Blogging With the Enemy: WVU at Marquette Edition

Even though the whole Q&A session with opposing bloggers didn't work so well against St. John's, we're going to try this again.  For some reason, the schedule makers decided that WVU and the Golden Eagles would tip off at 11:00 a.m. Eastern on New Year's Day.  That's 10:00 a.m. Central.  At this point, I just hope I'm coherent enough to make it from my bed to the couch by then.  The Mountaineers escaped 63-62 last year in Morgantown thanks to a last-second 3 by Da'Sean Butler, but have struggled in Milwaukee, getting blown out 75-53 after leading 31-29 at half in 2009 and falling 81-63 in 2007.  Rubie Q of SBNation's Marquette blog Anonymous Eagle agreed to trade questions to help get us up to speed on tomorrow's game. He also offered to fix bloody marys before the game and to buy a round of Jager shots next time I'm in Milwaukee.  Maybe those guys aren't so bad after all.

You can read my answers by following this little link, and you can find his after the jump.

Country Roads: Guys like Lazar Hayward and Wes Matthews were able to make Marquette one of the tougher outs in the Big East over the past several seasons, but it seems like Marquette simply hasn't had the same caliber of players since Tom Crean left.  Is recruiting a concern under Buzz Williams?  Can Marquette attract the kind of talent it takes to be a consistent winner in the Big East?

Rubie Q:  Actually, depending on your opinion of the ratings of the Scouts and Rivals of the world, Marquette's recruiting under Coach Buzz has actually been pretty good.  The first year was a struggle, as big-time recruits like Tyshawn Taylor (now at Kansas) and Nick Williams (first Indiana, now Ole Miss) abandoned ship when Smarmy Tom Crean took his talents to Indiana.  Still, Coach Buzz managed to land Jimmy Butler, who was a tremendous role player in his first year and has developed into Marquette's best player in his senior season.  And in the last two years, Coach Buzz has brought in a highly-rated point guard (Junior Cadougan), two Top 100 small forwards (Erik Williams and Jamail Jones) and two top-flight JUCO players (Darius Johnson-Odom in '09, JUCO Player of the Year Jae Crowder in '10).  The crown jewel of the last two classes, of course, is combo guard Vander Blue, a Top 50 talent who initially committed to UW-Madison but then saw the light and came east.

The problem thus far has been keeping the talent here.  It started last year with Jeronne Maymon, the two-time Wisconsin high school player of the year who fled to Tennessee at the midterm, and it continued this year with Reggie Smith, a lightning-quick point guard from Chicago who bailed at the semester break because of concerns over his playing time.  Add in the transfers of Brett Roseboro (who didn't even last to his first official practice last year) and Yous Mbao (a project big man who transferred last spring) and you've got troubling pattern, not so much because of the transfers -- every team has 'em, after all -- but because we're not developing four-year players.  To sustain any kind of success in the Big East, that will need to change.

CR:  Da'Sean Butler hit a huge game winning three last year to pull out a win last year at home.  Unfortunately for WVU, he's no longer on the roster.  Which WVU players give you the most concern this year?

RQ:  Talented big men give us fits; witness the first five (or so) minutes of Marquette's last game vs. Vanderbilt, when Vandy scored on six dunks/layups to run out to an early 11-point advantage.  One of the Plumlee brothers (I don't care enough to check which one it was) annihilated us when Marquette played Duke, and Wisconsin's Jon Leuer ate our big men alive for the second year in a row.  So, looking at WVU's roster, I think we're going to have our hands full with Kevin Jones and John Flowers -- especially if you guys run any kind of backdoor plays.  Our big guys can't defend those, and our help defense is atrocious, so: please don't run backdoor plays.

CR:  WVU leans heavily on Truck Bryand, Casey Mitchell, and Kevin Jones and tries to win ugly by limiting possessions and keeping scores in the 60's.  Who has to play well for Marquette to win?  Along the same vein, what style of game gives Marquette the best chance to win?

RQ:  Darius Johnson-Odom and Dwight Buycks are the keys to Marquette's success, for different reasons.  When he's rolling, DJO is one of the best offensive players in the country: he can hit from deep (47% on threes last year, though he's struggled mightily with his shot until the last three games), he's got a good mid-range jumper, and he's excellent attacking the rim.  The problem is when he misses his first few shots; if that happens, DJO goes catatonic and stops looking for his shot.  Since he's the only true 3-point threat Marquette has, if DJO isn't shooting, defenses can sag to take away driving lanes and points are hard to come by.  Buycks is a natural shooting guard who's been pressed into duty at point guard this year, and while he's responded well (he averages over four assists a game), he turns the ball over quite a bit and the offense can get stagnant if he's looking to shoot rather than pass.

Marquette isn't great in the halfcourt on offense, and, due to defections and injuries, we don't have the depth to press and run other teams ragged either.  We're best when we're forcing turnovers in the halfcourt and/or getting long rebounds which lead to runouts in transition.
  
CR:  What are your realistic best-case and worst-case results for this season?

RQ:  We're a pretty pessimistic bunch nowadays, since Marquette dropped all four of its non-conference games against tournament-caliber teams (Duke, Gonzaga, Wisconsin, and Vanderbilt), though we didn't get our doors blown off in any of the losses (MU lost by a combined 14 points in the four games).  The best case scenario is that this season follows the path of last season: we get better in close games, win 10+ in the conference, snag a game a two from a Big East heavy, and swipe a tourney berth.  Worst case scenario?  Marquette keeps doing just enough to lose all of these close games, loses to DePaul (again), and ends up playing Western Michigan in the NIT, while I have to drink a half-gallon of milk every day for my ulcer.

Good luck tomorrow.  We'll look for Huggy on Water Street after the game.  I'll buy the first round of Jagermeister.

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