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Thus it begins: Marquette men’s basketball is here

Posted on 18 November 2009 by Joe Beres

Thus it begins: Marquette men’s
basketball is here
Joe Beres
The Marquette Golden Eagles, led by Jimmy Butler, manhandled the Centenary Gents 85-62 last Friday and walked away with a win in the opening game of the season. The win came without the help of the big three who graduated last year and left Marquette with only one of their starters from last year and little chance of being a legitimate Big East contender. Okay, so it was Centenary, a school with less than two thousand students and a team that had lost its two best players from transfers. And yes, it is a school that is starting a transition from a Division I school all the way down to Division III. I get all that and yet I am still impressed by Marquette’s performance Friday night.
There are three big reasons why I loved Friday’s game, the first and foremost being that MU basketball has officially kicked off. Another reason is that Jimmy Butler was able to take the team on his shoulders and slice the Gents’ D for a career high 27 points and that is not even mentioning his 13 boards. This is huge because it shows Buzz and the rest of MU nation that all the pressure may not have to be placed on Lazar Hayward. Butler is apparently ready to help in the role of the team’s star player. In fact, we could be looking at a dynamic duo, something that was not expected earlier in the year. Seeing If Butler can continue to light up the score board like that he may be able to fly under the radar up until Big East play. That is because teams are still going to be expecting the same player that averaged only 5.6 points a game last year. Yes truth be told we must realize that we were not playing the most defensively gifted team, but still 27 points is 27 points. From the looks of it he is going to be a threat to put up a double-double every night. However, it obviously was not just Butler playing out there and the entire team looked sharp and was able to avoid an early roadblock against Centenary.
Conveniently that leads to the third reason why Friday left me feeling pretty good about our squad this year. The fact that we beat the Gents soundly is a good sign because in the past Marquette has let lesser teams hang around in games, provided those teams survive the opening minutes. I know what you might be saying, Centenary was leading at one point with nine minutes left in the first, how is that a good sign? Well here’s how, we were able to overcome a slight surge by the Gents (10 point run) and soundly put them away for the rest of the game. I for one found this to be a good sign because there is nothing worse than being in the spot Mississippi St. is in and lose the home opener. That is not even considering the fact that it was a loss to a team that was supposed to increase the post season résumé. This win is important considering the fact that Marquette is going to need every win it can get its hands on if the NCAA tournament is going to be a legitimate goal. Plus, Marquette has had a past of letting lesser opponents hang around, and let a fluff game become an early nail biter that no fan wants to see at home in November.
It was hard to tell whether or not Friday was a good example of what we will be looking at in the coming games. Buzz used a lot of guys and gave everyone decent minutes and if anyone remembers last year, a deep bench is not really Buzz’s style. Eight players saw more than fifteen minutes of playing time on Friday and that should tell us that he is trying to get everyone as much playing time as possible. However, the fact that Acker saw less than half the game is a little concerning considering he became a team saving replacement ball-handler once James went down last year. Whether he sat out because Cubillan has gotten that much better or he does not need the minutes as much is still yet to be seen but it is something to keep your eye out for over the next couple games. Dwight Buycks looked good in his MU debut and looks ready to handle the role of being a starter in his first year in D-I. There are still questions that Marquette needs to answer such as who will be getting the majority of the playing time, but that is going to be addressed over the next couple games.
With a few more games against teams from small conferences, it is going to be important for Marquette to ready themselves for a much tougher stretch of games. The next couple of weeks are going to be strong indicators as to how this team of new faces can handles a tough field in the Old Spice Classic. However, we can worry about that when the times comes. For now let us enjoy a sound start and hope the strong play continues. Plus MD-Eastern Shore and Grambling St. should be fun blow-outs to watch, so stop by the Bradley Center to cheer on our team

The Marquette Golden Eagles, led by Jimmy Butler, manhandled the Centenary Gents 85-62 last Friday and walked away with a win in the opening game of the season. The win came without the help of the big three who graduated last year and left Marquette with only one of their starters from last year and little chance of being a legitimate Big East contender. Okay, so it was Centenary, a school with less than two thousand students and a team that had lost its two best players from transfers. And yes, it is a school that is starting a transition from a Division I school all the way down to Division III. I get all that and yet I am still impressed by Marquette’s performance Friday night.

