Friday, February 27, 2009


by Ray Mernagh

Syracuse beat St. John's 87-58 at the Garden Tuesday night. It was a much-needed win for an Orange team that had hit a rough patch, losing seven of their last ten games. The win gave coach Jim Boeheim a record 31st 20-win season. Then last night in Milwaukee, UConn's Jim Calhoun became just one of seven coaches in the history of college basketball to win 800 games when his Huskies beat Marquette 93-82.

So this week's entry could be about the two Jim's -- how they've outlasted so many peers and continue to thrive, and prosper, in college basketball's most ferocious conference. After all, coaches are the real stars in college basketball, the only one's getting rich for the success they've attained through the combined efforts of a group that's now too large to estimate a proper count -- 1,000? 500? How many players, assistants, trainers and tutors actually play or work for a coach over a 30-40 year span?

A lot.

So this week isn't going to be about a coach. It's going to be about a player who's college career ended on Wednesday night. A kid I tried to write about earlier this year after he hit a game-winning shot right before Christmas. I tried a couple of different times to get a phone call set up but after three or four days I gave up. I really regret that, especially now, because Dominic James deserved that column... for a whole bunch of reasons.

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I had about four friends whose responsibilities included recruiting the state of Indiana while James was still in high school in Richmond. They were all mid-major assistants at the time. Of the four, one is at an elite program now, a second has been to an elite program and is back at a mid-major, a third is on one of the premier staff's in the Midwest and the fourth is out of coaching. All of them raved about Dominic James.

After watching James play against Pitt as a freshman, I was raving right along with them. In a game featuring high-level Big East veterans, James was the best player on the floor...by far. He continually beat people off the dribble, absorbed contact and finished. Even at 5-10, James dunked the ball easily. He was a dynamic player and made such an impression that first year that a lot of folks wondered if he would play a second college season. He was named the Big East Rookie of the Year after averaging 15.3 points a game and breaking the Marquette freshmen scoring record of Doc Rivers. James also found time to rebound, 4.5 a game, and was third in the conference in assists.

James came back for his sophomore year as arguably the #1 point guard prospect in the country. He finished it with major questions about his perimeter shot. One thing that needs to be noted is that James never had a quality big man to play with at Marquette. It also seemed like he put too much pressure on himself to carry the load at times. On top of all that it seemed like the more James regressed, the more his teammates, particularly Jerel McNeal and Wes Matthews, improved. James' numbers never matched his first-year output and a trip to the pre-draft camp seemed to crush his confidence even more.

Then the coach that recruited him, Tom Crean, left for Indiana following James' junior season. James seemed happy when assistant Buzz Williams was named the new head coach. Marquette was a team with extreme talent on the perimeter but not any size to speak of -- they were generally thought of as the #5 team in the conference. Going into Wednesday night's game with UConn the Golden Eagles were the #8 ranked team in the country, having battled UConn, Pitt and Louisville all year for the top spot in the Big East.

James has played with a joyful passion this season, accepting his role as the consummate point guard. Every time I watched Marquette I'd see him pushing the ball in Williams' free-wheeling offense, beating defenders off the bounce and finding open shooters. He'd also throw down lobs from Matthews and McNeal. I kept waiting for the interior to kill Marquette's season but it never happened. That's a credit to all four seniors and the heart they play with -- but I can't help but think James had the more major role in it. He adjusted some. He moved over a bit. He played basketball the way he was meant to play it -- with freedom and as if the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders.

He played the way players do for coaches that are fortunate enough to win 20 games 31 different times or 800 total games over the course of their career. Fittingly, he was a Warrior for Marquette. Even after he knew his college career was over, James came back out to the bench on crutches, trying to will his team to a victory that ultimately eluded them.

Whenever someone asks Bob Knight about the 902 wins in his career, he always says the same thing: That every one of those wins says more about the players and coaches he's been lucky enough to surround himself with over the years than it does about him. Sometimes we forget about the players.

Any coach would be lucky to have Dominic James on his team...nobody should forget him.

Ray Mernagh is the Basketball Editor for the Pittsburgh Sports Report and writes for Basketball Times as well as his own blog, Hoop Wise. Ray's first book, 1 Chance 2 Dance: A Season Inside Mid-Major Hoops in Mid-America, focuses on 18 months of MAC basketball.


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Wednesday, February 25, 2009


By Zach Smart

UConn hasn't seen a four-guard attack of this type since 2006. That was Villanova, who's four-guard operation took the NCAA by storm.

But Allan Ray, Mike Nardi, Kyle Lowry, and Randy Foye already put their stamp on the Big East.

This time, the Jerome Dyson-less Huskies play a Marquette team with three fabolous guards--who it seems have been playing together for more than four years--and a versatile 6-foot-6 forward parked on the blocks and forced to play out of his nature this year.

Lazar Heyward will have his hands full with towering 7-foot-3 Center Hasheem Thabeet and boardsmith Jeff Adrien, but the junior from Buffalo, N.Y. has given an efficient account of himself this season.

Heyward, quite undersized in the Big East, has shown good life from beyond the arc (38 3PM in 27 games), taken the ball to the tin (he gets to the line early and often and shoots his freebies at an 83 percent clip) and materialized as one of the best catch-and-release players in the NCAA. He's shot the rock at a 46.4 percent clip and led the Golden Eagles in points-per-minute last season. The key for the Huskies is to not let him get open and force him to put the ball on the deck and try to take somone off the dribble. He's an off guard camoflouged as a forward, one who thrives in Buzz Williams' offense.

