Saturday, March 21, 2009


March 22, 2009


According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Marquette point guard Dominic James is cleared to play (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) in today's game.

The Missouri Tigers will bring their fast-paced forty minutes of basketball into the second round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament to face the Marquette Golden Eagles.

Buzz Williams' Marquette squad escaped round one with a 58-57 win over Utah State, riding a 26-point, 8-rebound performance by junior forward Lazar Hayward. The super-human effort of Hayward helped offset seniors Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews combining to shoot 6-26 from the floor.

If there was every going to be a game where Marquette misses Dominic James, this will likely be it. James was the quarterback on the floor for the Golden Eagles and his loss pretty much saps their depth, but against a team that will press and force you into a running game for forty minutes, having that experienced floor general on the court is a luxury that Buzz Williams and his team will miss.

Sometimes, Marquette can get a little bit out of control, so Maurice Acker will have to really step up his game to keep order for his teammates, it is a tall order for a player averaging under three points a game on the season.

"For you to go from a situation where you were only playing spot minutes to having to play minutes that were absolutely critical for us just to have a chance not to get blown out of the gym, I think Mo's been accountable in every sort of way, every day since 'Nic has been hurt," coach Williams said of Acker.

To date, even with games against UConn, Pitt, Louisville and Villanova under his belt, this is likely the biggest challenge for Acker since assuming the role as point guard when James got hurt. Just the constant pressure Mike Anderson's team will apply will make Acker vital in every possession and decisions on the fly must be sound.

While Marquette certainly has the talent available to win on any given day, this is one of those match-ups you just do not have much faith in them with. Playing without a big man and now without their #1 point guard will be too much to overcome against the 4-point favored Tigers (according to the college basketball lines). It was a stroke of unfortunate luck that saw James get injured this season, now a match-up where he would have likely shined is possibly the match-up that ends their season.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Missouri 77
Marquette 70


update: With James in the line-up, this is a huge lift to the Golden Eagles, especially battling the Missouri pressure. However, it is still a question on how effective James will be, especially offensively.

It definitely makes for some more drama...


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Friday, March 20, 2009


March 21, 2009

The afternoon was not as easy for Marquette in Boise as the Golden Eagles battled back from a six-point deficit in the last four and a half minutes to hold off the upset bid of Utah State, 58-57.

Utah State used an 11-0 run to put a major scare into Marquette as the Golden Eagle offense looked like it was stuck back in Milwaukee for much of the game.

With seniors Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews struggling all game, shooting a combined six of 27 from the floor, junior Lazar Hayward came up huge for Buzz Williams’ club, scoring 26 points.

After a Mathews bucket cut the Utah State lead to 49-45, ending their 11-0 run, Mathews hit three of four from the line and Hayward went 4-4 as MU grabbed a 52-51 lead. McNeal then hit a driving bucket in the lane to give MU a three-point cushion and a pair of Maurice Acker free throws stretched the lead to 56-51 with 34 seconds to go.

Marquette will take on Missouri, the #3 seed, out of the Big 12 in the second round on Sunday in Boise.


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March 20, 2009

One popular upset pick among many of the brackets in the opening round seems to be Utah State over Marquette. Many like the 11th seeds resume, which includes a 30-4 record as the champs of the competitive WAC, where they beat Nevada in the conference tournament finale.

Marquette will look to avoid being an upset victim and rely on senior guards Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews to offset the size dis-advantage they will be facing in this game. Add in the fact it is the last go-round for the seniors with the Golden Eages, and you should have a very focused team on the floor in Buzz Williams' club.

"It's definitely a sense of urgency coming from the three of us who are playing," Mathews said of the feeling of the seniors heading into the last NCAA Tournament. "But I think there's a sense of urgency throughout the whole team because it is our last go around, our last shot at this."

Along with McNeal and Mathews, Dwight Burke is the third healthy senior, but it is the fourth senior who is not playing that is likely to have the biggest impact on Marquette's post-season.

