Friday, January 18, 2008

Marquette vs. Louisville: ...And One Step Back

It hardly seems possible that a Marquette team that plowed over Notre Dame in resounding fashion less than a week ago could look so rough last night. But it was a long night in front of my television watching Marquette miss all of the few three-point shots that they attempted, and observing Louisville’s skilled big men annihilate Marquette’s bodies filling interior roles. Luckily, I had tickets to a concert that night and was forced to turn the game off before the end (when G. Love and Special Sauce are in town, that even trumps basketball), but things were far enough along that I knew how things were going to turn out–badly. And even more insulting, this game kept me from watching Tennessee-Vanderbilt, which had been a game I was looking forward to until I realized the conflict in timing with my home team (who can deny Bruce Pearl in an orange blazer?). Thoughts below:

1) I know everyone on the planet has said this already, but I’m really hoping that superstition doesn’t put and end to Marquette using their powder blue uniforms, because those things are really great. Even I was thinking of buying one of those things, and I’m pretty sure there’s nowhere on the planet that I could wear it, unless I became an aspiring rapper. They just look really cool–cool enough to get me to throw away good money on one. And they’re not the reason that the Golden Eagles lost last night, so please coach, let the kids wear their powder blue uniforms.

2) David Padgett and Brian Butch will always by linked in my head, as they were the two 6'10" crafty power-forward types that made the McDonald’s all-American team during their senior year of high school. Kind of amusing today to see them both left as 5th year seniors, both burned by injuries over the years (Padgett much more so–it’s a miracle to even see him on the floor this year), and both have even more crafty than they started out (Padgett because injuries have sapped him of whatever athleticism he had, and Butch because he generally lacked athleticism all along.). As good as Padgett looked with a few hundred thousand miles on him against Marquette last night, it’s interesting to think what he might be if his knees weren’t always in the wrong place at the wrong time.

3) Early in the game, Jerel McNeal dunked on a fast break well after the refs ruled the ball out of bounds. I found myself jogging my memory regarding whether McNeal ever dunks in games, since I tend to think of him as more of a layup kind of guy. I figured in that instance he was just dunking knowing that the play was dead and he couldn’t screw anything up if he missed. He dunked similarly later in the game after action was whistled dead. And then late in the game during live action he missed a potentially momentum changing dunk, which to be fair, was a ball that pretty much needed to be dunked if he wanted it to go in. So McNeal remains a layup guy in my mind, at least until the next time he throws down in a game.

4) Maybe the most painful moment of the game for me was watching Maurice Acker, Jerel McNeal, and Wesley Matthews, arguably the three Marquette guys you’d most want running a break, perfectly set up a defender on a 3-on-1 break, and then pass too many times and allow Louisville to catch up and block the ball out of bounds.

5) I’ve seen a little bit of Louisville this year, and I’d always sensed something weird when watching Derrick Caracter (other than his demeanor). I feel like an idiot for saying this, because it’s patently obvious, but when the announcer finally made note of the big change for him I thought “Yeah, that guy has lost a hell of a lot of weight.” Sometimes I miss the obvious.

6) What is it with Ousmane Barro and Dwight Burke picking up four (or in Burke’s case, five) fouls lately? Good thing Trend Blackledge has been putting forth a decent effort lately. (Another great moment last night, by the way, was when Burke fouled out with just upwards of 6 minutes to go, and Barro, almost instinctively, immediately started to run towards the scorer’s table to check in. Before he could do so, though, Crean grabbed him to let him know the news–he wasn’t going in–Blackledge was. Not a bad call, but couldn’t have been a fine moment for Barro.)

7) One of the nice things about this game last night was seeing some moments of excellent sportsmanship. Early in the contest, Dominic James fouled David Padgett hard, and immediately helped him up. Late in the game, Padgett took Wesley Matthews to the ground with a hard foul, and also promptly helped him up and inquired as to whether he was okay. The best thing about it is that both instances seemed instinctual, as if you could see James and Padgett thinking “I hit that guy really hard while he was in the air–I’d better make sure he’s okay and help him up.” For two teams in a rivalry that could easily cause emotions to boil over, it was nice to see that type of respect on the floor.

8) I don’t know that I can defend Louisville fans booing while Dominic James was on the ground writhing in pain from re-injuring his wrist, but I sort of understand where they’re coming from. James is one of those guys that, over the years, has shown a tendency to cause game stoppages for cramps and other injuries, only to re-enter the game a minute or two later. Legitimate as his pain may be, when it happens all the time, fans start to question whether it’s necessary. Heck, two years ago at a game at Purdue, I found myself yelling at Brian Butch, another guy who tends to leave and re-enter games for injuries quite often, to get up and stop being soft. And that’s a guy on the team I was rooting for (yeah, the Purdue fans around me thought I was kind of odd). So strange as it seems, I understand why Louisville fans would boo an injured player.

9) Speaking of James, let’s hope he’s okay, because he looked in even more pain than usual. If he is out for any period of time, the good news is that he’s got four other guys around him that are pretty capable of picking up the slack. You never want to lose a star player, particularly one who’s been playing as well as James lately, but Marquette’s depth at guard could really end up paying dividends over the next few weeks if there is a problem.

So here’s hoping for a bounce-back against Connecticut this weekend. A decent conference road win for the Golden Eagles has to happen sometime. I’ll try to be back with thoughts on Monday, but we’ll see how it goes. I think I heard recently that the FCC was fining local TV stations that show anything other than Packer coverage this entire weekend, so it might be tough to find basketball around here. I can only imagine how positively frightening it must be to live in Green Bay right now...


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