While UConn may be able to exploit the mismatch, and the presence of Thabeet will likely keep Heyward from going to the rack, Heyward can dial in a timely trey or feathery jumper. He's also a defensive stalwart, with the ability to clamp down on anyone on any given night.

UConn had a veritable lockdown specialist in Dyson, who's been the team's best on-the-ball defender since his freshman season. One way to make up for Dyson's defensive prowess, and against this team they will certainly need it, is to get more aggression out of senior guard Craig Austrie.

Austrie was austere against Notre Dame last month, when he did a commendable job on Kyle McLarney. Austrie threw the sniper into a 3-for-15 nightmare that saw him go 0-for-the century in the second half.

Austrie will also have to step it up offensively. A senior and homegrown product, Austrie has yet to eclipse 10 points against top-notch competition. He hit crucial treys in the win over Syracuse, and needs to put forth a similar effort against Marquette. Conservative play has lowered Austrie's stock throughout his career, and with Dyson's 14.3 points, 3.2 assists, 1.5 treys per game not on hand, there's no tomorrow.

Another area that Dyson's absence effects the Huskies is in the run and gun game. Dyson was a big part of UConn's speedball, hellfire operation with his explosive finishes and ability to facilitate a fast break. Marquette has plenty of guards that can run the floor and finish in the open court.


Jerel Mcneal recently became the school's all-time leading scorer. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound guard has been smoking this season, shooting the rock at a 43 percent clip from the perimeter and 48 percent from the field. He's averaging a team-high 20 points and averaged a sublime 25.1 points during six straight wins from mid-January to early February.

Dominic James, who's name was littered in NBA draft talk following his freshman season, is explosive, athletic, and scary with his first step. And if you think Dyson has some bounce at 6-foot-3, you should just see this freakish 5-foot-11 cat's springy hops. James' numbers have dwindled since he was Big East Freshman of the Year, but he shoulders a solid assist-to-turnover ratio and is the offensive operator/heart and soul of the team.

Guard play has been an aspect so paramount to success in Big East basketball this season. UConn's A.J. Price, who's become one of the top guards in the conference and the go-to-guy in pressure situations, will have his hands full. Reiterating what I said before, Austrie will need to step his game up. Kemba Walker, a major presence in UConn's running game, needs to look to score more.

The quartet of McNeal, James, Heyward, and Wesley Matthews (18.7 ppg) have all eclipsed 1,000 points in their career. Relative balance in the scorebook pays dividends for the Golden Eagles. If one of these guys isn't feeling it, another guy can step in and pick him up.


Marquette plays around nine guys per game but doesn't have a great deal of production coming off the knot. Pint-size point guard Maurice Acker showed promise during last year's Big East tournament, but he hasn't seen significant opportunity this season. UConn, on the other hand, has about as much depth as a kid's pool. The season-ending injury to Dyson and 7-foot-1 center Charles Okwandu's academic ineligibility has limited them to a 7-man rotation, with the occasion no.8 thrown in the mix. That man was seldom-used freshman Scottie Haralson Saturday. Donnell Beverly has had his cameos, but the last thing UConn needs is another guard. Gavin Edwards, who averages four points and three boards but can be a solid supplement to Thabeet or Adrien, played just four minutes against South Florida. If anything will hurt UConn in this conference, it's the lack of bench depth. Beverly, Haralson, or whoever it may be must get acclimitized to significant minutes. Marquette clearly has the upper hand on the Huskies in this category, and getting Thabeet in foul trouble can change the game.

-Marquette suffered a wild, 57-56 upset loss to South Florida on Feb.6. They were drubbed by Villanova. Still, the Golden Eagles (like UConn) have just two conference losses to date.

Calhoun Wont Let Huskies Look Ahead (TheDay.com)
UConn Matches Up Well vs Marquette (Courant)
Match-ups: Connecticut vs. MU (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
Stakes are Sky-High for Match-up with Huskies (Journal-Sentinel)
Marquette vs. Connecticut GameNight (CollegeHoopsNet.com)
Calhoun's Focus on Present, Not History (Norwich Bulletin)
Huskies Thabeet a Beast Dow Low (Journal-sentinel)

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Connecticut 70
Marquette 66


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Saturday, February 21, 2009


February 21, 2009

Chances are running out for Georgetown to make their case for a NCAA Tournament bid, but a win on Saturday against visiting Marquette could re-ignite their confidence and propel them into March. We could know the fate of the Hoyas rather quickly, seeing that they also host Louisville on Monday. Winning one might keep hope alive (road game with Villanova follows), winning both gets them to 7-8 in the Big East with St. John’s and DePaul to close the regular season after ‘Nova. Losing both…well, it has been quite a fall from grace since they opened conference play with a win over Connecticut and a spot in the top 10.

Marquette is fighting for the conference title and rebounded from their first two conference losses by beating St. John’s and Seton Hall at home. Those wins were crucial as MU has a five-game closing stretch that has long been considered to be brutal. Beginning with the road game with Georgetown on Saturday, the Golden Eagles host UConn, travel to Louisville and Pitt, before finishing up hosting Syracuse, all in 14 days. Welcome to the REAL Big East coach Buzz Williams.

“I think every game has critical impact on postseason, on your seed, on all those things, good and bad,” Williams told reporters this week. “I think if you don’t take care of your business today, none of that matters.”

