Friday, November 11, 2005

Marquette vs. Michigan Tech: The Future Begins Now

After seeing both UWM and Wisconsin, tonight took me to see the final of the state’s readily accessible teams for someone located where I live, as I headed to the Bradley Center to take in Marquette’s exhibition game against Michigan Tech. The scored ended up being 71-66 in Marquette’s favor, but as usual, the score doesn’t tell you much about the night. So, on to my bullet points:

1) Talked about all week as a matchup between Steve Novak, of Marquette, and younger brother Chris, of Michigan Tech, the sibling shootout never occurred. Steve Novak sat out the game with an injury, and Chris Novak never got off the bench (at least not that I noticed). Fortunately, post game comments from Tom Crean indicated that the elder Novak was not seriously injured, and his appearance in street clothes was merely a precautionary move.

2) While this wasn’t from the game itself, I happened to be on the road a bit for work today, and got the chance to listen to the last minute or so of Marquette play-by-play man Steve “The Homer” True’s radio interview with Chris Novak during his afternoon talk show. True ended the interview with an inspired question, asking Novak how many letters his sharpshooting brother Steve would have to spot him in a game of horse in order to for Chris to beat Steve 50% of the time or more. Chris is apparently a ridiculously honest man, since he said his brother would have to start with H-O-R-S in order for it to be an even match-up. Either that or Chris severely lacks confidence.

3) Intros were really boring tonight, and I assume that’s mainly because it was the first exhibition game of the season. There were no inflatable men on the floor and no cool videos of the players on the jumbotron. The lights were dimmed for Marquette, the U2 music kicked in, and some spotlights were tossed about. Nothing more. It was a bit too minimalist, though, and I’m expecting better things as the season goes forward.

4) Along with Novak, Mike Kinsella continued his stunning run of games in street clothes, and Ousmane Barro joined in, apparently a victim of illness of some sort. Joe Chapman suited up, but did not play. I had hoped that Chapman had perhaps sat out since he’s the most experienced man on the team, and they just needed to get a look at the freshman guards (yes, I know that would be a ridiculous expectation). In the post game show, though, Tom Crean said that Chapman was riding the pine because he needed to start acting like a senior and taking ownership in the team. I certainly don’t know what the background is here, and I have no idea who the blame lies with, but the fact that a key senior was benched and then called out publicly for a lack of leadership makes me a bit concerned about team chemistry (and Chapman’s role this year).

5) The starting lineup consisted of Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, Dan Fitzgerald, and Ryan Amoroso. Chapman probably would have started if he wasn’t in the coach’s doghouse, and Novak definitely would have started if healthy. Who knows what would have happened with Barro. Nonetheless, with the exception of Novak taking out Fitzgerald, I wouldn’t be shocked to see this as the starting lineup by year’s end. Well with one other exception, but that leads into my next point...

6) Jamil Lott is very strong, and definitely threw his hat into the ring for a shot at becoming Marquette’s go-to big man. I haven’t been this excited about a new big man’s prospects since James Matthews, who I absolutely loved in the exhibition season two years ago. Let’s hope that Lott, unlike Matthews, has his head screwed on straight.

7) Jerel McNeal has some of the quickest hands that I’ve ever seen. On defense, his hands were constantly in the face of his opponent, and he likely led the way tonight for a team that had a large number of deflections. I still remember him getting pushed around when Joe Chapman bodied up against him at midnight madness, but on the perimeter, he looks to be a solid defender.

8) Fond du Lac native Robby Springborn played most of Michigan Tech’s minutes at the point guard spot, and looked good doing so. Of course, other than his play, the thing that sticks out to me is that his size makes his name seem about as appropriate as can be. I don’t know a lot of guys over the age of 11 that seem to look like a “Robby,” but when you see Springborn play, it seems apparent that someone had some foresight in naming him.

9) Memo to the guy near me in the stands who had on the black leather jacket with orange trim, a ball on the back and the words “Carver Basketball” on it: I want your coat. I’m not sure where I would wear it, since there are limited times in life when a coat making a stealth reference to The White Shadow would be reasonable to wear, but it still seems like a cool thing to have. You’ve got to imagine that 99.9% of the population is probably just thinking that the guy is a coach at some school they’ve never heard of.

10) At halftime, Marquette trotted out their infamous musical chairs contest, which I never thought I’d see again, after last year’s incident where a guy wrecked his knee while shooting a lay-up. Risk management apparently gave their approval, and probably questioned that move when the final two contestants collided at midcourt in a mad dash for the last chair. Both immediately popped up unharmed, but given the game’s history, it had to be a tense moment for those in charge of the game.

11) Seeing Dominic James going to the locker room with an injury was the most horrific sight imaginable to a Marquette fan. Thankfully, James was only gone for a short while, returning to the court later to cross over his defender in frighteningly quick fashion. Did I mention that this guy’s going to be good?

12) As expected, the interior play needs work. Tom Crean managed to put a positive spin on things in his post-game interview, talking about his big men actually working for position and making offensive moves in the post. However, defense and rebounding are not strong suits of any of the 4/5 types that I saw tonight. Michigan Tech didn’t exactly attack the paint tonight, and you could still see the problems. Frankly, I’m frightened to see what might happen when Marquette faces a team with a good center.

13) Poorly executed Kiss Cam on the jumbotron tonight, as it appeared that two of the three couples show during the designated timeout appeared not to actually be romantically linked. One pair was coaxed into kissing on their second time on camera, prompting a reflex in me to make a groaning sound, and the guy in front of me to look back and say to me “you described that well.” The people involved were not unattractive or anything like that, but their effort was perhaps the most awkward, half-hearted attempt at a kiss that I’ve ever seen. In fact it was so poor, I think we might see Marquette go back to the Flex Cam next week.

14) It was good to see Dan Fitzgerald for the first time. I think he’s going to be a solid, but unspectacular addition to the team. About what I expected. He’ll definitely improve his stats over those from his Tulane days.

15) Michigan Tech had a guard by the name of Bob Evans. He has to get kidded about his name all the time. If I was his teammate, I’d constantly be asking him to go out to breakfast with me, or bugging him about how he likes his eggs. And eventually, he’d probably punch me in the mouth. I still hope his teammates are taking advantage of the fact that they’ve got a teammate named after a restaurant chain, though.

16) If you don’t think I’m even more excited about Wesley Matthews after seeing him lead the team in scoring tonight, then you’re kidding yourself.

So you’ve read all of my points and you’re probably thinking to yourself “What the hell is wrong with Chris–Marquette just beat a division two team by a measly 5 points, and he’s dishing out compliments left and right. I must be missing something.” Indeed, I don’t think this game was as discouraging as the score. For one thing, Michigan Tech tossed up a boatload of three-pointers, and simply hit enough to keep themselves in the game. They played largely like those roving teams of former college players that used to play exhibition games. You know they’re not better than the host team, but they just keep hitting threes and hanging around. And that’s not to discredit Michigan Tech at all–they appear to be a fairly good division two team.

Secondly, it was an experimental night for Marquette. Lineups and situations were tested out, and though there are a lot of kinks to be worked out, there are also lots of things to be excited for in the future. Tonight gave a glimpse of the future. As will be the case for most of Marquette’s season, I think it’s safe to say that they’re not anywhere near where they need to be right now, but they’re getting there. They’re definitely getting there.


At 8:31 PM, Blogger Jonathan West said...

Wow. This is the same brother of mine who rapidly rode his ass down the stairs of our family home and coveted a doll named Dapper Dan. I know more about basketball now than I ever had. And tragically I now know the true you. Good luck getting girls to talk to you.

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