Consistency. It's a property that countless college basketball programs in America covet.
Consistency of excellence. That, however, is a property that only a select few enjoy - some through inheritence, others through pure hard work.
The Marquette Golden Eagles seem to fall into the latter category. From the days of Al McGuire and Rick Majerus to Tom Crean and Buzz Williams, Marquette has always been a perennial winner.
How has Marquette made ten NCAA Tournament appearances, including four Sweet Sixteens and a Final Four, since 2002? With just three first round NBA Draft picks since 1984 (Dwyane Wade, Lazar Hayward, and Jimmy Butler), it hasn't been with overwhelming pro talent.
A year ago, the Golden Eagles lost their best two players - Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder - to the NBA. But instead of rebuilding, Marquette made a run past Butler and Miami (FL) to the Regional Final.
Call it what you want - incredible coaching or systemic team play. No matter the formula, it all adds up to a consistency of excellence in Milwaukee.
We are excited to welcome a panel of Marquette writers to the Rumble to discuss the expectations for the 2013-14 Golden Eagles. Brewtown Andy of our SB Nation compadre Anonymous Eagle, Rob Lowe (no, not that Rob Lowe) of Cracked Sidewalks and Mark Strotman of Paint Touches are here to explain why Marquette's expectations haven't changed (even with unproven guard play) and give you a reason to go visit Chicago's "cool baby sister."
Rumble In The Garden: Explain where the Golden Eagles fit in the national hierarchy - imagine you're talking to a hoops newbie who knows Duke, Kentucky, and North Carolina exist, but the person doesn't watch the tournament or really know conferences' reputation. Who is Marquette? Think: "What is our team known for?" or "Why might someone have heard of the team?"
Brewtown Andy, Anonymous Eagle: Marquette is the team with the cool looking uniforms. Marquette is the team that becomes the trendy pick to get upset in the first round of the tournament... but then wins and ruins a lot of brackets. Marquette is the team with the bald head coach in the ridiculous suits who is WAY too energetic most of the time.
Marquette is the team that you think is nicknamed the Warriors, even though they're not. Don't worry, professional broadcasters make the same "mistake" on live television all the time. You know that Dwyane Wade chap who just won his third NBA title back in June? You might remember him from dropping a triple-double on Kentucky back in 2003, punctuated by this dunk.
Rob Lowe, Cracked Sidewalks: Marquette is better than you probably think from a national perspective. They are one of few teams that have made the NCAA tournament eight years in a row. They’ve been to three Sweet Sixteens in a row, and last year made the Elite Eight. Marquette is known for “playing really hard”, but that does a disservice to the coach and team. Marquette has talented athletes that play really hard.
Mark Strotman, Paint Touches: Marquette's narrative ever since Buzz Williams took the head coaching reigns in 2008 has been playing tough. It can get repetitive and is an easy way out to describe the team, but at the same time it's pretty accurate. Between "Boot Camp" in the fall to 6 a.m. and game-day shootarounds that the players admit are more like practices than anything, there isn't a tougher team in the country.
You've heard of Marquette because they outplay expectations every year and a Buzz Williams interview is worth its weight in gold. Williams used to preach the toughness of under-the-radar players, but his high-profiled recruiting classes are beginning to show a change in the culture. Marquette will always play hard, and as the talent increases, those two attributes combined just may be a match made in heaven.
RITG: Add a fun fact about the school or the program - something that would impress a person who is loosely familiar with the school.
Mark Strotman: I'm not sure how well-known this is, but Chris Farley was a Marquette alum, and my favorite one at that. The opening scene in "Tommy Boy" is Tommy Callahan (Farley) partying and taking tests at Marquette University. It isn't actually Marquette, but it's fun seeing him walk around "campus" with a Marquette rugby jacket on. If Farley were still alive, he would have been a great addition to games sitting courtside. It's a shame he was taken from all of us too soon.
Rob Lowe, Cracked Sidewalks: fun fact? Oh geez, I don’t know. Coach Buzz Williams is a top ranked backgammon player.
RITG: How do you feel about the new Big East - being in the conference, worries about the future? What are you most excited about/ to see? What worries you?
Rob Lowe: We couldn’t be happier, but mostly because the Big East took control of its own destiny. Yes, the league will not be as strong. But it’ll be pretty solid and nobody has to play Tulane (unless they want). We also have some interest to see how the new arrangement with Fox Sports works out.
Brewtown Andy: I'm looking forward to it. I don't really have any worries or concerns from an athletic perspective for Marquette, as winning solves all problems anyway. The only thing that is vaguely concerning is the speed of the startup. As I write this, we're exactly five weeks away from the first event on Marquette's athletic calendar: a women's soccer game. Based on the official Big East website still being just a landing page, there's apparently still a lot of work to do to get things running. But I know there's a lot of smart people in charge of making decisions, so I'm sure it will end up working out okay.
Mark Strotman: Change is always exciting, but there's really not a ton to look forward to with the new conference. The reality of it, despite fans painting a rosy picture, is that Marquette is losing powerhouses Louisville, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, among others. Marquette may now be in line for a second straight "Big East Championship" but it won't feel the same.