There is a lot of business to take care of. Both teams are fighting for important positioning in the conference and national scene.

Earlier this season, Marquette outscored Georgetown 94-82 in Milwaukee to earn their eighth conference win of the season. The Marquette streak hit nine before they were sidetracked by South Florida in the biggest surprise of the Big East season to date. They followed that mis-step with a loss at Villanova. Now, after taking care of business at home, MU hits the road again.

Georgetown has lost seven of their last nine, but their last two games do offer some hope that things might be getting a little better. Even though they lost last Saturday at Syracuse, they but quite a scare into the nearly 32,000 fans in the Dome as they rallied from a 16-point halftime deficit in the final eight minutes of regulation to force overtime after having a chance to win it in regulation. They also looked like the efficient Hoyas we have become used to by dismantling South Florida on the road, 65-40, this week.

Hopefully they have overcome some of the internal issues that had Georgetown struggling earlier this season and their individual talent starts playing more as a complete team. They will certainly be tested with the guard trio of Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews. I am not sure the Hoyas will have an answer for McNeal, but I think Georgetown will also pose a difficult match-up for Marquette with Greg Monroe inside and definitely if they are able to slow the pace of the game, something they could not do on the road.

Expecting this one will be different that the first. Georgetown established the fact they could score against Marquette in the earlier meeting. Showing more basketball savvy and controlling the pace will key the Hoyas getting a big win on Saturday.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Georgetown 67
Marquette 63

Trial By Fire (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Sapp Swap Has Hoyas Thinking Tournament (Washington Times)


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Monday, February 16, 2009


February 17, 2009

Marquette broke their brief two-game slide Saturday by returning home and bouncing St. John's, 73-59, behind a strong defensive effort, much better than the one that allowed 102 points in their previous game. After beginning conference play 9-0, Marquette lost on the road to South Florida and Villanova before the win of the Redstorm this weekend.

Seton Hall started conference play 0-6 before a five-game win streak breathed life back into the Pirates. That streak was ended on Saturday in a 62-54 loss on their home floor to UConn. Despite a valiant effort by junior John Garcia, the Pirates fell as Hasheem Thabeet dominated with 25 points, 20 rebounds and 9 blocked shots.

Marquette is led by the school's all-time leading scorer Jerel McNeal and his senior classmate backcourt partners Dominic James and Wesley Mathews. They will be tested by the SHU trip of Eugene Harvey, Paul Gause and Jeremy Hazell. Each team will use a small forward as their 'big' forward with Lazar Hayward of the Golden Eagles matched up with SHU's Robert Mitchell. John Garcia has a favorable match-up in the paint in this one, if the pace of the game is played more in his favor, like it was on Saturday.

Seton Hall went to a more deliberate pace against UConn this weekend, something out of the norm for the Pirates. While they never really threatened in the game, they kept it close and fought to the end. Marquette will look to push the tempo and if SHU gets pulled in, it will be very interesting, because this is one game where SHU would have an advantage in size AND depth in the paint.

However, the home team with the veteran backcourt is usually more effective in dictating the pace. If that is the case, Marquette should be very comfortable in this game and score a lot of points. The track meet could make Garcia a non-factor and lead to a Golden Eagles win.

MU has a tough gauntlet of games to follow, they must avoid the temptation of looking ahead and take care of business tonight first and foremost. Their loss at South Florida has probably reinforced the idea of taking nothing for granted.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Marquette 91
Seton Hall 77


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Saturday, February 14, 2009


February 14, 2009

After winning their first nine Big East conference games, Marquette has dropped back-to-back conference road games to South Florida and Villanova. They return home for a Valentines Day date with St. John’s at 9 PM in the Bradley Center before hosting Seton Hall next week. Marquette finishes up Big East play with a five game stretch that sent shivers down the spine of many when the schedule game out and is still looking like a true test of their mettle. Road games with Georgetown, Louisville and Pitt along with home games against UConn and Syracuse is certain to test anyone prior to the Big East Tournament.

St. John’s is up first and they are coming off a 71-61 loss at Cincinnati. The Redstorm are now 3-9 in the Big East and currently in the midst of a three-game losing streak. The injury-riddled team is probably as healthy as they are going to get, but the guard pressure they will face in this contest does not seem to be a promising match-up, especially when Marquette comes out for blood after surrendering 102 points in their last game.

“They have a terrific team so we’re going to really have to execute and take care of the basketball in the beginning of the game,” St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts told media members this week. “They play so hard on every single play and we have to match that to compete with those guys.”

Expect that effort to be intensified with a loud and supportive Saturday night crowd and some recent frustrations from the two-game losing streak. St. John’s really could be in the wrong place at the wrong time in this one.

Here are some pregame stories and previews on the game:

Marquette vs. St. John’s (Cracked Sidewalks)
Marquette’s McNeal Downplays Scoring Record (Chicago Tribune)
Marquette, led by their three senior guards, including new all-time leading scorer Jerel McNeal, should unleash a relentless wave of pressure, both offensively and defensively, led by their perimeter attack. Even with a small interior line-up, St. John’s is not a team that should be able to make the Golden Eagles pay for their shortcomings.

