"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

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Icing on the cake - Pitt loss pushes MU up to a projected No. 5 seed in BE tourney

USF projects to join MU with 1st round bye

Sorry to post again the day after wrapping up the UConn game, but there was some nice icing on the cake as other games broke well all weekend. With USF beating Pitt today, both USF and MU now project to have byes in the Big East Tourney by finishing in the 2nd quartile (5th through 8th place).

The reason MU projects so well is that MU is done playing the projected top 4 teams in the conference, and the three games against the projected 2nd quartile (Pitt 6th place, Lville 7th place and USF 8th place) are all at home. That fact makes MU a favorite in all nine remaining games, with the percentages predicting a 7-2 finish.

A truly hot 8-1 finish would project MU to finish 4th with a double-bye, but even going just 5-4 projects to keep MU in the top half and get the crucial 1st round bye. Based on who everyone has left to play, and which team is home in each game, Pomeroy projects the final standings to be:

Double Bye
1. Syracuse 15-3
2. Nova 14-4
3. WVU 13-5
4. Gtown 12-6 (an 8-1 finish by MU would give us 4th place based on win over Gtown)

Single Bye
5. Marquette 11-7 (he predicts 7-2 finish, but even 5-4 only drops MU two spots to 7th)

6. Pitt 11-7 (Pomeroy only gives Pitt a 27% chance at MU for tie-breaker)
7. Louisville 10-8
8. USF 8-10 (beat SH and favored vs. UConn and Cincy at home, lost at Cincy, so 3-1 in BE miniconference tie-breaker with next three teams)

First Round Game
9. UConn 8-10 (if beat Cincy at home to be 2-2 in tiebreaker between SH and Cincy, with head-to-head over SH in hand)
10. Seton Hall 8-10 (beat Cincy already, so 1-1 against UConn, Cincy)
11. Cincy 8-10 (if beats UConn, then 4-way tiebreaker for 8th gets very confusing)
12. Notre Dame 7-11
13. Providence 6-12
14. St. John's 6-12
15. DePaul 3-15
16. Rutgers 3-15

Obviously the games all start at 0-0, and anyone can win, but Pomeroy (www.kenpom.com) has been right on so far in predicting our Big East games. He has correctly picked the winner in 7 of 9 MU games this year, flipping only the UConn and DePaul winners. Even in the UConn game, the other three models I saw all had UConn beating MU by double figures, and Pomeroy had MU losing 68-69.

In the 2nd half of the season, he has us as favorites in all nine games. Now to be clear, he does not expect us to go 9-0, because if he gives you a 67% chance of winning three different games, that means you should lose one of the three and go 2-1 in those games, not go 3-0, etc.

So now he picks MU as only a slight favorite at Seton Hall (56% chance of winning) and Cincy (59%), so he believes 1-1 is likely there, though more likely to go 2-0 than 0-2.

He gives us BETTER THAN a 2-to-1 edge at Providence and St. John’s, and at home vs. USF, Pitt and Louisville, so basically thinks we will go 4-1 in those games, though more likely to go 3-2 than 5-0.

Finally he has us as huge favorites when DePaul and Notre Dame come to town.
I know, one game at a time so let’s focus on getting revenge when DePaul comes to Milwaukee. But when you look at who we play at home the rest of the year, and the tough back side to the schedule for most of the teams competing with us for the next few spots in the standings, the opportunity is there.

The guy I gave my USF tickets too is getting to take his friends to a much more important game than he thought when we talked at an MU Circles event in Atlanta!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Steal seals the stunner at UConn after DJO and Butler offensive heroics

More about the offensive heroics of DJO and Jimmy Butler in a second, but first …

With UConn coming down for a potential game-winning or game-tying basket, MU played for the turnover. Dwight Buycks deflected the pass, and David Cubillian stole the ball and dribbled down the court as time expired on Marquette’s second huge win in a close game against a ranked team. As MUs other ranked victim, Georgetown, pummeled Duke into submission, MUs NCAA hopes shot up.

As noted in the preview, MU had to try for the steal if UConn had a last trip down the court, and they did. No matter how many times you get frustrated watching big teams dunk on us, 3-point shooting and turnovers are the equalizer, and they were again today.

Cube’s steal at the end capped a game in which MU won the turnover battle 16 to 2! Two turnovers. With 5 and half minutes to go Jamal Coombs-McDaniel stole the ball from Lazar and was fouled by DJO, and Buycks tried to whip a pass to DJO that went under the basket, and with 12:11 to go in the game.

The other 63 times down the court MU was able to get up at least one shot or freethrows. And once again they hit their typical 9 three pointers (9-24 shooting was actually one shot below their national leading average), so even though they once again allowed a big team to grab 42% of their missed shots (UConn grabbed 13 of their 31 misses), MU turned them over right until the end for the win.


After Lazar was whistled for a beautiful rejection of Dyson with under four minutes left (4th foul), and then whistled for a perfect box out of Gavin Edwards (to foul out), MU had to play the final 1:53 from down 65-63 without Lazar. It looked particularly bleak since no one besides Lazar had scored in four minutes at that point, but we were once again reminded of how many weapons MU has this year.

After Dyson hit a ridiculous 25-foot shot with the shot clock running out to give UConn a 68-65 lead he was being suited for the heroes crown.

However, the next trip down the court, DJO faked Dyson into the air with his patented pump, jumping into him with 41 seconds left to earn three free throws.
Despite missing two earlier, DJO calmly sank all three free throws to tie the game. With a huge size disadvantage with Jimmy Butler playing with four guards on the court, Kemba Walker missed a shot and Butler grabbed an incredible rebound with 25 seconds to play to preserve the tie.

Two timeouts later, UConn flanked the perimeter, trying desperately to match up with all four 3-point shooting guards on the court and deny them the ball. At that moment, Jimmy Butler drove toward the hoop, the 6-foot-9 Edwards ran back and cut Butler off, at which point Butler faded away from the basket to net an 8-footer and give MU back the lead at 70-68.

MU has so many offensive weapons this year, and today even with our star on the bench it was four 3-pointers as decoys that allowed Butler to come through the clutch game-winner.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Odds are worse than 2-to-1 against if it comes down to a final UConn shot - SO STEAL THE BALL!

Saturday is Marquette’s 5th and final opportunity to pull out a win against one of the tallest teams in the US. Marquette is one of only 17 teams with an average height of 6-foot-3 or smaller on the court at any given time, while MU opponents UConn, Syracuse, West Virginia, NC State and Florida State are among only 24 teams that average 6-foot-6 or better. The other 306 teams are somewhere between 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-6.

In other words, MU is 0-4 against teams that average at least three inches taller than them at all five positions, and 12-4 against teams that average less than 6-foot-6.

The one thing the first four games against tall teams makes clear is that if the game comes down to stopping UConn from hitting a shot on their last possession, then MU has less than a one-in-three chance of winning. The three 6-foot-9 UConn players would be a nightmare to defend on a final possession, with Gavin Edwards hitting 66% of his two-pointers, Stanley Robinson 56% and Alex Oriakhi one of the best at crashing the offensive boards even if they miss.

The two things that have killed MU against the tall teams is that these opponents have made 55.3% of all 2-point shots they’ve taken on MU (98 of 177) compared to around 48% hit by MUs other opponents, and that even when tall teams miss, they grab 41.6% of their own rebounds against MU. I believe the high shooting percentage results from tall opponents having virtually no fear of having a shot blocked so they get a great look at the basket. MU has blocked only 3 of 177 two-point attempts by the four tall opponents.

