In Rab's Words ... An Insider's View Of Marquette Basketball
Director of Basketball Operations Jason Rabedeaux will provide behind-the-scenes access all season long thanks to "In Rab's Words..," an exclusive blog on GoMarquette.com.
Entry #36 -- March 1, 2008
It's March my friends and I'm feeling whacky...
Do we have to count the Georgetown game as a loss? I mean c'mon...up 3 with 5.8 tics left on the clock...Jonathan Wallace takes it the length of the floor, pulls up for a desperation 3 in the deep, deep corner...surely pandemonium is about to ensue at the sold out Bradley Center as the #20 Golden Eagles knock off the #10 Hoyas.
No need to re-hash the details...bottom line, the entire nation was treated to a classic March Madness, Sweet "16ish", BIG EAST BATTLE ROYALE between 2 of the nation's premier college basketball teams. A re-match on a neutral floor at the Garden next week is a distinct possibility, but first things first...Florida Gulf Coast tonight and a trip to the Carrier Dome and a showdown with the `Cuse on Saturday afternoon.
Senior Shout Out...
Ous, Trend, Dan and Tommy make their curtain call tonight at the Bradley Center. Senior night...always bitter sweet...a celebration of senior success, hard work, dedication and loyalty. Bitter, because we hate to see these guys go...I mean a college basketball season is a LONG haul...and our team is a family, a close knit family...anytime one of our family members moves on...well it's hard. Bright, bright futures await all of these young men. They will take the foundations of our program...toughness, leadership, togetherness, teamwork, passion, competitiveness, the ability to over come adversity as well as the ability to deal with success with humility. They have been ingrained with the three greatest abilities you can have in life...dependability, responsibility and accountability. And most importantly, they will ALWAYS be family...and Marquette will ALWAYS be home. So reach down a little deeper and shout a little louder tonight when Dan, Trend, Ous and Tommy are announced for a final time and give them a send off they will remember the rest of their lives.
7 BIG EAST teams have got to dance come Selection Sunday, right? And who knows what's in store next week at the Big East Tournament...I mean anyone of the 12 teams fortunate enough to survive and advance to New York City are capable of running the table. Joe Lunardi over at ESPN.com has punched 7 dance tickets for the BIG EAST and he has missed like once in the last 5 years..."In Joe I Trust". Our fate is in our own hands as we head into the final week of regular season play. We are guaranteed of locking down the 5th or 6th seed depending on the outcome of our game Saturday at Syracuse as well as the outcome of the West Virginia at St. John's game on Saturday at the Garden. If we win at Syracuse, the 5th seed is all ours, if we finish 11-7 and tied with West Virginia, then we finish 6th based on West Virginia's victory over us in January. The 11th and 12th seeds are a "Rubix Cube" of possibilities...just think St. John's, Providence, Seton Hall, DePaul and Syracuse.
Bracketology, seeds and dance tickets are the last thing Coach Tom Crean is talking to his team about. He is interested in improvement, his team playing better and his team still learning. The focus at Marquette is just that..."FOCUS". Absolutely no need to look ahead or speculate. We have a very good basketball team...our mission is to prepare, practice and compete one day at a time...control what we can control, which is ourselves. I love the excitement, speculation and madness that is so common at this time of year as much as the next blogger...but the focus at "The Al" is a deep run in March and that allows for little speculation and a whole lot of attention to the task at hand...getting better each and every day.
Behind The Scenes...
Not only will Ous, Trend, Tommy and Dan bow out at the Bradley Center tonight, so too will three dedicated and devoted senior managers...Chris Herring, Matt Marks and Darin Sense. Laundry, uniforms, packing for road trips, video, practice...you name it, these guys have experienced it. And while the majority of their work goes unnoticed by "John Q. Public", these three young men are valued and respected by all those associated with our program. Best wishes and a sincere thank you for all of your hard work and countless hours of dedication, devotion and loyalty.
BREAKING NEWS....BREAKING NEWS...
One minute Packer's head coach, Mike McCarthy, is sitting on the baseline at the Marquette/Georgetown game, the next minute his Hall of Fame quarterback informs him that it is time to hang up the cleats, call his last audible, turn in the play book and call it a first ballot Hall of Fame career.
