West Region: No. 6 Marquette (24-9) vs. No. 11 Utah State (30-4)
When: Friday, 12:30 p.m., EDT
Where: Taco Bell Arena, Boise, Idaho
MARQUETTE GOLDEN EAGLES
1) More Dominic James Melodrama The oft-maligned Dominic James was Marquette's most important player, despite Doug Gottlieb-esque 46% free throw shooting. In his absence, opponents are shooting 49% and point guards are pouring in nearly 20 ppg. Watch how Marquette's defense holds up, particularly Maurice Acker, against dribble penetration and fighting through high screens. Marquette will rarely go over a high screen, increasing their vulnerability to a hot shooting guard (paging A.J. Price). On offense, MU misses Nic's ability to finish on the break and his dribble penetration. End of game execution is also a question mark as James was the clear go-to guy in tough situations.
2) No Longer on Jay Bilas' Speed Dial Marquette rushed to hire assistant Brent "Buzz" Williams after national media darling Tom Crean left a talented group of seniors to coach a student manager, Timmy Lupus and Ollie at Indiana. A Texan through and through, Buzz guzzles gallons of sweet tea in between dips. He is brutally, sometimes uncomfortably, honest with the media, even revealing that Lazar Hayward is two inches shorter than listed. His penchant for not calling timeouts, ever, has driven MU fans crazy. The future looks bright after reeling in a Top 20 class for 2009-2010. Look for Buzz to try some junk defenses to throw off the opposition. A 1-3-1 was effective against plodding Wisconsin and a small lineup with 6'5" Wesley Matthews playing the five helped defeat Providence and Notre Dame.
3) It Was Like the Heidi Game...Without the Pigtails Marquette-Villanova, Big East Tournament quarterfinals. MU fights back from a 16 point deficit and is up one, inbounding the ball with 40 seconds left. As soon as the ball is inbounded, the Milwaukee Time Warner cable czars switch over to the monthly, ear piercing Emergency Broadcast Signal. After an interminable wait, Time Warner switches back to the game just in time for Marquette fans to absorb the sight of the Villanova players splayed all over the floor celebrating their improbable victory. Thanks Time Warner—hello DirecTV! — Husker4MU (Quevedo at the Buffet)
1) Losing is for Losers Utah State comes into the Big Dance with more wins than any other contender. They started the season on a 24-1 run, losing only to fellow Mormon-staters Brigham Young. Their current 30-4 mark was amassed relatively close to home—the Aggies haven't traveled to the eastern side of the continental divide all season long. Since their West region path goes through Boise and Glendale, they won't cross the mountains
unless they make the Final Four in Detroit.
2) When We Say Senior, We Mean Senior Utah State's emotional leader and best player is Gary Wilkinson, a 27-year-old married dude. The red-haired, 6'9" forward spent two years on a Mormon mission in Canada before resuming his education at Salt Lake Community College. His play in the bus leagues caught the attention of USU coach Stew Morrill, who is no doubt familiar with the standard Mormon path to basketball success. He is the team's only senior.
3) It's Like the Onion, but About Basketball USU students print a satirical sports publication called The Refraction. The most recent edition commemorates opposing players who were most rattled by the hellacious noise in the Spectrum on game days. They also do a Top 8 list, and lead one article with the headline "Refraction Staff Still Not Getting Any." And you thought nobody funny came from Utah. — Eric Angevine (Storming The Floor)