So based on the other four games, if UConn comes down the court for a final trip down one or in a tie and takes a shot, there is a 55.3% chance they hit it and win. But the odds are actually much worst than that because even if they miss a shot with a few second left, there is a 41.6% of grabbing their miss and having another shot. Doing the math, there is a 55.3% chance the first shot goes in, an 18.6% chance they miss but grab the offensive rebound, and ONLY a 26.1% chance they miss and MU grabs the rebound to win the game. Keep the math going and that means there is a 10.3% chance UConn misses the first shot but grabs the rebound and makes the second shot, and a 1.6% chance UConn misses the first two shots but grabs both rebounds and puts the second one back in. Even assuming they don’t have time for a third offensive rebound, that gives UConn a 67.2% chance of winning the game if it comes down to shots in the closing seconds with MU trying to grab a rebound to win the game.

MU has to go for the turnover – even at the end

At this point you may wonder why we even show up to play the big teams, if we are going to watch them score more than 67% of the trips down the court on which they put up 2-point shots.

But MU has two great equalizers against tall teams – which is why all four games have been very close. First, with MU still leading the nation at 43.3% on 3-pointers, we can trade 3-pointers for 2-pointers all day. Shooting 43.3% on 3-pointers gets you just as many points as shooting 65% on 2-pointers, so we have plenty of offense to keep up.

The defensive equalizer MU has is that in the four games against taller teams, MU has forced a turnover on 24.8% (67 of 270) of the tall opponents’ trips down the court.

So if UConn is scoring 67% of their trips IN WHICH THEY TAKE A SHOT, BUT MU is forcing a turnover one-quarter of the trips, then UConn would actually score only 50% of their trips overall giving MU a great chance.

But if it comes down to that last trip down the court, MU cannot simply stay back and get good position. MU MUST make every effort to force a turnover. I know Buzz will be trashed if we foul going for a steal (see Georgetown two years ago), but the fact is if we try to force the turnover on the last trip we have a 50-50 chance of the win, if not we have less than a 1 in 3 chance. Remember this year that Lazar, even playing with four fouls, stripped the ball from Monroe in the final minutes to prevent a high percentage shot. Going for the turnover won the game – if he had stepped back and let him dunk then we would have lost that game by 1.

After UConn - it's all lining up nicely for MU

Don’t look now, but everything else has lined up nicely for MUs final run. UConn is the last tall team we play. In fact, USF is the only remaining opponent among the tallest 100 teams in the country, and they are about the same height as Rutgers and Georgetown, both of whom MU handled well. The rest range from Louisville (101st tallest) to Pitt (256th tallest).

Everyone has us as underdogs against UConn Saturday, but Pomeroy has us as favorites in the last 9 games after that, and RealtimeRPI has us as favorites in 7 of the last 9 (underdogs vs. Louisville and at Cincy). It’s doubtful MU would win all 9, but the matchups are all against teams with moderate height and none of them have clearly played better than MU this year. The 8 wins needed (either in the final 10 regular season or the Big East Tourney) that would seem to give MU an NCAA bid will not be easy, but they are doable. If MU gets them, they roll in as a team with tough early season losses that finished very strong.

In addition, MU now has five chances to register some quality road wins. We always knew a win at UConn or Cincy would get a lot of credit, but now wins at Providence (which beat UConn), St. John’s (which beat Cincy) and/or Seton Hall (which beat Pitt and Louisville) would each be a huge resume boost. Obviously the downside is that those performances do indicate that all five road games will be tough, but they give MU five opportunities to come up with a few huge road wins.

What more could we have asked for - the rest of the regular season is going to feel like tournament games already – every game is big but winnable down the stretch.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Warriors eviscerate Scarlet Knights

It took the Marquette Warriors less than eight minutes to erase the sting of consecutive losses as they raced to an early 18-point advantage over the hapless Rutgers Scarlet Knights, cruising to a decisive 82-59 victory.

Maurice Acker, the BIG EAST's most improved player, continues to impress. The senior keyed MU's early surge by scoring 12 of the team's first 23 points all on three-point bombs. Acker finished with 14 points and five assists.

Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom led the team with 16 points each while Joseph Fulce scored 13 points off the bench. Lazar Hayward finished with a dozen and is now just the third player in MU history to notch 1600 points and 800 rebounds in his career.

As a team MU connected on 53% of its three-point attempts (9-17) but that was not the most impressive aspect of their offensive effort. Led by Johnson-Odom and Acker, Marquette consistently attacked the rim off the dribble leading to open looks from deep and a number of points in the paint by the crafty guards.

With the win Marquette moves to 12-8 on the season and 3-5 in conference play. The Warriors travel to Hartford on Saturday to take on UConn.

Media Recaps
Go Marquette.com official recap
Box Score
Rutgers loses 9th in a row
Journal-Sentinel recaps the win

Buzz Williams' post game press conference

**And by the way, Brad Galli was the best Campus Connection reporter we've seen on ESPN. Fine work, Brad. Check it out -- and follow Brad on Twitter here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Know your opponent: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

After back-to-back road losses the Marquette Warriors (11-8, 2-5) return home on Tuesday night to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (9-10, 0-7).

To familiarize us with Fred Hill's squad we're pleased to welcome Shawn Layton from On The Banks Of The Raritan for a Q/A about his beloved Scarlet Knights. If you're interested -- be sure to check out the Q/A we wrote up about MU for his blog.

Fred Hill's tenure at Rutgers went from high optimism to the hot seat quickly. What went wrong?

The 41-70 record during the Fred Hill era hasn't helped his cause. When he brought Mike Rosario and Fred Echenique to the Banks, things were looking up for RU. Rosario is the school's first McDonald's All-American and Echenique's absence during the 0-7 start to this year's Big East schedule illustrates how valuable the guys was for us on the interior. Echenique's transfer to Creighton and the horrific start to conference play has many calling for Hill to be fired. He'll be here for the rest of the season, but all hell will break loose if the dude isn't gone at the end of this season. Fans are fed up with an inept program and are demanding a high-profile hiring this spring/summer.

Mike Rosario is a gunner, but his efficiency suffers. Who would you prefer to see take more shots in the offense?

Great question--I'd like to see Jonathan Mitchell take more from the outside and Dane Miller take the ball to the rim more consistently. Miller hasn't developed the jumpshot we all hope he will, but this hasn't detered him from launching some ill-advised three-pointers. Mitchell has a much better shot and a more developed game at this point, but Miller has incredible potential. Unfortunately, Miller's youth shows at times. He lit up Providence and Villanova for 26 points and was held scoreless in Saturday's loss to Georgetown. I'd love to see RU limit its turnovers and create better looks off dribble penetration. I'd also love to see a win, but at this point, I'd take some clean play.

Despite its proximity to New York City and Philadelphia, the Scarlet Knights have been unable to breakthrough as a consistent upper-tier BIG EAST program. Any explanation for the program's struggles? Any signs of hope for a breakthrough?

Hopefully the university and Athletic Director Tim Pernetti have learned from their mistakes. This program has been at the bottom of the Big East for too long to take another shot on coaches like Fred Hill, Gary Waters, and Kevin Bannon. At this point, we need a proven Division I coach--someone with Tournament experience and a history of turning high school recruits into NBA players. You are right about the NYC/Philly area, but don't forget the goldmine that is NJ high school basketball. Schools like St. Patrick and St. Anthony are always among the top teams in the country and produce quality DI players. Villanova's three Jersey players combined for 48 points against RU last week. The right coach with the right pedigree can persuade such talent to rebuild the RU program. It's happening in football at the Banks. The school has to make the right decisions in the next few months.

