Paul Imig Updates from Cleveland

[Paul Imig of Fox Sports North will contribute stories, game notes and tidbits from Cleveland throughout the entire weekend.] Here is Article #5...CLEVELAND – Buzz Williams knows that Marquette may have caught Syracuse at just the right time in their first meeting in late January.

Buzz: Syracuse is much improved since last meeting

By: Paul Imig

CLEVELAND – Buzz Williams knows that Marquette may have caught Syracuse at just the right time in their first meeting in late January.

Jim Boeheim and the Orange flew into Milwaukee after losing three consecutive games, including a 22-point loss at home against Seton Hall four days earlier.

The hard times for Syracuse continued as the Golden Eagles won 76-70 and extended the Orange losing streak to four.

Since that game, Syracuse has won nine of its last 12 games and earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament.

"I think they're playing much better than they were when we played them," Marquette's head coach said. "I think they have four or five NBA players on their team, some of which come off the bench."

Junior forward Kris Joseph leads the team in scoring with 14.4 points, and senior big man Rick Jackson averaging a double-double with 13.0 points and 10.6 rebounds.

Jackson was named the Big East's defensive player of the year and Joseph was a third-team All-Big East selection.

Syracuse also has senior guard Scoop Jardine who had 13 points and 13 assists in the first meeting between the two teams on Jan. 29.

Freshman center Fab Melo, a 7-footer, has only played more than 20 minutes in a game twice this season, but can be a factor with his large frame.

"I think that they were struggling a little bit," Williams said. "I think that there's much more continuity within what they're doing offensively. I think that they're playing with a much higher level of confidence relative to what they want to do offensively, and I think that they're much more on the same page within what they're doing defensively.

"I think Coach Boeheim has changed his…the roster hasn't changed, but I think he's doled out minutes a bit differently. I think that that's probably enhanced the effectiveness of their zone."

Syracuse defeated Indiana State 77-60 to advance on Friday. They were led by Jackson with 23 points, while Joseph had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. ==========================================

DJO expects Syracuse to ‘try to hit us in the mouth as hard as possible'

By: Paul Imig

CLEVELAND – When the NCAA tournament brackets were announced, there were two possible scenarios where Big East teams could meet up in the third round. As the tournament entered its first weekend, both situations became reality.

Jae Crowder and MU's bigs must deal with the size of the Syracuse frontline.

First, Cincinnati and Connecticut won their first games to meet in the No. 3 vs. No. 6 matchup in the West region.

Then, Marquette pulled off the upset over No. 6 Xavier. Later that night, Syracuse defeated Indiana State to make it official as the second game between Big East teams for the opportunity to advance to the Sweet 16.

While Syracuse was still playing, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler were fielding questions from the media about the possibility of battling a conference team in their next game.

"If (Syracuse) does win, we expect them to come out and try to hit us in the mouth as hard as possible," Johnson-Odom said.

On Jan. 29, the Golden Eagles defeated Jim Boeheim's team in Milwaukee.

DJO goes for 2 vs Syr on Jan 29th

"A lot of people would say it was a fluke," Johnson-Odom added. "We're not supposed to win that game. We know it's another Big East matchup and it's cutthroat for us, and we have to be poised enough to understand that we're playing another good team and we've got o find ways to win it."

At the time, Syracuse was struggling. The loss to Marquette was their fourth in a row. Since then, they've lost only three of their last 12 games.

Rick Jackson had 23 pts vs Indiana State on Fri.

"I think that they're definitely going to be ready," Butler said. "Another chance to get a win against us because we did beat them early on in the season. They know us, we know them, so it just goes back to who is going to get stops."

Jimmy Butler vs Xavier

The rematch will take place at a neutral site in Cleveland beginning at 7:45 EST. ===========================================

Xavier coach Mack: ‘The kid I really like is Crowder'

By: Paul Imig

CLEVELAND – As a junior college transfer, Jae Crowder entered this season for Marquette a bit under the radar. But as soon as Big East play began on New Year's Day, Crowder immediately started getting the attention of coaches around the country.

After Crowder scored 29 points in his first-ever Big East game in a win over West Virginia, Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins said, "We made him a star, didn't we?"

While Crowder's scoring production decreased late in the season, the impact that he had the Golden Eagles is still being noticed by opposing coaches.

"The kid I really like is Crowder," Mack said when asked which player he felt was the difference maker for Marquette. "I think he plays extremely hard. He's a mismatch. He shoots the ball well. At times they'll have him at the 5. For us, we have big Kenny Frease who's a 7-footer.

