"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

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween News and Notes

Happy Halloween to everyone. Here are your news and notes:

  • If you haven't read the Preseason Roundtable, we highly recommend checking it out.
  • Bleacher Report has a Marquette preview
  • The ESPN/USA Today Poll came out, and Marquette is #17 on their list
  • Here's the list of Men's Basketball Promotions for this season. Highlights are an MU flag, an Al McGuire Statue, and an MU Mini-backboard. Check the link to see which games.
  • Speaking of Halloween, the Blue & Gold Fund Fish Fry/Haunted Hoops is tonight at the Union and then Al McGuire Center. You've got to make reservations for the Fish Fry (5 pm), but the scrimmage is open to the public (7 pm). Make your reservations, bring the kids, and check the link for more details.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cracked Sidewalks Preseason Roundtable

Now that the start of the season is a little more than two weeks away, I asked my fellow contributors here at Cracked Sidewalks to consider four key questions about the 2008-2009 Marquette Warriors. We decided to mix it up in a roundtable format. Let's get to it.

#1 - What's the most compelling storyline for you in the upcoming season?

Kevin Buckley (aka mu hilltopper)
The major storyline is Buzz and the post-Crean era. Buzz will be compared to Tom Crean six umpteen times this season. How does Buzz's offense compare to Crean's .. does Buzz market himself and/or the team like Crean did .. does Buzz constantly yell out plays like Crean did .. How many Diet Pepsis/per game will he drink. Ad infinitum. -- The storyline prior to Crean leaving would have been how the Big Three will do during their final season at MU .. can they add to their one NCAA victory count.

Tim Blair (aka NY Warrior)
This season is all about Buzz Williams. Can he coach and manage a program through what promises to be one of the toughest BIG EAST conference seasons of this or any era? Since MU returns just about anybody who mattered from last year's 25-win team, all eyes will remain on the coach.

Steve Susina (aka Marquette 84)
There are two obvious ones: "Can Buzz Coach?" and "Final Hurrah for the 3 Amigos." Since there will be plenty of ink on each of these, here are five less compelling, but possibly intriguing storylines.

-- How much does Chris Otule develop over the course of the season?
-- How much playing time can Joe Fulce earn?
-- Does Pat Hazel break into the rotation?
-- Can Rutgers, Providence, Cincy or Seton Hall crack the top half of the league standings, and who do they displace (Syracuse? WVU?).
-- What does the impending retirement of Mike Tranghese mean for the future of the league?

Rob Lowe (aka Henry Sugar)
In my opinion, the most compelling storyline for me is if or how different the team will be from last year. We all know that the team has returned the Three Amigos, with their 1,000 points scored, plus Lazar. Big things can and should be expected from this team. However, to what extent have they kept pace with the rest of the Big East that is also returning talent and experience? I really don't see any reason that the team will be any different than last year, so I'm waiting to see if there is anything that shows if we have hope of playing on the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

#2 - What specifically are you interested in seeing in some of the early season games?

Kevin Buckley (aka mu hilltopper)
Several things. I'm curious if Jerel McNeal will continue to be as white hot as he was when last season ended. The pre-conference games are also the time to evaluate the new guys, plus the 2nd and 3rd guys off the bench in each position. What will Fulce, Butler, and Otule bring to the table .. and has Patrick Hazel improved?

Tim Blair (aka NY Warrior)
The new offense. After years of Tom Crean's control-freak tendencies from the sidelines, I'm anxious to see if Buzz Williams affords his guys more breathing room and allows the players to get into the flow of a game rather than constantly dictating from the bench. With smart, veteran and athletic guards, you'd figure that Marquette should be able to take full advantage of an opponent if the Warriors are allowed to play more instinctive basketball.

Steve Susina (aka Marquette 84)
I don't have any doubt that MU will have the talent to compete and win against most of the early season schedule. I expect that an experienced team will be able to execute from a technical perspective. Instead, I'll be looking more closely at intangibles like game prep and motivation.

First big test will be the Chicago Invitational--specifically to see if MU has the killer instinct to put away decent teams early. Both Northern Iowa and Dayton are the type of teams that are capable of pulling off a major upset (see last year's UD/Pitt game). They are also the types of teams that could lead MU to a sense of complacency. Playing well will require not just a solid game plan, but will be a test of how well Buzz can motivate the team against what is, at least on-paper, lesser competition.

Rob Lowe (aka Henry Sugar)
More than anything, I'm interested in what the offense looks like. There have been some early indications online and then from the scrimmage, but we expect that the offense will begin to look more solid (we hope) in the early season games. A close second will be the performance of Joe Fulce. Third is how efficient McNeal is and how many shots he takes.