St. John’s will play hard and rely on defense to keep games close. DJ Kennedy is a versatile forward and Paris Horne has been one of the better perimeter scorers in the league of late. However, there is not much else working for St. John’s right now and with a loud and enthusiastic crowd looking to get their team back on track, look for Marquette to roll tonight.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Marquette 80
St. John’s 61


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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

NBA Draft Team Report: Marquette

February 11, 2009

by Doug Ferguson

Marquette has been the conundrum of the Big East so far this season. The Golden Eagles had burned through their early schedule in conference until an untimely loss on Friday at South Florida. They have not been taken seriously as a true contender to an extent due to a very favorable early schedule.

One place they have been taken seriously however is in their backcourt where their three senior guards have exceeded expectations so far this year and have upped their stock for the NBA Draft considerably. Dominic James, Wesley Matthews, and Jerel McNeal have all showed the skill to warrant attention from NBA teams drafting in June.

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PG Dominic James/5-11/SR

At one point in time, Dominic James was the gem of this trio. He dabbled with turning pro after his sophomore season before pulling his name out. After that cup of tea, former Marquette coach Tom Crean instructed him that he wanted his full attention in Milwaukee from then on in and he has stuck to his word.

James is really the engine that makes Marquette go. NBA Scout Ryan Blake says "What really sticks out to him is how well he gels with his teammates." Whether this is a trait he will carry with him to the next level or a product of playing with the same core at Marquette is yet to be seen. He has really deferred to others to score this season and has taken on the distributor role willingly. It has really worked out well for Marquette as it has always suited him better in the first place.

James also has several inconsistencies in his game which will most likely keep him out of the first round. They are the same inconsistencies that have caused him to avoid the draft in previous years. First and foremost, his jump shot leaves a lot to be desired. The form on it leaves me running for the nearest toilet still every time I see it. It is actually surprising that he makes a decent percentage of them. He has also been very inconsistent in past seasons generally speaking, however he has really improved on that flaw in his senior campaign.

James has always been intriguing to NBA teams, but is looked at as not being much more than backup. To succeed in that role, he needs to prove that he can be less erratic than he has in past years.

2008-09 Stats- 11.7 PPG 5.1 APG 3.8 RPG

2009 Draft Projection- Early to Mid 2nd Round

SG Jerel McNeal/6-3/SR

If anyone's stock has risen through the roof with his Big East performance so far this season, it is without a doubt Jerel McNeal. McNeal has taken his game to new highs in 2009, especially in conference. He has already picked up 3 NBE Player of the Week awards with still a month left in the season.

McNeal also has tested the draft waters before, entering his name in last years draft before pulling it out very last minute. It seems as if he made the choice that many more underclassmen should make and correctly returned to school. Although it is likely that he would have been taken somewhere in the 2nd round last year, his stellar performance this year has pretty much solidified him as a first round pick.

What has raised McNeal's stock to bonafied first round status has been his rapid development into a complete offensive player. As last years Co-Defensive Player of the Year, he has always been considered to have NBA value as a defensive stopper. The fact that he plays the 2 and has the size and athleticism to guard the league's premier players at the position cannot be measured in offensive statistics.

The fact that he has shown the potential to be a factor on both ends has really turned him into a sleeper for 2009. He has also shown great intangibles and leadership skills on a team that has overachieved is also a huge factor in his rising stock. NBA Scout Ryan Blake believes that "his great heart could be the big difference for him".

It is very hard to find a sizeable flaw in McNeal's game which is probably what makes him most attractive of all. He is even showing the skills of late to be a legit combo-guard, which makes NBA GM's salivate even more. McNeal has a real shot at being the Big East Player of the Year this year. Look for his stock to continue rising if he continues to play as lights out as he has all season.

2009 Stats- 20.0 PPG 4.6 APG 3.7 RPG

2009 Draft Projection- 1st Round (early to mid-20's)

SG Wes Matthews/6-5/SR

Wes Matthews has often been the one overlooked amongst the talented backcourt trio at Marquette. His solid, consistent play has earned him looks from all directions and will almost surely end with him battling for a spot in an NBA camp come next fall.

Matthews has been a model of consistency for the Golden Eagles this year on the offensive end and has really supplepented them well in the rebounding category, a huge question mark for them at season's start. NBA Scout touted his ability to mesh with his teammates by saying, "he has a game that complements everyone, yet can step up and be the go to guy when need be."

This seems to be what is intriguing to teams about Matthews. He has been extremely productive without demanding hardly any of the spotlight. He has become Marquette's "silent assassin" of sorts. His perimeter and mid-range game is as consistent as it gets. He also gets to the line regularly and converts at a high percentage. He has also really been called on as the go to guy for them when they need to convert key posessions down the stretch.

A consistent effort on the defensive end seems to be his downfall at this point. He really has all the tools to be an above average defender at worst. He has the size and athletic ability to guard 3 positions and shows ability to at times. He usually draws the easiest backcourt assignment against whomever Marquette happens to be playing. He has just seemed to let up too many unnecessary easy baskets to said players which can only be chalked up to either mental lapses or plain laziness.

The fact is however, he would be an extremely safe pick in the second round for a team who needs a versatile swingman, especially one that can give them some consistent scoring. Like his two talented teammates, his stock will likely rise and fall from this point according to the success of his team down the stretch. He is also a guy who can benefit greatly from good showings at the pre-draft camp in Chicago and/or Portsmouth Invitational leading up to the draft.