"Last year when we played Marquette, obviously different personnel, but a kid like Lazar Hayward really hurt us because of his ability to shoot from the outside against our bigs. Usually that is sort of, shoe is on the other foot. The Atlantic-10 or a team in our conference would have that undersized 4-man or they would have more of an advantage against a Big East type power forward. Coach (Buzz) Williams has those guys who seem to be able to space the floor at the post positions and Crowder is no exception. I really like the way he plays and what he brings to the Marquette team."

Crowder's 29-point game against West Virginia was his biggest scoring output of the season, but he did score 25 in a Jan. 29 win over Syracuse.

However, over his last five games, Crowder has scored only 28 points combined. In the Golden Eagles' final regular season game, Crowder had only one point in 21 minutes plagued by foul trouble.

Crowder was the Junior College player of the year last season before transferring to Marquette. =======================================

Does Xavier's Holloway deserve to be mentioned with Fredette and Walker?

By: Paul Imig

CLEVELAND – Buzz Williams believes that Xavier guard Tu Holloway deserves more credit as an elite player in the country.

During his Thursday media press conference, the Marquette head coach stated that Holloway is on a similar level of BYU's Jimmer Fredette and Connecticut's Kemba Walker.

"If Holloway played in a league with more exposure, I believe he would be on the same level as Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette, relative to his national notoriety," Williams said.

Holloway was the Atlantic-10 player of the year and named as a third-team All-American. The Musketeers junior is one of only two players in all of Division I basketball to average more than 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game.

"I think Tu Holloway is faster than Kemba Walker off the ball screen," Williams added. "I think Tu Holloway is more effective off the ball screen than Kemba Walker. I think he mirrors Kemba Walker relative to he wants the ball in his hands, he wants to make big shots, and he's proven over the course of his career that he can do that."

Holloway was the 20th-leading scorer in the country at 20.2 points per-game and ranked 30th in assists with an average of 5.5.

Jimmy Butler said that the Golden Eagles have been watching footage of games from earlier this season against Walker and the Huskies, as well as Marshon Brooks and Providence, to get ready for the matchup with Holloway and Xavier.

"We looked back on quite a few games to prepare for this game," Butler said. "Not only our on-the-ball defense but also our off-the-ball defense, because we have to be in what we call a gap. If (Holloway) does get by somebody, there has to be another body there. That's the way we played Marshon Brooks from Providence.

"And we just have to be really aggressive on the ball, which is how we played Kemba from UConn. And I think all of that molding together is just the way that we play, trying to out-tough the other team."

Both Fredette and Walker averaged more points this year, with the BYU star leading the entire nation in scoring with 28.5 per game. Walker was fourth with 23.5.

Holloway averaged more assists than both Fredette and Walker. Holloway was also the top free-throw shooter in the country, connecting on 233 this season with an average of 86.9 percent.

Chris Otule gives Buzz's daughter an assist in Cleveland. ======================================

Buzz: No strategy in arriving before other teams in Cleveland

By: Paul Imig

CLEVELAND – Of the eight teams assigned to play their NCAA tournament games in Cleveland, none arrived sooner than Marquette.

Before the Golden Eagles play on Friday night against Xavier, they will have already spent three nights at their hotel.

But according to head coach Buzz Williams, that was not for strategic reasons.

"I don't know if there's necessarily any benefit," Williams said on Thursday. "The reason we were able to do it is because our guys are on spring break and the dorm they live in, there's 122 dorms, and so for only six of them to be filled with our guys, it kind of gives you a haunted house type of feel.

"And I just wanted to be around them, and so we decided to spend an extra night in Cleveland. No strategy involved. Let's just hurry up and get there."

For the players, several of them said they liked being in the city well in advance.

Vander Blue

"There's a comfort zone," freshman Vander Blue said. "We get familiar with the city, our hotel room, we can settle in. We're not in a rush or anything so we can do things at our pace. I feel like it's going to help us."

Even if it was not strategy related, Jimmy Butler thought it was still beneficial.

"We get to see the city a bit," Butler said. "But more than anything we get to study our opponents, we get to catch up on what they get to do a lot more and we just get to relax. We get to look at what they do and then go back to the rooms and think about it and just be around as a team in Cleveland instead of back in Wisconsin."

There hasn't been a lot of down time for the Marquette players, but Butler said the team went to the mall on Wednesday and planned to go watch a movie on Thursday night.

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