Dominic James broke his foot and was lost for the season on February 25th in a loss to UConn. James was the athletic floor leader for all four of his seasons at Marquette and his loss is a major blow that will be continued to be felt by the Golden Eagles.

"He's played four years, he's been battle tested, he's played four years with the three of us, three years with Lazar (Hayward)," Mathews said of James. "There's just plays and reads that he makes that we don't have to talk about. Just that chemistry on the court that he has and he brings and just what we know we can expect from him."

In James' place, Maurice Acker takes over the role of starting point guard. The Eagles have lost five of their six games since James got hurt, but even in defeat last week against Villanova in the Big East Tournament, they can take away some positives as they nearly completes a rally from 16 points down at the half to win. They were beaten on a rare defensive lapse by Jerel McNeal that led to 'Nova scoring at the buzzer to win.

In that game, Acker acquitted himself quite well, especially in the second half and his teammates' confidence in the 5'8 point guard who was a high school teammate of McNeal's at Hillcrest.

"He's been better every game, he had a his breakout game against Villanova in the Garden and we're adjusting to life without Dominic," Mathews said of Acker. "And this team is ready, we're prepared, and we're, more importantly, we're excited to play again."

After playing in the Big East for 18 games, Marquette has seen their share of good big men. Utah State will add another one to the list that the Golden Eagles have faced with 6'9, 240-pound center Gary Wilkinson.

"Well, Wilkinson, the coaching staff has kind of compared him to like a player like Luke Harangody, with the same build and height and weight," said Dwight Burke of today's match-up.

On the season, Wilkinson averaged 17 points and 7 rebounds, while shooting 58% from the floor and 83% from the foul line.

As usual, Marquette will defend the post from the outside-in. That means they will extend defensive pressure on the Utah State guards to make it difficult for them to find Wilkinson when he is in position to score.

"Our main focus in coming into the game is just to put non-stop pressure on them, force them into tough shots if possible," McNeal said of the gameplan against Utah State. "And after we make them take those tough shots, that we got to get a defensive rebound right way."

The early college basketball odds have the Golden Eagles as a 4 1/2-point favorite. While Utah State will have plenty of confidence as a team that has won 30 of their 34 games, they are going to see an opponent that will come after them for a full 40 minutes with tight and aggressive defense.

"I think if we do a good job of pressuring them 94 feet and making things tough on them, giving them, making them have tougher looks and get first shot rebounds, that we'll be all right," McNeal said.

I agree. The athletic guards, albeit undersized, will make it tough on Wilkinson as they will swarm him when he gets the ball. Lazar Hayward will put pressure on the Utah State defense with his ability to play inside and out. In the end, they are not likely to have an answer for McNeal and Mathews, who will also, along with Acker, make thins very difficult for the Utah State offense because of their on-the-ball pressure.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Marquette 73
Utah State 64


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Thursday, March 12, 2009


March 12, 2009

Marquette got a temporary tonic for what ails the Golden Eagles in their opening game of the 2009 Big East Tournament against a totally inept St. John's. Marquette led the Redstorm 38-10 at the half and cruised home to a 74-45 victory at Madison Square garden.

This was the first win for the Golden Eagles since losing Dominic James to a broken foot for the season. Losses to UConn, Louisville, Pitt and Syracuse followed after James went down, but this had to feel good for Marquette. The good feelings may not last long as Villanova is next up.

MU and the Wildcats split their two meetings this past season, each winning on their own floors. However, Villanova won the last meeting, 102-84, a month ago with a healthy Dominic James.

Here are some pregame stories and previews on the contest:

Dwayne Anderson is Villanova's Motor (Philadelphia Daily News)
Parents Showed Cunningham How to Lead (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Villanova to Meet Marquette in Big East Quarterfinal (Philly Daily News)
Battered Marquette Believes it's on Right Course After Slaughterning St. John's (Chicago Tribune)
Smother Lode: Defense Ignites Rout (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Villanova earned a double-bye into the Big East quarterfinals, thanks to in large part to the Marquette free fall following the James injury. While the schedule toughened significantly, and even a healthy James might not have helped, the concern heading into the 2009 NCAA Tournament is how will Marquette fare against a NCAA Tournament caliber team? Well, we will have an answer this afternoon.

