Posted on: December 7, 2011 1:22 am
By Jeff Goodman
NEW YORK - Marquette feels disrespected. No, not because the Golden Eagles were picked to finish sixth by the coaches in the league or due to the fact they believe they should be ranked higher than 11th in the country.
Because of the "toughness" tag that the program is unable to shed.
"That's all people talk about," Marquette senior Jae Crowder said shortly after burying a 3-pointer with 6.3 seconds left to give Marquette a 79-77 win over Washington. "At some point it has to end."
"That makes us one-dimensional," he added. "And that's not what we are."
For a while there, Marquette coach Buzz Williams loved the label. Basked in it. Why? It's the ultimate sign of respect when an opposing coach says that your team plays hard and is tough.
But enough is enough.
People need to finally start talking about the talent on this team, the talent in this program, in conjunction with the toughness. Lazar Hayward went from a mid-major recruit to an NBA first-rounder. Jimmy Butler did the same. Darius Johnson-Odom was also an under-the-radar guy who has a chance to play at the next level.
Williams may not be recruiting McDonald's All-Americans, but he's brought in plenty of talent to go along with the toughness.
Johnson-Odom and Crowder are the clear-cut stars and leaders of this year's team. DJO finished with 23 points while Crowder added 18 - including the game-winner. However, Vander Blue has made a significant improvement, Todd Mayo (O.J.'s little brother) has been terrific as a freshman coming off the bench and the inside duo of Chris Otule, Davante Gardner has been solid. Junior Cadougan won't blow anyone away, but he knows how to run a team and has the ability get his teammates open looks. There's also depth with guys like Jamil Wilson, the defensive-minded Derrick Wilson, Juan Anderson and Jamail Jones.
"At some point, people have to give the credit that the program is much deeper than just toughness," Williams said. "At some point, it's more than playing really hard and more than just toughness."
You don't go into Madison and knock off Wisconsin solely on grit and determination. You don't follow it up with a victory over a Washington team that could have three future NBA guys in Madison Square Garden without talented players.
This group is about more than just toughness.
But if I were Williams and Marquette, I'd continue to embrace the "toughness" label.
It's complimentary -- and seems to be working.
Posted on: November 29, 2011 4:52 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 5:06 pm
By Jeff Goodman
Marquette lost an NBA player yet Buzz Williams' team may be improved from a year ago.
There's certainly more quality depth than there was a year ago - or at any point since he inherited the reigns from Tom Crean. Darius Johnson-Odom is a year older and while Jae Crowder may not be Jimmy Butler or Lazar Hayward (a pair of first-rounders over the past two seasons), his production could exceed both.
Crowder, through five games, is putting up 17.8 points and 8 boards per game.
"He's a really good player, is extremely intelligent and instinctive," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said.
DJO and Crowder are a potent 1-2 punch, but the difference in this year's team is the maturity of sophomore guard Vander Blue, the presence of a true floor leader (Junior Cadougan, right) and the addition of a potent scorer off the bench (Todd Mayo)
Blue is averaging 12.2 points per game, Cadougan is a significant upgrade over Dwight Buycks at the point guard position and Mayo -- O.J.'s little brother -- is averaging 7.8 points in just 16.6 minutes.
"Dwight helped us win a lot of games, but Junior is a different type of player," Williams said. "He delivers the ball on time and on target."
Cadougan is a true point guard who makes life easier for those around him - and he's finally in shape.
It took Cadougan a while to work his way back from an injury he suffered as a freshman, but he's down to 200 pounds and Williams says he's in the best shape that he's ever seen him. Part of that can be attributed to a contest that Williams posed to Cadougan and rotund big man Davante Gardner. Williams has gone from 233 to a rather svelte 197 pounds and Gardner dropped 27 pounds prior to the start of practice.
"I did it selfishly. I had to turn it into a contest to make me accountable," Williams laughed. "But they weren't going to beat me. I wasn't going to let that happen."
True, the schedule hasn't been taxing. It began with Mount St. Mary's, has included Winthrop, Norfolk State twice and also featured a 30-point pasting on Ole Miss.
However, that'll change soon. Marquette plays at Wisconsin and in New York against Washington in the next 10 days - and will host Vanderbilt late in December when the Commodores are expected to have a healthy Festus Ezeli.
It's difficult to question a Williams-coached team. The constant? They play hard each and every possession. Williams has led Marquette to 69 victories in his first three seasons and a trio of NCAA tournament appearances - including a Sweet 16 berth last year.
Just to compare, Crean won 56 games his first three years and went to the NCAA tournament once. Hall of Famer Al McGuire, who won a national title at the school in 1977, won 43 games his first three seasons at Marquette.