There are three big reasons why I loved Friday’s game, the first and foremost being that MU basketball has officially kicked off. Another reason is that Jimmy Butler was able to take the team on his shoulders and slice the Gents’ D for a career high 27 points and that is not even mentioning his 13 boards. This is huge because it shows Buzz and the rest of MU nation that all the pressure may not have to be placed on Lazar Hayward. Butler is apparently ready to help in the role of the team’s star player. In fact, we could be looking at a dynamic duo, something that was not expected earlier in the year. Seeing If Butler can continue to light up the score board like that he may be able to fly under the radar up until Big East play. That is because teams are still going to be expecting the same player that averaged only 5.6 points a game last year. Yes truth be told we must realize that we were not playing the most defensively gifted team, but still 27 points is 27 points. From the looks of it he is going to be a threat to put up a double-double every night. However, it obviously was not just Butler playing out there and the entire team looked sharp and was able to avoid an early roadblock against Centenary.

Conveniently that leads to the third reason why Friday left me feeling pretty good about our squad this year. The fact that we beat the Gents soundly is a good sign because in the past Marquette has let lesser teams hang around in games, provided those teams survive the opening minutes. I know what you might be saying, Centenary was leading at one point with nine minutes left in the first, how is that a good sign? Well here’s how, we were able to overcome a slight surge by the Gents (10 point run) and soundly put them away for the rest of the game. I for one found this to be a good sign because there is nothing worse than being in the spot Mississippi St. is in and lose the home opener. That is not even considering the fact that it was a loss to a team that was supposed to increase the post season résumé. This win is important considering the fact that Marquette is going to need every win it can get its hands on if the NCAA tournament is going to be a legitimate goal. Plus, Marquette has had a past of letting lesser opponents hang around, and let a fluff game become an early nail biter that no fan wants to see at home in November.

It was hard to tell whether or not Friday was a good example of what we will be looking at in the coming games. Buzz used a lot of guys and gave everyone decent minutes and if anyone remembers last year, a deep bench is not really Buzz’s style. Eight players saw more than fifteen minutes of playing time on Friday and that should tell us that he is trying to get everyone as much playing time as possible. However, the fact that Acker saw less than half the game is a little concerning considering he became a team saving replacement ball-handler once James went down last year. Whether he sat out because Cubillan has gotten that much better or he does not need the minutes as much is still yet to be seen but it is something to keep your eye out for over the next couple games. Dwight Buycks looked good in his MU debut and looks ready to handle the role of being a starter in his first year in D-I. There are still questions that Marquette needs to answer such as who will be getting the majority of the playing time, but that is going to be addressed over the next couple games.

With a few more games against teams from small conferences, it is going to be important for Marquette to ready themselves for a much tougher stretch of games. The next couple of weeks are going to be strong indicators as to how this team of new faces can handles a tough field in the Old Spice Classic. However, we can worry about that when the times comes. For now let us enjoy a sound start and hope the strong play continues. Plus MD-Eastern Shore and Grambling St. should be fun blow-outs to watch, so stop by the Bradley Center to cheer on our team.

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Loss to Villanova softened by McNeal

Posted on 12 February 2009 by Joe Beres

Marquette has been one of the toughest teams to beat in the Big East throughout the conference schedule. However, after a disappointing loss to University of South Florida it has become all too apparent to Marquette that there are no easy games in the Big East. At 9-1 in the Big East the prevailing opinion should be that Marquette is still in good position as far as the conference is concerned, but for any Marquette fan this game against Villanova was a must win.

Villanova has seen their Big East fortunes completely reversed after starting just 2-3 in the conference. The Wildcats have pulled off a convincing five game winning streak and find themselves looking to make it six and put themselves only two games behind first place University of Connecticut. With all these huge factors leading into Tuesday’s game there was no doubt that this was a game no true basketball fan would want to miss.

In a game that was as important as it was offensive, Marquette unfortunately could not pull off the needed win. Villanova just seemed unable to miss a shot in their offensive showcase against Marquette Tuesday, and although the Golden Eagles started off hot enough to stay ahead of Villanova they just could not score as much or as often against the Wildcats. The guard-oriented Golden Eagles were beat at their own game against the red-hot Wildcats who scored 100 points in consecutive Big East games for the first time in school history. They were able to utilize Marquette’s lack of depth as the game wore on and that depth allowed them to quell every potential run Marquette tried to string together.

Both teams were lighting up the boards offensively with each team shooting over 50 percent. But in every area that Marquette excelled, Villanova simply excelled more. Marquette shot 51 percent but Villanova shot 58, including 72 percent in the second half. Marquette hit 47 percent of their three balls but Villanova shot an insane 54 percent. It just seemed that when the Wildcats decided they wanted to score they would make a three pointer or drive in the lane and drop an easy two. The man behind the Wildcat’s scoring blaze was junior guard Scottie Reynolds who erupted on the Golden Eagles for 27 points, which included five three pointers. Marquette answered with 23 from McNeal – giving him the all-time Marquette scoring title – and with 22 from Lazar Hayward who was on fire early but cooled off significantly in the second half.