2009 Stats- 18.9 PPG 5.7 RPG 2.5 APG

2009 Draft Projection- Late 2nd Round


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February 11, 2009

Heading into the game last night between Villanova and Marquette it seemed perfectly reasonable that each team had a backcourt that would make scoring tough on the other. That assumption turned out to be incorrect as Villanova Lights it up Again (TimesHerald) in a convincing 102-84 win over the Golden Eagles.

Just days after scoring 102 in a win over SU, Villanova Pads It's Resume With Win over Marquette (Philadelphia Daily News), their sixth win in a row as they move to 8-3 in the Big East and 20-4 overall. The Red-Hot Wildcats are Clicking on All Cylinders (Evening Bulletin) offensively as they got a game-high 27 points from Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher added 21 with Shane Clark (16), Dante Cunningham (15) and Dwayne Anderson (10) also reaching double figures.

Jerel McNeal led Marquette with 23 points and became the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Golden Eagles' illustrious program, however, the Defense Falters on McNeal's Record Night (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) as 'Nova shoots 59% from the floor and hits 13 of 24 three's. The Wildcats also had a 32-7 advantage in bench scoring and outrebounded the Golden Eagles by a 37-29 margin.

Lazar Hayward had 22 points and 9 rebounds for MU with Wesley Mathews adding 16 and Dominic James scoring 14 and adding 9 assists. However, after the main four, only nine points were contributed fromt he rest of the team as Villanova Outruns No. 10 Marquette (Philadelphia Inquirer).

While the guard trio of Marquette continues to get a lot of well-deserved recognition and attention, the Villanova group of backcourt players definitely were up to the challenge and their defense and improving offensive production is definitely making it clear that the Guards are Making 'Nova a Threat (phillyburbs.com) in the Big East and nationally.

Marquette, who has a brutal closing stretch of games to finish conference play, has home dates with St. John's this Saturday and Seton Hall on next Tuesday ahead of their closing stretch. Getting back home will certainly help MU shake this two-game losing streak, which immediately followed a 12-game win streak that had launched the Golden Eagles into the top 10 in the country and to the top of the Big East standings.


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Tuesday, February 10, 2009


February 10, 2009

The big game in the Big East for Tuesday night takes place in Philadelphia with a top-15 match-up between Villanova and Marquette. This is a rematch from a New Year’s Day match-up in Milwaukee that saw the Golden Eagles win 79-72 and start their nine-game Big East win streak. That streak game to a stunning halt on Friday night when South Florida upended Marquette, 57-56, down in the Sun Dome.

Villanova has been on fire of late, winning five straight games to move to 7-3 in Big East play. The lone losses for the Wildcats have come against Marquette, Connecticut and Louisville, the only teams with one-loss in Big East play. The highlight of their winning streak was a 67-57 win over Pittsburgh, their most impressive win of the season.

Here are some pregame stories and previews found on the internet this morning:

’Nova Forward is Stepping Out of Shadows (Gloucester County Times)
Williams Succes at MU Doesn’t Surprise Crean (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
Clark Adds Experience at Villanova (DelCoTimes.com)
Villanova in Good Position Heading into Homestretch (Philly Daily News)
Nova Braces for Marquette’s Backcourt Trio (Philadelphia Inquirer)
McNeal Not Distracted by Scoring Title (Journal Sentinel)
Game 24: Villanova (Journal-Sentinel)

Villanova and Marquette is a classic match-up of strength versus strength as each team boasts talented backcourts that fuel their game plans. Marquette features three seniors in their starting backcourt: Jerel McNeal, Wesley Mathews and Dominic James. The ‘three amigos’ helped spark the Golden Eagles to a 9-0 conference record and a 12-game winning streak overall under new coach Buzz Williams. All three players are quick and athletic, dictating the flow of the game with their ability to push the basketball, attack the basket and extend defensive pressure on the ball. The importance of their roles are multiplied by the lack of inside strength and numbers of the Golden Eagles. Their line-up is completed with 6-foot-6 Lazar Hayward playing power forward and 6-foot-8 Dwight Burke playing center. Often time, Hayward is their most productive rebounder and interior defender, although he is playing out of his natural position at power forward and used as their de-facto center. Out of necessity, Hayward has developed into a solid post contributor, but against the bigger Big East teams ahead on their schedule, this could be an area that is exploited in league play and beyond as the seasons gets tougher here on out.

Another weakness of the Golden Eagles is they do not shoot very well as a team. McNeal has improved his three-point shooting by leaps and bounds this season (career 30% shooter from three coming into the year), shooting 47% from beyond the arc and has been unreal in Big East play, but their 4-24 from beyond the arc against USF was a major reason for their first conference loss, not to mention their 10-23 performance from the foul line.

McNeal is a definite Big East Player of the Year candidate. He continues to fill the stat sheet and has eclipsed 20 points in nine of 10 Big East contests and is shooting 50% (33-60) from beyond the arc in conference games.

Villanova is one of the few teams in the nation that has three guards that can match-up with the Golden Eagles’ trio. They may not be as explosive offensively, but Reggie Redding and Corey Fisher are quickly elevating themselves into position of one of the best defensive backcourt tandems in the country. Scottie Reynolds still has a big hand in the offense averaging 15 points and 4 assists and has a 40-point performance (at Seton Hall) and a 31-point performance (at Providence) in a couple tough road wins, showing the veteran can carry the load when needed.