RPI will be way down and the conference slate just won't have as much lure. Again, a new-look conference will be fun in Year 1, it just doesn't mean it's a good thing. (NOTE: It was as good as Marquette could have done given the circumstances, so it's not a knock on anything the Marquette brass did in the process).
RITG: Which other Big East team are you most excited to see in action next year?
Brewtown Andy: The easy answer is Creighton, because 1) they're one of the new teams and 2) they've got the likely preseason player of the year in Doug McDermott.
But my actual answer is Providence. Ed Cooley's doing a heck of a job with that team so far in his tenure, and they've got a solid core returning from last year. I remember watching them play a game late last season and thinking: "This is a fun team to watch. OH CRAP, THEY'RE RETURNING MOST OF THESE PLAYERS."
Mark Strotman: Far-and-away, Doug McDermott will be a pure joy to watch. As an avid college basketball fan, I'll admit to only seeing Creighton's superstar play a couple of times last season, but when I did see him he was phenomenal. He can score the ball from anywhere on the floor and has an incredible basketball I.Q. That has me excited, to see how Buzz Williams will defend one of the best players in the country.
Rob Lowe: Creighton. Given the walk-on status of McDermott and the other returning players, I think they’ll be fun to watch and compete against, and their rabid fan base will be a great addition.
RITG: What does next season look like? Who leaves the program? Who is new? Who returns? Who is/ are expected to be the on-court leader(s)?
Brewtown Andy: You wouldn't think that a team that's losing three starters (Junior Cadougan, Vander Blue, and Trent Lockett) would be regarded as a strong preseason team. But for the first time in a long time, Marquette's front court is the solid base of the team for the upcoming season. Chris Otule and Davante Gardner return in the post, and jack of all trades Jamil Wilson returns and should get a chance to play his natural wing position... much like Jimmy Butler was able to in his senior year.
MU brings in three top 100 recruits (Jajuan Johnson, Deonte Burton, and Duane Wilson) and Jameel McKay, a two time junior college first team All-American. McKay might be the most intriguing addition to the team, given that Buzz Williams just had his fourth JUCO recruit sign an NBA contract this month.
Mark Strotman: Vander Blue's chose to leave in an utterly shocking decision, and seniors Trent Lockett and Junior Cadougan must be replaced as well. That means Marquette must replace three starters. If one or two freshmen prove to be instant contributors -- something that hasn't happened in recent years -- Marquette will stay in the top 25 all season long. It is the frontrunner in the Big East and a fourth straight Sweet 16 appearance wouldn't be out of the question at all.
RITG: In 100 words or less, explain your last season (or last three).
Mark Strotman: For the first time in five seasons Marquette's best player wasn't a senior, yet Vander Blue made the losses of Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom easier to handle. Consistent play inside from Chris Otule and Davante Gardner and role players understanding those roles -- combined with Buzz Williams' stellar year coaching -- resulted in a Big East Championship season and an Elite Eight berth.
Brewtown Andy: I can do it in one word: Historic. Marquette has gone to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament each of the last three seasons. The last time that happened, Al McGuire was still three seasons away from guiding Marquette to a national championship. As a nice cherry on top of that sundae, Marquette picked up their first regular season Big East title last year after finishing second in the league the year before.
Rob Lowe: Marquette made the Elite Eight. (There, we saved you 95 words)
RITG: What's the big concern about next season?
Brewtown Andy: Point guard play. Junior Cadougan had his share of detractors in the MU fanbase, but good luck finding someone who's super excited about Derrick Wilson getting the start on opening night against Southern. Part of that is because Derrick is horrifyingly uninteresting on the offensive end of things, and part of that is one of the aforementioned top 100 recruits, Duane Wilson, just won two state titles as the point guard for a high school that's essentially in Marquette's back yard. Based on all the glowing things that Buzz Williams has said about Derrick over the last two seasons, Duane is going to have to really win Buzz over on the defensive end to earn his way on to the court.
RITG: Bonus question: Give a reason to visit the area around the school's campus/ arena.
Mark Strotman: Marquette University is an incredibly unique campus. Located in the heart of Milwaukee, it's still its own campus with grassy areas and trees. On game day there's plenty to do in the city, including -- what else? -- plenty of local watering holes buzzing with Marquette interest. And while it won't help during basketball season, the campus is a 15-minute walk from Lake Michigan with a beautiful view of the skyline in the background.
Brewtown Andy: Campus itself is actually pretty small, and the area immediately around campus isn't very interesting at all. But that's okay, because in a July 2011 article, The Guardian - yes, the one from the UK - called Milwaukee "Chicago's cool baby sister." If that's not winning you over, might I interest you in a craft brewery tour? Or two?
Rob Lowe: Like many Jesuit schools, visiting Marquette’s campus isn’t great. However, coming into Milwaukee for a game is a ton of fun. It’s a small, big city. The city is easy to get around but still offers a lot of the major amenities. You can Priceline a hotel room for cheap and use your savings to get out and enjoy one of the many restaurants and bars in the city. You know, to console yourself after a loss to Marquette.
Thank you to Brewtown Andy, Rob and Mark for stopping by to talk Marquette basketball. Here at the Rumble, we don't necessarily love Marquette, but we'll leave you with one of the many reasons why we do love Buzz:
Buzz Williams Dancing In Morgantown (via ESPN)