Marquette vs. Cardinal Stritch: Guarded Optimism
Big news this year-I’ve got Marquette season tickets with my friends Dez, Greg (aka, The Franchise) and Dave. So last night I took in the Marquette-Cardinal Stritch exhibition, and lamented the fact that I effectively paid $30 for a game that I’d normally buy a scalped ticket to for $8. The deal’s going to seem a lot better in Big East season, though. Thoughts below:
1) As I learned during last year’s exhibition season, it’s always a bit disappointing to head down to the Bradley Center before the real season starts, since Marquette doesn’t break out the full bag of tricks from an entertainment standpoint. The video montage that plays during player introductions wasn’t shown last night, and those bizarre wind-sock men that will undoubtedly be out for introductions during Big East play sat idle somewhere in the arena last night. There was also no crowd meter broken out in the second half, though I assume that’s because the meter is being repaired. At every game that I went to last year, the crowd got too loud for the meter to handle, eventually making it explode, with its confetti-like parts raining down on the crowd. Shame on Marquette for not getting a meter that can consistently handle the crowd noise of the Bradley Center.
2) One of the great pre-game innovations last evening was a camera showing the Marquette squad in the bowels of the Bradley Center preparing to run out the tunnel. Cameras in the common areas of the arena prior to entrances? I call that the pro-wrestle-cam. And anything that can push college basketball events closer towards being something that Hulk Hogan’s involved in is something that I’m in favor of.
3) Let me get this straight–Cardinal Stritch’s mascot is "The Wolves?" Why not "The Cardinals?" Maybe that would be a little bit obvious, but is obvious really all that bad a thing?
4) Cardinal Stritch is a really intriguing place to me. In the first place, despite it being a Milwaukee area college, I didn’t know a single player on their roster. It’s also an NAIA school, and I’m pretty sure that I haven’t heard anything about the NAIA since about 1989. Finally, I recall when I was a child and my brother was getting the bombardment of mail that comes when you’re a college-bound 16-year old, that an 8-year-old me ranked Cardinal Stritch as one of the three most asinine names of institutions of higher learning to send my brother mail. The other two, of course, were Simon’s Rock of Bard and St. Scholastica (the latter just sounded made up by some guy that wanted to sound smart).
5) I’ll now point out the obvious thing that people at the game all saw: David Cubillan is good. And by good, I mean he’ll be playing big minutes every night. This is somewhat surprising to me, as I never read that he’d be an impact player. In fact, with the transfer of Maurice Acker last year, I sort of got the impression that Cubillan would be one of those guys whose name we’d probably never hear in four years at Marquette. But that’s not the case. Cubillan’s just a step down from Marquette’s three super sophomores, and plays with far more poise and intelligence than any freshmen should. When Tom Crean nearly broke down crying saying that he’d never again be caught without good guards after Marquette’s NIT loss two years ago, he wasn’t kidding.
6) Marquette’s newcomer with the most hype, Lazar Hayward, looked like nothing special last evening. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt, though, since he’s probably rusty from only being cleared to practice and play with the team very recently, and because he wears a headband. Every team should have a headband guy. Dez was quick to express the hope that Hayward is a guy who takes the Clifford Robinson-like step of changing his headband’s color to suit his mood. I couldn’t agree more.
7) In even more newcomer news, color me impressed with juco transfer Lawrence Blackledge. Prior to the season, I’ve seen him discussed as a potential redshirt candidate, since he’s built like a mini-Manute Bol. However, his athleticism, and Marquette’s lack of talent at the post positions (more on that in my next point) make me think that the Golden Eagles can’t redshirt Blacklege this year. He might not be a traditional post player, but he’s 6'8", can handle the ball competently, and at least in my mind, is a better option than Mike Kinsella and Dwight Burke.
8) Marquette’s big men? Still nothing to get excited about. Ousmane Barro keeps surprising me by getting better and better. He’s the one guy that will pretty clearly get playing time, no matter what. As such, Tom Crean spent most of the first half checking out the other big guys to see what he has. Jamil Lott looked a lot more helpful last year (when I was his biggest advocate), Dwight Burke is still an ongoing project, and Mike Kinsella has become this year’s answer to Chris Grimm in terms of being the guy that my friends and I will make fun of most. (Although in fairness, I always thought Grimm brought more to the table than people gave him credit for, even if he was a moving screen waiting to happen.) And like I said before, I think Lawrence Blackledge, despite standing 6'8" and weighing roughly 137 pounds, can leapfrog any of the big men but Barro. Either way, after Barro we’re in for another year of Tom Crean’s big-man musical chairs.
9) Speaking of musical chairs, the halftime program featured Marquette’s infamous basketball musical chairs game. Last night’s game was interesting for two reasons. First, one of the least talented players (i.e., he had some trouble making the required layups) nearly won. Secondly, all but one of the student contestants was wearing a gold t-shirt and jeans. The one outsider? He was wearing a basketball practice jersey and orange athletic shorts. These clothes may very well just be what this guy wore to the game, but I prefer to believe that he was way too jacked up to compete in a ridiculous halftime game, and over prepared himself in a nerd-like fashion.
10) What needs to be said about Marquette’s trio of sophomore guards. They were good last year, and all three got better. Jerel McNeal’s aggressiveness is less foolish, Wesley Matthews’ athleticism has adjusted to the college game (he’s officially my favorite MU player), and I’m now confident that Dominic James will have no less than three jaw-dropping plays per game. Add David Cubillan into the mix, and this backcourt is easily far better than I expected it to be. And that’s saying something, because I expected a pretty outstanding backcourt.
11) 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.
12) I listened to some of the post game show last night, and just feel the need again to point out how much I like Jim McIlvaine. There’s no reason why he should be as good as he is at radio analysis, but he clearly knows what he’s talking about and communicates points very well. I hope he’s around for a long time.
13) I had no idea until the post-game show that this Friday’s Marquette game against Hillsdale College is not an exhibition. I guess this isn’t surprising to me, given that Marquette’s been bringing in a laughable non-conference schedule pretty much as long as they’ve been in a conference. I think the thing that does surprise me, though, is that their practice against Kansas State replaced an exhibition game. While I think that the K-State practice was a great idea, and was probably more useful than an exhibition game to this team, it does sort of surprise me that Marquette gave up exhibition game revenue to make K-State happen. With all the banter out there about finance issues dictating Marquette’s weak non-conference schedule, it sort of perplexes me that Marquette would pass on forcing season ticket holders to buy an extra game, and instead pay out money to travel to Kansas. Hey, it makes me happy if this does work, but logically it just doesn’t seem like it should.
And with the end of the game, I returned home to the final moments of the Colts-Patriots football game, and happily reflected on the fact that it will be at least another year before I will hear another sports radio argument over whether Tom Brady or Peyton Manning is the better quarterback.
Back tomorrow with some UWM game thoughts, though I’ll probably just be listening on the radio tonight, due to some other things I want to get done.