The difference in this ‘Nova squad and the last couple years has been the consistent inside play of Dante Cunningham. The unsung senior has flown under the radar and is scoring a team-best 17 points a game and leading the club with over 7 rebounds a game. He is coming off a 31-point, 10-rebound double-double in the Wildcat’s weekend washout of Syracuse. Cunningham, along with Antonio Pena, Shane Clark and Dwayne Anderson give ‘Nova some depth and versatility in the frontcourt, even without real Big East-level size, and in this game, it very well could be the difference in Nova picking up a big home win.

The oddsmakers have made Villanova a 4 ½-point favorite on their home floor. Both teams will look to push the basketball and really get after it defensively, Villanova has just enough inside to control the rebounding and get a couple second chance points to turn the tide in this game.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Villanova 74
Marquette 67


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Saturday, February 07, 2009


February 7, 2009

The weekend started early with a Stunner as USF Topples No. 8 Marquette (Tampa Tribune) Friday night at South Florida. The Bulls Upset the Golden Eagles, 57-56 (St. Pete Times), handing Marquette their first loss in conference play this year after starting 9-0 in Big East play.

Jesus Verdejo scored 21 points and Dominique Jones added 15, including the go-ahead basket in the final 30 seconds as USF withstood attempts by Wesley Mathews and Lazer Hayward to win it for Marquette.

The Bulls Snap MU's 12-Game Winning Streak (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) as Marquette can make just 10-23 shots from foul line and a dismal 4-24 from the three-point arc.

Jerel McNeal scored a game-high 22 for the Golden Eagles before fouling out in the last minute. Hayward had a game-high 14 rebounds, including a rebound off of Mathews (11 points) last second miss, but he was unable to convert at point-blank range and MU went down, giving Stan Heath his biggest win as the USF head coach.


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Friday, February 06, 2009


February 6, 2009

VERBAL COMMITMENT ALERT: Monterale Clark, 6'10 Center from Hill College (TX). The class of 2010 JUCO recruit is originally a native of Milwaukee (WI).

There has been no denying that Buzz Williams is a hard-worker on the recruiting trail and that hard work has paid off once again as the Golden Eagles Land Junior College Star (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) Monterale Clark, a native of Milwaukee.

Projected 2009-2010 Roster:

Seniors: David Cubillan (G), Lazar Hayward (G/F), Maurice Acker (PG)
Juniors: Patrick Hazel (F), Joseph Fulce (SF), Jimmy Butler (G/F)
Sophomores: Chris Otule (C), Liam McMorrow (C)*
Freshmen: Erik Williams (F), Jeronne Maymon (F), Dwight Buycks (JUCO G), Junior Cadougan (PG), Brett Roseboro (PF)
2010 Early Commitments: Aaron Bowen (G), Monterale Clark (C-JUCO)

* sitting out 2008-2009 season per NCAA transfer rules and will have three years of eligibility beginning in 2009-2010.

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Head coach Buzz Williams worked his connections in Texas and his budding local ties of Milwaukee to land his latest commitment for Marquette as 6-foot-10 center Monterale Clark made a verbal commitment to the Golden Eagles recently.

Clark had attended local Milwaukee high schools Rufus King and Pius XI before heading off to Ware Prep in the south. Clark has always been an intriguing player because of his length and athleticism, but was in desperate need of adding some bulk to a frame that was in the 180-pound range last time he was seen playing with a Milwaukee-based AAU program the Running Rebels.

This season at Hill College Clark, who is listed at 200 pounts, is averaging 17 points and nearly 11 rebounds and 2 blocks a game. His coach, Swede Trenkle, at Hill college told the Journal-Sentinel that he has put on 16-17 pounds since arriving at Hill College. He also had scholarship offers from Oklahoma State, Baylor and Auburn according to the article.

Clark is the second player in the class of 2010 verbally commited to Marquette. Back in late November, the commitment to Marquette from Wolfson High School junior G/F Aaron Bowen took many by surprise. The Jacksonville (FL) native Bowen missed much of the summer AAU circuit because of an injured knee, so not a whole lot is known on him outside of his local area. Last season for coach Bruce Rosebrock, Bowen averaged about 17 points, over 5 rebounds and 4 assists a game, helping one of the state's top programs to another successful season.

A Closer Look at Aaron Bowen can be found at Todd Rosiak's blog on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's website. Bowen has recently received a visit from an Auburn assistant coach and Florida, Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech and Jacksonville were other schools involved early. A sensational 41-point performance in last year's playoffs really go the ball rolling on his recruitment and Marquette came in and stole one out of the Sunshine State.

Since April 1st, Marquette seems to be a team in the news more than anyone else in the Big East. Although the original jolt on April 1st was probably bad news with Tom Crean leaving for Indiana, since then, the news has mostly been positive and the transition from Tom Crean to Buzz Williams seems to be going pretty well.

Brent 'Buzz' Williams has proven to be a hard worked on the recruiting trail and it seems that everywhere you turn you have a player listing Marquette as a school of interest. College basketball odds are greatly impacted by your recruiting efforts as recruiting is the lifeblood of your program. Williams has gone north of the boarder, down to Texas, locally and now to Pennsylvania for recruits in the class of 2009.

Brett Roseboro is a 6-foot-9, left-handed C/BF out of Quakertown (PA) High School. One the summer circuit, Roseboro showed to be a very fundamentally sound basketball player with good hands and nice footwork in the pain to score with several post moves. For his size, he has the ability to show himself quite agile and nimble. for more on his play this summer, you can check out his player profile at CAAInsider.com: Brett Roseboro.