#3 - What do you think is most important for the team to be successful this year?

Kevin Buckley (aka mu hilltopper)
Well, since about 80% of our minutes are returning this year, the players aren't a big variable in this year's success. Freeway could guide this team to 20 wins. It's all about Buzz, and the other assistants, and their ability to motivate and game-coach. If they can do that well, when it counts, this season could be a huge success.

Tim Blair (aka NY Warrior)
I hear chatter about the need for MU's bigs to produce, and some lament how MU lost four players 6'7" and taller from last season. But let's face it, the bigs MU lost were either hurt (Mbakwe), confused (Barro), ineffective (Fitzgerald), or a non-factor in 32 of 35 games (Blackledge). It's simple, for the fourth year in a row Dominic James is the most important player on the team. I know Jerel McNeal was sublime in March (was he ever!), but Dominic James is the conductor of this orchestra.

Steve Susina (aka Marquette 84)
Avoiding injuries.

Yeah, there are a couple of teams that could pose matchup problems with our front-line, and we may lose one or two games against a team with a UConn-like frontcourt. However, our backcourt will create problems for just about everyone else--unless we lose McNeal or James for an extended period of time.

Frankly, its about time for a little good luck in the injury department. With injuries to Diener, Kinsella, Matthews, McNeal, and Mbakwe over the past few years, it's time for MU's luck to change for the better.

Rob Lowe (aka Henry Sugar)
Dominic James! I know the conventional wisdom is the performance of our big men, how well McNeal plays, or even the contributions from our newcomers. However, I looked at some of the numbers from last year, and when DJ is "net positive" the team almost always wins. When he's "net negative" then the team almost always loses. I want to see how many shots he's creating for his team-mates and how efficient he is shooting the ball.

#4 - To what extent have you changed your mind about Buzz?

Kevin Buckley (aka mu hilltopper)
I think we've all been surprised and impressed with his ability to get quality kids to commit to MU. It takes a special kind of guy to get the recruits he has, with the admittedly small amount of fame, exposure, and head coaching experience he possesses, especially when compared to the last coach.

Tim Blair (aka NY Warrior)
Not much. To date, Buzz Williams has done what he needed to do, maybe more. Williams was positioned as a premier recruiter, and so far he's been even better than advertised. In addition, Buzz was smartly rolled out to the MU community and the media, generally making a positive first impression.

Still, the hard part is just beginning. Williams inherits a team that won 25 games last year, returns four starters and has one of the nation's best backcourts. Yet national and conference expectations are muted due to the depth of the BIG EAST, MU's roster limitations, and the presumption of taking a step back due to coaching turnover. Until I see how Buzz Williams responds to adversity, how his team responds to adversity, how he manages this team through the BIG EAST, and whether or not he can successfully navigate the pitfalls that are sure to emerge in the next six, pressurized months -- well, the jury will remain out.

Steve Susina (aka Marquette 84)
I haven't--I was on the bandwagon early on. While I would have liked to see Sean Miller, Buzz is a much better 2nd choice compared to some of the mid-major names that were bandied about.

Rob Lowe (aka Henry Sugar)
I'll admit to being a vociferous opponent of the Buzz hiring. However, I was willing to give him a shot if he proved himself. So far, Buzz has definitely proved himself. He certainly has the recruiting chops we were sold on, he put together what is on paper a very solid staff, and he represents the university well. I'm excited that we'll finally get a chance to see how well he can coach to address the last, very big question.


Thanks to my fellow Cracked Sidewalks contributors for their opinions. The first exhibition game is just nine days away.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

....and the other shoe drops

With the Brett Roseboro commitment in-hand, Marquette coach Buzz Williams further narrowed the scope of his recruiting yesterday when he informed Racine's Jamil Wilson that he was no longer recruiting the 6'7" forward.

The reliable Mark Miller from the Wisconsin Sports Network and Wishoops.net broke the news yesterday afternoon. Talk about it on MUScoop.

By adding Roseboro to a group that already includes combo forward Jeronne Maymon, wing forward Erik Williams, point guard Junior Cadougan and combo guard Dwight Buycks, the Warriors have a balanced class hitting campus next summer. Unlike the tired Tom Crean strategy of over-recruiting at a key position or three, Williams seems to prefer a more diverse pool of talent, betting that a complementary mix of skills will take the program further than a kluge of redundant talent.

This is a good sign for the direction of the program.