Villanova simply just kept the Golden Eagles at bay throughout the entire second half and kept them from ever getting closer than their five point halftime deficit. In the end it resulted in Villanova pulling away with a convincing 18-point victory and their sixth straight Big East win. Marquette looked poised to close the gap several times in the second half including back to back slam-dunks by James and McNeal, but Villanova would just hand the ball to Reynolds who would stroke a three without hesitation.

Offensively Marquette had a great game, and if it was any other shooting night for any other team, they would probably have walked away with a solid victory. However, when a team is as zoned into the basket as Villanova was on Tuesday, it takes an enormous defensive effort to stay in the game and the Marquette guards just did not seem up to the task.

There was one proud moment for Marquette. The Golden Eagles now have a new all-time leading scorer. McNeal, who started off the game shaky (started 1-7 for 3 pointers), rebounded well and was able to score 23 points which surpassed George Thompson’s 40-year-old record and now has 1,776 career points.

The Golden Eagles look to bounce back from this disappointing loss on Saturday against the bottom-feeding Red Storm of St. John’s at the Bradley Center.

This loss obviously hurts for any Marquette fan but the Golden Eagles need to get past it and seize the home stand before they run head on into the hardest part of their schedule.

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7-0: Marquette no longer small in the Big East

Posted on 29 January 2009 by Brian Henry

7-0… Really digest that for a moment.Jumpin’ Jesuits… WE’RE 7-0!!!

That’s about the reaction from almost every Marquette fan as they wake up today. If you haven’t checked out the newest Big East standings, you cannot help but smile when you look to the top of the 16 team list. 1. No. 8/8 Marquette 18-2 (7-0).

To put it plainly, this is awesome. But be wary Marquette Basketball fans, because in this conference, being the hunted is something new for this program. The history speaks for itself. The Golden Eagles have had at least two losses through five games in their first three seasons in the conference. Now they sit unblemished on top of an absurdly talented heap of good teams.

For the last three years, this program’s starts were not going to make opposing teams and fans sweat over the upcoming Marquette game on their schedule. A 7-0 start though… A win on the road against a ranked team… I do not care who you did it against, everyone is looking up at you.Everyone. The only problem now is they’ll be gunning for you too.

If Buzz Williams and his players wake up today and notice a strange itch developing on their backs, it might be the big red bullseye that grew overnight. And with every victory that bullseye will get bigger. Monday nights thriller against Notre Dame put the rest of the conference on alert. They have the attention of the so called “big boys” now, and they can certainly expect a rough go against them.This team isn’t sneaking up on anyone for the rest of the year.

Hey, you all wanted this. Now it’s time to put up or shut up. Saturday will bring will bring another talented Big East team to the Bradley Center that is desperate for a win. Georgetown cannot afford to lose this game. Expect the kitchen sink and then some on Saturday.

If this group gets to 8-0… 9-0… dare I say even 10-0 in conference play… with only four players scoring the basketball, Buzz Williams should get the Nobel Prize. Talk about getting the most out of your players. You could write a book on the things that this team lacks. And you could write another about overcoming adversity.

Understand this people… UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE DO YOU DOMINATE IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL PLAYING NO ONE TALLER THAN 6-FOOT-6. That doesn’t happen. Normally when coaches go to a lineup like that, it’s out of desperation, not confidence. This team plays cool, calm and collected when they’re six or seven inches shorter than the tallest guy on the floor.

I’ve always used one main criterion to determine a great team from a good one: Even when you don’t play well, you are still able to find ways to win games. In the past three seasons, if the Golden Eagles didn’t show up at the start of a game, they were dead in the water. Let the Providence game show that this trend is ending. Let Monday’s Notre Dame game show that this team has a killer instinct to match.

You can’t quite put your finger on it, but something is going on with this team. They just know how to make the extra pass. They just know how to come up with HUGE defensive stops. And the just have this innate quality to score more points than the other team.

They’re termites, all twelve of them. Even our big guys are termites (compared to what our expectation of what a “big guy” should look like). But like termites, they swarm you and they never go away. Just when you think you’ve driven them off, they’re in your face destroying your will to fight back. They demoralize you to the point where you shake your head and ask yourself what the heck happened?

The national media has begun to take notice. The student body is nearly in a frenzy. Alumni are holding their breath. And all the while Buzz Williams keeps his players focused on the next game ahead. Even with some irritated powerhouses looking up at one of the Big East’s newbies, it’s hard for fans to say they’ve never felt more confident.