One week after getting Canadian 7-footer Liam McMorrow in a surprise addition to wrap up the 2008 class, Buzz Williams closed on another Canadian native as Christian Life Center Academy's Junior Cadougan verbally committed to MU in early July.

Cadougan is a native of Toronto, but has been attending prep school in Humble (TX), averaged 21 points a game last season before breaking his foot in December. The 6-foot point guard is a tough lead guard with a stocky frame and recently had a very impressive NBA Top 100 camp. Marquette was wise to get him on campus and seal the deal with him as his stock was beginning to tick upwards rapidly.

While Williams had been busy with the class of 2008, he has also secured two commitments for 2009 from local players earlier, including Dwight Buycks, who thought he was headed to the Division 1-A ranks out of Milwaukee's Bay View High School as he was verbally committed to Bradley. However, academics caught up to him and forced him to head to Indian Hills CC to complete a couple seasons at the JUCO level. After just one season at Indian Hills, the interest in Buycks became intense, especially from the new Marquette staff led by Buzz Williams and Buycks has offered an early commitment to the Golden Eagles.

The 6'3, 185 lb guard led Indian Hills is scoring last season, nearly 16 points a game, as the JUCO power finished in 6th place at the NJCAA national tournament. Buycks was also generating interest from schools such as Tennessee, Memphis, Kentucky and Illinois.

The uptempo atmosphere of the Marquette offense was a big attracting to Buycks, as well the location and a chance to come back closer to home was equally important.

Earlier this spring, for the second year in a row, and third time in the last four, Marquette lands the state of Wisconsin's player of the year. This time it is Madison Memorial's Jeronne Maymon Committing to MU (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel). As a junior, Maymon averaged 21 points and nearly 12 rebounds a game and he turned it on during the state playoffs, leading Memorial to a 2nd place finish while he averaged 30.0 points, 14.6 rebounds, 4.7 blocks, 3.7 steals and 3.0 assists per game for the Spartans in the WIAA state basketball tournament. Maymon visited Marquette May 20th and has been the top target of coach Williams and his new staff since he was hired in April.

NBE Basketball Report writer Doug Ferguson saw Maymon perform with the Illinois Bobcats at the GBOA North AAU tournament and was very impressed with his play. Here is the recap and detailed scouting report on Maymon included: GBOA North AAU Report.

Buycks and Maymon join Erik Williams, from Cypress Springs (TX) High School, as players in the Marquette class of 2009. Although Maymon and Williams are listed as combination forwards, they compliment each other perfectly. Maymon is a physical bruiser who is likely to play power forward and Williams is long, lean and athletic and could play more of a role on the wing. Williams was a recruit that coach Buzz Williams reeled in as an assistant and he will honor his commitment as earlier in April Erik Williams Reaffirmed Commitment to MU (Milwaukee J-S). The 6'7 forward had heard from Tom Crean since he moved on to Indiana, but his comfort level in Buzz Williams was the deciding factor to stay with his commitment.

The commitment of Roseboro, on paper, fills the last available scholarship for Marquette among the class of 2009. However, Jamil Wilson, one of the top players in the state out of Racine (WI) has long been a target of the Golden Eagles since Tom Crean was the head coach. Wilson has MU on his short list, but many feel Michigan State is the team to beat here.

Also, 2009 big man Dashonte Riley is looking to be in play and in a recent Update on Dashonte Riley, the Detroit native told NBE he was very interested in visiting Marquette in the near future.

Marquette is also still mentioned in updates on 2009 Chicago-Marshall guard Darius Smith. The Smith recruitment is anyone's guess at the moment and looks to head deep into the spring period.

2010 forward prospect Tobias Harris of Long Island and NYC forward Shane Southwell are also high on the MU recruiting radar and were among the expected guests for Marquette Madness. Other underclassmen visitors for the event-filled weekend included 6-foot-1 class of 2010 guard Lavonte Dority from Foreman High School in Chicago, 5-foot-10 class of 2012 guard Antonio “Bobo” Drummond from Central High School in Peoria (IL) and 6-foot class of 2012 guard Cameron Harvey from St. Joseph High School in Westchester (IL).

It is tough to say how much the last commitment for 2008 will impact the Marquette program. It is going to take some time to find out as Liam McMorrow, a 7-foot center from Toronto, Canada, has committed to the program. McMorrow was already on campus at Marquette last summer and joined Chris Otule, Jimmy Butler and Joseph Fulce as the new faces in Buzz Williams' program. McMorrow will sit out as a transfer in 2008-2009 and work at developing into a Big East caliber player over the next year before seeing live action at the college level.

McMorrow played just one season of organized basketball, avaregd 8.4 points and 6.5 rebounds in 20 league games for Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario. McMorrow had been a hockey and lacrosse player for most of his life, but a late growth spurt has him on the basketball court now.


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February 6, 2009

A Friday night special for the Big East tonight as Marquette heads south to take on the South Florida Bulls in a conference match-up. The Golden Eagles, under first-year head coach Buzz Williams are 9-0 in the Big East and riding a 12-game winning streak. Their last loss occurred in the Big East-SEC Challenge when they lost to Tennessee, 80-68.

The Bulls have lost three in a row and are now 2-7 in the Big East. The lone USF wins in the conference have come against DePaul. In their last game, South Florida was trounced, 65-48, by St. John's on the road and now face the hottest team in the Big East.

