Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Marqutte vs. Seton Hall: A Surprising Entertaining Game

Ah, it’s been awhile. I’ve actually had some great game-watching experiences over the past few weeks, be it my trip to Iowa, my evening in Madison watching the Badgers end their losing streak, or this past Saturday when I managed to catch much of the UWM game on the radio before watching the Marquette game in person and shuttling home to watch Wisconsin on my DVR. But my documenting of games has been non-existent. I could throw some crazy excuse at you about lack of time or computer problems (actually, my work computer has been basically dead for the past two weeks), but ultimately my absence has come down to laziness. No promises that I’ll start writing more, because as history has shown, I’m pretty good at breaking promises, and I probably won’t ramp things up too much even as March approaches. But when there’s a surprisingly amusing game like last night’s Marquette-Seton Hall contest, I can’t help but make a few notes. And for today, here are those notes.

1) It was Milwaukee Public Schools Night at the game last evening, a fact that was first brought to the attention of the crowd when the Milwaukee Riverside swing choir was brought out to sing the national anthem. They did a nice job, but I couldn’t help but be a bit taken aback to learn that Milwaukee Riverside has a swing choir. I also couldn’t help but think that it must take some courage to be a part of the Riverside swing choir. High school was a long time ago for me now, but I seem to recall that people in the swing choir took a lot of crap from their peers. I can only assume this level of crap quadruples when the swing choir is in a city school, rather than a soft, suburban school setting.

2) Did my brain completely atrophy for a short time, or did the public address announcer completely fail to announce Seton Hall’s starting lineup? I know that usually there’s a quick introduction of the opposing starters where the announcer makes a point of sounding as if he’d rather be water boarded than read the names of the interlopers from another school. But at least there’s a small degree of courtesy there. Just glossing over the other team altogether seems a bit harsh. Then again, as I said, I’m not even sure that things went down like this, so maybe there were intros for Seton Hall. I sure don’t remember them, though.

3) It has been back for five of six games by now, but I like seeing the return of the classic "Where the Streets Have No Name" player introduction sequence for Marquette. I’m always mildly bothered by the fact that this sequence was almost certainly conceived of in part because of Tom Crean’s intense love of U2. But I’m willing to look beyond that because however it originated, it just feels right when the things get going. The crowd knows what to do, and gets excited every time that the music starts up. Perhaps the only thing that would make things better in my mind is if they brought back Jumbotron shots of the players doing ball slaps and looking angry as the music starts up.

4) A few comments to the guy sitting two rows behind me last night. One, the refs were not blind when they failed to call those over and back and out of bounds calls that you thought they missed. They merely understand the rules better than you. Two, do you really need to question every foul call? You’re sitting in row W of the second deck of Bradley Center and the refs are on the floor. I’m guessing that occasionally, they may have a better angle than you. Three, again, you’re sitting in row W of the Bradley Center, so when you scream at the top of your lungs to the ref that he should either open his eyes or get some glasses, he probably can’t hear you. My head’s five feet from yours, though, so I hear you loud and clear, and I don’t think that you’re nearly as amusing as the nearby giggling women who aren’t directly in front of your mouth do.

5) The first half was, for both teams, one of the sloppier halves of basketball that I’ve seen all year. There was a solid five minute stretch where I had trouble counting the number of times that Marquette players threw passes directly into the legs or barely outstretched arms of Seton Hall defenders. Most of the time Big East basketball is more exciting to watch than Big Ten basketball, but for a good portion of last night I found myself just wanting to see a team that could take care of the ball.

6) It’s not every night that you get to see three technical fouls in a game. None of the T’s handed out seemed like they were for particularly egregious offenses. Then again, as I would probably have told the guy behind me in row W, it’s pretty tough to hear what the players and coaches are saying when you’re sitting at the top of the Bradley Center.

7) The last couple of times that I’ve been to the Bradley Center I’ve seen a small banner bearing the image of Martin Luther King, Jr. displayed in a lonely corner, away from all of the Marquette, Milwaukee Bucks and Milwaukee Admirals banners. Is this banner there for Black History Month? And if so, why is it so darn small? Because frankly, with as tiny as it is in comparison to every other banner in the building, it looks like someone just forgot to take down a decoration that was hung during an MLK Day tournament.

8) My friend Dez asked the very valid question of where Patrick Hazel was after the game ended. I suppose that Hazel wasn’t really needed last night, seeing as Marquette pulled away from Seton Hall easily in the second half, and one of the Pirates’ frontcourt players fouled out with nearly 15 minutes to go. But with Hazel finding his way completely out of the rotation of late, it seems official–Marquette’s not even going to fake like it has forwards on its roster from here on out. Even though Hazel has looked good to me in limited minutes, I suppose I can’t really argue with holding him out too much. After all, the way things are going so far, it appears that Buzz Williams knows what he’s doing (don’t take that as a full endorsement of Williams, though, as I’m not passing judgment on him until the 2010-11 season).

9) During a break in the action in the second half, it was announced that Wesley Matthews had become Marquette’s all-time leader in made free throws, and that Jerel McNeal had become Marquette’s all-time steals leader. I think we’re finally at the fun part of the season where milestones like this will be reached every game by someone. I guess this is what happens when you’ve got three of the better players in school history starting together for four years.

10) Last evening featured the Milwaukee King drum line performing at halftime as part of the festivities for Milwaukee Public Schools night. I’ve seen various drum lines from Milwaukee public high schools at events like these, and I’m always wildly impressed. I’m glad that we get to see groups like this from time to time. Because for as many bad things as we hear about Milwaukee Public Schools, it’s nice to see a group of kids that can do something that seems to take a remarkable amount of skill, discipline and commitment. Dare I say that they were even more entertaining than Saturday’s entertainment, the magical super-fast clothing changing duo, Quick Change.

11) I’m not sure what amazed me more on Jimmy Butler’s thunderous alley-oop dunk late in the second half–the height that Butler got on his leap, or the precision with which Wesley Matthews tossed the ball from halfcourt.

Post game, I passed on drinks with friends (the economy is affecting us all, it seems) and headed home. It was time to start thinking about the UWM-Butler game the next day. And its never disappointing to hear the Marquette post-game radio show. Things start to get interesting with Marquette’s trip to Georgetown this weekend to kick off their brutal five-game stretch. I, for one, am really looking forward to seeing them exceed expectations.


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