As we've seen during the Three Amigos' tenure, excellence in just a few areas of the game can take a program only so far. In the case of James, McNeal and Matthews, 'so far' is relative. Many expected Marquette to struggle when it entered BIG EAST play, but this core of players elevated the program to an admirably successful level for a sustained period of time. Regardless, the inability to surround the Three Amigos with complementary, skilled talent has prevented the program from taking that next leap forward.

With that in mind, Buzz Williams is moving on from Jamil Wilson.

Yet, while the door may be closed for another forward, it appears that coach Williams is intent on adding one more guard (preferably a shooter?) to this year's recruiting class despite being full-up for scholarships at the present time. Marquette still has interest from a pool of sought-after talent including 6'4" Sherrod Wright from Mount Vernon, guard Chris Colvin from Chicago, former Seton Hall commit Jamel Jackson, and high school All-American shooting guard Michael Snaer from California. With the pending graduation of the Three Amigos and the limitations of David Cubillan and Maurice Acker, Buzz Williams' interest in these recruits is understandable.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

News & Notes

News and notes on the Marquette hoops program:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

News and notes... It's Madness!

Here you go.....

Last night was Marquette Madness. The GoMarquette.com website has a ton of great content. There is the full clip of the "Pray introduction", the Women's team dancing to "Thriller", Wesley Matthews dunking through his legs, and a clip covering Boot Camp. Check out the Photo Gallery as well. Most of the event is streamed directly from this site. For folks that have issues accessing clips on that website, there's also a thread on MUScoop.com with clips. That thread has Joe Fulce's "Vinsanity dunk", a really interesting clip on MU Coaches, and some other links. If you were there, or would like to see how the team looked, check out this thread.

In other news, the Big East Basketball Report slots Marquette at #5 in their pre-season BIG EAST preview. Also, BrewedSports blogged a Marquette season preview over the weekend.

Finally, MarquetteHoops.com has an article about Lazar Hayward and one about Jerel McNeal.

Missed it? Marquette also got a new commit. Get yourself some coffee, Buzz.

Brett Roseboro, the new Warrior

Brett Roseboro, a 6'9", 220 pound forward from Quakerstown, PA, verbally committed to Marquette University last night at the program's annual Marquette Madness event at the Al McGuire Center. Roseboro, who just a few months ago seemed destined for a mid-major, showed well last summer and recently delivered strong performances at IS8 in New York City, generating interest from a number of Big East and ACC programs including Maryland, Louisville and Villanova.

Roseboro, a face-up power forward with nice range, joins what should become the most balanced (if not talented) recruiting class in recent Marquette history. Point guard Junior Cadougan, combo forward Jeronne Maymon, wing forward Erik Williams and JUCO combo guard Dwight Buycks are all expected to sign with Marquette during next month's early signing period.

Once again we see that Buzz Williams is a closer, and now he's poised to deliver the balanced, high-ceiling class the program desperately needs. In addition, based on what Williams told a small group of alumni last week at the New York Athletic Club, there's reason to believe the 2009 class is far from complete:

"I will continue to bring in new players until we have 13 kids with All-American talent who are also valedictorians. Until then, we're not done."

Michael Snaer, Jamil Wilson, or Chris Colvin? Time will tell.

Friday, October 24, 2008

One Day Until Marquette Madness

As a reminder, Marquette Madness is tomorrow. Check out the
GoMarquette.com Home Page for the updated introduction video. The folks in the Athletic Department have really done a fine job in the last year in terms of making content available on the web, and this is just a continuing example.

Doors open at the Al tomorrow at 6 pm.

Season Previews are starting to roll out, and Fox Sports and Sporting News check in with their updates. The Fox Sports article by Jeff Goodman is fairly vanilla story. He picks us #18 in the country and fifth in the BE. DeCourcy has a decent article as well. It's probably the best article yet I've seen, although there is one notable issue. He fails to even mention Joe Fulce. Read the comments of the article for a nice criticism by Eric Silver.

The MUTV Sports guys are back with a Video Interview of Lazar Hayward. Good show, fellas. It never fails to impress me how well the Marquette players conduct themselves. If nothing else, the players are easy to root for.