Yeah, we might be termites, but we play like giants. Who knows, maybe we’re all witness to something special this season. You know, last time a Marquette team rattled off 10 straight wins in the middle of a season, they had a no name head coach, a bunch of players that had never won anything before, and an ability to frustrate teams into madness. They won a conference title and went to the Final Four.
Get on board everyone, because the bandwagon is about to fill up very quickly.

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Don’t look now, but Marquette is streaking

Posted on 29 January 2009 by Joe Beres

After shutting down Notre Dame, Marquette is off to its best conference start ever and has just won their tenth game overall. With such a strong start it’s hard not wonder just how much damage they can inflict in the Big East this season. Let’s take a peek at Marquette’s upcoming games and see just how well off Marquette could be, come March.

Georgetown: Georgetown like Notre Dame has a talented team who has lately not lived up to their potential. Georgetown’s season is quickly spiraling out of control and the desperately need a win, but an away game against a team as hot as Marquette does not bode well for a reeling Georgetown. This will likely be a close game but look for Marquette to pull away late in the second half and net a 74-65 victory.

Depaul: It’s hard to look at a game against Depaul and not want to look further down the schedule, and that is exactly what Marquette cannot do. This is still an away game in the Big East; therefore a game that can be lost, with that being said the Golden Eagles should be able to run away with this game winning by at least 15 points.
South Florida: The Bulls are a hardworking but generally overmatched Big East team who have given a scare to a couple of the big boys in the conference and can do so to Marquette if they are not careful. South Florida should still be overwhelmed by the big four of Marquette, and despite a second road game the Golden Eagles should be able to manage a double digit victory in The Sun Dome.

Villanova: The Wildcats are always dangerous with Scottie Reynolds leading the squad and the ‘Cats will be starving for a win after a tough game against Syracuse. This is going to be an extremely tough game for a Marquette team that will be facing its third straight road game. This looks like it could be the first Big East loss for the undefeated Golden Eagles although the game should go down to the wire.

St. John’s and Seton Hall: These two home games against the lower echelon of the Big East will be a welcomed breather for Marquette after an extended road trip and a good tune-up for the marathon performance that will be their last five games. These games will not be sleepers but as of now these two teams combine for a 3-11 Big East record and should not be too much to handle.

Georgetown: Georgetown is as tough as team as any at home and will need every win possible to solidify a decent seed come March. This will be a game that the Hoyas are going to need more than the Golden Eagles, who despite looking to finish first in the Big East, may not have as much to play for as GU. This game has the potential to be the closest game Marquette will have played since their victory against NC State, but look for Georgetown to end up on top in the end with a 72-70 win.
Connecticut: Connecticut is among the elite in all of college basketball and they will be coming into Milwaukee looking to hold a probable Big East lead. Although everyone would love to see Marquette upset the visiting Huskies, Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien look to be too much for the Golden Eagles and will probably hand Marquette their first consecutive loss of the season with a 71-60 victory at the Bradley Center.

Louisville and Pittsburgh: These two road games are going to be without a doubt the hardest two games Marquette will play this season and both are going to take near perfect efforts from every player to pull off any upset. Both Louisville and Pittsburgh are playing amazing basketball and look untouchable in the Big East. Marquette should provide two great games but in the end this road trip does not look good for the Golden Eagles and will put Marquette at four losses in Big East play.

Syracuse: For the first time this season Marquette will be in heavy need of a win as they will be looking to pull out of a four game rut. This game looks to be the single most important game that Marquette will play in the regular season as it will more than likely determine whether Marquette or Syracuse will get the fourth spot in the regular season standings and granted a pass to the quarterfinals in the Big East tournament. Syracuse is a scary team with Eric Devendorf and Johnny Flynn, but as far as guard oriented teams goes, there is none better than McNeal, Matthews, and James working together and their veteran leadership will be the key to victory. If this game were not in the Bradley the result might be different but the final home game for these three seniors will likely be their greatest career victory as Marquette ends up with a convincing 85-72 victory over the Orangemen.

Marquette has a chance to do a lot of damage in the Big East, and as long as they keep playing the caliber ball they are playing right now, they could potentially see as high as a #3 seed in the NCAA tournament. From that point on it’s as good a guess as any where this team could go, but it does not seem to be too unrealistic to see this team possibly reaching the Elite Eight in March. The most important thing that Marquette must do right now is approach each upcoming game one at a time, because once teams start looking ahead in their Big East schedule, that’s when the unexpected losses start showing up.

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Marquette plays Milwaukee Saturday: Cross-town rivals battle again

Posted on 21 November 2008 by Joe Beres

DominicJames

Even after a couple impressive early wins for our Marquette Golden Eagles this year, you get the feeling that the team is only looking to improve on their previous performances. They will be able to improve on those performances this Saturday with a cross-town battle against rival University Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The 16th-ranked Golden Eagles looked sharp last week with a win against Houston Baptist, a transitional Division I basketball team. With Matthews getting career high points (27) and assists (8), Marquette looked poised to have a strong non-conference record and a good season during Big East play.

