Phone interview with ESPN's Jay Bilas on 3/23/11 [transcript below]
DoddsOnSports: When you look at Buzz Williams and Marquette's team, what sticks out the most when you are analyzing the team?
Jay Bilas: On court, they are a very together group. They really attack the lane. Buzz believes in getting to the free throw line. I agree with him and in all the basketball books I have read, one of the best I've read, if not the best, was "Multiple Offense and Defense" by Dean Smith. One of the most important things I took from that book was the most efficient place to score on a basketball court is at the free throw line. Marquette shot more free throws than any other Big East team. Buzz calls them paint touches. He wants to get the ball into the lane. The more paint the better – they chart everything at Marquette – they chart dribbles – the more paint touches, the more free throws, the more chances you have to win.
Al McGuire and Dean Smith at the '77 Final Four.
Marquette has interchangeable players on defense so they can switch on the perimeter with Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder and that gives them two guys who can guard people out at the perimeter as well as guarding them down low. When Otule is at center, Butler and Crowder are still interchangeable.
DoddsOnSports: When you look at Marquette's matchup against North Carolina, what do you see?
Jay Bilas: North Carolina has a lot of size which will be a big problem for Marquette. Even when Marquette drives the lane, they are driving into a lot of size and length. North Carolina likes to play a high possession game so it will be up and down. One of the most important things for Marquette is they have to be disciplined. When I say disciplined, I mean the old "Pete Carril way" and behave wisely on the floor. You have to play good defense without fouling on the court. You can always get a basket back but you can never get a foul back. In a high possession game, fouls will go up. They have to be careful in a high possession game not to get in foul trouble.
They will have opportunities to attack and score but Carolina wants to get them in an up and down game so their depth and talent level wins out overall. North Carolina's big guys run. I contend that PG Kendell Marshall is every bit as fast as Ty Lawson was. Not in his ability to run or dribble up the floor but because Ty Lawson was faster than anyone I have ever seen with the ball – but Kendell Marshall can pass ahead and the ball moves way faster than anyone could dribble it. So I contend he is actually faster in a way than Ty Lawson was.
DoddsOnSports: The last two Big East teams in the NCAA Tournament are Marquette and U-Conn. Both finished 9-9 in the conference. What does that tell you about the Big East Conference for 2010-11?
Jay Bilas: I think the Big East is deserving of some of the beating it is taking because some of the top teams underperformed as Louisville lost – granted Knowles got hurt but they should have won anyway. Pitt, Syracuse all lost games they should have won. At least I believe they should have won. So, I think it's fair for them to take a beating. Some of it has been a little overblown. The Big East got 11 teams in not because the Big East was better than it was in 2010 or 2009, there were no super teams out of the Big East this year – but compared to other conferences which were down, the Big East deserved 11 teams.
Buzz Williams[No relation]
If people want to judge the Big East by how it did in the tournament, then it was not the best league. However, if you want to judge them by how many competitive teams and how good the league was during the regular season, then the Big East was the best conference. But they do not have a great team in it. They have a lot of good teams. The criticism is fair but you have to acknowledge that the two teams that are left are the teams which finished with 9 and 9 records. Some of the leagues were not as good as they have been – the ACC was not as good, therefore, I don't think people can have it both ways in terms of criticism.
DoddsOnSports: Jay, thanks for your time.
Jay Bilas: Thank you.