Finally, Trevor Mbakwe committed to Minnesota and Tubby Smith last night.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Big East Media Day and More

Just a little bit more from yesterday's Big East Media Day as well as getting ready for Marquette Madness (and more)

Big East Media Day

  • Even though Rosiak wasn't among the 200+ people that were credentialed for Big East Media Day yesterday, he still managed to pop out some excellent blog entries. First, he delivered an interview with Jerel McNeal. Then, Rosiak also checked in with an interview with Buzz. As always, nice job by Rosiak.
  • The conference website has additional information from yesterday's event as well. The initial page has Mike Tranghese's opening comments. The press conference is about ten minutes, but it's kind of worth it. Tranghese welcomes the two new coaches to the league, talks about the history of the league and growing up with ESPN, and then even gives a glimpse of what the partnership with SNY for TV will mean. There are several additional links on that page as well for pre-season honors and the coaches poll, most of which has already been covered here and elsewhere.
Marquette Madness
Additional Misc Information about Marquette (or not)
  • MarquetteHoops.com also delivers two new interviews. The first is an interview of Jimmy Butler, and the second is an interview with Dwight Burke.
  • Finally, for some fun... Since we mentioned Converse, www.marquettewillbeback.com has a counter until the start of the NCAA tournament (144 days). And since we're talking about counters, in case you were wondering how long Buzz has been on the job, the moderators at MUScoop put up a handy reference on their stats page. (199 days)
UPDATE: Bullseye link and re-formatted the whole page

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

BIG EAST Media Day report

The Greatest City in the World will host the annual BIG EAST Media day at Madison Square Garden this morning. Marquette coach Buzz Williams will be joined by his four seniors -- Dwight Burke, Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews -- at the event. The program begins at 9:30am CDT and fans can watch live by clicking here.

The BIG EAST pre-season coaches' poll is already out and UConn is saddled with the highest expectations in what promises to be the nation's best conference in 2008-2009.

1. UConn
2. Louisville
3. Pittsburgh
4. Notre Dame
5. Villanova
6. Marquette (read the official BIG EAST preview for MU right here)
7. Georgetown
8. Syracuse
9. West Virginia
10. Providence
11. Cincinnati
12. Rutgers
13. Seton Hall
14. St. John’s
15. DePaul
16. USF


Luke Harangody, Notre Dame


Greg Monroe, Georgetown
Samardo Samuels, Louisville


Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
Deonta VAughn, Cincinnati
AJ Price, UConn
Hasheem Thabeet, UConn
DaJuan Summers, Georgetown
Terrence Williams, Louisville
Jerel McNeal, Marquette
Kyle McAlarney, Notre Dame
Sam Young, Pittsburgh
Jonny Flynn, Syracuse
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova


Jeff Adrien, UConn
Earl Clark, Louisville
Dominic James, Marquette

In case you missed it, Rosiak ran through the BIG EAST media's pre-season picks on his blog last night. Check it out here.

In addition the BIG EAST also announced details of the conference-wide television schedule for the upcoming season. Per the news release, ESPN will produce 140 of the 144 regular-season conference games this season. The four remaining games will be carried by CBS Sports. 45 of those 144 contests will run on ESPN or ESPN2, and 70 of the 144 will be on national television.

........much more to come.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Getting Ready for Marquette Madness

The folks at MU just keep churning out great content. If you head to the front page of
GoMarquette.com, you'll see a teaser video for Marquette Madness. The event will start at 6:30 on 10/25, and doors to the Al McGuire center open at 6. Click here for more details, although it'll be the standard team introductions, dunk contest, scrimmages, and more. All fans in attendance will receive a free poster and Converse/Brand WADE T-shirt.

Can't make it up for the game? MUTV will broadcast live on GoMarquette.com. For more information, check out the MUTV Sports blog. Right now they have a short interview with Maurice Acker up on the site.

Also, MarquetteHoops.com has articles up on Tony Benford and Joe Fulce.

By the way, tomorrow is Big East Media Day (for the men). The ladies have their moment on Thursday. Here's a list of men's players attending from all schools (pdf). All four seniors will be there for Marquette. Also, to file away, here is a composite Big East Schedule, but of course we only care about this schedule. I'm sure that there will be plenty of updates coming out from Marquette and probably from Rosiak as well. Stay tuned for more information...

UPDATE: Big East Media Day

Monday, October 20, 2008

A weekend full of updates

Just in time for your Monday time-kill at the office.......

First, a look at recruiting. 2009 Chicago point guard Chris Colvin will take his official visit to Marquette this weekend. Colvin, a senior at Whitney Young, is also considering USC, Iowa State and Providence. Per the Bullseye Brothers each of these programs stands an equal chance of landing him. Colvin will be on campus for Marquette Madness which is scheduled for 6pm on Saturday, October 25 in the Al McGuire Center.