Both teams are extremely strong on the perimeter both offensively and defensively. marquette reminded onlookers of their perimeter strength as the Johnnies were Throttled on their Home Floor by the swarming Golden Eagles. Wesley Mathews and Jerel McNeal anre still all-league players and lazar Hayward has learned to mix in his outside strengths with a developing post game that is a tough match-up for any forward in the league.

Villanova looks to match MU with Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher in the backcourt and Dante Cunningham in the paint. Where the Wildcats have a significant edge is in their depth. They can mix and match players like Shane Clark, Antonio Pena, Reggie Redding, Corey Stokes and Dwayne Anderson into the line-up and expect production from each one. Unfortunately for Marquette, they do not have that luxury as they depend almost solely on the aforementioned trio for their production. Playing two games in two days will likely take its toll and Villanova simply has more answers when they need them because of the depth.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Villanova 79
Marquette 70


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Wednesday, March 11, 2009


March 11, 2009

St. John's is playing the role of the rude host of the 2009 Big East Tournament as they made Georgetown's stay short and not very sweet as they knocked the Hoyas off, 64-59, in the opening round on Tuesday.

It was the second time in a week that the Redstorm had beaten Georgetown in Madison Square Garden. On March 3rd, SJU won a 59-56 overtime decision. On Tuesday, Paris Horne scored a game-high 23 points and Sean Evans, just like the previous meeting, registered a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

Next up for St. John's is Marquette, a team that beat the Johnnies 73-59 back on February 14th in Milwaukee. Jerel McNeal had 20 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals in the previous meeting. The Golden Eagles also got 18 points from Lazar Hayward and 12 points, 6 assists and just one turnover from point guard Dominic James.

However, James is unavailable for Marquette after breaking a bone in his foot early on in a loss to UConn back on February 25th. Including the loss to the Huskies, the Golden Eagles have lost all four games without James and now must face a hungry 'Storm club on their home floor to open the conference tournament. Another loss and it could be devastating to their seed in the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

Here are some pregame stories and previews on today's game:

Golden Eagles Preview: Marquette vs. St. John's (Post-Crescent)
Character Held Seniors Together (Journal-Sentinel)
St. John's Gets into Main Draw vs. Marquette (Newsday)
Game Proves Redstorm Rivalry Still Alive (NY Post)
Golden Eagles Ready to Soar (Journal-Sentinel)

Two years ago, Marquette and St. John's met in Madison Square Garden in the opening round of the Big East Tournament in similar circumstances as the Golden Eagles had an injured Jerel McNeal on the sidelines. MU was able to hold off each SJU rally and win the game, 76-67. Tonight, they will try and do the same.

Both teams match-up pretty well with each other. Both teams will use small, pass-first points guards in Malik Boothe (SJU) and Maurice Acker, who is replacing Dominic James. Versatile, do-everything wings in DJ Kennedy (SJU) and Wesley Mathews (MU) and go-to scorers Paris Horne (SJU) and Jerel McNeal (MU) will also line-up together. In the paint, SJU has a little more muscle and size with Sean Evans and Justin Burrell, but Lazar Hayward adds some offense and savvy rebounding for the Golden Eagles, who will also use a combination of Dwight Burke and forward Jimmy Butler in the post.

The injury to James has virtually eliminated any depth for Buzz Williams' team. David Cubillan, who was a valuable reserve under Tom Crean, has struggled this season coming off of shoulder surgeries in the off-season. Rob Thomas is the most productive reserve for SJU, but yesterday they went to their bench seldom, with two starters playing 40 minutes and two others playing 38. Only foul trouble on Burrell, which limited him to 25 minutes, made the bench useful.

