The Pirates' season rolls on, this time to the westernmost reaches of the Big East and Milwaukee, Wisconsin to take on Marquette. Coming off such a agonizingly close finish on Tuesday, can the Pirates bounce back and put that experience behind them?
By the way, show your boy some love by tuning in to 89.5 FM WSOU or WSOU.net to hear the play-by-play from yours truly. And don't forget to call up Hall Line afterward at (973) 761-9768 (WSOU).
The full report:
2010-11 record: 15-11 (6-7 Big East)
2009-10 record: 22-12 (11-7 Big East; NCAA First Round)
Key losses: Lazar Hayward, Maurice Acker, David Cubillan
Key returnees: Jimmy Butler, Darius Johnson-Odom, Dwight Buycks, Chris Otule, Jae Crowder (JUCO), Vander Blue (freshman)
With Marquette, it's about "almosts." Here's a list of teams the past two years that Marquette came oh, so close to beating, but ultimately fell short:
Florida St., NC State, WVU, Villanova (three times), DePaul, Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame, Washington, Duke, Gonzaga, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Louisville, UConn.
The list is staggering, and it points to an issue with finishing games. Last year, the Golden Eagles had three experienced seniors that helped them win a good chunk of close games as well (including 3 straight in OT near the end of the season). But a poor conference record this year has the Golden Eagles on the brink of the NIT.
That doesn't mean that there's no talent in Milwaukee, though. Coach Buzz Williams is operating at the moment without a true point guard (Dwight Buycks has played the point for most of the year), but with some guys who can definitely play.
Leading scorer Darius Johnson-Odom is an athletic player who led the Big East in 3-point shooting last year. His shooting is a bit down this year (no doubt because he is not the 3rd option he was last year), but he can fill it up quickly. Jimmy Butler is one of the most efficient players in the conference from a percentages standpoint, and he's also versatile, with three-point range as well as a good deal of toughness inside. JUCO transfer forward Jae Crowder is playing well, and Buycks is doing a decent job running the point. Vander Blue is an uber-athletic freshman who has disappeared lately, and Chris Otule gives them legit size down low as well as shot-blocking.
The issue with the Golden Eagles (as it is with the Pirates) is finishing off games. Neither team can seem to do it. If the game ends up being close, something has to give.
PIRATES WILL WIN IF:
-They hit threes
The Pirates are 4th to last IN THE NATION in 3-point shooting. They got their one signature win this year (@Syracuse) by hitting from the outside. If they can hit jumpers, they have a shot at taking a tough matchup on the road.
- They get stops
Marquette is first in the Big East in points per game. The Pirates must get stops to win this game. Otherwise, Marquette has enough weapons to run the Pirates off the floor.
- Jeremy Hazell is on
Hazell is the great equalizer in this game. He is by far the best scorer on either team, and can do things that can make an otherwise blowout a closer game. If Marquette can't stop Hazell, they will have a devil of a time trying to beat the Pirates, who are among the best defensive teams in the nation this year.
GOLDEN EAGLES WILL WIN IF:
- They can finish the game
Even at home, this is an issue for Marquette, and because this is a road game for Seton Hall, if the game becomes close near the end, there will be a lot more pressure on Marquette than Seton Hall to close it out.
- They hit threes
Earlier in the year, I thought Marquette relied a little too much on the deep ball. They have some shooters who can make the shots from deep, and if they're lights-out from beyond the arc, not even a defense like the Pirates can truly slow them down.
- They continue to play as a team
Talking with Buzz Williams at Big East Media Day, one thing he kept stressing was "Team play." The Golden Eagles have no superstars, but even when they have had those type of players, they have always played great team basketball. Defensively, they are solid in the man-to-man, switching screens with aplomb, while offensively they rarely settle for a quick shot.