There is a brief blurb about the start of practice at gomarquette.com. Not only that, but MU is rolling out podcasts at a breathtaking rate these days. The previous link has podcasts with Lewis Orr, Scott Monarch, and Robert Frozena. Plus, Dominic James and Jimmy Butler recap the first weekend of practice. (Again, all of the links open up mp3's directly). There's plenty more in this informative series -- here's the landing page.

Over the weekend Bob Wolfley of the Journal-Sentinel filed this report which included updates from MU -- mostly on player reactions to the new coach.

BIG EAST media day will be held this Wednesday in NYC. Ahead of the curve, Adam Zagoria picks MU for an underwhelming 7th in the Big East -- which I suppose speaks to several factors, namely coaching turnover, a much-improved league, and MU's rotten front line.

Friday, October 17, 2008

It's Media Day

Media day was yesterday, and so there is loads of good content on the web. As in, so much content on the web your employer might get upset.

GoMarquette.com has a great page covering the Media Day event. There is a twenty-two minute press conference where he addresses a number of questions. Among them he covers the schedule, the impact of the new three-point line, and his view of approaching it one day at a time. If you're keeping track at home, Media Day was his 191st day on the job.

The Media Day page also has links for a number of podcasts. There's a Maurice Acker interview, a Dominic James interview, an interview of Todd Rosiak by Wesley Matthews, and an interview between Acker and Cubillan. Careful, all the links open up mp3's directly.

Rosiak also checks in with a detailed look at Boot Camp. Rosiak once again delivers with a story no one else has, as well as an update on Cubillan. Bonus note: on the trip to Chicago, the team is spending time with Special Olympians. Just another reason why the guys wearing Marquette uniforms make me proud to be an alum. In addition, Rosiak's blog has his own Media Day Recap. It's a nice summary of the press conference. The JSOnline also has their own set of audio clips, with Interviews of Buzz, Wesley, DJ, and McNeal.

Sportsbubbler has the Videos for Media Day. There are twelve video interviews... nicely done.

The Chicago Tribune also covers the Marquette trip down to Chicago, as well as a feature story on Buzz Williams. GoMarquette.com has a brief story about the Tip Off Dinner.

Following Media Day, Homer had Dominic James on for an extended interview. You can find the link here or just download it directly. While you're there, swing by and check out McIlvaine's blog. There's no MU content there... I just think his blog is entertaining.

By the way, today is the first official day of basketball practice. The first preseason game is four weeks away!

UPDATE: Included additional Rosiak Blog entries, new Chi Tribune article, and TipOff Dinner information

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Media Updates

Some additional news and notes from around the web.

  • There was also a new release from the podcast series with an interview of Brad Autry. Of all the podcasts, Coordinator of Student-Athlete Development Brad Autry has been the most enjoyable to listen to so far. Again, here is the landing page for all podcasts.
  • Autry also touches on the most recent event for the Marquette players. Evidently they just completed Boot Camp. I'm not sure what Boot Camp really refers to, except that Autry mentions it involved lots of running. Has the NCAA relaxed the pre-season requirements for workouts, or are coaching staffs just getting smarter about how they work the teams? We've heard about 30 minute workout chunks and now Boot Camp, but I thought practice didn't officially start until tomorrow? By the way, the previous link has extra information about the Marquette Madness event on 10/25.
  • The team is down in Chicago today for the Chicago Tip-Off Dinner. The event will be at the Shedd Aquarium at 6:30 tonight.
  • While in Chicago, Marquette will practice on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Despite reports to the contrary, those practices will be held at the University of Chicago and will not be open to the public.
  • As a continuing demonstration of why it's a great time to root for Marquette, MU will be on TV a lot this year. The full PDF can be obtained here. Twelve games will be on national TV, and almost all of the other games will either be on Channel 32 or the Big East Network. No, the BE Network is nothing like the Big Ten Network. No word yet on what the TV schedule means for ESPN Full Court, although Chicos is confident all games will be on DirecTV.
  • Eric Silver has an interesting article that re-ranks the 2005 Big East Recruiting Classes. (He ranks MU's class of the Three Amigos as #1)
  • Finally, Luke Winn from SI ranks Marquette the Number Four backcourt in the nation. Check out the link, or view the MUScoop Thread for details (as well as a link for where we were ranked last year). And.... he has McNeal as the #12 Senior in the nation.
UPDATE: included McNeal link
UPDATE #2: No open scrimmage at Whitney Young

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Marquette receives 100% graduation rate in men's hoops from NCAA

Tom Crean is gone, but he did manage to leave MU with a graduation record of 100% according to the NCAA. The results were released today by the NCAA. Only 27 men's programs (there are over 330 DI programs nationally) received a perfect 100% graduation rate. Marquette Unviersity was one of the 27 along with Notre Dame. Almost half of the Big East men's basketball programs did not graduate 50% of their players (Cincinnati, UCONN, DePaul, Louisville, South Florida and West Virginia).

