Friday, December 08, 2006

Rivalry Weekend

Rivalry weekend is back. For some reason, it always seems like the Marquette-Wisconsin game happens on the same weekend that Wauwatosa East (the school that I attended seemingly centuries ago) meets with Marquette University High School. There are probably the two local rivalries that I’m most interested in, so this is one of the most exciting weekends of the year for me. It is also the weekend that I’m required by my education history to hate everything named "Marquette." I’ll refrain from commenting on the high school game until afterwards, as I’ve seen neither team play this year, but a few words on the college game are a necessity.

Lots of places are going to do a player-by-player breakdown, and I hate being like everyone else. Instead, since lots of good things come in fours, here’s four lists of four-game related points:

The Four Places I Wouldn’t Want To Be Saturday Afternoon

Major Goolsby’s: I vacillate on how I feel about Goolsby’s. It is over-hyped, has terrible, greasy food, and gets way too crowded for an event like the Marquette-Wisconsin game. Despite all this, it’s tough to hate a place that doesn’t appear to have updated its decor since 1984, and where you can get an old style. On Saturday, though, I’d rather find myself in a place where I can move my arms without knocking a drink out of someone’s hands.

Front of Marquette Student Section: Granted, game time is going to be about the most excellent two hours ever, but the wait beforehand for the first come first serve will be brutal. On the bright side, the temperatures are supposed to get back up into the 30s this weekend, so it will be a bit warmer than it is now. Either way, though, take it from a man who, in his teen years, once stood for hours in sub-zero temperatures to get first row seats to a high school regional game–the game’s not as much fun when you can’t feel your toes for the first three-quarters of the game.

Bradley Center Parking Ramp: Have fun in the gridlock after the game. I’ll be walking two blocks to the lot where I parked for half the price you did. And I’ll be getting out of downtown a lot quicker.

Marquette Sports Annex: Name me one place that screams "I’m a fan, but not a big enough fan to go to the game" more than this place on Saturday afternoon.

Four Keys To the Game

Rebounding: Sure, this could be a key to any game, but it will be magnified in this one. As the Big Ten Wonk (who's got a sweet preview of the game, but the way) will tell you, Wisconsin cleans the defensive boards as well as anyone. Marquette’s revolving cache of big men over the past is generally explained by Tom Crean saying that he was just looking for someone who could rebound. Marquette’s been getting tons of second and third chances in its last few games. Stop those, and chances are that you’ll stop Marquette.

Stamina: During Marquette’s game against Delaware State, as Marquette started full-court pressing the Hornets, I overheard my friend Greg say that he wanted to see the Golden Eagles do that to Wisconsin for 40 straight minutes. Obviously, if they tried that, Dominic James would be getting his signature cramps by halftime, and Lazar Hayward might pass out. But the Golden Eagles have the opportunity to force oodles of turnovers if they press the Badgers, whose guards, all for different reasons, are susceptible to pressure. They have to figure out how far they can push themselves, though, because while they need to force turnovers, running out of gas against a team that goes 10-deep with almost no drop-off is a bad idea.

Refs: The tighter the refs call this one, the larger the foul differential will favor Wisconsin, who always seems to come out on top in fouls. I never like invoking refs in discussing how a game will go, but it’s pretty clear to me that they’ll have an exaggerated role in setting the tempo and deciding the outcome of this clash of teams with polar opposite styles.

Patience: Wisconsin is at its scariest when it is methodically cutting people apart, which they’ve done almost without interruption, with the exception of the Missouri State game. Marquette’s pressure is sure to give them problems for at least a bit. Can Wisconsin, even when it gets down a few points (as they undoubtedly will), maintain its frightening composure and keep cutting away that the Golden Eagles? If they can, it’s going to be a long day for Marquette. If not, well, you know what happened to the Badgers against Missouri State.

Four Things I That Hope Occur

1) A Stellar Statistical Night From Brian Butch
--His weakness around the hoop and goofy facial expressions make him hard for me to consistently defend in arguments. Nonetheless, it does get tiring listen to my Marquette buddies run him down day in and day out. Being able to reference an afternoon when he had 18 points and 11 rebounds would really help my cause in barroom arguments.

2) I Win the Halftime Musical Chairs Beer Bet With My Friends
–It’s not so much that I want a beer. Rather, I just want to force one of my three Marquette-fan friends to suffer the shame of having to fetch concessions for the one guy they’re with that’s wearing red.

3) I Arrive Early Enough To See the Tom Crean Taped Pregame Speech on Jumbotron
–These are always priceless, but Saturday’s has the potential to be one of the best ever, given how big the game is. Here’ the official list of things that I expect to be referenced in the talk: the need to feed off of crowd energy, the dedication of fans for leaving the house on a cold day, the word "awesome," a random alumnus that deserves recognition...

4) Dominic James Tosses Down a Reverse Dunk
–Yeah, I’m pulling for Wisconsin, but seeing a 5'11" freak of nature throw down reverse dunks is cool enough that it transcends the rivalry. No, I don’t want him to throw down 15 of them, but a taste of scary athleticism, even from the opponent, is always welcome.

Four Surprising Statements From Me

Marquette won’t win this game by running. See point number 2 of my "Four Keys to the Game" section. Marquette will get a few points by running, but they just don’t have the legs to run all game, which is okay, because no one could keep that up for 40 minutes. The halfcourt game is going to be just as important to the Golden Eagles, which can be a scary proposition if they're not firing on all cylindars.

As a Badger fan, I don’t care who guards Dominic James. James will be arguably the best player on the floor on Saturday. Michael Flowers is probably the Badgers’ best defender. Normally, I’d love to see him guarding James. With Marquette, though, Jerel McNeal is every bit as good, if not better, than James at penetrating. Do you want your best defender on the best player or the best penetrator? I’ll take either, or more likely, some combination of both. As long as Flowers is out there a lot, I don’t care.

Tom Crean scares the hell out of me this game. Normally, Tom Crean is a formidable coach, right up until he has to start making game-time decisions. Watching him draw up plays out of time-outs is painful, and he just doesn’t seem great at thinking on the fly. That said, his team will be jacked, and anyone who could successfully execute a plan as insane as his let’s-put-the-most-unathletic-big-man-we-have-on-Alando-Tucker plan that worked beautifully two years ago is someone you don’t want to mess with. If a guy’s crazy enough to put Chris Grimm on the opposing team’s best player, do you really want to risk setting him off?

I have no idea how this game will turn out. I’ve never fancied myself a basketball expert, and both of these two teams are too good for me to make a call on the outcome. Anyone who makes a definitive prediction on this game just doesn't know what they're talking about.

Enjoy the game on Saturday, and say "hello" if you see me. I’ll be one of the guys in red that everyone in section 209 is giving dirty looks to.


At 9:57 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Just a quick spelling correction from an MU grad: vacillate not vacilate. Otherwise, good analysis.

At 11:38 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Thanks for the help, Matt. Admittedly, my quality control has been weaker than usual this year, so I appreciate it when people catch things like this.


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