Tonight, St. John's tackles the offensively-minded Marquette Golden Eagles. A full preview will come later today, along with the Game Thread, which we hope will be as busy and entertaining as the last one - which was the web equivalent of watching a game with gritted teeth and half-covered eyes. Check back later, and read the weekly Big East Efficiency Margins post as well.
The Red Storm are currently in Milwaukee, no doubt checking out the food suggestions and pregame answers from Cracked Sidewalks, posted yesterday. My responses to their questions, and the Marquette preview are on the Cracked Sidewalks site.
To get to know even more about the Marquette Golden Eagles - and find more places to eat in Milwaukee, where I won't be traveling to tonight (too tired) - we exchanged answers with Anonymous Eagle (the Eagle with No Name? Cue
America's Horse With No Name) who covers Marquette for SB Nation. My answers to Rubie Q are way too short, I realize; but they're up at their post, The Inquisition. Thanks for the answers. Here is what our Anonymous friends had to say about Marquette:
1. What should I scared about with the Red Storm facing Marquette?
For your sake, I hope the team is coming into town on Tuesday morning and not Monday night, because I don't know that Lav can resist the Siren's Song from Madison. I mentioned this a couple weeks ago, but since I'm talking to a Storm fan, I'll ask this again: Do you think Musberger sends Lav "WISH YOU WERE HERE" text messages on a random Tuesday from a bar in Madison, with a co-ed on each arm and a cold beer in each hand?
But seriously: Marquette, like most college teams (yours included, probably), is a different squad at home than on the road. At home, we beat West Virginia, clubbed Notre Dame by 22, and grabbed a critical win against a desperate Syracuse team that was trying to end a three-game losing streak. On the road, we had to overcome a sixteen-point, second-half deficit to beat South Florida. Marquette's offense is very good, featuring four players -- DJO, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder, and, if the mood strikes him, Dwight Buycks -- who are capable of 20-point games, and we seem to be on to something with the press that Coach Buzz has implemented in the last two games.
The X factor, though: Marquette probably needs to go 5-1 down the stretch to avoid a very, very tense Selection Sunday. That means the playoffs start now. This is a young team that hasn't responded well to pressure so far this season, so: will they learn from their mistakes and meet the challenge, or will they buckle under the strain?
More on Marquette coach Buzz Williams, the Golden Eagles' critical players, the newcomers, and more places for me to eat and see in Milwaukee, below the fold.
2. I get the impression that you're not a big Buzz Williams fan. What do you like about him/ his coaching? What do you dislike about him/ his coaching?
People seem to think that I want Coach Buzz fired. That isn't true. I have concerns, but none of them, as of yet, have risen to the level of: "We need a change, and we need it yesterday."
Briefly, my concerns:
(1) In each of the last two years, we've had a freshman transfer at mid-term (Jeronne Maymon in '09, Reggie Smith this year). I don't care about the transfers, in and of themselves; every program has transfers, and we're no different. It's the mid-year thing that bothers me, since it's such a bad move for the player: you lose a half-year of eligibility, you can't redshirt, and, in Jeronne Maymon's case, anyway, you have to pay your own way for half-a-year. This, to me, means that (1) the situation was unbearably bad for the players, or (2) these kids were knuckleheads getting advice from the wrong people, raising questions about why we recruited them in the first place. I don't like either possibility.
(2) We're not a very good defensive team. You've seen the efficiency margins; in Big East games, we're ahead of DePaul and Providence (and maybe USF) in defensive efficiency. We really struggle to guard the three, and we haven't addressed the issue as the season has played out. Offensively, until the last two games, we've been fine, and we're streets ahead of where we were under Smarmy Tom Crean and his dribble-hand-off-till-you-die offense. But the offense isn't always going to be there, and it'd be nice to be able to rely on the defense when that happens.