More detailed article can be found here

The NCAA has a comprehensive update here.

Marquette's specific rates by team are listed here in a pdf format

UPDATE: Hoya Prospectus compiled a nice Q&A answering some FAQs about Graduation Success Rate.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jeronne Maymon delivers in the Big Apple

Over the weekend, Marquette commit Jeronne Maymon slipped into NYC for the IS8 2008 Tip Off Fall Classic and led the Unique All-Stars to a convincing 99-77 win over Mount Vernon on Saturday. Maymon led Unique with 24 points. Interestingly, Maymon is teamed with 2010 Marquette target Tobias Harris on Unique. The 6'8" Harris participated in MU's elite camp this past summer.

The New Big East Basketball Report filed a report on the game as well as an interview with Jeronne here.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Jamil Wilson, UW tickets, Maurice Acker and more....

Morning grinds...........

Racine Horlick's Jamil Wilson narrowed his list to four schools and indicated he'll commit early. Wilson is down to Marquette, Michigan State, Texas and Oregon. The guys at MUScoop are talking this up.

Ballin Is a Habit is running through a preseason top 25 and slots MU in at #16. The guys there did a nice job analyzing MU, so check it out.

.......And hey, if you think being ranked 16th is impressive---consider that USA Today apparently picked MU to win the BIG EAST. The USA Today conference preview is here.

Maurice Acker is the latest to participate in MU's new podcast series. Just a few days ago, MU spoke with assistant coach Dale Layer too -- click here to listen to the Layer podcast. The landing page for the MU podcast series can be found here.

Remember the back and forth we had with the MU athletic department about the ticket policy for the UW@Madison game? Well, the MU/UW ticket limit for season ticket holders is four. Talk about it at MUScoop.

Finally, East Coast MU alums might consider making their way to Manhattan on October 23 for the latest installment of Marquette CIRCLES. The event, hosted by Fr. Wild, will be held at the Harvard Club that evening. Complete details are available here.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Katz talking up the Warriors

Everybody's (least) favorite Badger, Andy Katz, takes a look at the Marquette hoops program in his latest from ESPN.com. In the article, Katz reports along the lines of what we offered up last week -- that Buzz needs to deliver a monster recruiting class to sustain the trajectory of the Marquette program, and that he has yet to prove himself as a Big East head coach.

On recruiting, Williams cut to the chase, "It had to be a banner year no matter who the coach is,'' said Williams. "You can't just sign good players. I'm sure you have to sign potentially great players [in the Big East].''

Buzz is exceptionally candid in this article, noting that re-balancing a roster laden with redundant talent and a lack of flexibility remains an immediate priority:

"Yes, we have to replace three really, really good guards, but we also have to make sure from an interior perspective that we create more of a balance both ways,'' Williams said. "We're not done yet. We're not going to have a large recruiting class. We're a little behind in the 2010 class because we had to make up so much ground this fall in the 2009 class.''

Clearly Tom Crean didn't leave the cupboard bare for coach Williams - but he did leave too many knives and not enough forks or spoons. Yet despite the bountiful recruiting class he's about to land, Williams acknowledges that the real work has yet to begin.

"I don't know if I've proven myself,'' Williams said. "Of the 16 coaches in the Big East, I'm going to be the new kid on the block.'' Williams said he will be judged by how he handles the roster left to him and how the roster stacks up against the Big East in two or three years. "That's completely fair,'' Williams said. "I don't disagree with that and I don't take offense to that.''


And from the sound of it -- check out what Jerel McNeal, Erik Williams and Dominic James have to say about Buzz and the credibility gap he's trying to close -- those close coach Buzz believe he is on the right track.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A Faster Pace and the link between Offense and Defense

The most recent article by Luke Winn, where he interviews Buzz Williams, had a specific mention about trying to make the game longer and increase the number of possessions. This got me thinking about what a faster pace would mean for Marquette. I wanted to look at what impact that would have on their Offensive/Defensive Efficiency, the Four Factors, and their consistency. However, something interesting popped up while looking into this area.

How will a faster pace impact Marquette?

A 90th percentile view of the pace is between 73 and 62 possessions per game across all Division 1 schools. In 2008, Marquette checked in at 68.1 possessions per game. Marquette's possessions range 90% of the time was also in between 62 and 73 possessions per game. In other words, the reasonable upper bounds of the number of possessions per game for Marquette would be an extra five possessions / game. It's a faster pace, sure... but is it really that much faster?

