"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

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Despite losses, 2 best performances since Otule injury a great sign

While the two losses this week will almost certainly drop Marquette out of the Top 25, the two strong performances broke a miserable 7-game stretch since Chris Otule was injured. As the graph of Game Scores (Margin of victory/defeat + Opponent + or - for home or away), Marquette played like a Top 10 team (90 or higher) six of seven games with Otule, including playing like a national champion (100 or higher) in three of those games.

In the first seven games without Otule, Marquette played like a team that did not belong in the top 100 twice (LSU and Vandy) and barely played like a Top 25 team at all during any of the games. That changed this week when Marquette played like a Top 10 team (90 or higher) at Georgetown, and like a solid Top 25 team at Syracuse. The two games also offer hope because these were by far the toughest two games of the season, AND they were against two of the tallent five teams in the country.

While not returning to early season form, it appeared MU was starting to figure out how to win games without the 6-foot-11 shotblocker who, despite his excellent defense, should not account for the team being 10 to 20 points worse in the first 7 games without him.

The encouraging signs this week include:

Vander Blue showing no fear with a desperately needed 3-pointer in a day that included 9 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists against the No. 1 team in the country.

Crowder and Gardner scoring 24 points while taking just 16 shots against the Syracuse trees.

Junior and DJO both going to the hoop fearlessly for 10 and 19.

On the downsiide, MU could have beaten a #1 team for the second time in history with any kind of 3-point shooting (their season average on 26 shots would have won), or bench scoring (Jamil wilson and Todd Mayo both had 4 rebounds, but the bench had 4 points in 45 minutes).

I have been made fun of in the past for complementing the team for keeping it within single digits against great teams, but these performances were much more impressive than the very weak performances against Villanova and Washington. If MU plays like this week the rest of the Big East season, they could quickly be back on track for 10 or 12 Big East wins again and a solid seed.

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