McNeal, Mathews and Hayward are the best three players in this game and they will have to lead the Golden Eagles who, according to the latest college basketball odds, are 7 1/2-point favorites, to victory in this game. SJU will scrap and claw their way into this game, but in the end, star power will win out on Broadway and Marquette settles down the fears and grabs a win.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Marquette 70
St. John's 64


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Saturday, March 07, 2009


March 7, 2009

After starting Big East play 9-0, Marquette has limped home for Senior Day, losing five of eight, and must continue to fight without their floor general, Dominic James, who is out for the season because of a broken foot suffered in their loss to UConn in their last home game.

The losing down the stretch has pushed the Golden Eagles out of the top four in the conference and a loss to SU on Saturday would mean that MU is the 6th seed in the 2009 Big East Tournament while the Orange would claim the 5th seed.

Syracuse started off the season hot as well, but a stretch of seven losses in 10 games has pushed the Orange into the middle of the Big East pack. Syracuse is in a stretch of three straight wins as they have run over St. John’s, Cincinnati and Rutgers in succession, but Saturday’s task will be much tougher as they will be facing and emotionally charged atmosphere in the Bradley Center when they meet Marquette.

Pregame stories and previews:

Orange Can Get 6th Seed in Big East Tournament with Win over Marquette (Syracuse Post-Standard)
Senior’s Day Will be Emotional (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
Syracuse Orange Hope for Grand Finale (Rochester D&C)

While you can expect a spirited effort by Marquette with a vocal and excited home crowd behind them, watch out for Syracuse in this one. The Orange have certainly built some confidence with their last three impressive wins and their zone defense has always given Marquette fits as it cuts down their ability to break down a defense off the dribble and forces them to settle for perimeter jumpers. With James not in the line-up, the pressure shifts to Maurice Acker to solve the SU zone, a tough task for a new starter.

The Orange certainly have individual talent, especially in their backcourt with Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris with three-point specialist Andy Rautins. The loss of James gives SU an unexpected edge there.

It will be emotional for MU today, no question, and the players will play hard. However, the toll of the James injury and the three losses, including the bulldozing administered by Pitt Wednesday night in the last 16 minutes might have MU reeling. With their lack of depth and the SU zone, a past nemesis, Look for SU to take over the 5th seed.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Syracuse 80
Marquette 73


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Friday, March 06, 2009


March 6, 2009

The Syracuse Post-Standard takes an indepth look at the impact that the Fallen Eagle, Dominic James, will have on the NCAA seeding of Marquette. The Golden Eagles were 23-4 and a top-10 team in the country before losing James for the season with a broken foot. MU has dropped their last three games, albeit against three possible #1 NCAA Tournament seeds in Pitt, UConn and Louisville, but the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee has a very small window to evaluate the James-less Marquette squad.

Still, the season goes on and Marquette will host Syracuse in the Bradley Center in what should be an emotional send-off for seniors Jerel McNeal, Wesley Mathews and Dwight Burke, who will be playing their final home game, as well as for James, who along with McNeal and Mathews is a 1,000-point career scorer in his four year career.

Marquette will have Saturday afternoon and the 2009 Big East Tournament to show the committee what kind of team they are without their senior floor general. Marquette, no matter what happens on Saturday, is locked in to the fifth seed in the Big East Tournament which means they begin action on Wednesday at 2 PM in the 'Garden' against the winner of the 12-13 seed game from Tuesday afternoon. The most likely candidates are St. John's and Seton Hall.


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Thursday, March 05, 2009


March 5, 2009

For Pitt, a Knight to Remember (Post-Gazette) as Pitt Retires Brandin Knight's Jersey (Tribune-Review) in a surprise ceremony before Pittsburgh hosted Marquette in a Big East conference game with post-season and Big East regular season implications.