Besides Rosario, who should we watch out for?
Senior Hamady N'Diaye is fun to watch if he can stay out of foul trouble. N'Diaye's our only inside presence with Echenique gone so it's been rough going for him of late. He leads the Big East in blocked shots, averaging 4.7 per game, and is currently No. 3 nationally. If he gets in foul trouble, Marquette can throw the ball inside and open the floor for its three-point shooters. If this happens, it will be a Marquette blowout.

How do you see the game unfolding against MU?
Hopefully not like the last seven Big East contests for RU. Rosario can't do it all and if he feels like he must, it will be another ugly game. Guys like Jonathan Mitchell and Dane Miller have to start strong and be consistent. Our leading scorers in Big East games tend to get their points when the game is already in the bag. This can't happen. I expect RU to come out inspired, play with desire, but turn the ball over too much. They'll probably commit 8-10 first half turnovers and then get off to a slow start in the second half. They won't quit and will make things interesting, but simply run out of firepower at the end.

Thanks Shawn!

Tipoff for the game is set for 8pm Marquette Standard Time. ESPNU will broadcast the game.

Media Updates
Official Marquette game notes.
Rosiak preview from the Journal-Sentinel.
Rosiak on Cadougan's surprise return.
Marquette graduate Wesley Matthews scored a career-high 21 points last night in a Jazz win.
New Jersey's Jerry Carino on the Scarlet Knights' need to stay positive.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cadougan card played at Syracuse as MU seeks to win 9 of next 12 to go to NCAA

Both RealtimeRPI and Pomeroy predict MU will be 19-11 heading into the Big East Tournament. RealtimeRPI predicts that will be enough to make the tournament as a 12-seed. Linardi still has MU as one of the last four teams out, but with Cincy as one of the last four teams in. An MU win at Cincy on February 21 would likely flip us with the Bearcats.

With MU finally facing the “easy” part of the schedule and clearly on the bubble, Buzz played the Cadougan card by giving him his first seven minutes of the season in the toughest venue of the year at Syracuse. While Cadougan left his first jumper a couple of feet short of the rim and was slow on a couple of defensive plays, he grabbed two rebounds, and would have had three assists except that on one of them Butler was fouled and hit free throws instead of a basket. He got a run going that could have been the differences except for the referees somehow missing the most obivous goaltend you will see all year.

More important, Cadougan gave MU an 8-man rotation that played at the fastest pace of the year (74 trips down the court) just a few days after playing their slowest game in six years (53 trips against DePaul).

With MU on pace to be so squarely on the bubble, here are the three ways that Cadougan’s surprise return could be the difference and get MU’s ticket punched in March:

1) MU is about to start playing games that will count in the “RECORD IN FINAL 12 GAMES” category as early as Rutgers on Tuesday, so if he is the difference in just one game down the stretch he could help ensure at least a 9-3 mark in the last 12 games even if we lose in the Big East tourney opener;

2) the Selection Committee does consider how good the roster is that will play in the NCAA tourney, so if MU plays better with Cadougan than they did without him, it will be a major boost in the process, and

3) his ability to give MU a true 8-man rotation will allow them to step up the tempo like they did against Syracuse to play to their strengths.

With a 7-man rotation Buzz has been forced to play at one of the slower paces in the country to save the team’s legs, and trying to win a half court game in which our height makes it tough to stop 2-point shots (Syracuse shot 67% 2-pointers at 30 for 45) or opposing offensive rebounds (Syracuse grabbed 42% with 10 of 24) gives MU no margin for error.

However, with Cadougan as part of the 8-man rotation, MU ran Syracuse into the ground while forcing 22 turnovers, and putting up another 10 of 25 performance from 3-point land to stay first in the country at 42.9%, as well as go on an 11-0 run in a 97 second interval that left MU within 70-65 with 1:54 to play. Only losing by 5 points at Syracuse propelled MU even higher in Pomeroy, as he now ranks MU as the 18th best team in the country, well ahead of the 79th in the RPI.

UConn is virtually the same height as Syracuse this year (12th tallest and 13th tallest teams in the US, respectively), so a similar performance next week against UConn or February 21 at Cincy could give MU the one marquee road win to wrap up a bid with a 20-10 mark, or at least be in position to make a case heading into the Big East tourney at 19-11. The biggest wrap on MU is having lost seven straight road games, but except for the DePaul debacle, those games include two losses to No. 1 seeds in 2009 (Pitt and Louisville) and four losses this year to teams currently in the Top 11 in the RPI (#1 Syracuse, #6 Nova, #8 WVU and #11 Wisconsin). It also ignores that we destroyed St. John's on their home court in the Big East tourney.

If MU does finish 19-11 including a win at Cincy or UConn, the three “gimme” wins and a 4-2 mark in the games in which we are slight favorites, then it would project to finish 10-8 in the Big East and in the top half of the conference. That would leave MU projected to face an 8-10 team in Cincinnati, Notre Dame or Seton Hall in the opening round. So add to the good record in the final 12 games, allowances for most losses coming before Cadougan completed the potential NCAA roster, and a top half finish in the Big East as one of only two teams (along with Pitt) to record a fifth straight 10-win season, and the resume would be strong.

In short, MU needs to win nine of its last 12 – whether that’s 9-2 in the regular season and a first round Big East tourney loss or 8-3 in the regular season and a first round win over Cincy, ND or SH, to make the tourney. However, they may need the marquee road win at Cincy or UConn among those nine wins.

This really makes for a lot more exciting regular season than a year when we are just determining whether MU will be a 3-seed or a 7-seed. These next 12 games are life or death for Lazar, Mo and Cube, and I’m glad Cadougan is there just in case he makes the difference on going 9-3 or better and extending the season.

Media recaps from Syracuse Loss
Eagles cut down by size according to Rosiak at the JS
Rosiak blogs a final wrap-up
Video recaps of the game via MUScoop
Syracuse.com recap

Friday, January 22, 2010

Slowest pace game since 2004 results in worst loss since 2000 - but let's get over it

Even as the unofficial Pollyanna of the Cracked Sidewalks team, I can't sugarcoat this one. The last time a worst team beat MU was on March 8, 2000, when Houston rolled into the Conference USA tournament with a 2-14 Conference mark and eliminated Marquette 77-75. But even that was a 15-14 MU team with one good scorer in Brian Wardle and one good rebounder in Oluoma Nnamaka - this MU team has way too much talent to lose to DePaul.

It was not just a painful loss, it was a slow, painful death. MU had only 53 trips down the court the entire game. The last time that happened was in a 69-65 win over Air Force on November 16, 2004 in which we also had exactly 53 trips down the court. Since Wade left we have had fewer than 60 trips down the court just 21 games in seven years, and four times have been against DePaul, so they do seem to slow us down. However, Buzz is slowing it way down to keep players on the floor, and the other two times MU was below 60 trips this year was Georgetown and WVU, both impressive performances.

I'm over it - what we need to do from here

However, I'm done with my 24-hour "we stink" phase, and ready to get back to what we have to do. We have unfortunately seen a re-emergence of the, "we lose because Buzz doesn't have them practice free throws on team time" argument. This had pretty much died when as MU finished as one of the best free throw teams in the country at 72.8% last year, and they are even better this year at 73.5% this year.

Obviously there have been a lot of key misses at the end of games, though I don't see how that can be the result of not practicing when we hit over 80% until then. I think the more legitimate question we need to ask is if we can get by with 7-men rotations or if they guys are just too dead at the end. The other big weakness the team does have is that with our great outside shooting, we simply don't get to the line much. Last year we were the 12th best team in the country at getting to the line and this year we are the 218th best, just as last year we were the 134th best at 3-pointers and this year we are 1st.

