Marquette vs. Florida Gulf Coast: The Fun of November...In March!
Hard to believe it, but last night was the final Marquette home game of the year. Due to an odd scheduling quirk, that game was not against a powerful conference foe like Louisville or Notre Dame, but was instead against lowly Florida Gulf Coast. It sort of felt like one of those November non-conference games that are completely unexciting, only slightly worse, since those November games at least offer the intrigue of getting those first few glimpses of your team’s new line-up for the year. A predictable 29-point win resulted. There were a few bumps in the road, but it never felt like things were in doubt. Thoughts from my last basketball-related trip to the Bradley Center below:
1) Florida Gulf Coast point guard Rob Quaintance had shaggy hair and was sort of a dirty looking, unshaven fellow, prompting me to wonder aloud whether he was European (I believe the student section began chanting “Caveman” at him at one point). As my friend Dez pointed out, FGCU's uniform design didn't do anything take away from their guard's foreign vibe. Quite frankly, if I hadn't known the date of the game or the name of the opponent, I'd have assumed that this was an exhibition game against one of those traveling foreign national teams that they used to play a few seasons back.
2) Having a bad team for the last game has its advantages. The possibility of tinkering with some lineup combinations exists, there's a pretty good chance you're going to get all your seniors a chance to play on senior night (no chance Tommy Brice gets in against Georgetown), and attendance is going to be better than it should, since even with a crappy opponent, lots of people simply aren't going to miss the last game of the year. All of the above happened last night, which was good to see. Sure, the possibility of the most awkward senior night ever if Marquette lost was hanging out there, but if you can keep from screwing up, there actually seem to be a number of advantages to playing a cupcake in one’s final home game.
3) Some motivated defense came last from the Marquette guards, in particular Dominic James, who at times looked like he was doing zig-zag defensive drills on the man he was defending. I was amused to see, for the first time ever, two consecutive 5-second calls on FGCU guards who were basically being guarded one-on-one on the perimeter. Definitely a nice job by MU of keeping up the intensity in a situation where it would have been easy to let down.
4) Good to see the powder-blue uniforms out last night, and hopefully some of the bad vibes tha came with their one earlier appearance were forgotten, because they really are the coolest unis of the four sets that Marquette has. I'm even thinking of stopping off to the Marquette spirit shop to buy a jersey one of these days, and given my cheapness and the constant feeling of conflict about how much my allegiance to Wisconsin allows me to like Marquette, that should tell you how much I like the powder blues.
5) As my game-watching buddy Dez noted when we sat down in our seats for the last time yesterday night, one of the things to look forward to in what we expected to be a lackluster game was the running commentary of the guys behind us. Over my years of watching games, I find that probably 70% of the time you're sitting in front of people that you never notice, 25% of the time you're sitting in front of someone making annoying or laughably ill-informed comments, and only 5% of the time are you sitting in front of someone legitimately entertaining. So a big thanks to the guys behind us for falling into that 5%. I never spoke to you, nor did I even turn my head to see what you looked like, but you kept me entertained all year, and I sincerely hope that people find me and my usual basketball-watching friends as entertaining as you (though I fully recognize that my constant inane chatter probably puts me in the 25% group as an annoying guy).
6) Mildly awkard moment for me at the concession stand tonight as I bought a hot dog. The stands, as many know, are run by various community groups looking to raise funds for their cause. As I was hauling in my dog, the gentleman handing me my change thanked me for helping his church. That sort of took me by surprise, since no one's ever thanked me in that manner before. Since then, I've been feeling sort of bad because I had no philanthropic goal--I basically just wanted a hot dog. Nonetheless, to the friendly hot dog seller--glad I could help, and sorry if I seemed a bit gruff while accepting your thanks--you just sort of surprised me.
7) I've seldom seen a player go out on senior night as appropriately as Trend Blacklegde. A smattering of minutes, a minor impact on the game, and a random, jaw-dropping reverse dunk sprinkled in the middle of it all. Yep, that basically sums up what Blackledge’s career.
With the game in the books, and Tommy Brice taking his senior night garbage time minutes, it was time to leave for the last time this year. I’ll probably be back to the Bradley Center for a ridiculous minor league hockey game or something in the next few months, but as for basketball, it’s going to be another 8 months or so until I return and see a team of FGCU’s calabur facing off against the Golden Eagles. For now, it’s time for television and tournaments, as we inch closer to some of the most glorious weekends of the year.