We have a lot of great blogs here, but the guys at Anonymous Eagle are probably the ones who get what we do here the most. Rubie Q took time from celebrating the Packers win Sunday to talk Marquette hoops. In this edition of Bulls Recon, we talk about those blue and gold polos, Darius Johnson-Odom, and of course Big East Expansion.
1. I have to ask this first. Why does everyone wear blue and gold rugby polos when they come to Tampa? Is it standard issue when you first step on campus? Even the AE eagle has the polo on!
Is he really wearing a polo? I always figured it was a T-shirt. It's hard to tell, because of his neck feathers and all.
Anyway, the only people associated with MU who wear rugby polos -- as far as I know -- are the bandos. Do these rugby-polo-clad folks have saxophones and trumpets and drums? If they don't, I have no idea who they are. Former bandos? Bando groupies (note: I don't believe bando groupies actually exist) who claimed a rugby shirt as a memento of a night of conquest? This warrants further investigation.
2. We thought we were going to grab Davante Gardner before you guys came in at the last minute and poached him away. How has he done this year?
Ox has been OK. He started out very well, scoring 17 on perfect 7-7 shooting against the Lilliputians of Prairie View A&M in his college debut, and he managed nine points and four offensive rebounds against Duke in the CBE Classic. But Big Smoove (we've got a lot of nicknames for him, can you tell?) has seen his minutes slashed as Marquette entered the Big East season; the most run he's seen since the end of the non-con schedule is eight minutes (four times, vs. Rutgers, Pitt, UConn, and 'Cuse) and he hasn't scored more than 2 points in any Big East game. That said, he's shown some nifty footwork around the basket and he'll tangle in the paint with the Big East heavies. There's a ways to go, obviously, and a whole lot of baby fat to shed, but he could be a good one.
3. Who has stepped in to replace the production of Lazar Hayward?
Jae Crowder. Replacing 'Zar was the biggest issue facing Marquette coming into the season, and Crowder has been a revelation. Coach Buzz says Jae's made the smoothest transition from JUCO to high-major college ball he's ever seen, and Jae's capably filled the very large shoes left by Hayward. Crowder can shoot the three, he's got a decent mid-range game, and he's capable around the rim, too. He's a good rebounder (not as good as Hayward, but I haven't seen many 6'5" guys who rebounded like Lazar), he's a good defender, and he's got a surprisingly good handle. Without Jae, Marquette would be in a bad way.
4. You can wax poetic of Darius Johnson-Odom here. Go on, tell us why we should fear DJO.
I told The Nova Blog last week that I thought DJO was a better college scorer than Dwyane Wade, and I'm not going to back off that statement. Wade was electric, don't get me wrong, but he couldn't shoot the three like Johnson-Odom can and DJO's jumper from 15 is better than Wade's was, too. Wade was better around the rim, but DJO's no slouch in that regard, either: he's explosive off the dribble, has an excellent pump fake, and can elevate when he gets to the hoop. The issue -- not to sound like Joe Morgan -- is consistency: DJO will disappear for long stretches of the game, especially if he misses a couple of shots right out of the gates or at the start of the second half. But when he's on, there aren't many weapons like him.
5. The wonderfully named Vander Blue was pegged to be a front runner for Big East Freshman of the Year. Has he lived up to expectations?
Sort of. He was very good in the non-conference portion of the schedule, and he started most of the non-con games simply because of his defense: he's tenacious, he's a ballhawk, and he'll rebound. Unfortunately, his game on offense is miles behind his game on defense. His jumper is broke (witness the 'Cuse game, where DJO found Vander in transition for a wide-open three and Vander promptly airballed the attempt; I think that ball was still going up when it got to the rim), he's shaky on the dribble, and he's taken to reckless drives into the paint which invariably (and correctly) result in a charging call. The raw talent is there, though, no doubt, and I think he's going to be a force next year. This year, though, he's hit the feared freshman wall, and he's hit it hard.
6. What are your thoughts on Big Expansion? How many more teams do you want to add, if any? #BootDePaul?
It makes us nervous. Whenever there's talk of adding teams to the conference, there's concurrent talk about trimming some of the chaff, which seems to start with DePaul and then quickly turns to Marquette. It's understandable, I know: we don't play football (unlike 'Cuse, Rutgers, WVU, Pitt, UConn, Cincy, Louisville, and you guys), we never will (unlike 'Nova), we're the western-most school in the conference, we're not in a major media market (unlike DePaul), and we're new to the conference (unlike Georgetown, St. John's, Seton Hall, and Providence). It's not an ideal place to be, that's for sure.
And we can't really get on board with booting DePaul. Sadly, we've realized this year that the Demons are Marquette's best bet for a rivalry, if they could ever get their stuff together.
7. Finally, how much are you guys going to win by on Wednesday?
This might be perception more than reality, but I've always thought that the Sun Dome is Marquette's Thunderdome. The Bulls make every game in Tampa a battle to the death, winning occasionally and still managing to scare the hell out of us when they don't. Throw in the fact that USF just got pantsed by 'Cuse AND that the Sun Dome was apparently overrun by Orange fans, and I'm expecting a closer-than-it-should-be contest. I'll say Marquette by 5, but I'm not confident in that number at all.