Marquette vs. Providence: A Rough Beginning
Last night I had been hoping to get downtown to see a rare UWM game, as I’ve been pretty neglectful of the Panthers this year, and as their overtime win last night proves, my theory about them hitting their stride in the second half of the season may have some merit. Unfortunately, Wednesday afternoon I began coming down with a nasty cold, and decided that it would be best if I tried to rest at home, and just watch the Marquette-Providence game on TV. I’m lazy enough that I probably would have done this anyway, but the cold provided even more justification for doing so. And after missing Marquette’s Big East opener last year, I was a bit wary of doing so again. Game thoughts below:
1) I recognize that when you’re dealing with ESPN+, you’re not getting the top level production team for the game, but I still came away pretty unimpressed with some of the things that occurred at the start of the game. As anyone who’s been somewhat following Marquette knows, Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal both suffered head injuries in a collision several days ago. As such, their playing status was not known until hours before the game. McNeal ended up not playing. Nonetheless, not only was he listed in the on-screen starting lineup for Marquette, he was profiled in a graphic as Marquette’s "star of the game" to watch. Now, I can almost forgive the starting lineup gaffe, since it’s possible ESPN didn’t get the message on that, given the late announcement on McNeal’s status. But if McNeal’s in doubt, why make him the "star of the game?" Couldn’t you use Dominic James, who you know is going to play, and is arguably the bigger star? And then, the whole thing sort of seemed glossed over. I think the next tidbit that I heard about McNeal was after halftime, when the sideline reporter made note of his status as if it was breaking news. Didn’t anyone at ESPN have a clue as to what’s been going on in Milwaukee.
2) I’ll never tire of Dominic James’ freakish athleticism, particularly when I see things like the moment early in the game when he was in the lane and had to pull himself back in order to avoid goaltending a shot. As has become my mantra with regard to all things James-related, you don’t see a lot of 5'11" guys who can do that.
3) It was sort of demoralizing to listen to the TV announcers talk about Marquette switching to a 2-3 zone in order to allow them to gum things up in the lane a bit more, only to watch Providence knock down an easy layup right as the point was being made. Of course, Providence also did just fine attacking the zone in the more traditional way of knocking down three-pointers, as well. Rough night in the zone for Marquette.
4) The TV announcers kept referring to Providence as "PC" last night. While "PC" makes sense as an abbreviation for "Providence College," has anyone else ever heard it referred to in this manner? Maybe it’s a regional thing that we just never hear out here in the midwest, but to me, Providence has always just been Providence. No need for abbreviation.
5) I’m not a particular fan of the arm sleeves worn by Dominic James and Dan Fitzgerald, but Fitzgerald’s sleeve has always bothered me more. James’ build allows him to pull off the Allen Iverson tough-guy look, which though not something I believe one should want to aspire to, is at least a defensible look. Fitzgerald’s skinny arms, when sleeved up, make him look like a woman wearing long gloves to a formal event. So I hope the sleeve really helps his arm, because it sure doesn’t make him look good.
6) I’m not sure if it was the official mascot or not, but either way, the white, ghostly figure (which I’m assuming was a weak representation of a Friar) that I saw behind the basket on a couple of plays was one of the creepiest mascot-type figures that I’ve ever seen.
7) The second half "interview" with Celtics exec Danny Ainge was one of the weakest uses of the sideline reporter that I’ve ever seen. The main question to Ainge was whether he was scouting anyone in particular at the game, to which he answered that he was not, and was just there for pleasure. I’ll give Ainge this, though, as the reporter struggled to find a way to follow that answer up, he pretty much summed up the game when he noted "Providence’s big men are dominating."
8) With about 4:30 left in the game, Providence took a timeout, and afterwards inbounded the ball for a quick three-pointer. How come Marquette can never pull this off out of a time-out?
9) Undoubtedly, Marquette missed Jerel McNeal’s ability to get into the lane last night. But more than that, they missed having someone who could shoot the ball. This game really highlighted the different dimension that Steve Novak brought to the team last year. If Novak was still around, Marquette would have been in last night’s game the whole time, even with the dominant performance of Providence’s interior. When your team’s strength is its guards, and their shooting isn’t great, there’s going to be a few games where they get taken down like this, no matter how good they are at getting to the hoop.
10) I heard the "overrated" chant coming from the rafters of Dunkin’ Donuts Arena at the end of the game last night. I’m not as down on the overrated chant as some people. Even if it devalues the win that your team just completed, I still like that fact that you’re trying to get under the other team’s skin. That said, is the "overrated" chant all that appropriate when you’re playing the #23 team in the country? It would seem to me that this chant should be hauled out only in the event that your team upsets an opponent who is ranked #15 or higher (with an exception if said opponent is a ranked mid-major, in which case the chant is always fair game). Because if you’re lower than that, does anyone really care if you’re overrated?
Post game, I vowed to do a couple of quick chores, and get myself to bed, in an attempt to sleep the cold out of me. Unfortunately, this didn’t quite work, since a 9:30pm showdown between Arizona and Washington caught my attention, and wouldn’t let go until the final buzzer. If you caught this marvelous display of running and shooting, you know what I’m talking about. That’s okay, though, since I’ve got the whole weekend to catch up on sleep. There’s only so many chances that I’m going to get to see two teams like Arizona and Washington trying to run one another off the floor.
Enjoy the weekend. It should be a good one for me, as I attempt to take in my first division three game of the year.