MU Drives into the Big Apple
Four of the final five Marquette games heading into this week's Big East tournament went to at least one overtime. Of its 13 other Big East games, two were decided by one point, three by two points, two by three points and one by five. Only five games in its entire 18-game Big East schedule were decided by more than two possessions.
If that leaves the impression that the Golden Eagles are talented enough to play with anyone but not good enough to put anyone away, well ... that's pretty close to the truth.
Marquette is definitely dangerous. It has a big-time scorer in Lazar Hayward and one of the league's most underrated players in Jimmy Butler. It has a ballhandler, Maurice Acker, who has the size of a ballboy but the skill to run the offense without ever turning it over, and streaky but dangerous offensive threats Darius Johnson-Odom and David Cubillan.
There's also a lot it doesn't have. For example, a bench. Most teams would redshirt a prized freshman with an Achilles injured in the Fall, but coach Buzz Williams has brought Junior Cadougan back because he has rehabbed much sooner than anyone expected, and Williams needs the bodies. The Golden Eagles don't even have enough healthy players to scrimmage most of the time, forward Joseph Fulce being their most capable reserve.
That means the starters play big minutes and fouls are a big problem. When Hayward or Butler picks up a couple early, they usually sit for the rest of the half, and when that happens the offense really struggles. If the shooters aren't hot, the Golden Eagles can't do enough damage to be dangerous.
And yet, regardless of that, this team always seems to hang around. It doesn't give up until the final whistle, which has served it well all season. But it also gives no reason for opponents to give up, either -- it has shown the ability to both give and receive significant damage late in games.
--Marquette had a couple of players honored on the All-Big East teams. Lazar Hayward made the All-Big East second team, while Jimmy Butler got an honorable mention.
--The Golden Eagles have surprised for two consecutive years under coach Buzz Williams, but there's one thing he still doesn't have a handle on. Saturday's loss to Notre Dame dropped the team to 0-2 on Senior Day under his direction.
ON THE SPOT: Marquette blew a seven-point lead in the final 90 seconds of the loss to Notre Dame. It is another sign that the game is never over until the final whistle when Marquette is involved, whether the team is ahead or behind.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I just told them I think it was God's way of showing us one more time before we left the Bradley Center that if we're not going to be exactly who we have to be on both ends of the floor, then we get beat. It doesn't matter who we play, where we play, what time we play -- if we're not us, we will lose. And if we are us, then I like our chances." -- Marquette coach Buzz Williams, in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, on what he took from the loss to Notre Dame.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Marquette stomped Louisville before falling to Notre Dame at home to end the regular season. It finished tied with the Cardinals at 11-7 in the Big East and had the tiebreaker edge to earn the fifth seed in this week's Big East tournament.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Lazar Hayward, G/F Jimmy Butler, G Darius Johnson-Odom, G David Cubillan, G Maurice Acker. Key Subs -- F Joseph Fulce, G Dwight Buycks, G Junior Cadougan, F Erik Williams.
Marquette 84, Seton Hall 83 (OT)
Marquette 69, Louisville 48
Notre Dame 63, Marquette 60 (OT)
vs. Connecticut or St. Johns at the Big East Tournament, Wednesday, March 10
IN FOCUS: The Golden Eagles are pretty much a lock for the NCAA Tournament; one Big East tournament win would remove all doubt. They will be facing a desperate team in the opening round, whether it's the talented but mercurial Huskies or a Red Storm team fighting to save its coach's job.
--Dwight Buycks was back in the lineup after missing three games with an upper respiratory infection but played just two minutes in the overtime loss to Notre Dame.
--Lazar Hayward passed George Thompson to move into second place on the Marquette career scoring list. He enters the postseason with 1,784 points, 201 behind former teammate Jerel McNeal for the top spot.
--Maurice Acker was perhaps the most expected honoree on Senior Day on March 6. The Ball State transfer left the team in June, only to return for the fall semester and become one of the best small guards in the country. He led the Big East in assist-to-turnover ratio.