I feel for ya coach. 3 MVP's, 2 Super Bowls and countless records...Brett Lorenzo Farve has taken his last snap at Lambeau. A sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer, Favre, was acquired in a trade (for the 17th pick of the 1992 draft) with the Atlanta Falcons and led the Packers back to the NFL's elite. He retires with 5,377 carrer completions in 8,758 attempts for 61,655 yards, 442 touchdowns and 288 interceptions. Favre, who returned for the 2007 season when many thought he should have left the game, had a career renaissance in his final season and led the Packers to the NFC Championship Game, where they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in overtime. While much will be written over the next few weeks attempting to put Farve's career into perspective...the bottom line from this "blog" is that Mr. Farve was one tough hombre. 17 years in arguably the world's most violent profession, 275 consecutive starts... the majority of which took place in one of Mother Nature's most "un-vacation" like venues...and succeed at the absolute highest level...it will be a long time before we see the likes of a Brett Farve grace football stadiums across the country. Ok...Florida Gulf Coast tonight and our first trip to the Carrier Dome on Saturday. So much to be decided in the next 5 days of basketball. Brett's done, but the Golden Eagles are far from finished...hang on tight it's going to be a wild month of March.
Until next time...keep up yhe support on the outside, I'll keep you blogged on the inside.
Entry #35 -- February 27, 2008
~ Mark Twain
"News of Rab's Words demise has also been greatly exaggerated."
33 days since I last "blogged".
You can pack quite a bit into 33 days. A lot can happen. Except, apparently...a blog.
College basketball's "all time winningest coach" can step down, 10 games before season's end, and hand the reigns over to his son.
You can take in the "Queen City"...Cincinnati...belly up to a bowl of Skyline chili and then head over to "5th 3rd Arena" for a 75-60 win over the Bearcats.
A "Rocket" can go before Congress and fire up words like "misremember."
Shaq can be traded.
Pitchers and catchers can report.
Indiana can happen.
Pay a visit to The World's Most Famous Arena, meet Dean "The Dream" Memminger and then battle St. John's to a hard fought 73-64 win.
Watch Tiger win his 3rd straight.
The Oscars happened, but my picture of the year, "There Will Be Blood", got snubbed.
Experience the "Gon-Zone" for an 89-63 "W" and season sweep of Seton Hall.
The "Highlanders" of New Jersey Institute of Technology can finish up a record setting and forgettable season of 29 straight losses.
Visit Philly, crank up the cholesterol with a cheese steak and then hand down a not so "Brotherly Love Like" 85-75 victory over a red hot Villanova.
Heck, in 33 days Pamela Anderson can get married in Vegas, honeymoon in Cabo, get divorced in LA, show up at a Pepperdine game and get married again.
...and according to author, Ellington Darden, you can lose 25 pounds and 5 inches off your waist in 33 days if you follow his tips and tricks contained in his "best selling" paperback entitled "32 Days to a 32 Inch Waist"....www.amazon.com if you don't believe me. I'm having a copy FedEx'd.
...but, more importantly and most importantly, 33 days represents 10 games within a critical stretch of basketball played inside college basketball's most hazardous, treacherous, turbulent, time out taking, heartbreaking and nervous breakdown making conference in America...the BIG EAST.
And what exactly do the Marquette Golden Eagles have to show for those painstaking and sleepless 33 days and nights? How about an 8-2 record (21-6 overall), 4 straight road wins, a #21 ranking in both the ESPN and AP polls, #15 in the RPI... all while claiming stake to a #5 seed in "Mr. Bracketology's" latest NCAA field of 65 over at www.espn.com.
Yes. That just happened.
And what do the "Basketball Gods" reward such noteworthy and hard fought accomplishments with?
What's 7'3 on the inside, back cutting on the outside and in 1st all over?
On Saturday afternoon, in front of a packed house at the Bradley Center and a national television audience on CBS, The Golden Eagles will play host to "JT III", Mr. Hibbert and a talented sophomore guard whose dad's retired #31 just happens to hang from the rafters of the Bradley Center. As Margo Channing (Bette Davis) said in the 1950 classic drama, All About Eve (A record 14 Academy Award nominations, won 6 - including Best Picture)..."Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride."