However, the Panthers are all too willing to spoil Marquette’s early success, hoping to pull off an early upset of a ranked team.

The Universityof Wisconsin – Milwaukee Panthers have already played in a tournament in this young season and walked away with second place after losing badly to Iowa State. They are not as good as they have been in years past, but the UWM team is always dangerous with coach Rob Jeter calling the shots.

Marquette matches up very well against UWM mainly because the Panthers will not be able to exploit Marquette’s lack of size. Hayward should have a good opportunity to get plenty of boards. Like Marquette, Milwaukee’s tallest player is just 6 feet 8 inches, so Marquette will not be at a disadvantage when going after rebounds, a luxury they will not have once Big East conference play begins.

UWM will be forced to try to deal with a quick Golden Eagles team who is known throughout college basketball as having arguably the best backcourt in the nation.

Marquette will have to play Milwaukee tight on the perimeter as the Panthers have no problems with the longer three point line and will take the shot if they are open.

This is a team that has shown it can knock down shots once the opposing team allows them to get their rhythm. However, if Marquette can press early and make it difficult for Milwaukee to be consistent they should be able to pull away early in this game. If Marquette comes out and plays Milwaukee hard without easing up they should come away with a strong win against a beatable Milwaukee team.

Nonetheless, fans should expect a competitive game between two teams looking for the right to be crowned the best team in Milwaukee.

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Men’s Basketball preview: CSU-Pueblo at Marquette

Posted on 06 November 2008 by Alex Hansen

Ever since April 1, 2008, Marquette Basketball fans have been looking for some positive news. Tom Crean’s exodus early last April set a bad tone throughout campus as many students were skeptical to endure a setback that usually comes with a new head coach.

As Dwayne Wade says in his new Converse commercial, “the best thing about (basketball) is that every season is a new start.” And despite the criticism that the Marquette program received over the hiring of Buzz Williams, the Marquette faithful still owe Williams a fair chance.

The Buzz Williams era begins Saturday, November 8 at 1 p.m. in the form of an exhibition matchup against Colorado State University-Pueblo. Like most college basketball powerhouses, Marquette has stacked their early season schedule with cupcake teams.

With all due respect to CSU Pueblo, this is exactly the type of game Marquette wants. They can afford to go out and try new lineups, plays and sets in a game setting that cannot be replicated in practice. These early season matchups are a nice confidence booster as well.

So who is CSU-Pueblo? First off, the Thunderwolves as they are called, come from the Rocky Mountain Area Conference, out of the NCAA Division II. They are coached by Patrick Eberhart, who is in his fourth year at the helm. As if Eberhart’s crew being from NCAA Division II is not enough, Marquette players must be relishing the opportunity to take on a team that finished with a 10-17 record last season.

Like Marquette has McNeal, James and Matthews, CSU Pueblo still has its share of feature players. Rome Smith, a 6-foot-3-inch 200 pound guard is the man to watch for next Saturday. According to the CSU-Pueblo athletic site, Smith led the team with 13.1 points per game last season. He also shot 40.1 percent from beyond the arc.

In the frontcourt, the Thuderwolves are led by Senior Jake Trahern. According to his player bio on the CSU athletic site, Trahern was former Mr. Basketball in Colorado and State Tournament MVP in 2004. Last season the 6-foor-9-inch forward averaged 11.6 points per contest, while accumulating 34 blocks throughout the season. Along with Smith, Trahern hopes to form a great inside-outside combination that Coach Eberhart can count on.

Despite the talent disparity, this is not a game that Marquette should take lightly. Even though this is just an exhibition matchup, how the team responds will set the tone for the next few games.

True, there is no secret as to who is favored to win the game, but a sloppy showing for Marquette could result in a loss further down the road. For comparisons sake, nobody wants to be the next Michigan and lose to an Appalachian State team in the 2007 NCAA Football season.

Every coach, including Buzz Williams, should assure their teams that an upset cannot and will not happen.

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The Beginning of a New Era: New coach, new season

Posted on 23 October 2008 by Monica Stout

“Am I going to be a Hall of Fame coach? No. Am I going to write a book? No. What I’m going to do is work hard today, and then wake up and do it again tomorrow.” -Buzz Williams, Head Coach Marquette Men’s Basketball

When Marquette University hired Tom Crean’s assistant coach, Brent “Buzz” Williams, to be the Men’s Basketball head coach, a lot of people thought that the athletic department had taken the easy way out. But little did the Marquette community know that Williams himself does anything but take the easy way out. From the players to the practices, Williams has overhauled the entire men’s basketball program.

