Before I begin, I’d like to take a paragraph or two to explain my prolonged absence. A number of factors have played into the lack of articles since my well-received post about Everton football. Among them are a lack of sleep, trouble with creative ideas, too many papers to write for school, and a column for my college newspaper. Could I have pulled myself together to write an article about Mike Brown and the mystery of NBA coaches? Maybe, but I didn’t, and for that I apologize. Sometimes I use my blog posts for the newspaper (or vise-versa) but my most recent one wasn’t quite right for the blog. Next up for the newspaper is a re-assessment of the Luck/Manning decision, and that might make it onto the blog very soon. Hopefully in the next few weeks I can get back into a better routine of writing blogs (one on Tuesday and Saturday is ideal). For now, it is time to talk about my greatest love in sports: Marquette Basketball.
This is not a “How Well Can Marquette Play in the Big East” article like I wrote last year just before the Big East season started. I plan on writing that sort of article again when that time comes. College basketball is unique in the way that a legitimate season preview can be written after a team has already played a number of meaningful games, which is useful because college teams are difficult to predict from year to year (although the guys at Paint Touches do a pretty outstanding job). This post is related to impressions given by Marquette in the loss yesterday to Butler in the first round of the Maui, and what trends I can already see in Golden Eagle Basketball.
Jae and Darius are Missed (duh)
Obviously, but yesterday’s game made clear where it is specifically that they are missed. I was shocked at how easily Roosevelt Jones and Khyle Marshall were able to score in the paint yesterday. With Jae Crowder in the post last year, that would not have happened. Had Jae been on the court yesterday, Buzz could have just told him “Stop Marshall from scoring” and Jae would have made sure it happened. Jimmy Dykes made a comment that said something to the effect of “Roosevelt Jones is out-muscling Marquette.” True, he was, and that would never have been the case last year with Jae inside.
Darius Johnson-Odom’s ability to create offense is what Marquette is missing with his graduation and entrance into the NBA. Darius could make open threes, drive to the hoop, and handle the ball when Junior Cadougan (who was impressive scoring yesterday) was out of the game. Derrick Wilson can handle the ball fine, but he still isn’t the creator that Darius was capable of being. Marquette may have a difficult time finding any sort of replacement for Jae this year (although Steve Taylor Jr. looked impressive and may one day fill that role) a “new Darius” could rise. Actually, one of the most obvious candidates is next on the list:
Hold the Mayo
Marquette needs Todd Mayo back. The depth he brings to the bench, along with his perimeter defense, outside shooting, and creative basketball ability is crucial to the team’s success this year. His short time as a Golden Eagle has been occasionally troubled, but he seems to be a fine young man learning to be mature and responsible. That kid can ball, and he could be the kind of guy that the offense can turn to when times get tough.
Vander Blue for 3?
That was probably the best game I have ever seen Vander Blue play. For a Marquette fan like me, seeing a kid who has had so much potential for his entire career finally add scoring to his abilities is very exciting. Even if the accurate ranged shooting was an anomaly (and maybe it isn’t) his confidence attacking the rim was refreshing. If he continues to play like he did yesterday, he could easily fill Darius Johnson-Odom’s role as the go-to guy on the perimeter. It’s going to be a great year for Vander Blue.
The Work Ethic is Still There
The Golden Eagles showed yesterday that they still have a dangerous combination of hard work and athleticism. They got the majority of the 50-50 balls and rebounded hard (that is an area of Jae’s game that, surprisingly, might not be missed as much). They also played tremendous defense on Butler’s guards, forcing Rotnei Clarke and Co. to take bad outside shots and work for an entire shot clock to get a good look. This could be another strong defensive team.
The Offense Doesn’t Flow
For much of the game, the offense didn’t have a reliable flow and good looks were hard to come by. In fact, Marquette only had seven assists on the day. Generally, they have been very strong in this department. Seven assists and fourteen turnovers is not going to work. It was frustrating to see the ball handlers hedged time and again by the Butler bigs. Hopefully this is just an early season hiccup.
Davante is Scary Good
He’s also sneaky good. He’s impressed me his entire career (offensively, his defense still lacks). This season, if he can limit fouls and log a lot of minutes, he could be a real force and possibly make an All Big East team. He missed a few shots yesterday that he normally makes, but the fact that he was getting these looks is impressive enough. If his teammates can keep feeding him the ball, Davante Gardner is going to have a big year.
Jamil and Trent Have to Step Up
After a very strong first game, Jamil Wilson has yet to play at the level he is capable of. He was in foul trouble yesterday, but he still should have been able to get into the scoring column. He is possibly Marquette’s best player, so he needs to play like it and find what works best for him on offense. Trent Lockett, on the other hand, has yet to impress. Yesterday he looked tentative, but he had glimpses of offensive firepower. Coming into the season I thought he might lead the team in scoring, but so far he hasn’t taken on that role. Hopefully that can change as he becomes more acclimated to his new team.
I could write much more about the team and that game. I’ll leave it at this: Marquette is still the same frustrating, interesting, and entertaining team they have always been under Buzz Williams. It’s going to be a great season.
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Soli Deo Gloria