Photo: US PRESSWIRE
Posted on: October 21, 2011 11:35 am
NEW YORK – Conference media days are a dream for writers that want a lot of information and people in one place. Simply put, they provide a treasure trove of nuggets on each team in the league. There were too many leftovers in the notebook to leave out and not share with everyone. Here are some of the more interesting tidbits gathered on Wednesday at Big East Media Day.
- Notre Dame forward Tim Abromaitis was recently suspended for four games after the NCAA ruled on a violation he committed three years ago. “We tried to fight it, but a rule is a rule,” Abromaitis said. “I accepted it.”
- Who will replace Ben Hansbrough at the point guard spot? Sophomore Eric Atkins (above), who led the Big East in assist-to-turnover ratio last season. “He was our sixth man last year, but he’s ready to elevate his game,” Abromaitis said.
- Sophomore Jerian Grant received rave reviews for his work over the summer and in the early part of the fall. “He’s playing really well,” Abromaitis said. “He’s learning things as a player, moving without the ball, guarding his man. That’s what we’ll need him to do.”
- DePaul received three pieces of bad news in the past week. Junior forward Tony Freeland will miss the season with a shoulder injury, while freshman Montray Clemons is done for the year after rupturing a tendon in his knee. Moreover, the NCAA ruled freshman Macari Brooks ineligible. “We thought we were pretty deep,” head coach Oliver Purnell said. “We can’t afford any more injuries.”
- Purnell thinks Cleveland Melvin (right) is somewhat underrated on a national level, after averaging 14.3 points and winning Big East Rookie of the Year honors. “Probably so,” Purnell said. “He had a good freshman year and a really good summer.”
- Rutgers brought in a highly-touted freshman class – and the incoming guards are impressing early on. “Our guards have a little more experience than our big men,” forward Dane Miller said, pointing to Myles Mack and Jerome Seagears. Coach Mike Rice, however, thinks Eli Carter could make more of an impact than both of them. “He might lead my freshman in points per game.”
- Rice is impressed with Kansas State transfer Wally Judge. “He’s a physical specimen. He just has to develop that consistency.”
- Forward Kadeem Jack will likely be out until mid-January with a foot injury. Jack was looking like he would have a major impact in the frontcourt. “He’s somebody where the light was already on,” Rice said.
- Marquette forward Jae Crowder is pegging sophomore Vander Blue (right) as a true breakout performer. “He had a great summer, played in the Pro/Am, played for USA basketball,” Crowder said. “His confidence is up; last year, he lost confidence. A lot of pressure is on him.”
- Out of the freshmen, California native Juan Anderson has stood out the most to Crowder. “He’s athletic, he goes hard, has a great motor,” Crowder said. “Buzz [Williams] loves it, I love it.”
- Despite the loss of three starters from last season, West Virginia forward Kevin Jones thinks highly of this year’s team. “This is the most talented team I’ve been on,” he said – and that includes the Elite Eight group that had Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks.
- Freshman point guard Jabarie Hinds was cleared to play late in the process, but he’s already been impressive. “He had to catch up,” Jones said. “But he’s looking real good, doing the right things.”
- With Czech Republican native Patrik Auda and Latvian guard Haralds Karlis in the fold, Seton Hall has taken a foreign turn recently. “It’s fun,” guard Jordan Theodore said. “I’m trying new foods, trying to teach them slang.”
- Fun fact: Auda knows five languages – Dutch, Spanish, Czech, English and Russian.
- Georgetown forward Hollis Thompson said the Hoyas still laugh about the infamous brawl in China over the summer. “It was a great bonding experience,” Thompson said.
- Roy Hibbert, Jeff Green, Dwyane Wade and other NBA players came back to Georgetown to work out during the lockout. Thompson said the one who benefitted the most was Henry Sims, who played against Hibbert on a regular basis.
Photo: US Presswire (Eric Atkins, Cleveland Melvin, Vander Blue)
Tags: Big East, Cleveland Melvin, Dane Miller, DePaul, Eli Carter, Eric Atkins, Georgetown, Haralds Karlis, Henry Sims, Hollis Thompson, Jabarie Hinds, Jae Crowder, Jeff Borzello, Jerian Grant, Jerome Seagears, Jordan Theodore, Juan Anderson, Kadeem Jack, Kevin Jones, Macari Brooks, Marquette, Mike Rice, Montray Clemons, Myles Mack, Notre Dame, Oliver Purnell, Patrik Auda, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Tim Abromaitis, Tony Freeland, Vander Blue, Wally Judge, West Virginia