“We want to be the hardest-working, most competitive program in the country,” Williams said. And he has been making every effort to make it so, showing that Marquette might have picked the right coach after all.

Young Men First, Students Second and Players Third

In Williams’ first press conference as the Marquette Men’s Basketball head coach, he stated:
“The players in the program will not be judged always in accordance with their skill set or their talent. They will always be judged as people: as young men first, as students second and as players third. And the priorities in our program, the responsibilities within our program, will always be reflective of those things.”

The academic responsibilities for the basketball players are strictly enforced to ensure that these priorities are met.
Williams is “not going to give you any leeway,” according to Liam McMorrow, the sophomore transfer from Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario, who is redshirted this season due to National Collegiate Athletic Association transfer rules.

Each player has a personal, color-coded schedule from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. every day of the week detailing class, study hall hours, tutoring, basketball practice and weightlifting among other things. The graduate student coaching assistants and coaching staff escort the players to class to make sure that they are on time and that they do not leave class early.

“He really cares about our academics,” said David Cubillan, one of three juniors on the team. And so far, it has been paying off.
“I think I speak for everyone. Everyone, as far as academically is concerned, is doing much better… he’s definitely a help,” said Robert Frozena, the only walk-on of this year’s team, about the educational push the members of the team have received from Williams.

“They’re always accountable for each facet of their responsibilities,” Williams said, and according to Williams, the reason they can be held accountable is because “their character is very, very high.”

Athletic Hunger

Four man groups, individual practice, team practice, and boot camp are only a few of the strategies that Williams has been using to prepare the team for the coming season. Yes, boot camp.

“Boot camp was seven or eight days. That was the longest seven or eight days of my life. But it was good,” said Lazar Hayward, returning junior forward. Boot camp was a series of intense practices where, Williams said, “our team is formed.” Every drill that was done had to be done correctly by each member of the team. If someone could not finish, everybody had to do it over again. Every single teammate was accountable for every other teammate. As Williams said, “Everyone has to pull their own weight… and [we have to] communicate as a team.”
Somehow, everyone got through it.

“They were blowing it out every day,” Williams said. “It’s the best I’ve ever seen.”

Not only has their stamina and teamwork been tested, but Williams has the team “doing defensive drills day in and day out,” according to Dominic James, returning senior guard. Concerns over the short height of the team have sparked the emphasis put on the defensive side of the ball.

“We are little. We’re short. That’s not going to change… we’re going to have to be extraordinary good rebounders… I don’t think we’re going to struggle offensively. I think we can score enough points to win games. The question will be: How can we prevent our size from being a detriment to us defensively?” Williams said.

Jerel McNeal, returning senior guard, who has always been known as a defensive player, is excited for this change of focus. “We get everybody else to play at a high level defensively, then [that will] make things a lot easier for everybody.”

Williams has confidence that his players will do everything in their power to keep their height from affecting how they perform. “I think they’re hungry. I think they like to play from behind,” he said.

The players also receive personal coaching from Williams as part of his efforts to know his players well.

Wesley Matthews, one-third of Marquette’s “Big 3” along with Dominic James and Jerel McNeal, described how Williams wants him to play. “I’ve got to be a beast. I have to be everywhere. He wants me to basically let loose, just play the way I play, lead the way I lead, and just help.”

Joseph Fulce, a new sophomore recruit from Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas, said, “He’s always trying to find a way to help us get better.”

As an extra impetus to becoming the best, Williams has let them know that their every effort has to be put on the court when the time comes. “If we don’t play hard, they’re not going to play… every single minute counts. Every single minute in a game counts,” Williams said.

All About God and Family

These new academic priorities and athletic strategies would not work if the team did not respect their coach. But they do.
“He’s one of the most hardest workers I’ve met in my life. I don’t think he sleeps,” Fulce said.

His commitment stands out, and not just his commitment to the men’s basketball team.

“He’s dedicated… he’s all about his God and his family,” said Dwight Burke, the only senior forward on the team. And now his family has expanded to include the basketball team.

“The thing that I really pay attention to is those 13 young men… what they’re doing off the court, what they’re doing in the classroom and what they’re doing on the court,” Williams said.

Some of the lessons he has been teaching his players have clearly sunk in.

“The most important thing that Buzz has taught us, is that every day is a work day, and if you’re not going to work every day, then you shouldn’t be here,” said Patrick Hazel, a sophomore forward.

Message to the Marquette Student Body

Although Williams admits that he has not done a good job connecting with the students, he knows how important the Marquette Fanatics are to the success of his team.

