Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Marquette vs. Seton Hall: A Win's a Win

Last night took me to the Bradley Center to see Marquette take on Seton Hall in what was sure to be a high-scoring, exciting affair. And of course, it was a low-scoring game where Marquette trailed most of the way. Conventional wisdom be damned. And thoughts below:

1) It was disappointing to see Dwight Burke introduced as the first starter for Marquette last night. We all know who the other four guys are going to be, so it kind of takes away the suspense. Wouldn’t it be great if they introduced James, McNeal, Matthews, and Hayward, and then said something like “And your wildcard starter tonight will be...Dwight Burke!” I think the crowd would go wild.

2) A rare tip of my cap today to the typically over-excited Marquette public address announcer who last night, for the first time in recent memory, managed to refrain for the entire game from referring to the basketball as “the rock” in announcing possession changes in Marquette’s favor.

3) Wesley Matthews spill in the first half went largely overlooked post-game due to the much more violent spill that Dominic James took later in the game at almost the same spot on the floor. However, Matthews’ spill was particularly frightening to watch from my seat, since the basket impeded my view so that I could only see Matthews from the waist down. When a player goes down hard, you expect to see him writhing in pain, but Matthews just appeared to be laying motionless from where I was sitting. My friend Dez shortly thereafter received a text message from a friend watching on TV that Matthews had been briefly knocked out cold. I’m not sure if this is true or not, but it would explain a lot. Oddly, while I’ve always pegged Matthews as most likely to suffer a horrific injury due to his combination of athleticism and total fearlessness, I never figured on a head injury. Something more like tearing his lower leg clean off seemed more likely.

4) The one benefit to the Matthews being knocked out cold story is that it meant that Dez and I could make bad head injury jokes for the rest of the game. Any time Matthews missed a shot it, it was “I guess his depth perception must have been affected by that blow to the head.” And on Matthews’ resounding dunk in the second half, I noted “Well, I guess Matthews has regained all of his faculties.”

5) I almost felt a little bad for the youth girls teams playing at halftime of the game last night when one of their shots resulted in the ball being stuck between the rim and the backboard. If this happens during a normal college game, someone just leaps up and dislodges the ball, but that’s less of an option when you’ve got 6th grade girls playing. Thus, attempts to retrieve the ball ate into their treat of playing on the Bradley Center court. At least there was some entertainment value to it, as a guy in dress shoes confidently offered to jump up and dislodge the ball, but failed to achieve the necessary height on his jump. Ultimately, a guy who Dez aptly described as appearing to have gotten many of his shots stuck between the rim and backboard, came out and fixed the situation with one toss of a second basketball. Problem solved.

6) I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, but yes, Maurice Acker had a block last night. It will probably be a few years before I see a 5'9" guy get another one of those.

7) Seriously, where can I get a recording of the guy rapping “What’s up, Milwaukee, what’s up!” over the hook on the Sugarhill Gang classic song “Apache?” I’m pretty sure that it’s not a full song, since you never hear anything more than the same small snippet, but this might be the greatest piece of cheesy sports music to hit my fair town since the Milwaukee Bucks “Light it Up” song of nearly a decade ago. Next time you hear it, just picture a guy in a studio trying to make it sound cool.

8) As always, I loved the Camping World halfcourt shot to win an RV. I always want to see the student chosen to shoot make his or her halfcourt shot, because if you forget about the fact that tax ramifications would make it pretty much impossible for the student not to sell the prize, the concept of giving an RV to a college kid who would actually have the time and energy to make ridiculous road trips in it is wildly amusing. This is a National Lampoon movie waiting to happen. So I felt bad last night as the contestant missed once again, and even worse as the over-eager student missed his three-point shot before the announcer could alert him that instead of shooting for two Marquette tickets, he would instead be shooting for a semester’s worth of tuition. Prizes have sure come a long way at Marquette games from two years ago, when it took two halfcourt shots from different locations to win that semester of tuition.

9) Marquette has always been good at running an arena time-out staple, the kiss cam. More people pay attention to this at Marquette games than anywhere else I’ve watched a game. However, I have one bone to pick with whoever was choosing who to display on the scoreboard during this segment last night. There was one couple last night who just had the look to them like they’d probably been over-affectionate throughout the entire game. Their entire section already is probably already sick of them, so let’s not encourage them, okay? Feel free to find a few more old people to awkwardly kiss instead.

10) In terms of falls from mid-air, few have been as frightening for me to watch live as the fall that Dominic James took when he took a seemingly dirty foul while in the midst of a layup late in the second half. Much like Matthews’ fall earlier in the half, the basket blocked much of my view of things, so for the first few seconds, all I could see was two bodies laying motionless on the floor. It was great when James popped up full of energy, though, and it was at that point that I knew there was no chance of Marquette losing the game. You never want to piss off a team that feeds on emotion as much as Marquette.

11) After the hard James foul, Dez and I joked about Tom Crean pulling a John Chaney and “bringing in the goon,” in reference to a move a couple years ago where Chaney inserted a player for the sole purpose of fouling an opponent hard (a play which resulted in the opposing player leaving with a broken arm, if I’m not mistaken). Upon reflection, though, neither of us could figure out who would be big enough to be “the goon” for Marquette. Dwight Burke is clearly the most physically imposing Golden Eagle, but he’s a starter, and you never want to have your starters doing the dirty work. Patrick Hazel and Lawrence Blackledge are the only forwards who don’t play much, but neither is anywhere near strong enough to be an effective goon. Looks like this may be an area to address in recruiting...

12) Tom Crean glowingly commented on his post-game radio show that the fan support at the game was a big part of what carried the team through. Being at the game, I can’t say that I thought the fan noise was all that overwhelming, so I think Crean was just trying to suck up to fans so that he gets even bigger support vs. Notre Dame on Saturday. It was probably unnecessary to exaggerate last night’s fan support, but I guess it never hurts to compliment someone.

So it was a win. Not a thrilling win like I saw UWM pull of at the Mecca on Saturday night, but a win nonetheless. Marquette’s not on fire like they were a week or two ago, but sometimes when you can’t hit shots, these sort of things happen. And you can bet that on Saturday we’ll see the Golden Eagles pick it up against their hated rivals, Notre Dame.

Back tomorrow with those lingering UWM thoughts, and maybe a few points from Duke-Temple on ESPN (or whatever else I happen to watch tonight).


At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm currently at MU for grad school after 4 years at Madison, and the student section is very underwhelming at Marquette Games. It disappoints me to see such lackluster fan support for a borderline top 10 team. To our credit we picked it up at the end, but Marquette students don't quite know how to be good basketball fans yet. They don't even chant with the cheerleaders!


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