Perhaps the most lasting memory of San Diego will be Tom Crean's conversation with the three freshmen following the loss. As officials scampered off the court, teams exchanged handshakes and tournament directors hustled to prepare for the UCLA/Belmont game, there Marquette stood…the future of the program taking pearls of wisdom from a coach who is in it for the long haul. And while there have been key contributions along the way, Crean knows that his freshmen class provided the big punch to the surprising revival of this team. The next few tournament runs will be anchored by Jerel McNeal, Wes Matthews, and Dominic James.
The growth of Dan Fitzgerald and Ousmane Barro definitely did not go unnoticed. Fitzgerald looked like an unseasoned version of Steve Novak at times this season. He was a solid defender and hit some big shots in just his first year in a Marquette uniform. Barro was arguably the most improved player on the team. Finishing just his second year playing organized basketball, Barro scored thirteen points in two of his last three games, a far cry from his performance freshmen year. At season's end, Ousmane's presence in the game positively affected Marquette's performance on both offense and defense. In the Alabama game, Barro recorded three steals and three blocks and seemed like the only player who could prevent scoring in the paint.
The accomplishments may not be well documented in history. Sure, the letters N-C-A-A will snuggle next to 2006 on the banners, but losing in the first round of both the Big East and NCAA tournaments wont turn too many heads, right? In terms of exposure, thirty-four million bracket crafters got see to see Marquette's name back on the map. Marquette also earned games in New York and California, both home to many Marquette alumni. Anyone who was in San Diego could tell you that it wasn't too hard to find people wearing gold, a surprising turnout considering Milwaukee's distance from San Diego (trust me-it wasn't cheap, I booked airfare on three days notice).
There's something about basketball at Marquette that's cool if you're a part of it and just about as revolting if you are not. Wisconsin, DePaul, Lousiville, Cincinnati, Notre Dame and other rivals can look at Marquette with jealousy for what they accomplished this season. MU was picked to finish 12th in the Big East…people slept on Marquette…there were only two ESPN games…yada yada yada. We have all heard these things 1000 times. Our attention now turns to an incredibly bright future and a return to the college basketball elite. This year should only be remembered for giving us a jumpstart, way before we all thought we could do it. Marquette is back.