Why did the Big East get so little respect from the selection committee?
When the seedings were announced, there were several surprises for Big East teams. Louisville a #6 seed? Marquette an #8 seed? No Syracuse? Tom Crean was equally surprised. When asked about the seedings, Crean replied, "I don't know if I can comment on that as much, but only 6 teams from the Big East, and that's all? The only thing I can say on the seeding, is that a three seed, we beat twice and they got a three seed. That doesn't make a lot of sense. I would say the question there has got to be, ‘Did the person that represented the Big East Conference in that room do the due diligence to the league? But that is for the league to deal with, not us."
While Syracuse did not play what would be considered a tough non-conference schedule, they did finish 5th place in the Big East. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim question how two teams that could finish below them in the conference could get in when they did not. Looking at the conference as a whole, Crean didn't want to dwell on things as there was work to do. "Any time you're in the tournament you can sit and look at it and its always half full or full. It's got to be that way. The schools and coaches that spend a lot of time worrying about woulda-coulda-shoulda don't focus on their team. This is something that I have got to grasp real quick here and I will. We'll go right back to work as soon as we're done with this and get ready to play. It will be different, but we're going to show up and we'll be prepared to win just as they're going to show up and be prepared to win."
Will Jerel McNeal be ready to go?
Jerel McNeal severely injured his thumb in practice in the days before the regular season finale and has yet to return. While the team is 2-1 with McNeal out, his play is critical to the team, but it doesn't look like McNeal will return. Crean offered the following on McNeal's status, "I'm not holding out great hope. Would we love it? Would he love it? No question about it. Are we going to go into the week planning on having him? Probably not. We'll just wait and see how it turns out - see what goes on with it. We would love to have him but its just not there yet. There is no way its there yet."
With McNeal out, Marquette has relied on others to fill his shoes, and players like Dan Fitzgerald, Mike Kinsella and David Cubillan have been up to the task. Fitzgerald has been outstanding filling McNeal's role in the starting lineup, but he doesn't feel that being a starter is the difference. "Really it doesn't make a big difference to me, just that somebody has to step up every game. When Jerel's not out there, he brings so much that we have so much to replace and we have to do it as a team now. One person isn't going to do it. Not just scoring, a lot of the stuff that Jerel does is so much more than just scoring. All of us have to do the job just to fill his shoes."
Mike Kinsella hadn't seen much time early in the season, but the 7'0 senior has come on strong as of late and he is looking forward to taking on the Spartans. "A lot of our program was built on the foundation that Coach Crean learned while he was there working under Coach Izzo, they're definitely a hard working team, they're tough and they rebound the ball well. They are going to want to try to out-tough us at times and we're just going to have to step up and meet that challenge."
Kinsella has added another dimension to the offense as he has been shooting very well from three point range. That has also helped to pull opposing big men away from the basket clearing space in the lane. "I hope I can do that against Michigan State to help create an area to allow Dominic, Wes and Cubillan to penetrate. I just hope I can keep contributing the way I have been."
With McNeal out for the opening round of the tournament, the Golden Eagles will have to forge ahead towards the goal they have been chasing all year. Marquette senior Jamil Lott won't be happy with a one-and-done in the tourney, "For as long as I can remember I wanted to play in the NCAA Tournament, and when the recruiting process came along and I was trying to decide what school I wanted to go to I definitely wanted to go to the NCAA Tournament and nothing less, its really a wonderful opportunity to go the tournament once again, but I am not satisfied with the NCAA Tournament anymore I want to WIN the NCAA Tournament - go as far as we can go."