Marquette Golden Eagles
Good Wins: Northern Iowa, Villanova, West Virginia, @Providence
Bad Losses: @South Florida
1. Dribble Penetration. A lot of their scoring comes off penetration. Most of their scoring plays begin on the wing or the high elbow. The dribble weave made famous by Michigan State’s Tom Izzo begins most of the Eagles’ possessions. The guards take good care of the ball too, rarely spilling the pumpkin. Only West Virginia has a better turnover margin as compared to opponents.
2. Camaraderie. They love playing with each other. You can see it from the way their offense runs. Five passes at a minimum on each halfcourt set. The guards eagerly swing the ball and take equal joy in the successful shots of others. When players suffer through a coaching change they inevitably grow closer to each other. The turmoil forces this bonding upon them. It helped Dee Brown and Deron Williams at Illinois (2005) and 1989 Michigan’s Rumeal Robinson and Sean Higgins.
1. Defensive Rebounding. Small bodies and immense hearts. The Marquette seniors have battled the same demons their entire basketball careers. Other players are taller and wider. Only with sheer effort and cartoonish hops do they get any rebounds at all. Later in games they get killed on the defensive boards. Most of their rebounds come from big leaps. Late in games, their bodies tell their minds, “not this time.” The mind isn’t as eager to tell the body to take flight.
2. Stopping Penetrating Guards. The problem in the past, Edgar Sosa and Mitch Johnson (Stanford), and now is keeping quick dribblers out of the lane. Villanova exposed the weakness with Scottie Reynolds obliterating Marquette’s guards. Unable to dissuade the jets from penetrating is a curable problem, if a shot-blocker backs you up. MU has no such weapon.
Bench: Hardly evident. Texan Jimmy Butler chips in 4.4 ppg and 3.7 rpg. Maurice Acker, McNeal’s high school teammate, handles the ball ok and generates a little offense when he enters. For the most part, the starting five are the whole show.
The Departing: Wesley Matthews, Jerel McNeal, Dominic James, and Dwight Burke are outgoing seniors. If David Cubillan returns he will be unfamiliar to Marquette faithful as his shooting shoulder had work done on it that would make Tommy John cringe. The three backcourt mates won’t play any harder because the end of the line is near. Their entire career has been full throttle. Emptying the tank is commonplace for the trio.
One and done. It’s simply a shame that the late-season NCAA junkies will never know the basketball beauty that DJ and McSteal create. These two guys will end their careers with perhaps 2 total tournament wins. And it’s a shame. Tom Crean never brought in a big man to supplement his bread and butter. With a serviceable big these guys could have been Illini ’05 or Nova ’04. They are that explosive and that enjoyable to watch.