We now need to go 5-1 instead of 4-2 in six key games

What the DePaul loss means is that our margin for error is now very low for making the NCAA. I wrote last week that we needed to go 4-2 in six key games (at Providence, Pitt, at SJU, at Seton Hall, Louisville and Notre Dame). The computer has us favored in all six games, but expects us to win 4.2 of them overall. We probably light it up a couple of these nights for comfortable wins, but the bottom line is we are bound to have one or two nights when we are off, and we are going to have to fight through and pick off a close win in a game that we don't play well to go 5-1 in those games.

Get 1 big road win

Tomorrow's 1 p.m. CST start at Syracuse is by far the toughest game remaining on the schedule, so that would be by far the most unlikely road win. However, even if we lose there, we just need to get a big road win, either at UConn or Cincy. Neither will be easy, but watching Michigan beat UConn and Xavier take Cincy to double overtime, I feel good about getting one of those two games.

I believe that's what it will take to make the NCAAs. We now need to go 5-1 in games in which we are slight favorites, and we need to get a big road win and have two chances in which we will only be very slight underdogs. Oh, and lest I forget, we obviously cannot lose another gimme with Rutgers, DePaul and USF coming to town.

We can still get to 20-10 by the Big East Tourney, and I believe that gets us in - so shake it off and keep the faith! With our shooting, this team can upset any team on a given night when we are hot, so if we can just sneak in as a 12-seed it will be very exciting.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

MUTV: DePaul

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

High Comedy

Losing to DePaul?

DePaul, a team that was 0 for 24 in the BIG EAST going back to 2008? O-fer 24, folks.

, a team playing without its best player. DePaul, a team that lost its first five BIG EAST games by an average of 19 points. Sadly, a late lead against the absolute dregs of the BIG EAST is not safe with Marquette this season. Today's recipe for defeat included two seniors missing the front-end of one-and-ones in the last 30 seconds. Incredible.

Marquette's ability to close is officially comical. Welcome back, Shelley Levene.

To put it simply, MU has raised choking to an art form.

Reviewing a Rivalry...MU vs DePaul

"People can talk all they want about this being just another game---no way. This is a rivalry game, for sure, and our guys will be ready for it." – DePaul Coach Tracy Webster

Let’s get one thing out of the way from the start, I promise that I’m not going to try to argue with Tracy Webster, the man is going through enough right now. Whether or not DePaul is our best or biggest rival, whether this game means as much to Marquette fans as games against Wisconsin or Notre Dame, whether this game means more to DePaul than it does to Marquette, those are all arguments for another day. The fact of the matter is that DePaul has been a rival since nearly the beginning of Marquette basketball, and given how much the two schools have in common, it really could not be any other way. For more on today's game be sure to check out the informative Q/A John that from Chicago Hoops provided today.

The similarities are numerous. Both DePaul and Marquette are large Catholic institutions located in the Midwest. Both have great traditions of basketball excellence going back decades. Both made their names( at least in a basketball sense) under legendary coaches, DePaul under Ray Meyer and Marquette under Al McGuire. Both teams have had many great players, the names of whom we all know. Perhaps even more important than any of that, both schools have been competing on the recruiting trail since the very beginning. Illinois in general(and Chicago specifically) has a wealth of high school basketball talent, and many of the greats in the past have chosen Marquette over DePaul or vice versa. Bo Ellis, Mark Aguirre, Terry Cummings, Doc Rivers, Quentin Richardson, Dwyane Wade. It’s a who’s who of both Marquette and DePaul basketball.

And yet….something has always seemed a little bit off when looking at the rivalry. The games have never seemed to have the intensity of say a Marquette vs. Wisconsin game or a Cincinnati game during the Bob Huggins era. I've tried for quite awhile to figure it out, and always come up with no real solution. Was it the fact that we're both Catholic schools? No, otherwise there would be no Notre Dame rivalry. Was the fact that we play them so often dulling our sensitivity? I don't think so, we play Wisconsin nearly as often, and no one would accuse Marquette fans of going soft on them. Could it be the fact that we're now in the same conference, and on some level need them to do well for the health of the conference? Again no. The rivalry with Louisville has intensified because of the conference, and we've started new rivalries with folks in other Big East cities.

With no real answer, and in an effort to figure out what makes the rivalry different from nearly every other one we have, I decided to take a look back at the history of the two programs, at least from a statistical perspective. What I’ve found may surprise you.

The Basics…or things to get out of the way before I move on

  • Marquette and DePaul have been playing each other since the 1917-18 season, the second in the history of MU basketball. That wouldn't normally be a surprise except for the fact that DePaul didn't hire their first basketball coach until 1923. One could argue that Marquette is doctoring the record books like our friends on the east side have tried to do, but both MU and DePaul agree that these games occurred, so I'm going to let them slide.
  • Going into Wednesday’s match up, the teams have played 107 times, with Marquette holding the all time advantage, of 64 wins versus 43 losses. I feel a bit dubious counting games against a team that apparently had no coach when we first played them, but given that they employed Jerry Wainwright for five years one could argue that they haven’t had a coach for the last several years either….low blow I know. Beyond the total numbers though, that’s where things start to get interesting.

Decades of Domination

Most often when people talk about rivalry games, they talk about how both teams need to be capable of winning the game for it to truly be a rivalry game…cough…UWM…cough. If one team has no shot, then really it’s just another game against another team you should beat. And yet, when you examine the history of Marquette vs. DePaul, what you come across is a series of what you might call mini-dynasties, or periods where one team was simply so much better than the other that any win by the opponent was a huge upset. For Marquette and DePaul, those seem to span more than just years…they seem to be decade long streaks. Each team has essentially dominated the other for an entire decade before the pendulum suddenly switches, and the other team becomes dominant for another decade.

For example, in the 1970s Marquette was the king of the rivalry. From 1970 to 1976, they didn’t lose a game to DePaul, and finished the decade with a 14-4 record against the Blue Demons. The 1980s on the other hand were all DePaul. Under Ray and Joey Meyer, DePaul went 12-4 against Marquette in the 1980s. The pendulum swung back in Marquette’s favor the following decade when Warriors/Golden Eagles held a 16-6 advantage over their foes to the south. Given that, one would have expected the most recent decade to be all DePaul, but due to coaching changes, poor coaching, and lack of talent, the decade ended up 13-3 in Marquette’s favor.

When you look at the other early years it's a bit tougher to see that sort of pattern, as the two schools weren't playing nearly that often. The teams played only 3 times in the decades prior to Ray Meyer taking the DePaul job, which doesn't lend itself to much of analysis. In the 1940s and 1950s, DePaul holds a slight edge going 5-2 and 3-2 respectively, they played so infrequently that it's hard to get a read on any patterns. Finally in the 1960s the two teams began playing every year, and had what has been the only decade to date where one team did not dominate the other. Marquette barely eeks out a win, with an 11-9 advantage. But when you look more closely at the end of that decade you begin to see another interesting trend.

Great Coaches – Great Results

Perhaps not unexpectedly, or at least I should hope not, the legendary coaches for each of the programs dominated the rivalries during the height of their careers.

Al McGuire took over a down trodden Marquette program before the 1964-65 season, and going against a legendary coach like Ray Meyer he struggle initially. Of his first 6 games against DePaul, he lost 5. But once he had his players in place, things changed(here's that trend I mentioned before),. From the beginning of the 1967-68 season through the 1975-76 season Coach Al was undefeated against DePaul a staggering 18 game run. For his career, he finished 20-6 in head to head match ups against Ray Meyer.