(3) I can't understand what Coach Buzz is saying 74% of the time. At times, you'll read the transcript of his post-game presser, and it sounds like a seventh grader who's using a thesaurus without knowing what the words mean. I'll give you a for instance. This is a quote from last year, after Carleton Scott hit a game-tying three and Buzz was asked whether he thought about fouling before the shot went up:
"Anytime if we're up by three with less than nine seconds to go in the game, and we're in the bonus, not the double bonus, philosophically I would foul. But not when whoever it is that we would foul, when we go to the free-throw line ... if I can't see the top of our guys' heads, I'm not going to foul. But I think if they're in the 1 and 1 there's a little bit of added pressure because now you have to make the first one, miss the second one, get an offensive rebound and a putback. But it's going to be with less than nine seconds left. But with our current team ... with as many grind-it-out games as we've been a part of, I'm not going to bet on the come bet. I'll just play on the pass line and put odds on the back."
I just hope he's not talking about come bets and putting odds on the back when he's in the huddle.
3. Who is the player most crucial to the Golden Eagles' success?
It's probably Jae Crowder. Darius Johnson-Odom is a pretty dependable 16-20 point scorer now, and Jimmy Butler is going to get his quiet 16-and-8, night in and night out. If Jae's hitting his threes and working the paint, we're tough to beat. Just look at the Georgetown game: Crowder only scored 4, missed all his free throws, couldn't hit from three, and we lose by 9. If he's the Jae Crowder that we've come to know and love in the last three months, it might be a different ballgame.
4. How do you feel about the team's newcomers (and Chris Otule)?
It's been a mixed bag. Otule's been in the program for three years now, but he missed the most of the last two years with various injuries. He's never going to be a 30-minute, 10-point, 8-rebound guy, but he's gotten much better at putting a body on his man when the shot goes up and clearing him out of the lane, letting Jae and Jimmy hit the boards. Davante Gardner was big in yesterday's game vs. Georgetown (10 points in 12 minutes), but, like most freshman bigs, he can't play defense without fouling, and that's going to limit how much he can help the rest of the year. Jamail Jones saw his first real Big East action yesterday, and we don't really know what we have with him right now. There are just too many people ahead of him on the depth chart.
The two main new pieces this year are Vander Blue and point guard Junior Cadougan, who blew out his Achilles last fall and saw minimal action when he came back to the team in February. Cadougan's had an up-and-down year; he was expected to start at the point, but that job went to Dwight Buycks, who's a shooting guard playing out of position by necessity. Junior has a good handle and is a good distributor, but he's not a threat to score and has struggled from the line. For his part, Blue has also had an up-and-down year: he started the first month, but he's hit a major wall in the Big East season. He's still solid defensively and, despite his 6'3" frame, he'll hit the boards. But his jumper is broke and he's developed a troubling habit of driving wildly into the lane and launching himself into opposing players, which invariably results in a charging call. I still think he's got a high ceiling, but he's in the weeds right now.
5. What are some good places to go to in the Milwaukee area? I'm in Chicago, and plan on making it up at some point soon (-ish).
Pico! My man! Be our guest, be our guest, as the lampstick in Beauty and the Beast once said.
We'll have to do a brewery tour -- avoid the Miller one, that's where the out-of-towners go, and you don't want to drink Miller Lite, anyway. If you give us enough notice, we'll get places on the Sprecher tour and introduce you to Abbey Triple, which has caused many a forgotten night in the Rubie Q household. If Sprecher's booked, we'll go to Lakefront Brewery, skip the tour (you don't really care about how beer is made, do you?), and head straight for the tasting room: between Riverwest Stein, New Grist, Cream City Pale, and Monkey Wheat, we'll find you something that you like.
After that, you've got options a-plenty. You could be artsy-fartsy and go to the Milwaukee Art Museum or the domes or the Milwaukee Theatre, I guess, or head to a fancy restaurant like Sanford or Lake Park Bistro, but let's be real: you want to keep drinking, yes? If so, we can hit Water Street (if you want to be seen) or Brady Street (if you want to drink Pabst with art students), or: if you come up during the spring, when we can take you to a Brewer game and tailgate for four hours and feed you your weight in grilled bratwurst and German potato salad and miss the first two innings of the game.
When should we expect you?