No. 3 Pitt Runs Over No. 13 Marquette (Tribune-review), 90-75, before a Peterson Events Center sell-out crowd of 12,508. It was the 20th consecutive home win for Jamie Dixon's club and a school-record 14th Big East win in a season.

After taking a 43-36 lead at halftime, Pitt forgot there was another 20 minutes to play as the Golden Eagles stunned the Panthers with a lightning quick 21-5 run in under four-minutes to take a 57-48 lead. Pitt answered...and asnwered again...and again...leaving Marquette Feeling Down and Out (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) after their third loss in a row as they have played without injured Dominic James in all but four minutes of those three games against Pitt, Connecticut and Louisville.

Pitt quickly knotted the score at 57, with a 9-0 spurt of their own that took all of two minutes. After a Lazar Hayward three-pointer gave MU a lead at 60-57, Pitt them embarked on a 28-5 run over 10 minutes to give them an 85-65 lead with 3:20 remaining and chants of 'We Want UConn' echoed through the 'Pete' as fans began to look forward to this Saturday's showdown with the No. 1 Huskies.

All told, after Marquette's run to take the 57-48 lead, Pitt responded by outscoring MU 37-8 over the next 12:40 of the game in a barrage as impressive to see as it sounds. DeJuan Blair (23 points) scored inside, Sam Young (18 points) scored in transition, Levance Fields (17 points, 10 assists, 2 turnovers) orchestrated the attack with key buckets by Gilbert Brown (11 points) and Jermaine Dixon (13 points) came when necessary. Besides the five players who scored in double figures, Pitt managed to shoot 63% from the floor and owned a sparkling 2:1 (22 to 11) assist to turnover ratio.

While losing to Pitt, UConn and Louisville has no shame, the question will certainly be asked of Marquette if they can win without Dominic James. Their next chance to answer that question positively comes Saturday at home against Syracuse in what will be an emotional senior day for the Marquette program. It will be the last home game for Jerel McNeal, Wesley Mathews and Dwight Burke and also a chance for their crowd to say 'thank you' to Dominic James as well. However, the hard truth is, James is lost for the season and James' Absence is Expected to Lower Eagles' Seeding (Journal-Sentinel) for the NCAA Tournament, unless they can do a quick about-face starting against the Orange and into the 2009 Big East Tournament next week.

McNeal led MU with 23 points at Pitt, shooting 8-24 from the field. Hayward added 22 points and 10 rebounds and Mathews added 16. Marquette, which started 9-13 from three-point range, missed 12 of their final 13 from the arc as Pitt assumed control of the game.


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Wednesday, March 04, 2009


March 4, 2009

Pittsburgh looks to stake their claim to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and this week could decide that fate. The Panthers will host Marquette tonight and UConn on Saturday at the Peterson Events Center on the Pitt campus. At 13-3 in the Big East and 26-3 overall, the Panthers could set a school-record with their 14th Big East win in a season tonight.

Marquette has lost four of their last seven games since starting out the Big East season 9-0 in conference play. The last two were played predominately without Dominic James, who was lost for the season four minutes into their 93-82 home loss against UConn one week ago tonight. While the shock of the realization that James' college career is over at Marquette, the remaining Golden Eagles vow to fight on, led by seniors Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews.

Here are some pregame stories and previews on tonight's contest:

Former Great Sees Plenty of Potential (Tribune-Review)
Panthers Land in Enviable Position (Post-Gazette)
Pitt Readies for Short-Handed Marquette (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
Panthers close Out Regular Season at Home (Tribune-Review)
No James, But Plenty of Fight (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Last Sunday, Marquette began to pick up the pieces after James' injury with a game at Louisville. Marquette fought hard, losing 62-58 on the road, but the absence of James was very clear, especially on offense. The Golden Eagles managed just seven assists as a team (James averaged over 5 a game himself) and shot just 34% from the floor. Jerel McNeal, the all-time leading scorer in the history of Marquette basketball, seemed to try and take too much onto himself and was just 3-19 from the floor against the Cards. The loss of James certainly puts more onto the shoulders of McNeal and Wesley Mathews, as well as junior forward Lazar Hayward as they lack depth of productive players ready to contribute at the highest level of the Big East.

