I did see a few more things this weekend, but the things that held my attention most were the Marquette-West Virginia game that I attended, and the Wisconsin-Northwestern game that I watched on TV. Thoughts below:
Wisconsin vs. Northwestern:
1) I’m on record in the past noting that Tim Doyle is perhaps the least athletic division one basketball player that I’ve ever seen, and that if the camera never showed his feet, you’d suspect that he was wearing black dress socks during the game. I guess it’s these things that make the fact that he’s good so frustrating. When’s the last time you saw a guard back down someone in the lane as if he was playing in his driveway at home?
2) Thanks for Vince Scott for hitting some three-pointers early in the game. While his scoring actually hurt the Badgers, and the set shot type technique that he used was pretty goofy looking, I needed Scott to score. Last year he made me look foolish after I talked up his range, and then he failed to connect from outside as I watched a Northwestern game with some friends. So Vince Scott, thanks for doing just enough to keep me from looking stupid again.
3) My friend Dez notes that the Northwestern mascot should be called the M-Cat. I couldn’t agree more.
4) I ended up watching most of the Badger game with my friend The Franchise, who is a fierce Marquette fan (in fact, we had just left the Marquette-West Virginia game) and despises Wisconsin. Watching a game with The Franchise when he hates one of the teams is always interesting. During the game, there were about 6 instances of him watching the Badgers hit a shot and then noting "well, this game is over." Obviously he was trying to set himself up to talk about how Wisconsin had the game in hand and then blew it, just in case they ended up losing. It wasn’t one of the most masterful set-ups I’ve ever seen, as one of his declarations that the Badgers had the game won came when they hit a shot to cut Northwestern’s lead by one. Sure, Northwestern’s not Ohio State, but I’m still not declaring their chances at a win dead when they’re up by one. (Other things that I learned from The Franchise on Saturday: The season will be an utter disappointment for Wisconsin if the Badgers don’t make the Final Four.)
5) How crazy is it that after a struggle to beat Northwestern, it would seem likely that Wisconsin will actually move up in the national rankings this week. Thanks for beating up on the Tar Heels, Virginia Tech.
Marquette vs. West Virginia:
1) My friends and I decided to vocally point out turnovers by Jerel McNeal in the West Virginia game, and it was pretty impressive how quickly the numbers added up. That said, McNeal does enough on both ends of the floor in terms of scoring and disrupting the other teams guards that even though he seems to be averaging 6 turnovers per game, his positives make up for it. So, if you’re an optimist, you’re saying that McNeal’s pretty good, in spite of his turnovers. Or, if you’re a pessimist, you’d have to say that McNeal’s not quite as good as his other stats imply, given his massive turnover rate.
2) Though we’ve not come up with a way to gamble on it yet, my friend and I have a new contest with one another at Marquette games. When Dan Fitzgerald comes into the game, we each pick the amount of time that will be left on the clock when he commits his first foul. Seldom are any of the picks more than 3 minutes from when he enters the game. He’s sort of like the new Chris Grimm, except that Grimm was much more likely to commit his fouls off the ball. Fitzgerald didn’t let us down on Saturday, committing his first foul within 2 seconds of my predicted time.
3) The halftime presentation of players from the past years of Marquette basketball was nice, but not nearly as good as last year’s, when they introduced the name of every player in attendance. Not only was that fun for reminding yourself of old names from the past (an experience that had to be even more fun for someone old enough to remember back past about 1985), but you also sort of want to know who the guys who have let themselves go physically are. It’s still jarring to see guys who played in the 1990s who are noticeably overweight (with the exception of Damon Key, whose appearance last year sort of confirmed what we’d always expected would happen.).
4) Dwight Burke continued his fine play for Marquette, which can mean only one thing: two weeks from now he’ll be playing about 6 minutes per game, while Jamil Lott stops playing in garbage time and takes Burke’s minutes. I’d like to say that I’m just joking on this point, but given Marquette’s big-man substitution patterns of the last couple years, there’s at least a 40% chance that I’m right on this one.
5) Without a doubt, this was the best that I’ve seen Marquette play this year (yes, even better than the Duke game). Against a team that seemed custom-built to beat them, the Golden Eagles got out and ran, hit their foul shots, and even hit some shots behind the three-point line. For a team that looked a week ago like they’d go 0-4 to start conference play, you can’t help but be impressed by their play, and their 2-2 conference record.
Big fun tonight, as Marquette takes on Louisville, led by a local favorite of mine, freshman Jerry Smith. Here’s hoping that Smith scores 30 on Marquette, but that the Cardinals lose by 15. (Hey, I can still love the local products, even if they’re playing for the enemy).