Marquette vs. Arizona
Saturday was to be a 2-game day for me, and the early game would be the Marquette-Arizona game. Because my friend Dez has season tickets and a wife has a job that requires her to work weekends (and because he's a phenomenally nice guy), I had the chance to attend in person. And I knew it would be a good time, too, since Dez is just as likely as I to catch a great basketball moment, and then make fun of some other nuance of the arena. So, it was downtown to meet up with Dez, and our other friends, Dave and The Franchise, who are also season-ticket holders.
After a lunch which saw The Franchise down an omelet with tobasco sauce, we headed to the game and split off into our respective seats. There was about 20 minutes to tip-off, which was fine with me, due to the excellent non-game things that go on at the Bradley Center (which may very well make up most of this game recap). Enough of the narrative, though--here are my bullet points:
1) I caught just my second Tom Crean pre-game Jumbotron message to fans this season. I love that Crean addresses the fans directly via video prior to the start of the game. It's a move that's just sincere enough to elicit greater fan support from a fan base that's absolutely in love with the guy, but also is just cheesy enough to make you chuckle a bit inside. I wish more coaches would take time out to give a cheesy thank you to fans. Opposing fans may mock this touch, but if their own coaches were doing it, they'd absolutely love it.
2) The video that Marquette shows at the start of their player introductions includes footage of each of the players doing a ball slap with a basketball that they're holding. It's another fairly cool thing, but I couldn't help but notice that four of the players slap the ball much more powerfully than the rest of the team. Marcus Jackson and Chris Grimm slap much harder, presumably just because they're much bigger and stronger. Dameon Mason and Travis Diener also have excellent ball slaps, too, though. Since Diener and Mason are the best players on the team, I couldn't help but think that my freshman basketball coach might have been on to something when he used to take a few minutes worth of practice to have us stand in a circle and practice ball slaps. At the time, I thought it was his only move more insane than making us dribble on the wall. If Marquette’s best players are the best ball slappers, though, perhaps he wasn't as crazy as I thought.
3) Chris Grimm got another start, and began the game guarding Hassan Adams. I guess this makes it official that Grimm is now the guy that Crean is going to use to check the most athletic member of the opposing team. I still think that's pretty insane, and can't fathom how Tom Crean came up with the idea, but it did at least work fairly well against Wisconsin's Alando Tucker last week.
4) Robb Logterman, Marquette's reigning 3-point champ until Travis Diener passed him on Saturday, was honored during a time-out on Saturday. Upon seeing him on the Jumbotron, Dez said to me something to the effect of "When you look at Logterman, he looks like a guy that has a nice office job as an accountant or something. And you just know that when he started his job, no one knew who he was, and one of the friendly guys in the office came up to him one day and said 'Say Robb, me and some of the guys play basketball at lunch on Tuesdays, and if you'd like to join us, you'd be more than welcome to come.' Then Logterman lights up his co-workers when they finally play." And frankly, that explanation by Dez pretty much pegs exactly what Logterman looked like. You can see why I like sitting with this guy.
5) So Salim Stoudemire didn't play. Some would say that that was a big break for Marquette, but they'd be wrong. While it certainly didn't help Arizona to be without one of their top guards, Chris Rodgers played much like I would expect a starting guard for Arizona should.
6) Hassan Adams is still a forward at only 6'4", but I don't know that I've seen a more obscene athlete than him this year. The defining play of the game for him was an errant alley-oop pass that was thrown to him on a fast break. The pass was thrown hopelessly high, and 90% of guys playing division one basketball (and 100% of 6'4" guys) would have just watched the ball sail out of bounds. Adams leapt to where he got both of his hands on the ball, but it was simply too high to catch. A replay on the Jumbotron showed his hands at the top of the box on the backboard. Not too shabby for a 6'4" guy.
7) Marquette half time did not disappoint. The first of the festivities was a musical chairs contest involving contestants who had to dribble from half court with a ball, make a lay-up, and return to chairs at halfcourt faster than the other contestants. In one of the more astounding moments that I've ever seen at a half-time contest, one of the contestants went up for a lay-up, and came down in a heap. I couldn't see exactly what happened, as he fell right in front of the basket, and the basket blocked my view. From what I could tell, though, it looked like he must have blown out his knee. Fortunately, the Bradley Center staff reacted quickly and eventually got him off to the side, and into a wheelchair for an early exit from the arena. I assume (and hope) he'll be okay, other than the fact that he will probably take endless amounts of crap from his friends for blowing out his knee trying to shoot an uncontested lay-up.
8) I got a chuckle from a couple of the signs in the Marquette student section during the game. Perhaps most interesting was the sign that read: “Hey Diener, Facebook Me!” I would guess that this would be a reference to facebook.com, which as far as I can tell, seems to be the college version of friendster.com, that site where insecure people go to prove that they have friends. The sign was clever, though, and viewing it was enhanced by the fact that the camera operator for the Jumbotron screen kept trying to avoid the larger sign a few rows in front that simply read “Touch Me,” and had arrows pointing down.
9) It's official--Mustafa Shakur not only makes my all-name team, but he also makes my all-players-that-I-have-seen-so-far team. This dual honor is rare, and cannot be matched by the single-team status of either Sean May or Javier Meniburu. Watch out if Mendiburu picks up his game, or May freaks out and goes for a name change, though.
10) So Arizona won by 5, and I predicted them by 8. A three-point difference isn’t that much, I guess, but the game still didn’t go as I expected. Any time Arizona fails to reach 50 points, it’s unlikely that things went as anyone expected, though. I commend Arizona’s defense, though, since it looked much better than it did when I saw them play Michigan.
11) Again, a nice effort was put forth by Marcus Jackson. I’m starting to actually buy that claim that he was hurt for all of last year, and that’s why he didn’t look so good. Obviously Marquette has no one else who can play inside, but Jackson is finally developing into a solid interior guy. Good thing he doesn’t like to shoot much, since getting the ball to him will never be a priority.
12) I would be remiss if I didn’t make mention of the guys that sat behind us, who Dez likes to refer to as “The Male Cheerleaders.” He had warned me about them beforehand, and because he had done so, they became hilarious, rather than annoying. Complaining about the refs was, of course, a staple of their game-time discussion. Where they really made their mark was their insistence that Tom Crean put Ryan Amoroso in the game. I actually sort of agreed with them on this point, but I wasn’t as adamant in my belief that Amoroso would be the savior. Of course, once Amoroso got in the game, they were upset with him almost immediately for taking a three-point shot. So I guess while it’s good to have him in, he shouldn’t actually be shooting. Thanks, guys.
13) I think Steve Novak is still standing at the top of the key in the ready position waiting for Chris Rodgers to make a move on him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy get blown past so quickly in a key possession. Novak is still a painfully slow defender. In his defense, however, though he’s not much of a one-on-one defender, I’d have to guess that he still leads the team in charges taken. That gets some praise from me, and as you know, I’ve never been one to praise Novak quickly.
All in all, it was a slow, but fun game to watch, and the side-events contributed mightily to the fun of the day. I still think Arizona may be a tad over-ranked, which is tough to believe with the starting line-up that they boast. For all that talent, though, they aren’t able to put forth a top-level performance every night. Marquette continues to encourage me with their emotional play, and they should win more games that I had expected this year. I still hate their offense, but it seems to be working okay for them, and frankly, if Novak and Diener aren’t ice cold from three-point land early on, this game probably goes down a bit differently.