Here are some pregame stories and previews found on the internet this morning:

Men's Basketball Preview: Marquette vs. South Florida (Appleton Post-Crescent)
USF Bulls vs. No. 8 Marquette (St. Petersburg Times)
USF Hopes Break Helps as Big East Play Resumes (Tampa Tribune)
Game 23: South Florida (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

While tougher games lie ahead for Marquette, the Golden Eagles continue to gain momentum and confidence as they run through the first half of the Big East schedule. Led by the senior trio of Jerel McNeal, Wesley Mathews and Dominic James and the productive junior forward Lazar Hayward, Marquette has a foursome as good as anyone, possibly, in the country. College basketball is geared towards a guard's game, and MU has a tremendous mix of experience and talent in their backcourt, a coach's dream.

The obvious weakness for Marquette is depth and size. Those shortcomings will be tested greatly in games ahead, but against South Florida that is unlikely to haunt MU. The Bulls are also top-heavy in the backcourt, led by sophomore Dominique Jones, one of the league's top scorers. The Bulls lack depth and size in the frontcourt as well and they will be unable to take advantage of Marquette's expected weakness, too.

The latest college basketball odds have Marquette as a 9 1/2-point road favorite. A couple seasons ago, MU barely escaped South Florida with a win as McNeal made a steal and lay-up just ahead of the buzzer for a win, so MU knows they need to be ready to play. With their senior guards, I expect them to be ready.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Marquette 81
South Florida 69


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Wednesday, February 04, 2009


February 4, 2009

It was an impressive homecoming for Marquette senior guard Jerel McNeal. Starting out on fire, much to the delight of a very pro-Marquette crowd on the home court of DePaul, McNeal had 14 points before the 10-minute mark of the first half and he had outscored the Blue Demons himself, 14-12. It looked like a total mismatch with Marquette sprinting to a 30-14 lead just 10 minutes in, but DePaul, to their credit, and to that of their coaching staff, did not quit as many had probably expected. Instead, they rallied to make it a 42-37 game at the half.

Marquette had control the rest of the way as the First-Place Eagles Run Winning Streak to 12 (Journal-Sentinel) games as Marquette Defeats DePaul, 76-61 (Chicago Tribune).

Once again, the Golden Eagles were led by McNeal, who finished with 26 points, added 6 assists, 5 steals, 4 blocks and 4 rebounds, enjoying a trumphiant return home to his Chicago roots. Marquette shot 57% as a team, which was a season-high. Wesley Mathews added 20 points on 8-10 shooting from the field and Dominic James added 15 points, 5 assists and 4 steals as the trio matched DePaul's team total of 61 points.

If things weren't bad enough for the DePaul basketball team being the lone winless Big East team in conference play, 0-9, and hosting the lone undefeared Big East team in 8-0 Marquette, it was Life Without Dar (Daily Herald) last night as leading scorer Dar Tucker missed the contest with a sprained ankle that he suffered in the team's shootaround workout earlier in the day.

DePaul got a career high 30 points from Will Walker who picked up the scoring slack vacated by Tucker's 18.4 points a game being out with an injury. Redshirt-freshman Mike Bizoukas logged the most time at point guard and had 8 assists with just one turnover against the MU backcourt in 34 minutes. He seemed to work well with Walker in the backcourt helping create scoring opportunities.

Marquette has the second leg of a three-game road trip on deck when they visit South Florida Friday night.


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Tuesday, February 03, 2009


February 3, 2009

The death march that Jerry Wainwright and his DePaul basketball program seems to be on continues tonight when Marquette visits Allstate Arena for a Big East basketball conference match-up. This is a match-up of one end of the Big East spectrum against the complete opposite.

Marquette, at 8-0, is the last remaining Big East team undefeated in conference play. DePaul, on the other hand, is sitting at 0-9 and following their loss over the weekend to Rutgers, is the final winless Big East team in conference play. Both streaks are likely to continue tonight.

Here are some pregame stories and previews from the internet this morning:

Basketball Preview: Marquette vs. DePaul (Post Crescent)
Quite a Run for Demons' Walker (Southtown Star)
MU Heads Out on Trip With Confidence High (Journal Sentinel)

Against Rutgers on Saturday night, it looked like DePaul was just going through the motions, completely lifeless and broken. They made little attempt to go inside, instrad settling for jump shots. They made little attempt to defend, allowing Rutgers to score 75 points, 42 in the second half.

While one can reasonably expect more of an effort on their home court, for their own individual pride, this is not a match-up that is very favorable to them at all. The two teams met in Milwaukee back on January 24th and the result was a 79-70 Marquette win. The Golden Eagles raced to a 48-34 lead at the half before their intensity waned and DePaul hung around in the second half, but never really challenging.

The Marquette backcourt, led by Dominic James, Wesley Mathews and Jerel McNeal will make life very difficult for Will Walker, Dar Tucker the the Blue Demons point guard du jour. While DePaul has a size advantage, led by Mac Koshwal, they seem to be clueless on how to utilize their talents in the paint.

Looking at today's college basketball lines, Marquette is an 11 1/2-point road favorite. In Big East play, that seems by alot. However, our numbers indicate an easier time for the Golden Eagles and if they bring similar effort as they have shown, led by their seniors and vesatile junior Lazar Hayward, they should overwhelm Depaul.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Marquette 84
DePaul 70


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