“The teams that have elite success have a major home court advantage, and the teams that have a major home court advantage [have it] because it’s derived from their student population. Our students have to continue what they’ve always been, because that changes what the atmosphere and the ambience is like at the Bradley Center,” Williams said.

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A season awaits

Posted on 23 October 2008 by Brian Henry

Every now and then, when the sports junkie in me is thirsty for a little more than the daily dose, I find myself perusing various sports outlets. And if I’m lucky, I stumble across a marathon of NFL Films, or a highlight package of Lakers/Celtics from the 1980s.

Last week I was lucky enough to be channel surfing at the right moment, and I came across something that made me more nostalgic than ever. The screen flashed a date: Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006. Marquette Men’s Basketball was making its Big East debut against the #2 Connecticut Huskies.
It took me back to my freshman year, where I saw one of the greatest single game performances in the history of this institution. Steve Novak’s 41 points and 16 rebounds made me believe that we were an NCAA Tournament team. We had a good coach, a trio of freshman who were ready to carry the program, and we were just a few pieces away from being dominant. The possibilities were endless.

Fast forward to October 29th, 2008… We sit on eve of a new era in coaching, and the beginning of the end with the Big Three. The possibilities are certainly there, but no longer are they endless. The Golden Eagles return a team that continues to be extremely athletic, strong defensively and very one-dimensional. But it’s not like this is some big secret.

The pleasure I take in Marquette Basketball is not determined solely by wins and losses. It’s the game day atmosphere on campus. It’s debating match ups with my roommates. It’s about gathering as an entire university to get behind something that we all identify with.

The season will put you through more emotions than a self-conscious teenager on prom night. From trudging to the Bradley Center in sub zero temperatures, to jumping up and down and screaming for two hours in the student section, the basketball season is an experience.

So in order to officially christen this new season of good times and high hopes, we will celebrate “Marquette Madness.” The journey begins Saturday night. Just make sure you have a seat for the ride.

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Three years in the making: Senior trio’s last season the most anticipated

Posted on 23 October 2008 by Tim Bucher

The newest reports coming out of Bloomington, Indiana may put smiles upon many Marquette basketball fans’ faces. A crippled Hoosiers team, already beaten down by NCAA sanctions, could be facing even further penalties when the NCAA infractions committee makes its decision in the coming weeks.
The forecast for Indiana basketball and former MU head coach Tom Crean could not get any worse. Indiana is returning only two players from last season (with a combined 11 minutes of playing time in 07-08) and is bringing in eight freshmen.

Marquette fans can easily mitigate the loss of Crean, who left for Indiana in early April, with such news. But even more promising news can be found in what college basketball experts are saying about Marquette basketball and the forthcoming season.

The outlook on Coach Buzz and the Golden Eagles is very promising leading up to the regular season opener on November 14th. Sports Illustrated and ESPN both consider the team to be in the upper echelon of the Big East, as well as in college basketball.

It is even circulating that USA Today picked Marquette to win the Big East in its College Basketball Preview.
There is reason for such high expectations to be bestowed upon the Golden Eagles.

For starters, the team returns with most of its core players from a season that was a Brook Lopez miss away from the Sweet 16. That core includes senior guards Dominic James, Wes Matthews, and last season’s standout, Jerel McNeal.

All three have scored at least 1,000 points in their college careers and are no strangers to winning games. For the last three years the trio has won at least 20 games and landed in the NCAA tournament three consecutive times.

With such a solid lineup in place, this season will be rather atypical for a first-year coach. Rather than having to build the program from the ground up, coach Buzz Williams has inherited a talented and experienced squad.

In an interview with ESPN, Jerel McNeal spoke of the team and its new coach. “We didn’t need a coach to come in and revamp and change what we did,’’ McNeal said. “We didn’t need another [outside] coach being here. Coach Buzz had been here a year and understands what our team is about.’’
While current players seem to believe that off-setting the loss of their head coach will not be as difficult a task as perceived, replacing departed players may be another story.

Gone from last year are Dan Fitzgerald, Ousmane Barro, and Trevor Mbakwe. Although none of the three posed a truly formidable threat down low, maybe with the exception of Mbakwe, the fact that all three were 6-7 or taller makes the Golden Eagles extremely vulnerable underneath the basket.
Lack of size, especially in the Big East, could potentially derail a season, even for a team with such talent in the backcourt. Senior Dwight Burke, 6-8, figures to enter the season as the starting center.

The team’s two tallest players are 6-10 freshman Chris Otule and 7-0 red-shirt sophomore Liam McMorrow. Otule figures to see extensive playing time, but his lack of experience could limit him and the Golden Eagles.