Obviously, given Al’s success, Coach Meyer’s record won’t be quite as good…and it isn’t. All time he had a losing record against MU, going 25-29. But to have even that level of success despite a period of many down years due to Al, suggest that he had to have had great success at other times, and he did. In his non Al McGuire years, from 1942-1964 and then again from 1977-84, Coach Ray went 19-9 against the Warriors. Not too shabby.

National Prominence versus General Incompetence

One could argue, effectively I believe, that it a great rivalry isn’t about whether or not you and your rival are both good, but whether or not you and your rival are both on equal footing. You don't necessarily have to be competing with each other for national championships every year, some times the pride of staying out of the cellar against another team fighting for the same thing is enough to keep the rivalry going. On he other hand, it’s tough for there to be much of a rivalry when one team is a perennial championship contender and the other is a bottom feeder. And yet, the Marquette-DePaul rivalry has persevered through such times.

No one is going to argue that both programs haven’t at various times been national powers, at least not here. Both teams have won national championships, both teams have been to multiple Final Fours, both teams have made the post season numerous times. Overall Marquette has made the post season 43 times in the program’s history, DePaul comes in just behind at 39. Marquette has made the NCAA tournament 27 times, DePaul 22 times if you count the vacated appearances due to NCAA rules infractions and I’m in a generous mood so why not.

And yet for all the similarities what is staggering, at least in my view, is how rarely both teams have been great, or even good enough to earn a post season bid at the same time. In total, despite the storied nature of the programs, they’ve made the post season tournaments in the same year only 23 times. Further, when you look at whether or not the teams were in the same post season tournament, that has happened only 7 times.

Of the 43 post season appearances for Marquette, 20 of them occurred during a season in which DePaul did not make the post season. Conversely, of the 39 post season appearances for DePaul, 15 of them occurred when Marquette did not make the post season. Looking only at NCAA appearances, 16 of Marquette’s 27 occurred without DePaul in the field, and 7 of DePaul’s 22 occurred without Marquette.

Now I know what some of you are going to say…."but but the old format of the NCAA/NIT selection with the limited number of bids and the fact that both were independents kept them from making the post season in the same year, so it’s not a valid comparison".

Possibly, but when you actually look at the numbers, not very likely. The fact of the matter is, that while one side of the rivalry was enjoying a good season, most of the time the other team was mired in terrible basketball. In short nothing but their own incompetence was keeping them out of the tournament. Let’s take a look at the numbers to see what I mean.

During the years in which DePaul made the post season, but Marquette did not…Marquette was just bad. In those 15 seasons, Marquette had a combined record of 159-202. In nine of those years they had a losing record, and never once in those 15 years finished more than three games above .500. At no time during those seasons was anything keeping Marquette out of the post season other than Marquette themselves.

It’s pretty much the same for DePaul. In the years in which Marquette made it but not DePaul, the Blue Demons have ranged from decent to downright awful. Their record during those years is a paltry 249-284, with eight losing seasons. Certainly during a few of those years they did have winning records, perhaps even very good records, but as a whole Marquette wasn’t keeping them out of the post season, DePaul’s own play was.

Great Rivalries = Great Games?

Often when people think of rivalry games, they don’t just think of the teams involved, they think about the quality of the games. The players are more animated, the crowd more hyped up, and every possession seems to be the one on which the game will turn. Rivalry games seem to often come down to one play or one coaching decision, they seem to be games that you survive rather than win.

Yet when you really examine the history of Marquette vs. DePaul, that aspect seems to be missing. I’m not here to argue that there haven’t been great games between Marquette and DePaul throughout the years. Who can forget the 1979 NCAA Sweet Sixteen, the various upsets of a ranked team by a plucky underdog, or the numerous overtime games. Certainly there have been many great games. But taken as a whole, the games seem to lack that closeness you would expect from a rivalry game.

Going all the way back to the first game, the average margin of victory regardless of winner is 11.6 points. Not only that, but it’s not as if one team wins big and the other one simply squeeks by. Marquette has won its games by an average of 12.1 points, while DePaul wins by an average of 10.8 points.

When you look at it in more recent terms, i.e. since the two teams joined the Great Midwest Conference together in 1991, the numbers are even worse. The average margin of victory for either team is 13.1, with Marquette winning by an average of 13.4 and DePaul by 11.6. And it’s certainly not as if this has only been happening in recent times. During the Al McGuire era, his teams beat DePaul by an average of 12 points, while Ray Meyer enjoyed 10.42 average margin of victory during his years.

Now obviously average margin of victory isn't the only way to look at whether or not there are close games, you could if you were so inclined go year by year and look at the numbers. Fortunately for those of you who have read this far, I'm not inclined to do that. What I will say, is that in recent memory, even when looked at individually, there haven't been many close games. Since 1991(again conference start date), the two teams have played 36 times. In that span, only twelve games have been decided by 10 points or less, with only two games being one possession games at the end. Obviously there were many close games in the past, but given the general dearth of them in recent years, it’s easy to understand why some question how exactly this game fits the traditional notion of a rivalry game.

Hopefully the game tomorrow will be a great one, but from where I sit, I’m just fine with the oddities that make up this rivalry.


So what’s my point in all of this? As so often happens, I’m not sure. But as this thing moved closer and closer to Pudner-esque length, one thing kept coming back to me. For how different their fortunes may be now, Marquette and DePaul are eerily similar.

And maybe that's why the rivalry with DePaul has always seemed, well, different. As a fan base, we know what makes our program and our school different from Wisconsin and Notre Dame and Cincinnati and Louisville. We embrace those differences, and in some cases thrive on them. Our differences are a large part of what makes those rivalries great. But with DePaul, the differences are too small, and the similarities overwhelming. When it comes to DePaul, as Pogo would say, "We have met the enemy and he is us".

So perhaps, let us refrain from kicking a program when it's down and show a little restraint as we watch DePaul in their current state and remember, there but for the grace of the administration go we. Given our history, the roles will likely be reversed in the years to come.

With that, on to the game at hand -- now read on for more on the game.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Know Your.... Enemy? DePaul

In advance of Marquette's road game against DePaul we were contacted by John over at Chicago College Basketball. John was good enough to share his thoughts on the game and the DePaul program in this installation of Know Your Opponent.

John is doing some really interesting things with his blog, which we encourage you to check out -- and be sure to check out our responses to his questions about MU and the game at Bradley Center South.


What does the DePaul fan base think of Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto? Is she the right leader to help DePaul emerge from its current struggle with men's hoops?

I think the DePaul fan base is quite frustrated with Jean Lenti Ponsetto right now. Most fans thought that Jerry Wainwright should have been fired at the end of last season. The fact that she waited until halfway through this season has angered a lot of fans. She keeps talking about how DePaul is a great job, but fans wonder if she really understands how hard it is to coach in the Big East night in and night out. Whether she's the right person to get DePaul out of this mess remains to be seen. All of DePaul's other Big East teams are doing phenomenally well, but people don't realize that because of the struggles of the school's premiere program. Her next hire is probably JLP's last chance with the DePaul faithful. She better make the right one.

Does the timing of the Wainwright dismissal help or hurt the program?

The fact is this: Jerry Wainwright had to go. It became obvious as you looked at the roster he constructed that he doesn't have a good grasp on how to recruit Big East level talent. There's no questioning his capability with X's and O's, but you can't win in the Big East when there is no talent on your roster. NBA Lottery picks are going to destroy your average Conference USA caliber athlete (just look at Memphis) and that's what Wainwright had been recruiting. Him stepping down at this precise moment came from a lot of factors, but I think the early dismissal was probably a good thing for the coach and the program. No one wanted Wainwright to have to attempt to coach on the sidelines while hobbling on crutches and the program needed a breath of fresh air. Last season at Allstate Arena felt like a long drawn out death spiral for the program and at least now there has been a resolution and action will be taken at the end of the season.