Pittsburgh got their own injury scare on Saturday night as DeJuan Blair banged knees with a Seton Hall player and was in obvious pain and limped off to the Pitt locker room. Blair had two major ACL injuries in high school, but the good news in this instance was a hyperextended knee and the 6-foot-7 Big East Player of the Year candidate should be close to full speed for tonight's game.

The Panthers have a clear advantage with Blair and Sam Young in the frontcourt and their depth off the bench in the backcourt also could play a big role in this contest. Marquette will try and counter the Panther strengths by applying constant ball pressure against Levance Fields and his backcourt mates with Maurice Acker, James' replacement, McNeal and Mathews extending their pressure and being aggressive on defense, trying to force turnovers and convert the extra opportunities into points. Pitt turned the ball over 18 times in their loss to Providence last week and 23 more times in the win over SHU, so that is something to keep a close eye on.

While Marquette will look to turn Pitt over for extra chances, Pitt will pound the offensive glass for their extra chances. If Pitt can get into their offense they will be very tough to stop. Their offensive rebounding prowess, easily the best in the country, has made Pitt one of the top two most-efficient offenses in the country, despite not being a great shooting team. it is almost a case of just getting shots up to the rim for Pitt might be part of the offensive plan, because they rebound nearly 40% of their misses and should be able to control the boards against a small Marquette line-up.

The other factor is foul trouble on Blair that could put this game into jeopardy for the Panthers. Marquette is likely to try and draw Blair away from the basket and hope he picks up some ticky-tack fouls trying to stay with the smaller and quicker MU players.

The NCAA basketball betting odds have the Panthers as a 10 1/2-point favorite to pick up conference win #14 tonight at the expense of the short-handed Golden Eagles. While MU has plenty to play for, they are likely to come up short in this one on the road.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 71
Marquette 60


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Monday, March 02, 2009


March 2, 2009

Life after Dominic James began for Marquette on Sunday with an afternoon showdown in Freedom Hall against Louisville, a former Conference USA rival. The Golden Eagles put forth a good fight in a tough situation, but MU's Shooting Woes Contribute to Defeat (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) as the Cards pull out a 62-58 victory in the Big East conference showdown.

It was the second straight loss for MU, dropping them to 12-4 in the Big East and into fourth place. The Golden Eagles are just 3-4 after starting conference play at 9-0. They close out the regular season this week with a game at Pittsburgh and a home date against Syracuse at the Bradley Center when their fans will bid farewell to their senior class that includes James, Jerel McNeal, Wesley Mathews and Dwight Burke Saturday afternoon. Next week the Golden Eagles head to New York for the 2009 Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Their hold on the fourth spot, and last double-bye, is very tenuous as the last week of the regular season gets underway.

On Sunday afternoon, the impact of playing without James was evident as the Golden Eagles managed to shoot just 34% from the field and register just seven team assists. McNeal, possibly trying to put too much on his own shoulders, struggled through a miserable offensive afternoon by shooting 3-19 from the floor and finishing with 10 points.

Wesley Mathews led MU with 19 points and Lazar Hayward added a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds in the game.

Of course, Louisville had an impact on the MU shooting woes as the Cards' Defense Was Delightful Against Familiar Foe (Courier-Journal) and held the usually high-scoring Golden Eagles to 58 points, well below their season average.

In throwback uniforms and Rick Pitino breaking out the all-white suit for the Freedom Hall 'white-out', the Cardinals Dress to Thrill (Kentucky.com) and deliver as they move to 14-2 in the conference, keeping their regular season title hopes alive.

Andre McGee had a team-high 16 points and Terrence Williams added 14 points, 8 rebounds and seven assists, filling the stat sheet as usual. Earl Clark posted a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds to help the cause.


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