"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Thursday, November 18, 2010

4 studs and plenty of other contributors as Duke game nears

After stomping UW-Green Bay 89-69 last night at the Bradley Center, four days from now MU will have a chance to beat a No. 1 ranked team for the second time in history (think Wade dunking on Kentucky over and over for the first). Let’s get the one negative out of the way – MU has got to use the South Dakota game Saturday to figure out how to contest three pointers after getting burnt for 8 of 17 from behind the arc – even worse than the 40%+ allowed the first two games.

The defense has been great at pressuring, but if we leave Duke players open for three (48% as a team so far), it will be a very long Monday night. With that out of the way, Dick Vitale was right when he said while Butler was being beaten by Louisville (the team picked to tie for 8th with Marquette in the Big East), that MU was going to be a lot better than people thought.

4 studs plus many surprises and centers

The fact is that through three games, MU has four studs returning stars Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom, MUs first 5-star Vander Blue and JUCO player of the year Jae Crowder. But we’ve had 4 studs before (3 Amigos and Lazar etc). The big deal this year is that MU has shown the depth is ahead of where we thought, and we have guys who can play inside.

According to the ratings (www.kenpom.com) Marquette’s competition has gotten a little tougher each game during a 3-0 start that included an 89-69 win over Green Bay last night.

One thing that has been consistent is Davante Gardner, who has played between 11 and 13 minutes in each game for a total of 36 minutes. Try these stats out for Davante in basically one full game of action at the collegiate level:

39 points on 74% shooting from the floor and 73% from the line, 15 rebounds, 3 blocked shots, 2 assists

When it was reported that Marquette had recruited the 6-foot-9, 285 pound 3 star out of Virginia last year, it was assumed it would take a couple of years to get him in Division I shape. However, he went on to be named 1st team All-State in Virginia and he certainly is the biggest surprise, albeit through just three games against lesser opponents.

At very least, it doesn’t look like Big East foes will be pushing around another tiny Marquette team this year.

The surprises like Gardner are key because coming into the year there were four players who could dominate on any given night – returning stars Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom, MUs first 5-star Vander Blue and JUCO player of the year Jae Crowder. The question was how many of the very talented new players could contribute right away to give MU the kind of depth needed to turn up the pressure.

Pressure defense

Three days after forcing 18 turnovers against one of the best teams at protecting the ball (Bucknell), MU forced six more turnovers in the first 10 minutes against Green Bay. That run was capped by a steal and layup by Vander Blue to make it 27-13. By the time DJO fed Blue on a break it was 51-28 with 2:09 to go in the half.

Brian Wardle’s team played tough throughout and did actually keep the margin within 20 for most of the second half, but the game was never in doubt.

Jae Crowder continues to impersonate Lazar Hayward, doing everything tonight with 17 points, 9 rebounds, an assist, 2 steals and a spike blocked shot – one of 7 rejections for MU after an incredible 11 on Sunday.

With Vander Blue continuing to be the smoothest player on the court with 14 points, it is clear Marquette does have the four anticipated studs, and with Chris Otule rejecting 4 more shots in just 11 minutes MU does at least have options with two big men.

That leaves the big preseason question of whether or not any of MUs three point guards were really ready to run the point. The key assist/turnover ratio looked good last night with Dwight Buycks (6/1 and 10 of the first 22 MU points) and Junior Cadougan (4-1) taking care of the ball. After this game and his stellar performance to key the comeback against Bucknell, it looks like Cadougan is the sure handed point to run the offense, and Reggie Smith is the lightning fast pressure to pick the opposing point guard on defense.

But Buzz’s preference still may be to have senior Milwaukee native Buycks at the point. After battling through injuries last year and infuriating me by constantly shooting from just inside the 3-point line, Buycks is also showing the long range ability he was supposed to have coming out of JUCO. Buycks 3-point shooting has really been incredible, as he has made 7 of 10 three-pointers, most from a couple of feet past the arc, and all three of his misses have been shots he had to take because the shot clock was expiring.

A lot of good things happening with just four days to go before the ultimate test in Duke.

Oh, DJO can fly. Here's the top play from last night, regardless of sport.

Brad Galli of MUTV Sports recaps the grounding of the Phoenix

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

DJO gets Top Play on SporrtsCenter...