Can you give us a sign of hope regarding DePaul?

Signs of hope? Hmm... Will Walker is the only senior on the roster. The injuries to Mac Koshwal might force him to stay in college for his senior season. The team played with a tremendous amount of effort for Tracy Webster against Providence. There really is no beacon of light right now and I think that's why places like the Chicago Tribune are asking if anyone can win at DePaul anymore. The first challenge of a new coach will be to instill some hope in the fan base.

There are many people that root for DPU to keep depressed, because of the idea that it benefits Marquette if DPU is not as good. Your thoughts?

I don't think DePaul being down benefits Marquette that much, especially since Buzz Williams became head coach. His recruiting connections don't seem to be in the Chicago area. Two easy wins against DePaul every season might seem helpful, but it hurts the Big East's reputation and gives Marquette the chance to get some ugly losses. Personally I think it's better for the Big East if every program is humming along. There will always be cycles, but DePaul hasn't been in an upswing ever in the Big East. If it never does it'll be an anchor for the conference, and that's definitely not a good thing.

With big man Mac Koshwal out 2-4 weeks, which players should we focus on for Wednesday's game?

The player that has really stepped up since the firing of Jerry Wainwright has been Mike Stovall. The junior is listed as a forward, but at 6'5" he'd much prefer to slash to the basket and make plays. He has the athleticism to play in the Big East, but he's more of a streak shooter. Against Providence he was hot and scored 30 points, against St. John's he was cold and scored 11. He wasn't getting much playing time under Wainwright, but Tracy Webster seems to feel he's a very important guy for the rotation. He's the guy to watch.


Thanks John!

Gametime is set for 8pm Marquette Standard Time on Wednesday night. Fans can watch the game on the BIG EAST Network. Marquette enters the game at 11-6 overall and a respectable 2-3 in conference play.

Is the proverbial cavalry coming for the Warriors? There's been plenty of anticipation about the possible return of Junior Cadougan to the active roster. The freshman was thought to be lost for the season with an Achilles tendon injury but recent comments from Buzz Williams indicate that help might be on the way. Of course, the basketball gods giveth and taketh away -- on Tuesday MU announced that big man Yous Mbao will now miss up to six weeks with a knee strain.

The Blue Demons are lousy and reeling, off to an 0-5 start in conference play and 7-10 overall. Last time out DePaul was smoked 67-47 by St Johns in Queens. Sadly the Demons even to Florida Gulf Coast in their final tune-up for BIG EAST action.

Linksy Linksy Linksy

Prov Game Videos..

Monday, January 18, 2010

MU now top 3-point team in the country at 43.4%

Treys, defensive steals and rebounds spell great shot at NCAA bid - so does Buzz activate Cadougan for Lazar's final run?

I know some of you believe I overanalyze stats sometimes, but this one is cut and dry. Mo Acker nailed all 6 of his treys Sunday and MU went 13 of 21 from behind the arc to finish the night as the best 3-point shooting team in the country at 43.4%. Sunday showed how MUs incredible 3-point shooting, defensive rebounding and ability to steal the ball could be enough to propel them into the NCAA tourney in March.

1. THREE-POINT DOMINATION. Last week I wrote about the “3-pointer trio” of David Cubillan, Darius Johnson-Odom and Mo Acker, and by the end of Sunday night they had hit more than half (87 of 172) of their three pointers this season. They were averaging 5 of 10 per game from behind the arc coming into Sunday, and then Buzz threw Providence a curve by starting all three of them and they gave Buzz an extra 5 treys above their average at 10 for 15 for the game. MU had not finished in the top 130 in 3-point percentage since Steve Novak graduated. That is the biggest reason (along with rarely turning the ball over) that MU scores 1.18 points per trip down the court to have the 7th best offense of 347 Division I teams.

2. NO SECOND SHOTS FOR OPPONENTS. MUs “Stud Trio” of Dwight Buycks, Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler have boxed out everyone all year to combine to grab almost half of all opponent’s missed shots between the three of them. Believe it or not, with Joe Fulce starting to get more minutes MU is now statistically one of the top defensive rebounding teams in the country. They combined to allow Providence, one of the top 10 offensive rebounding teams in the country, to grab only eight of their 36 misses (22% compared to their 40%+ average). Jamine Peterson came in averaging more than 10 rpg, but after being shut down for only one defensive rebound in 18 minutes he was frustrated and ejected from the game.

3. ONE OF BEST 7 TEAMS AT STEALING THE BALL. How important is the fact that MU steals the ball more than one of every eight times times the opponent brings the ball down the court? Consider that only six of the other 72 teams in “BCS” conferences steal the ball more than MU – and all but one of them are among the top 14 teams in the country (#7 Duke, #3 Kansas, #4 Nova, California, #14 BYU and #11 West Virginia are the only teams better than MU at stealing the ball). Sunday against one of the fastest teams in the country, MU stole the ball nine more times while allowing the Friars only three steals.

So MU often steals the ball before you can shoot, rarely let’s you have a second shot if you do get off a shot, and once MU gets the ball back with a steal or defensive rebound we nail three-pointers at the other end of the court at a dizzying pace as the 7th best offense in the country (based on points per offensive trip).


So how will MU look on Selection Sunday in light of the 11-6 record due to the close losses early on in the season? MU has four easy conference wins (DePaul twice and Rutgers and USF at home) that they must take care of – so just those wins would guaranty a 15-win season.

MU then needs one big road win at either Syracuse (the most difficult), UConn or Cincinnati for the resume, and if they get just one of those three they have 16 wins and the crucial big road victory to add to two big neutral court victories (Xavier and Michigan) for the resume.

Basically, Providence was the first of seven “other” games in which MU should be narrow but not prohibitive favorites – so with one of these seven games taken care of, MU needs to go 4-2 in six similar games down the stretch (at Providence, Pitt, at SJU, at SH and finally Lville and ND the final week). All six of those teams are better than NC State, which gave MU it’s one bad loss of the season, so Sunday was a good test of whether or not MU could handle most of those teams the rest of the season or if MU would have to fight through close wins. I’d say the 93-63 final score indicates MU could certainly go 4-2 even assuming a couple of nights of cooler shooting.

If that happens with one big road win, MU projects to finish 11-7 to finish 6th in the Big East behind only Syracuse, Nova, Pitt, WVU and Georgetown, one game ahead of Louisville and two games ahead of UConn and Notre Dame. (see www.kenpom.com for projections)

Not a huge margin of error, as going just 2-4 instead of 4-2 in those key six games could drop MU to 9th place in the Big East at 18-12 overall and in the NIT. However, if MU shoots treys, steals the ball and boxes out half as well as they did Sunday, they will get their one big road win and go at least 4-2 in the “other six” and be travelling to an NCAA location, particularly since one Big East tourney win is likely to make it 21-11.

THE CADOUGAN QUESTION. If MU keeps winning these games, then the question becomes whether Buzz take the red shirt off Junior Cadougan to give MU the depth of a 10th scholarship player that would let them really turn up the steals and survive foul trouble or a turned ankle down the stretch and really see how far this team can go. Junior looked completely loose and fast going through drills before the Providence game, and it sure will get tempting if MU continues to play like this. Obviously, we could regret it in 2013-14, but it must be tempting after Sunday to see just how good MUs top recruit from the class of 2009 could be down the stretch while keeping everyone else’s legs fresh even while pressing …

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Providence game may indicate how far Stud Trio, Tall Trio and 3-pointer Trio can take MU

Since fully recovering from an ankle injury, Dwight Buycks has joined Jimmy Butler and Lazar Hayward to form a “Stud Trio” that rarely sits on the bench. Buycks has played 150 of 160 minutes of Big East play, and has now played more minutes than Lazar for the season despite that injury.