Sophomores Patrick Hazel (who played sparingly last season) and Joseph Fulce (a Junior College transfer), both 6-7, could also garner some playing time, as they are two of only four active players 6-7 or taller on this year’s roster.

Due to both the lack of size and experience in the frontcourt, Buzz Williams will have to counteract these limitations with a sleeker, faster style of play.
Williams spoke to Sports Illustrated about possibly employing some novel line-up combinations to achieve such a goal. Williams predicted, “There will be times when we have five guards on the floor.”

A smaller, faster game play will most likely translate into more possessions and ultimately more scoring opportunities for Marquette and its guards.
Among those figuring to be in a guard-oriented rotation along with the senior-trio are juniors Maurice Acker and David Cubillan. Another sophomore juco transfer, Jimmy Butler will also see some time at both guard spots as well as small forward.

Perhaps the most underrated player on the Marquette roster is forward Lazar Hayward. Last season he finished third on the team in scoring and first in overall rebounds.

The overachieving Hayward seems to be overshadowed by the triumvirate backcourt. But that could only mean more mismatches with the opposition underestimating the 6-6 junior. Hayward will slide into the starting power forward spot as he did for most of last season.

Hayward has steadily been improving each year and this year does not appear to be any different. Look for him to have a breakout year and possibly end up on a second or even first All-Big East team come season’s end.

College basketball teams can officially begin practicing on October 17th, but fall break has moved the Golden Eagle’s yearly Marquette Madness to Saturday, October 25th at 6 p.m. at the Al McGuire Center.

Per usual, the free event will consist of free giveaways, men and women basketball introductions, a dunk contest, and an intra-squad scrimmage.
The season officially kicks off on November 16th at the Bradley Center against Houston Baptist and the Badgers come into town Saturday, December 6th.
The Big East opener is slated for New Year’s Day against Villanova, also at the Bradley Center.

For seniors James, McNeal, and Matthews, this season is one to be filled with a variety of novelties: a new coach, new teammates, and new expectations.

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Mbakwe disappears without a trace

Posted on 10 September 2008 by Brian Henry

Cell phone buzzes at 1:47 a.m. on the morning of August 25, 2008. Text message says: “Mbakwe quit the team.”

Please excuse the radically confused look on my face, but WHAT? None of it makes any sense. So, let’s naturally try to make some sense out of this.

I’ll quickly recap for those of you unaware. Trevor Mbakwe, to be the 6 foot 7 inch power forward, quit the Men’s Basketball team and left Marquette on the eve of the first day of class. A highly touted recruit, Mbakwe was the crown jewel of Tom Crean’s final recruiting class. He demonstrated a tenacity for rebounding that we have not seen here for quite some time.
Missing the majority of his freshman season due to a knee injury, rumors circulated that Mbakwe was terribly homesick, and was considering a transfer back to Minnesota. And once Tom Crean packed his bags for the land of Cream & Crimson, Trevor’s transfer seemed to be a mere formality.

However, much to the surprise and excitement of Marquette Basketball fans everywhere, Mbakwe came out with a statement regarding the potential of his transfer on April 16th, “I just want to let everyone know that isn’t true. That’s never been in my head.”

Whew. Sure glad that was established early on… Whoops.

From my early assessments of the new Head Men’s Basketball coach Buzz Williams, the man is a straight shooter. He will look you in the eye and tell it like it is. So when you read a quote that says, “I was shocked by the news,” it sounds like everyone was caught with their pants down on this one.

Now what Buzz will not tell you, is that this REALLY hurts. Everyone knows how guard oriented and undersized the team is. Still, it was beginning to appear that with Lazar, Dwight and Trevor, the team could stand up to the giants of the Big East. Now Dwight and Lazar are going to be asked to shoulder the workload.

This is not to say that break out seasons from guys like Patrick Hazel, Chris Otule or Joe Fulce are impossible. But relying on unproven and, for Otule and Fulce, untested talent in key reserve roles is a serious gamble.

It’s hard to believe that the departure of one reserve power forward could be so traumatic, but it puts the rest of the team in a tough spot. If this team wants to eclipse and surpass what it has done the last three years, its stars are going to have to shine brighter than ever.

Dominic, Wes, and Jerel have been the backbone, selling point and marketing tool of Marquette Men’s Basketball for over three years. And we must ask more from them once again. Is it fair? No. Is it our only option? Yes.

If anyone still cares, Trevor Mbakwe enrolled at Miami-Dade Community College earlier this week, where it is rumored he will transfer to Miami University after the school year. Trevor… we hardly knew thee. He left a hole in Milwaukee, and he did it under the cover of darkness, in the middle of the night, without a trace.

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