There's a concern that a faster pace will translate to sloppier play (more bad shots, turnovers, etc). However, if you look at the 2008 Pomeroy Game Plan for Marquette, there was no correlation between pace and either Marquette's offensive or defensive efficiency. That's good. It means that should Marquette increase the pace of games, there should not be a detrimental impact on the team's efficiency.

What about the "Four Factors" of effective field goal percentage (eFG%), turnover rate (TO%), offensive rebounding percentage (OR%), and free throw rate (FTR)? Are any of those impacted by an increase in pace? Again, there's more good news, in that there is a statistically significant correlation with our team's eFG% and pace. Of all the Four Factors, eFG% is by far the most important for every team. If Marquette is able to improve the pace, then a team similar to last year should be a better offensive team.

Another aspect that concerned us last year was the team's Inconsistency, which we compared to a High Risk Stock. Without getting into the math, the stats theory is that an increase of possessions will help reduce the inconsistency. Think of it like this... your odds of getting a 50/50 split flipping a coin are far greater if you do it 100 times instead of 10. However, based on some simple analysis, I don't believe that a net change of five possessions per game will actually make a significant difference in the team's consistency.


What was interesting was something that we stumbled upon regarding inconsistency while looking into the numbers. At the time of the High Risk Stock article, we attributed the inconsistency to the fundamental makeup of the roster. Obviously, due to the loss of Barro and Mbakwe, this lack of big men has only gotten worse. However, it appears that the problem may be more fundamental.

No other team in the Big EAST had as strong of a relationship between Offensive Efficiency (AdjO) and Defensive Efficiency (AdjD) as Marquette (math note - based on covariance). When our AdjO was better than average, then our AdjD was better than average. Unfortunately, the converse was true as well, leaded to maddening games where the Defense was terrible and the Offense looked inept.

Going further, we see that there were many teams for which this was not true. Here are the Big EAST teams that were able to keep their offensive and defensive performances separate:

  • DePaul, USF, ND, Seton Hall, Pitt, Louisville, Syracuse, Rutgers, Villanova (in order of most separate to least separate)
Here are the teams that had a strong link between offense and defense:
  • Marquette, WVU, St. John's, Cincy, UConn, Providence (in order of most linked to least linked)
  • (Georgetown ended up right in the middle)
Of particular note is that a team like Villanova was able to avoid the strong link between Offense and Defense. Villanova doesn't have a particularly big team (although they're improving in that area in recent years), so there is hope that it's not particular to roster makeup.

Does this covariance mean that the Defense makes the Offense go? Many times last year we could hear the quote, "our defense drives our offense". Honestly, I don't know. Part of it might be the mindset instilled by the coaching staff to keep the players focused on defense. However, it isn't a good thing that the two areas are so linked. Intuitively, one wants a Defense (or Offense) that stays constant no matter how efficiently or inefficiently the offense is playing.

In addition, If you look at the Efficiency Margin tracker from BE play through the rest of the season, we can see a view of how well the team played. There was a decline in the level of play, culminating with a nadir in the games against UL and UConn, some subsequent improvement leading up to right before the Georgetown game. There was then some additional decline in play before improvement during the tournament.

During the top three occasions in conference last year when we had our best efficiency margin (against Providence, @Nova, and Rutgers), the team had the least link between Offense and Defense. In addition, the top three points where we had the greatest link between Offense and Defense were SHU#1 (that ugly, ugly game), @WVU, and @UL. I think's it's fair to say that not only can Marquette separate the link between Offense and Defense, but that it's in the team's best interest to do so. Now, as for how the team can emphasize this separation, that's up to the coaching staff.

Based on last year's performance, we definitely see benefits for Marquette to try and push a faster tempo. Along the way, we realized that inconsistency is because of the strong link between the team's Offensive and Defensive performance. Hopefully, along the way the coaching staff will get the team to be more consistent on at least one side of the court.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Media updates

Just in time for the weekend.....

CNNSI's Luke Winn features Marquette and Buzz Williams in his latest column. Winn explores the Marquette program from just about every angle and offers up this enticing nugget about Buzz' expected style of play:

Marquette ranked 118th in the nation (and sixth in the Big East) in adjusted tempo last year, at 68.1 possessions per game, and could likely move into the 70s next season. The faster the better, in Williams' opinion, because "as the game gets shorter, our size dilemma gets revealed."
Finally (!!) Marquette fans might get the pressure-oriented squad many had expected when the Three Amigos arrived on campus.

