Marquette and Duke: I'm Talking About Them Today, and I'll Talk About Them Tomorrow
Last night I stayed in to catch most of the Duke-Air Force game, and all of the Marquette-Texas Tech game. Because I closely follow both Marquette (the team I loved while growing up) and Duke (yeah, I’ve always bought into the hype), it was a fun night for me. And it’s going to get even more fun tomorrow as Marquette and Duke square off. My notes from the night are below. They’re mainly geared toward Marquette’s performance, but I’ve sprinkled in a few Duke points, and a few comments looking forward to tonight at the end. Here we go:
1) Yesterday my friend Beau sent me his player efficiency ratings (which I should have time to post for you tomorrow) and a few extremely accurate notes to accompany his statistical analysis. One of those notes was that Ousmane Barro has been very solid for Marquette so far this year. I couldn’t agree more, and beyond my note yesterday about him being the last man standing from two recent recruiting classes, he’s actually thriving. Who’d have thought that a raw big man who’d played very little organized basketball would end up becoming a key cog for one of the most talented Marquette teams in recent memory.
2) Even if you leave Barro out of the equation, it was a great night for the Marquette big men. I found myself asking myself several times during the first ten minutes of the game "Is that really Dwight Burke?" Granted, Texas Tech’s frontcourt isn’t the scariest bunch of guys in the world, but if Marquette’s big men can contribute at all, look for more dominant team performances like last night’s.
3) I think Dick Vitale screaming that an opposing team "needs a TO, baby!!!" is probably the ultimate sign of respect for a team that’s forcing the timeout. I know I got a happy, tingly feeling when he was yelling that Bob Knight needed to "get a TO" last night.
4) I’ve said it before, but with the reckless abandon that Wesley Matthews attacks the hoop, I’ll be astounded if he makes it through the season in one piece. When he was fouled attempting his second dunk of the evening, he fell to the ground harder than anyone I’ve seen since Slamball was cancelled.
5) It’s the 2006-7 now, and my confusing crush on Doris Burke continues...
6) At one point during the game play-by-play man Dan Shulman (who I like, by the way) was tossing some banter back and forth with Vitale and referenced, I believe, the induction ceremony for the newly opened college basketball hall of fame. Did anyone else find it odd that Shulman seemed to express surprise that of the four living inductees, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Dean Smith and John Wooden, everyone was most excited to be around Wooden? I mean, normally it would be pretty exciting to be in a room with Robertson, Russell or Smith, but isn’t Wooden still on a totally separate plane? There’s no reason to be surprised when his presence upstages Robertson, Russell and Smith. Wooden’s the most god-like living sports figure we have, and he’s going to be a more compelling guy than just about anyone else out there.
7) During one of the time-outs, I had the pleasure of taking in a commercial for Sonic, the drive-in fast food chain. The product that they were advertising was something called the "Fritos Chili-Cheese Wrap." This sounds like perhaps the most unhealthy item ever created (particularly when you consider that they’re pushing it to be enjoyed with a side of tater tots). This also sounds like the type of low-brow fast food item that I absolutely need to try. Per the Sonic website, there’s no Sonic franchise within 150 miles of my home. However with a holiday weekend coming up, perhaps a road trip is in order...
8) Let’s revisit point #11 from a few days ago when I stated:
Oh yeah, mark it down–if Marquette happens to play Duke in the CBE Classic tournament that they’re both in later this month, Duke’s in for a world of hurt. I’ll explain further if this theoretical matchup ever comes to fruition, but let’s just say Duke’s Jon Scheyer doesn’t get out of that game without turning the ball over at least 6 times and shedding numerous tears.
Here’s the deal–I had the opportunity to glance at Duke before the season began. This was when Greg Paulus was out with his injury and looking to be out until December. When I saw them, Jon Scheyer was inexplicably running the point (perhaps the most inappropriate man to hold this role since Marquette assigned its point duties to Robb Logterman in 1991, before recruiting three point guards for the next season). Two things sort of take the edge off of this fact, now. First, obviously, Paulus is back (though he’s not anywhere near midseason form), and Duke actually has a guy that you would classify as a point guard. Second, in the times when Paulus was sitting down last, bringing the ball up the floor was a true team effort. Scheyer played a role, but Josh McRoberts was often right by his side, calming things down.
So yeah, I’m backing off of my earlier comments just a bit. I couldn’t have known that Paulus would be back in time for this game. Where I did error was thinking that someone like Mike Krzyzewski wouldn’t recognize a glaring weakness and plan for it. Am I still predicting a Marquette win? After the way they played last night (even though Texas Tech’s effort could have been far better), I’m sticking by the Golden Eagles to pull out the victory. Scheyer’s not going to cry, though. His friends will help him through this tough time.
9) Based on the little that I knew about Duke coming into the evening, two things surprised me about their linuep. First, Brian Zoubek is actually getting playing time. Aside from the fact that Zoubek looked a bit like a project the first time that I saw him, Duke’s past is littered with big men that don’t work out. I guess assistant coach Chris Collins wasn’t lying when he was quoted in the Blue Ribbon Yearbook saying "By no means is this a project." Second, I thought that Martynas Pocius would be playing a lot more. I loved the guy last year, and figured that the only reason that he wasn’t playing was that he was stuck behind lots of other talent. Then he logs light minutes.
10) Just a hunch, but I get the sense that Mike Krzyzewski likes Lance Thomas slightly more than the other guys on his roster. I’m still not sure why this would be (though he did have an excellent game last night), but I’m willing to defer to Coach K, since he probably know a little bit more about basketball than I do.
11) I had given some thought about drafting up a "Keys to the Game" posting for tonight, but when I got to thinking about what I would say, it would have ended up being the most cliched breakdown ever. Why? Because the keys to tonight’s Marquette-Duke game are going to be turnovers and rebounding, which you can say about pretty much every basketball game ever played. They’re actually going to be pretty interesting plots in this game, though. Marquette’s guards, in theory, should be Duke’s worst nightmare when it comes to creating turnovers. Duke, however, showed last night that while they lack a rock-solid ball handler when Greg Paulus is out, that they can scheme with multiple players to maximize ball security. Duke’s Josh McRoberts, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek should easily handle Marquette’s cavalcade of no-better-than adequate big men on the boards, but that conclusion is not certain if Marquette’s big guys can step up like they did against Texas Tech.
Beyond this game being great because it involves two of the teams that I follow most closely, it’s going to be great because each team is going to throw everything that they have into it. While Duke plays has played some solid teams thus far, this will be their first game against a power conference opponent this year, so you know that they’re going to want to look good. Marquette, quite simply, has the opportunity to beat Duke, which is one of the most consistently excellent programs in all of college basketball. One of Tom Crean’s greatest strengths is motivation, and if you don’t think that he’ll have his team coming out of the locker room convinced that the fate of the world depends on the outcome of this game, then you’re just not familiar with Tom Crean.
My pick? I’m still riding the wave of dominating Texas Tech last night, so I’ll take say Marquette wins this one 85-78. However it ends up, I’m preparing for a night of pure fun.