This blog has now referenced Mark Twain and Bette Davis. Safe to say, I made the most of my 33 day hiatus.
So here we go...down the stretch...Mr. Madness knocking at the door and the Golden Eagles in full pursuit of a bye in the "Big Apple". Excuses, injuries and bad calls are out the window...no time to be tired, we'll sleep in April...it's time to step up, stand up and be counted...3 regular season games remain.
And guess what...we're just getting started.
Until next time, keep up the support on the outside...I'll keep you blogged on the inside.
Entry #34 -- January 25, 2008
Must win? Aren't they all?
Must play better? Absolutely.
Enter the DePaul Blue Demons for a 7 PM tip at the Bradley. The 105th meeting of these two long standing rivals promises to be an electric and entertaining evening of Big East basketball. The Blue Demons have won 7 of their last 9 and feature two of the Big East's top freshmen in 6'9 Mac Koshwal and 6'5 Dar Tucker. DePaul is 4-2 in Big East play including wins over Providence, Villanova and at St. John's. This is a high powered offensive bunch 3rd year head coach Jerry Wainwright has assembled...Koshwal is a force inside averaging 11 points and 8 rebounds...senior, 1000-point career scorer and Milwaukee native, Draelon Burns, is one of the Big East's most dynamic perimeter players and Tucker is a fearless, high flying freshman...he leads the Blue Demons in scoring on the road. In fact Tucker is ranked as the 6th best scorer off the bench in Division 1 basketball averaging 13 points per game.
Draelon Burns will definitely get our attention...the 6'4 product of Milwaukee's Custer HS is currently the Big East's 5th leading scorer and ranks 12th in 3 point field goals made. Burns had a memorable November, tossing in 32 and 30 points on consecutive nights and setting a school record by going 8 for 8 from behind the arc vs. Texas A&M Corpus Christi.
No secrets in our game plan...we simply have to play and execute the type of basketball that has seen us win by an average of 26 points per contest in our last 10 outings at the Bradley Center. Defend, rebound, attack and share the ball. Life on the road in the Big East can be humbling to say the least, however back to back road losses have provided a spring board to 3 of our best practices of the year. Kasten Gym has been "hummin'" with emotion and enthusiasm. Practices have been spirited and productive.
STICKS AND STONES...
Man, drop a couple Big East road games and the "haters" come out to play...but my favorite comes from this week's issue of Sports Illustrated. In their weekly "WHO'S HOT - WHO'S NOT" column, the following was written about Golden Eagles Basketball under "WHO'S NOT"...
"Not one but two losses last week - including an upset by Big East rival Connecticut - sunk Marquette from #13 to #21. Top scorer Dominic James is nursing an injured wrist, but coach Tom Crean has a plan for success: "We have to play like our hair is on fire."
I'm as big a fan of sarcasm as anyone out there, but to call our loss to UConn an upset? Note to the editorial staff at SI...the Connecticut Huskies have a roster full of consensus top 50 recruits, a Hall of Fame coach and a record of 115-17 inside of Gampel Pavillion...including 61-13 vs. Big East opponents. Losing to UConn at UConn is NEVER an upset...if Bethune Cookman beats Memphis...that's an upset.
What a year...Prince, or the artist formerly known as Prince, even wrote a song about it. Tom Crean was named head coach at Marquette, UConn took down Duke for the National Championship, the Spurs won their 1st World Title, Yankees swept the Braves, Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones became the first men to circumnavigate the Earth in a hot air balloon, The animated TV series SpongeBob SquarePants debuted on Nickelodeon, Lance Armstrong won his first Tour de France, 14 inches of snow fell on downtown Milwaukee on January 2nd, baseball mourned the passing of Mr. Coffee, Joe Dimaggio and Ebert lost his good friend and side kick Gene Siskel.
"We get it Rab...1999 was unbelievable. What's your point?"
My point is this. 1999 was also the year of Marquette "do it all" student assistant, Julian Swartz.