Sunday’s game against Providence may indicate if Buzz will tend more toward having the Stud Trio joined by two of his “3-pointer Trio” (Darius Johnson-Odom, Maurice Acker and David Cubillan are averaging making an incredible five out of 10 three-pointers every game), or keep one of that Trio and one member of the “Tall Trio” on the court (Joe Fulce, Erik Williams and 7-foot-2 Youssoupha Mbao).

Sunday’s game also may indicate if MU can really finish 11-7 and in the top half of the Big East, as forecast by www.kenpom.com, and it will be interesting to see if Buzz keeps one of the Tall Trio on the court for more than 20 minutes, which he has done the last two games, or goes back to the small line-up most of the time.

Where can MU finish?

If we start by looking at where www.kenpom.com now forecasts each team to finish, we get the following breakdown:

Double Bye: Syracuse 14-4, WVU 13-5, Pitt 12-6, Gtown 12-6

Bye: Nova 11-7, Lville 11-7, MARQUETTE 11-7, UConn 10-8

Trying to knock MU out of Top Half: Notre Dame 9-9, Cincy 8-10, Seton Hall 8-10, USF 7-11, Providence 6-12, SJU 6-12

Bottom again: Rutgers 3-15, DePaul 3-15

Providence is the first of seven games MU plays against teams that could threaten us for the top half. With the three other teams in MUs quartet (Nova, Lville and UConn) on the upswing, it is quite possible MU will need to play well to hold down the crucial 8th spot in the standings.

MU has shown they can rise to the occasion to battle the best in the country. Sunday, MU needs to assert itself it can take care of business in the first of seven games against these middle teams. While those seven teams are all ranked behind MU, they are all ranked ahead of NC State, which came into the Bradley Center and won. Providence has already won what www.kenpom.com rates as BIG road upsets at Northeastern (which has since won 7 straight including at VCU), George Washington (11-3) and St. John’s (74-59 blowout), so they could be a true threat on Sunday.

A double digit win for MU could indicate that with Buycks healthy, MU is now playing at another level and can expect to win at least five of these seven games which should put MU in the top half of the Big East. A struggle or loss Sunday may indicate those seven will all be battles, and MU could well need a season ending win against Notre Dame to finish in the top half and get a bye. The great news is that with the soft end to the schedule, if MU does distant itself from these middle teams it could result in winning the last nine games of the season. Adding one upset in the Big East Tourney could give MU an 11-1 record in the “last 12 games played” category that the NCAA committee reviews.

How MU has avoided making this just a rebuilding year

When Buzz Williams took over it looked like the cupboard would be bare this season with Lazar Hayward on his own. Buzz’s apparent incredible knack for spotting JUCO talent has enabled MU to reload amazingly quickly, and here is a look at the three trios that have emerged on MUs roster.

Trio 1: Stud Trio

Buycks (6-foot-3) gives MU a big rebounding guard it needs with the lack of overall side. When an opponent misses a shot, 48.85 of the time the rebound is grabbed by Hayward (21.0%), Butler (15.8%) or Buycks (12.0%). Hayward is the unselfish leader; averaging 18.3 ppg and 9.3 rpg in the Big East, and playing great defense that resulted in 6-foot-11 future lottery pick Greg Monroe of Georgetown to single digits. When I noted that Jimmy Butler was ranked as the 2nd best offensive player in the US by www.kenpom.com I got one harsh criticism because he had just missed some free throws while dead tired against Florida State. Well, he has hit 57 of 66 free throws since then (86%). He is the third best player in the country at drawing fouls.

In fact, in addition to everything else they do, the Stud Trio has combined to hit an incredible 166 of 208 free throws for 80% to help make MU the second best free throw shooting team in the conference.

Trio 2: 3-point Trio

Darius Johnson-Odom, or DJO, is actually scoring even more than Buycks despite shorter playing time. He appears on the verge of being an unstoppable scoring star, while Acker and Cubillan have turned into steady seniors. While they are different in that way, the three incredible 3-point shooters that also force a lot of steals. Their shooting has helped make MU the 7th best 3-point shooting team in the country at 42.1% and the 10th best offense in the country at 1.17 points per trip down the court.






Trio 3: Tall Trio

The question for Buzz is when is it best to have two of the 3-point Trio on the court, and when does he want to just leave one of them out there so he can bring in one of the Tall Trio – usually Fulce.

In his last game before transferring from MU, 6-foot-5 Jeronne Maymon scored four points in 22 minutes, including 2 of 6 free throw shooting. The three players on the team 6-foot-7 or taller (Fulce, Williams and 7-foot-2 Mbao) combined for 11 minutes that game. They averaged a combined 11 minutes in the first two Big East games, but then played 21 minutes against Georgetown and 20 minutes at Nova.

When Fulce is on the court he grabs 23.1% of opponents’ missed shots, so combined with the Stud Trio’s aforementioned 48.85%, Fulce’s presence can give MU 72% of opponents misses. Even in limited time, he has combined with the Stud Trio to help vertically challenged MU defense grab the defensive rebound 71.6% of misses, the 33rd best total in the country. If Fulce has another four of five shooting day like he did yesterday at Nova, Buzz may decide to leave him on the court longer.
As you can see from the stats below, MU is better off with the Tall Trio taking minutes that would have gone to Maymon.


Joe Fulce, 6-foot-7

Erik Williams, 6-7

Youssoupha Mbao, 7-2

Combo per 40 minutes

Jeronne Maymon per 40

While I do believe Jeronne Maymon would have really helped MU in the long-term, absent Tim Maymon, the fact is MU gets just as many rebounds and points per game with those minutes going to one of the taller players. MU also gets one taller player on the court for opponents to shoot over, and gives MU about an extra steal, assist and blocked shot then they would have gotten from Maymon.

Buzz now has the option of having two dead on 3-pointer shooters on the court in addition to the Buycks-Hayward-Butler Trio that is rarely sitting, or settling for one of the 3-point shooting guards to get a productive 6-foot-7 or better player on the court. Let's hope the two options allow him to adjust to a given opponent, and help MU continue the streak of 10 or more conference wins and an NCAA bid well ahead of schedule.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Road Warriors head to Villanova

With the proverbial wind at their backs, Buzz Williams' crew heads into Villanova on Saturday with revenge on their mind. The Wildcats have topped MU in heartbreaking fashion in each of the last two meetings between the BIG EAST rivals, a fact certainly not lost in the Warriors' locker room.

Tipoff is set for 1pm Marquette Standard Time at the Pavilion in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The game will be broadcast on Full Court and ESPN360.

As for the Wildcats, Jay Wright's club is deeper than ever and off to a fast start. The 6th ranked Wildcats are now 13-1 having topped MU and DePaul last week.

To get ready for the game we went back to a popular format, Know Your Opponent. Today we've invited Chris Lane from I Bleed Blue and White to share his thoughts about the Wildcats as they prepare for MU. Chris is the lead writer for I Bleed Blue and White, one of the best blogs you'll find on any BIG EAST program.

What are the Pennsylvania laws against kidnapping Scottie Reynolds and keeping him hostage during the game? How much jail time are we talking about?