Michael Snaer, who visited MU last weekend, tells Rivals.com he'll next visit UCLA this weekend and Kansas later in the month. The 6'4" Snaer has visited FSU and Missouri as well.

MUScoop has a terrific thread building on 2008-2009 expectations. Register at the Scoop (it's free) and jump into the mix.

Also, MU has a series of events planned for October including the Chicago Tip-Off Dinner and the Blue & Gold Fish Fry. Details are here.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

2008-2009 Expectations

If nothing else, it was nice to see the passionate reactions to yesterday's post. There were plenty of comments both here and in the MUScoop.com thread. Before we move on, let's be clear about a few things.

Again, we recognize what Buzz meant when he said "I don't know how good we'll be." I'm sure he expects the team to win plenty of games. Yet, despite the returning talent and experience, there is limited post depth plus new coaches and a new system to learn. Still, expectations are high among the fan base, and we believe he wants to manage those expectations.

In the comments section of yesterday's post, Championships Matter raised a fair point. Times are good. We are a returning top 25 team with three 1,000-point scorers. Marquette is likely bound for its fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. We play in the best conference in America. Furthermore, basketball kicks off in 15 days! There is a lot to be excited about and the team should be good.

Even with the flaws on last year's team, they were successful. 25 win seasons are rare and ought to be appreciated. Barring injury, I think it's reasonable to expect that the Warriors will end up with 22-24 regular season wins (we were 22-8 in regular season last year), finish somewhere between 2nd and 5th (11-13 wins) in the BIG EAST, and win their first game in the NCAA tournament. It's not a great season, but it's still very good, and Buzz should expect that the team is at least that good.

What are your expectations for the 2008-2009 season? Weigh in with your official predictions for the season.

edit: revised regular season forecast

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

"I don't know how good we'll be"

With more time to reflect, there was one particular line from the Chicago Coaches Luncheon that's been sticking with me. Coach Buzz Williams repeated a few times during the Luncheon that he "doesn't know how good the team will be."

Let's start by saying that we get what Buzz was trying to do. The majority of his remarks at the event were about how he tries to focus on the present. It's all very zen and I appreciate that. Plus, he's working to manage expectations for this year's squad; expectations that are justifiably high. Still, despite the obvious guard strength and senior leadership, the team is weak in the post (but what else is new?) and they have a brand new coaching staff and system to learn. However, the elephant in the room remains.

This year's team HAS to be good.

The Warriors return one of the strongest senior classes in school history, led by three 1,000-point scorers who are complemented by another veteran starter in versatile junior Lazar Hayward. The team was the #11 Pomeroy Team in the nation last year, racking up 25 wins along the way. And of course, they were a last-second miracle shot away from making the Sweet Sixteen.

How could this year's team not be good? It's a gift-wrapped opportunity for any coach to step in and succeed. Conventional wisdom is that it would take a screw-up of major proportions to not compete for the BIG EAST title and make a run in the NCAA tournament.

For now, MU's recent successes are paying dividends on the recruiting circuit. Rather than focusing on the great unknowns surrounding Marquette's new head coach -- and there are plenty of them -- Coach Williams has the benefit of of selling kids on the recent trajectory of the program, the promise of what he hopes to do at MU, on what he thinks the program will look like, how he intends to develop players and execute his system. Selling against that promise during a honeymoon period as a new head coach is an additional benefit. By any measure, he has been doing a great job in this area, taking full advantage of the state of the program. If he doesn't have a watershed recruiting class already, Buzz is likely to grab that when he closes out the 2009 recruiting in the coming months.

Signing a breakthrough 2009 class is not, however, a luxury. It's a requirement. Regardless of how highly ranked the 2009 class will be, Marquette's fortunes on the hardwood will almost certainly take a downturn in the 2009-2010 season. That's to be expected. A program simply does not replace three four-year starters without taking a hit. It's not unreasonable to think that a .500 record could constitute a good year in 2009-2010.

What does it all mean? The 2008-2009 Warriors squad must win, and win big. If Buzz Williams leads a team that underachieves this year, the honeymoon will end quickly. It could be over in December with a slow start in three challenging non-conference games.

Detractors and doubters, who've been fed a large dose of crow based on Buzz' effectiveness as a recruiter this off-season, will once again point out the unnecessary risks that Marquette made in hiring Williams. An underachieving team and the perception of a coach being out of his depth at what has become a high-major program would also make recruiting an even greater challenge.

How good will the team be this year? For Buzz' sake and the program's sake, they had better be good.

*Joint effort between NYWarrior and Henry Sugar