That's right, in March of 1999 Julian was crowned Wisconsin's Mr. Basketball in honor of his star studded senior campaign at Waukesha South HS. "Rab's Words" has been long overdue in giving a "shout out" to Julian...behind the scenes, Julian has been an integral part of our success over the past three years and is an absolute superstar in the making as a basketball coach. Julian is currently completing his Masters Degree in Counseling and will graduate from Marquette in May. Much like he was during his playing career, Julian is a work horse...film edits, practice, scouting, special projects...this guy can do it all...when he sleeps, I have no idea. Julian is another example of the premier support staff Tom Crean has assembled at Marquette.
BARONE... Before Diener, Wade, Novak and James...there was Barone. Brian Barone that is...ol' #12. With an entire life around the game and a basketball-rich bloodline, Brian Barone is in his first season as our Coordinator of Basketball Operations. Brian is a pioneer...a part of Coach Crean's 1st Marquette team, Brian helped set the foundation for what is now one of college basketball most elite programs. "Brones" is another of Coach Crean's "around the clock" crew...Brian is heavily involved in our scouting and game preparation. Brian brings a wealth of experience to the table having previously served as an assistant coach at Illinois State and like Julian, it is only a matter of time before the words "Head Coach" are a part of his future. And since former basketball players never die..."they just huff and puff and wish they could stuff"...the highlights of Brian's playing career at Marquette include... picking up his second letter at Marquette after seeing action as a reserve in 29 games ... averaging 17.8 minutes per game as a senior ... finishing 3rd on the club in assists (43) ... 30 minutes (MU career long) vs. Louisville (2/24) - 5 pts., 4 rebs, 3 steals ... Sank six-of-seven from the floor (3-of-4 treys) en route to a career-high 17 points vs. Tulane (1/27). But the ultimate Barone career highlight was the 2000-2001 team picture in which Brian is seated next to a certain red shirt freshman...Dwyane Wade. Need proof, just log on to eBay, as Brian has several autographed copies up for bid.
Allright...a little over 24 hours until tip off. The game is a SELL OUT, but will be nationally televised on ESPNU. Let's get the ship righted and off this two-game slide. It won't be easy...it never is in the brutal Big East...we'll need every ounce of your support.
Which reminds me, until next time...keep up the support on the outside, I'll keep you "blogged" on the inside.
Entry #33 -- January 23, 2008
I needed answers and I needed them fast.
So I turned to my good friend...the "Google" search engine. Returning home from a blistering 2 game road trip I wanted to know what the general consensus was regarding the top 10 toughest coaching jobs in all of sports. So I opened up the lap top and "googled" away...I was dismayed at the results. I mean down right miffed. There before my eyes...coaching the Oakland Raiders...managing the Yankees, but no where amongst the top 10 toughest jobs in the sporting world was being a "Big East head basketball coach". For crying out loud, coaching the Toronto Maple Leafs was number 7.
C'mon "Google". Amongst all the "techies", IP addresses, engineers, PHD's and 140+ IQ's walking around Google's Mountain View, California campus, surely someone has the "where with all" and common sense to understand just how difficult it is to coach, manage and mentor a basketball team within college basketball's foremost, vicious and competitive conference. For goodness sakes, Jim Calhoun and Jim Boeheim are in the Hall of Fame and between them they have managed only 1...that's right 1 Big East road win.
Who do these guys at "Google" think they are anyway? So I pulled out the cell phone to see if I could get Larry Page or Sergey Brin, "Google" co-founders and Stanford graduates, on the horn to talk some hoops. And if I couldn't track down Larry or Sergey, I was going to hunt down "Google" CEO, Eric Schmidt, I wasn't going to let the fact that Eric made 140 million last year in "Google" stock options alone intimidate me. He went to Princeton, when was the last time they won a tournament game? Alas, neither Eric, Sergey or Larry would take my repeated calls. Figures. What would you expect from a company that takes pride in the fact that the iPhone, transformers and Anna Nicole Smith are 3 of their top 10 most sought after queries. Three words "Google"...Do You Yahoo?
Life on the road...