Considering our police are giving the business to 7-year olds for lemonade stands, we're probably talking the death-penalty for a kidnapping. Then again, if you attempted to actually take Jesus out of his dorm by force, you'd receive a stoning of biblical proportions from the 'Nova students.

But by all means, go ahead and try.

Villanova received good news when freshman big man Mouphtaou Yarou returned to action this week. How might his return change the Wildcats' approach on Saturday?

It's really too early to tell. He's been working out solo since he was sidelined, so he's definitely not out of shape, but he's also not ready to make a big impact because of the time he lost. These games are really his first games for all intents and purposes.

One thing it does add though, is front-court depth. Antonio Pena has stepped up this year, but it's tough to be the lone guy down low (as we saw vs. you last week). Our smaller guys have tried to help, but Yarou's presence should provide that help that we need to survive what should be a brutal conference.

Antonio Pena might be the BIG EAST's most improved player....are the Wildcats becoming a more balanced team than we've seen in years past? What has been the biggest reason for Pena's emergence this year?

He studied under some pretty good tweeners in Dante Cunningham and Shane Clark. He learned about the toughness aspect of our team's approach. He's always had the body and skill, but not the mental makeup. We're finally starting to see him emerge as not only a better player, but a team leader.

I can't lie, the balance is great. As much as I loved the 4-guard lineup that was deployed in 2005, it would much better last year when you could argue the strength of our team late in the year was our frontcourt. I'd love for that trend to continue, even though we'll always be known as Guard-U.

During the Wright Era, the Wildcats typically have been an undersized bunch but so far this season his squad is one of the best rebounding teams in the BIG EAST. Is Wright recruiting and developing better baseline talent, or has the 'small ball' scheme evolved?

Taylor King had one of the better quotes I've heard, which went something like, "At Duke, defense and rebounding wasn't important. If you don't play it here, you're not gonna play. So I'm gonna do that stuff." At that's the mentality our team takes on. If you aren't busting your ass, diving on the floor, and hitting the glass hard, you are going to find yourself on the bench.

Isaiah Armwood is a great example of another guy who has bought into that. He doesn't have much of an offensive game right now, but he's active and he tries to work harder than the other 9 guys on the court. And he's been rewarded with minutes. That type of attitude is really what defines our team, and allows us to win consistently despite being out-sized much of the time.

Looking at the Wildcats year to year it is interesting to note that last year's bunch was 15th in the nation in defensive efficiency but this year you are 89th. Why have the Wildcats have taken a step back defensively this season?

No Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark, and Dante Cunningham. And A LOT of new players. Six new bodies have seen action this season, and really two of them (Wayns and Cheek) have been up to speed defensively. Also, Reggie Redding, our best defender, was out for the 1st half. That really hurt as we didn't have a stopper.

I think as the year goes on and the freshman learn about playing college ball, we'll be better. But it is a little frightening when to win, you have to score 90 points (happened a few times this year). I'll take a 60-52 win every day over a 90-88 win. And I'm sure most of my BIG EAST brethren would agree with me.

Prediction time...

I'm not going to lie, I'm scared. You've shaken off the close-game bug. You are sore over our last 2 meetings, AND the whooping we laid on your at our place last year. I like Buzz as a coach, and Lazar Hayward scares the shit out of me. Plus, our student body is still on winter break. And coming off a snoozefest against DePaul, this screams trap.

But I think we edge you out 78-72 in the end.

Chris, thanks so much for your time and expertise -- we greatly appreciate it. Good luck the rest of the way (after tomorrow, of course).

Links of Note

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Marquette closes out Georgetown

Marquette claimed its first BIG EAST win of the season tonight with a 62-59 triumph over the 12th ranked Georgetown Hoyas. Shedding the weight of consecutive soul crushing defeats, the gritty Warriors closed out the Hoyas late by nailing clutch free throws and stringing together a series of defensive stops in the game's waning moments to secure the victory. The Hoyas scored just two points in the final two minutes of the game.

David Cubillan, the greatest player in Marquette history tonight, led the Warriors with 18 points on six three-pointers. Marquette was outscored 32-6 in the paint but countered with a dazzling night of long-range shooting, nailing a dozen three-pointers (12-26, 46%). In fact the Warriors made more three-pointers, 12, than two-pointers tonight, 9.

Lazar Hayward finished with another double-double, 12 points and 11 boards. Dwight Buycks finished with 10 while Jimmy Butler chipped in with 9 points.

With the victory Marquette improves to 10-5 on the season and 1-2 in BIG EAST play.

Media Updates

Reeeling Warriors look to end skid against Hoyas

I had every intention of doing an eloquent preview of tonight's game between the Warriors and the Hoyas ..... then I read John Pudner's stellar Q/A over at the Casual Hoya and thought better of it.

Seriously, read all about it here. Pudner rocks.

MU v GU tips off tonight at 7pm Marquette Standard Time at the Bradley Center.

One thing to watch for tonight -- celebrate if David Cubillan snares his first rebound in BIG EAST play. The senior has yet to corral a board in 56 minutes of game action, surely some sort of record. Also, Cubillan's next assist will be his second in BIG EAST play this season. Meanwhile, the youthful but more talented Erik Williams continues to sit based on his performances in practice.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Marquette impersonates Shelley Levene

Marquette stole defeat from the jaws of victory once again yesterday, falling 74-72 to the Villanova Wildcats. As we've seen in each of MU's four other close losses, the Warriors fail to execute in crunch time. Whether it's inexcusable defensive breakdowns, missed free throws, or failing to execute offensively the Warriors can't close.

For now this team is playing like Shelley Levene though it takes modeling a beast like Blake to close in the BIG EAST. This team needs to close.

A. B. C.

With the loss the Warriors fell to 9-5 on the season. Already 0-2 in the BIG EAST, Marquette hosts Georgetown on January 6.

Friday, January 01, 2010

MU Takes on Villanova

After a tough loss to WVU, Marquette returns home to face off against Villanova. Just like last year, MU opens at home against Villanova. Game time is 2:30 Milwaukee time. After last year's Final Four run, Villanova was the BE Coaches choice to finish first in conference. MU is obviously rebuilding, injured, and only picked to finish twelfth, so easy road win for Villanova, right? The #8/#8 team should roll even in an away game.

Not. So. Fast.

Early in the season, Villanova hasn't exactly been killing it. Honestly, Villanova's been pretty damn pedestrian so far. According to the stats, they're not top twenty in anything except offensive efficiency (#17). Want to know which team is right above them in offensive efficiency? Yeah... the good guys (#16). In fact, according to Pomeroy's overall rankings, Marquette (#20) is rated higher than Villanova (#35). In some more craziness, Pomeroy favors us as 73% favorites (6 point victors) tomorrow. Not only that, but for the first time this season, we're busting out our prediction model and it favors Marquette as a 90% favorite to win (14 point victor).

How does Marquette take home the victory?

  • Make shots. MU has been #27 in the country at effective Field Goal percentage (eFG%)
  • Keep Nova from making shots. Believe it or not, but Villanova hasn't been all that good at eFG% (#86 in the country)
  • Offensive rebounding (on both sides). First, keep Villanova off the offensive glass. Second, pound the offensive boards
  • Finally, force turnovers. Villanova has been okay at protecting the ball, but MU has been pretty good at forcing turnovers. MU has to win this matchup
In short, even though MU lost to WVU earlier this week, what we saw is that MU could be very competitive against good teams, so don't be surprised if we're celebrating an upset win Saturday night.

Check out the following links for more info

Buzz' media availability

DJO and Butler media availability

And now from a few of the Villanova blogs