Friday, January 04, 2008

Marquette vs. Providence: You Know, We Could Win This Whole Thing...

After my night of catching Wisconsin’s televised Big Ten opener, it was time to get down to see Marquette’s Big East opener first hand. For the last few weeks, getting to Marquette games has felt like a chore for me, since the Golden Eagles have actually been beating awful teams as badly as they should, creating no drama whatsoever. But last night I gladly made the drive down on one of the coldest nights so far this season to watch Marquette play host to Providence, their first Big East foe of the year. This time, a low-drama blowout felt great. My thoughts:

1) Right before the game started, I looked at my friend Dez and said “I don’t want to jinx things, but I’ve been thinking about it, and I think Marquette’s going to win the conference this year.” Things eventually worked themselves out, but I was getting a little upset with myself when the first minute of the game included seven points for Providence, two turnovers for Marquette, and a zero on the scoreboard for home team, as well. If my prediction does hold true, that might end up going down in history as the worst first minute of conference play ever for a conference champion.

2) I usually complain about Tom Crean wildly mixing up his minutes for big men, but I think I’ve come to a point this year where I don’t really mind it that much. None of Marquette’s post options are anything more than intermittently good, so trying to ride the wave of a good week of practice with these guys may actually be the way to go. Sure, it might feel a bit odd to have Lawrence Blackledge starting a game last week, and subbing in as part of the garbage time crew last night (and scoring 7 magnificent points, including a highlight-reel dunk that brings his jaw-dropping plays per game average to .94), but given that Blacklege, Ousmane Barro and Dwight Burke have all been around for awhile now, they probably know the drill and have accepted it.

3) Weird and lame promotion of the night–a pair of fans from the second deck were given the chance to move to the first deck courtesy of Fidelity Investments, if they could recite where Fidelity was located. Aside from the possibility that some people like their second deck seats and might not want to move, I was also bothered by the fact that it wasn’t made real clear how specific the location answer had to be. The fans in question won, answering “Brookfield.” Apparently they didn’t need to get right down to the address or the street name. But could they have named, say, a Fidelity location in Delaware and still have won? Annoyed as I am by this promotion, though, I must begrudgingly admit that it worked, as right now I’m still aware that Fidelity is located on Bluemound Road, just across the street from Brookfield Square mall.

4) It may have been a record-setting night for random, debilitating groin shots received by Marquette, after two instances where guys actually limped off the floor after taking shots to their nether-regions. Perhaps the next opponent on Providence’s schedule should consider wearing cups.

5) Getting back to big men, huge night from Ousmane Barro, who did exactly what a Marquette big man is supposed to do on offense last night. This is the one big bonus to being a big guy at Marquette–if you play defense, rebound, and don’t somehow randomly annoy your coaches, all you’re really asked to do is to catch easy passes from super-talented guards and calmly drop the ball in the hoop. Post moves? Who needs those?

6) I think Marquette’s philosophies are starting to seep into my brain, as last night I found myself getting overly excited every time I saw a deflection.

7) While I am impressed by gigantic, multi-chamber t-shirt cannon that was busted out by the cheerleaders during a time-out, it sort of looks like something that a random sophomore in the engineering department rigged up for fun. They need to paint that thing blue and gold, or put some sort of casing around it in order to make it look like more than just a mass of PVC pipe.

8) At the half, my friend Dez looked up at the scoreboard stats and wondered how it must feel to be Providence and know that you’re shooting 56% through the first half, and you’re still down 9 points. Apparently allowing rampant penetration through a zone defense puts some pressure on one’s own offense.

9) After doing something to one of his legs, Dominic James spent some time in the second half of the game riding a stationary bike. I like that the bike at the Bradley Center is elevated, allowing fans to get a good look at the player as he stays warm and gets ready to re-enter the game. It would be sort of like if Major League Baseball required teams to have elevated bullpens next to the scoreboard so that everyone could get a good look at pitchers getting ready to enter the game. Actually, now that I think of it, why doesn’t MLB do this?

10) Seriously, you’re telling me that Marquette couldn’t think of anything better to do at halftime than to toss a bunch of random kids out on the floor to run haphazard layup lines? My friends and I couldn’t even find a way to gamble on that and make it interesting.

And with the first non-cupcake blowout of the season, I returned home feeling more secure in my prediction of a Big East championship for Marquette. Things are going to undoubtedly get harder, but it’s a nice start. These guys are playing about as well right now as any Marquette team that I can remember (including the Final Four team). So it’s going to be a fun year.

(Also, some special kudos to UWM, who played across the street last night and extended their current winning streak to three games. That’s no small feat for a team that looked pretty rough even before they dismissed their two leading scorers and had two talented freshmen go AWOL. What started out looking like a train-wreck may actually be a rebirth. Top Panther forward Paige Paulson had better start worrying about his roster spot, since it’s starting to look like the less talented UWM gets, the better they play...)


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