To date 89 Big East conference games have been played and only 10 of those games have resulted in the visiting team coming away with a win. In fact, just 10 of our conference's 16 teams have managed to walk away from an opposing arena with a "W". It is early, but make no mistake about it...hold serve at home and go .500 on the road could very easily equal a Big East regular season championship. Easier said than done. The Big East schedule makers kindly sent us to West Virginia, Louisville and UConn to open Big East road play...easily 3 of the toughest venues not only in the Big East, but in college basketball overall. Now, there is absolutely no question that we whole heartedly participated in our own misfortune on the road...allowing teams to shoot .500, getting out rebounded and poor shooting are NEVER characteristics of a successful road trip, but let's admit playing 3 of the Big East's best teams didn't help either.
So now that we have identified the problem, it is time to get "crackin'" on the solution. Here are 3 areas Coach Crean has his Golden Eagles focusing on in anticipation of the Blue Demons invading the Bradley Center on Saturday evening.
1. Stay confident - stay focused: road success has been hard for EVERY team within the Big East. It is important to remember we beat one of the conference's hottest teams, Notre Dame, by 26 points just 10 days ago.
While we slipped to 21 and 20 in the respective coaches' and AP polls, a big "shout out" to George Giese of the Great Falls Tribune in Montana and Lee Yobbi of the Santa Fe New Mexican, both of these Pulitzer Prize worthy writers tabbed the Golden Eagles at #11...back home Todd Rosiak picked his hometown team #19 and while Garland Gillen of WWLTV Channel 4 in New Orleans did NOT see us fit to be ranked, he did pick Drake, St. Mary's, Butler, Gonzaga and Kansas State within his top 25. OK, so Garland won't be appearing on "Basketball Jeopardy" anytime soon...to each his own.
Classic old school Big East game last night as Georgetown took down Syracuse in OT...Villanova's Scottie Reynolds was Big East Player of the Week...our Seton Hall win gets that much more respect as "The Hall" knocked off "The `Ville"...we stand 2nd in the Big East in free throw percentage and 3 point field goals made per game. All of that "Google"research I did to start off the "blog" turned up a couple of interesting facts...for example did you know that an IQ of 140+ is considered genius and that actress Sharon Stone has an IQ of 154? Beauty AND brains, but Basic Instinct 2...Sharon must be book smart...Paul Allen, Microsoft founder, has a 160+ IQ and as owner of the Portland Trailblazers and the year they are having he is looking REALLY smart. Larry, Eric and Segey, the "suits" over at "Google" are all billionaires...6 of the top 10 billionaires in the United States have something to do with either Microsoft or Wal-Mart...ultra technology and .99 cent tooth paste...so many ways to make a buck.
Will Ferrell is back at it as Jackie Moon, owner and player/coach, of the Flint Tropics of the ABA in his new movie "Semi Pro". Something tells me this is going to be good. Take a look.
Until next time...keep up the support on the outside, I'll keep you "blogged" on the inside.
Entry #32 -- January 16, 2008
Elections are heatin' up.
Primaries, Caucuses, Straw Polls and Town Meetings.
Hillary, Barak, Mitt, Mike and John.
Iowa and New Hampshire NEVER get this much attention.
So in keeping with the political tone, let's delve into the polls we REALLY care about...the AP and the Coaches Poll. Monday afternoon we "rocketed" up two spots to #13 in each of these respective basketball barometers. We'll take that. We'll also take #8 in the Sagarin ratings and #16 in the RPI...the NCAA selection committee's road map for the field of 64. ESPN "Bracketologist", Joe Lunardi, has the Golden Eagles a #3 seed in the East Regional playing #14 Utah State. Joe's a Marquette "believer"...
" I think the Golden Eagles are better than Georgetown right now, but the two don't play until March 1. An ASM (average scoring margin) of 21.54 is even more impressive for a defense-first type of team. The second half pounding of Notre Dame was every bit as impressive as the score." ~ Joe Lunardi
Ever wonder who votes in the Associated Press or "writer's poll"? I did. So I solicited the advice of our crack Sports Information Director, Scott Kuykendall, and cybered my way over to www.pollspeak.com . There you can see the individuals who actually vote every week and where they select each respective team. For example, this past week Scott Boatwright of The News-Star "Northeast Louisiana's Top News Source" tabbed the Golden Eagles at #17...the lowest of any of the AP votes we received. