-79 win over Connecticut. He also grabbed 16 rebounds. It was the highest total of points and rebounds in a game in league history. Novak followed that effort with 17 points and 10 rebounds in a 70-66 loss to Cincinnati. For the two games, Novak was 10-of-20 from 3-point range.

Novak is forced to share the honor with Cinncinnati's Eric Hicks, who posted the Big East's 10th ever triple double with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks in one of his games last week.

Novak is the 3rd MU cager to receive weekly all-conference honors this season. Dominic James was named rookie of the week back on November 21st, and Jerel McNeal won the same honor a week later.


Now you know the rest of the story. Welcome to the site, readers of The Journal-News (those of you who made it to the close of the article, that is).

Saturday, January 07, 2006

MU falls to Cincinnati 70-66

The Golden Eagles had a chance to take a huge step in the Big East conference at 2-0 to start the season, but a second half rally by the Bearcats and their suffocating inside defense proved to be too much for MU. It was a tale of two halves.

MU raced out of the gate in the first half much and continued their torrid shooting from Tuesday night's upset of UCONN. Dominic James scored 14 first half points to lead MU to a 46-36 lead much to the delight of the 15000 in attendance. James finished the game with 18 points, despite playing with the flu. The opening minutes of the second half James remained in the locker room hurling to the porcelain God while his teammates were on the floor.

The second half was a demonstration of interior defense. The Bearcats rejected one shot after another, finishing the game with a team record 18. Eric Hicks alone had 10 blocks. MU tried to not let their interior players intimidate their drives to the hoop, but the Bearcats managed to swat their shots time and time again without fouling Marquette.

Cincinnati took the lead for good at the 9:10 mark, 58-57 on a Hicks layup. MU kept it close the remainder of the game, but could not tie it. MU's best chance came with under 23 seconds to play. The score 69-66 when White of UC was fouled. White shoots better than 85% from the line, but managed to spin the first one out giving MU the chance to tie the game. Crean called a timeout to setup a 3 point play with Novak the first option and McNeal or James as off options. Novak inbounded the ball and received a return pass with Bearcats blanketing him all around the top of the key. Novak chose not to force the 3, instead reversing the ball back to an open Jerel McNeal with 10 seconds to play. His 3 point attempt was too hard off the back iron and the Bearcats rebounded. A quick MU foul and a Bearcat free throw iced the game for UC.

Novak finished with 17 points after his 41 point game on Tuesday. McNeal finished with 16 points. No other MU player was in double digits. Novak's free throw shooting streak also came to an end. Novak made his 68th in a row, but rimmed out his 69th. It was his first miss of the season.

MU drops to 1-1 in the Big East and now goes on the road for three straight conference games. UC improves to 2-0 in Big East play.

In other games today involving MU opponents this year. Nebraska defeated #14 Oklahoma and UCONN recovered to defeat LSU.

Link to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Story

Link to AP story

Link to Box Score from ESPN

Friday, January 06, 2006

The AP Checks in on MU While Roquemore Mails It In

Colin Fly continues to give Todd Rosiak a run for his money when it comes to quality feature coverage of the Marquette Golden Eagles basketball program.

In his latest effort, Fly notes that MU has moved on from the upset win over UConn, realizing that the grind of the Big East requires nothing less.

But it didn't take long for Marquette to focus on the remaining 15 conference games this season. Heck, the Golden Eagles failed to even run the first play right on Tuesday night, Crean said. "There's a lot of room for improvement with us," Crean told The Associated Press Thursday night. "Winning the game is a great feeling, but you want to play the full 40 minutes. That's always the goal."
MU hosts the UC Bearcats at the Bradley Center tomorrow. Crean expects a tough, physical battle against Andy Kennedy's team -- perhaps the hottest team in the Big East right now.

"Most of us who played against them expected them to be pretty good. That's a credit to Bob and Andy," Crean said. "They haven't stopped pushing and shoving when the shots go up and they're one of the best weak-side rebounding teams, especially offensively, in America."

Then we have Bobbie Roquemore at the MJS, who is the only person in the country who equates an upset victory with "taking over" the Big East.

Based on every report from the game, nobody from the Marquette program even implied that the UConn win was anything more than one victory, albeit a special one considering MU's entrance into the Big East.

It appears that Roquemore attended her first-ever MU postgame press conference, and figured that the 'grandfatherly' Jim Calhoun was the first person to realize that road games in the Big East are difficult. Somehow, she determined that based on MU's satisfaction with the victory and Calhoun's comments, MU was thinking 'takeover'! Incredible logic, Bobbi.

Since MU's post-game comments were measured and straightforward (both on television and in print -- with multiple examples), one has to wonder how she arrived at this conclusion. Moreover, unlike Colin Fly, its clear that Roquemore did not speak with anybody in the MU program after the game -- nor did she follow up two days later, as Fly did, to check on the pulse of the program.

That Roquemore, who had not covered MU basketball one time during the past year (26 columns), would create her own slippery slope on "The Takeover" demonstrates why she's been relegated to bi-weekly high school athletics columns.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Blog Exclusive: Q&A with Tom Keegan

The Cracked Sidewalks team is pleased to welcome noted journalist and Marquette graduate Tom Keegan to the blog for an exclusive Q&A on Marquette basketball.

Tom is a 1981 MU grad. As he tells it, "I used to think it was bad timing, missing the national title by one year. But watching the game with my late, great father, Jack Keegan, in our den, then getting phone calls from my brother Dan, who was at the game in Atlanta, and my brother Jim, who ran to Lake Michigan with the rest of the campus, is one of the greatest memories of my life."

Tom is currently the sports editor and columnist for the Lawrence Journal-World. Previously, Tom was the afternoon voice of New York City's ESPN radio flagship station, as well as the lead baseball columnist for the New York Post. Tom is also the author of several sports books, most notably his biography on Ernie Harwell. Here is Tom's Q & A - - enjoy!

What are your impressions of MU's season to date?
The first thing that comes to mind is how impressive the freshmen have been and how committed Tom Crean has been to letting them play their way through mistakes. I love playing three guards together. The next thing that comes to mind is how many misses the staff made in recruiting big men. Ryan Amoroso is a talented player. After that, if you count Steve Novak as a perimeter player, there isn't a player worthy of 10 minutes a game.

Which of the Big 3 freshmen will be the best player as a senior?
Wow, what a great question. It could be any of the three, but I guess I'll go with Jerel McNeal. If he can find a way to get just a little more loft in his jumper and can continue to improve his left hand, he could be big-time. The best freshman is Dominic James.

Tom Crean raised expectations to stratospheric levels with the 2003 Final Four. How do you think he's managing with that overhang?
He doesn't seem to me to be the kind of guy to get too paranoid about expectations. He's too busy working to stop and think long enough about expectations. I loved what his wife said the day he was hired: "Tom thinks about recruiting 365 days a year." That's the only way to get better.

Coach Crean has had difficulty in two areas of note: signing highly-regarded post players, and players transferring out of the program. Which is the more significant problem and why?
I would say the failure to sign highly regarded post players. All coaches who have hard practices are going to lose transfers. The guys who realize the practices aren't any tougher now than when Dwyane Wade was here (how did they work out for Wade?) are the guys who are going to stay.
As for the big men, I often wonder if the way to go is get springy 6-7 guys and bulky 6-8 guys instead of the slowish 6-10 guys.

What is your favorite post-1977 Marquette moment?
The Kentucky game in 2003. As a sophomore at MU, I covered the women's basketball team, my first beat. The starting power forward, Mary Spellacy, was one of my best friends. After games we'd go to her room or mine and I'd interview her over beers. We fell out of touch and then my brother ran into Mary and gave her my e-mail address. She e-mailed me, told me her son was a vastly improved 6-7 senior who was not getting any Division I looks. I told her to send me a tape. I watched it, called a friend to see if he agreed that he was a D-1 prospect. He did and said he thought he'd be a perfect fit for Dave Magarrity at Marist College. We sent the tape to Marist. They liked it, flew to Cleveland to see him play, set up a visit. I went up to see them during their visit and Mary, her husband, their son Ryan, Magarrity and his assistants and I all had dinner watching the Marquette-Kentucky game on a big screen. Ryan Stilphen committed at the end of the trip, redshirted, Magarrity got fired, and then, playing for the new coach, Matt Brady I think his name is, Ryan was named to the MAAC all-newcomer team as a freshman. He's starting again this year and doing well. I e-mailed one of the former assistants about the possibility of Ryan walking on at Marquette, but nothing ever came of it.

Favorite MU player?
All-time: Oliver Lee.
Current: Ryan Amoroso.

What is the best aspect of the MU basketball program?
I've always thought the best aspect is how the student body on the one hand shows the players great support by going nuts for them at the games, but on the other hand lets them blend easily into the campus and treats them like just fellow students. I've always thought that has kept the players from getting too stuck on themselves and helps prepare them for their post-playing days when they have to make it in the real world. ... Another cool thing about the program is how addictive it is and how it leads to so many family connections. You visit a brother on campus, have such a blast at a game, you decide to come to Marquette. For example, I have three siblings who graduated from Marquette. And at the moment, I have two sons, two nephews and two nieces who are Marquette students. I heard a rumor that one of my nieces doesn't go to all the games. That better not be true.

What is the worst aspect of the MU basketball program?
The current state of the big-man stable.

When do you expect MU to compete for a Big East title?
That's a tough one. It could be as soon as Amo's senior year if MU could get someone like Takais Brown from the JC ranks this year and then follow that up by getting one of the top big man recruits, either from the high school or JC ranks, the following year. With the three freshmen and Lazar Hayward in the perimeter rotation, all it would take is two big-time big men, which actually is saying a lot. They get Takais Brown and they're halfway home. Follow that up with Keaton Nankivil and we're talking big-time powerhouse.

What can you tell us about Tom Crean's new coaching staff?
When I was growing up in Rochester, N.Y., my favorite local players from rival high schools were Glenn Hagen and Danny Panaggio of Cardinal Mooney High School. You wouldn't know it looking at him now, but Panaggio was the Diocesan champion in the high jump. He had an awesome lefty jumper and was a real winner. His father was a local coaching legend in high school and at Brockport State and went on to win big in the CBA. Danny, like his father Mauro, has won everywhere he's been. He's got a great basketball mind and a tireless work ethic. A couple of Wichita State fans I know were real sorry to see Jean Prioleau leave. He has a reputation as a personable, honest, hard-working recruiter. I know Crean is super high on Jason Rabedeaux and he, like Panaggio, has head-coaching experience, which I think is always good to have on a staff. The hard part in college basketball is keeping a staff together.

What are your impressions of MU's win over UConn? What was the most significant development that you noticed during the game?
Wow! Unbelievable. Awesome gameplan: Attack with penetration for layups and kick-outs to Novak and foul their big men and see if they could make their free throws. What's gotten into Novak? He looks so much more aggressive. It makes you wonder if the NBA scouts who came to file reports on Gay, Boone, Armstrong, etc., added one more file to their list. And it was cool to see with Amoroso having an off night that Lott, Barro and Burke all made key contributions. I didn't know any one of them had that in them. For a guy who fouled out without scoring, Fitzgerald also was real solid. And how about Joe Chapman? For a guy who's not the most talented, he sure has a lot of confidence and a lot of clutch in him. Marquette doing this in their first Big East game just shows they were born to play in the Big East. For the first time all year, after watching that, I think Marquette has a shot at being a tournament team, despite being so young. I can't imagine Keaton Nankivil and Korie Lucious sitting there watching that and not fantasizing about being on the floor wearing MU uniforms.

Thanks very much for your time and expertise, Tom.

Readers can keep up with Tom's columns at the Lawrence Journal-World Website.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Marquette Wallops UConn

In its inaugural Big East opener, the Marquette Golden Eagles blitzed the UConn Huskies, upsetting the nation's second-ranked team 94 - 79 at the Bradley Center.

Marquette was led by senior Steve Novak who delivered 41 points and 16 rebounds, both career highs. Novak, the 6'10" senior sharpshooter, proved to be an impossible matchup for the bigger Huskies as Calhoun's big men failed to make adjustments and take him out of rhythm. Keyed by consistent dribble penetration from Jerel McNeal and Dominic James, Novak repeatedly took advantage of open looks. In the process, Novak set a conference record for points in an initial Big East appearance.

Marquette started slowly to open the game, but used a 12-1 run midway through the first to regain its footing and carried that momentum to a 39-33 lead at the half. In the first half, Dominic James and Jerel McNeal combined to shoot 2-19 from the field, but Novak and fellow senior Joe Chapman, with eight first half points, paced the Golden Eagles' attack.

Chapman finished with 12 points. Jerel McNeal finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds, a career high.

The Golden Eagles effort was highlighted by contributions from an impressively deep bench as well. Jamil Lott, Dwight Burke, and Ousmane Barro teamed with Ryan Amoroso to outplay UConn's frontline. Surprisingly, Marquette outrebounded the bigger Huskies, 43-38.

MU was sublime at the free throw line as well, cashing in on 24 of 28 opportunities. UConn struggled mightily at the line going only 17-35.

Here is the reaction from the Big East Basketball Roundup.

Here is the GoMarquette box score from the game.

Here is the ESPN box score from the game.

Here is the Associated Press recap of the game.

Here is the CBS Sportsline recap.

Here is an article by Jeff Shelman for ESPN.

Here is Todd Rosiak's recap, which notes that Novak's "combination of 57 points and rebounds was the most ever in a single game in the 27-year history of the Big East, bettering the previous mark of 55 set by Georgetown's Mike Sweetney in 2002. His 41 points were also the most scored by a player making his Big East debut, blowing out of the water the old record of 30 held by Notre Dame's Troy Murphy and Georgetown's Allen Iverson."

Here's the Hartford Courant which quotes Calhoun as saying, "This was an old-fashioned butt whippin'"

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Beast of the East Rolls Into Town

Its finally here, the Big East conference season. As a wise person once said, 'Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it' --- now it's time for MU to host the Big East's most dominant program, the UConn Huskies.

The Huskies have won two national championships in the last six years, and will welcome back point guard extraordinaire Marcus Williams for the conference opener. Williams is expected to be the rudder for this UConn team, which greatly exceeded expectations without him (11-0, #2 national ranking). Last season Williams led the Big East in assists at nearly eight per game. His return will only strengthen the effectiveness of UConn's frontline led by Josh Boone, Hilton Armstrong and Ed Nelson. Forward Rudy Gay, likely the top pick in the 2006 NBA draft, as well as guards Rashad Anderson and Denham Brown promise to stretch the floor for the Huskies, creating matchup problems for the Golden Eagles in the paint -- if not everywhere else.

At 10-3, the Golden Eagles enjoyed a promising start to the season, but will take the court for the first time since an injury to super freshman Wesley Matthews. One advantage MU might have had in many conference games this year was its deep, athletic and productive backcourt. Without Matthews, senior Joe Chapman will have to re-emerge as a productive contributor for the Golden Eagles. The big men? Well, let's just say they have their work cut out for them against the Huskies, although Ryan Amoroso's strength and versatility on offense could prove to be an important asset.


Here's a few links to previews on the inaugural conference opener.

The Big East Basketball Report filed this in-depth preview of tonight's game.

GoMarquette preview

Journal-Sentinel preview

The award-winning Husky Blog.

The Storrs Record-Journal.

John Dodds' Marquette Hoops site at Scout.com

Andy Katz interviews UConn's Marcus Williams on the eve of his return.

A Quick Reminder: Big East Predictions

With MU's inaugural Big East season nearly ready to begin, we wanted to give readers one more look at the Cracked Sidewalks Official Predictions for the 2005-2006 season.

We originally called for a 16-12 overall record and a 7-9 Big East record. Here's the link to the original post.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Connecticut Post Profile: Wesley Matthews

The Connecticut Post penned a nice profile of Wesley Matthews in the New Year's Day edition. The article draws some comparisons between Wesley and his father, a native of Bridgeport, CT. The feature does not discuss his recent injury. Enjoy the article, it's a good one about a good kid.

"Marquette was the place for me. The atmosphere, the coaching staff,
everything," Matthews said. "I'm not a selfish person but when it comes down to college, you have to look out for yourself. And Marquette was perfect for me academically and athletically."

It appears to have been a good choice. Matthews has started all 13 of the Golden Eagles' games and is averaging 9.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.9 steals.

"He's been a very consistent person and player for us," Crean said. "He's done a great job in school, a great job on this campus and he gets better every day as a player. That's what's really exciting."

You can link to the article here.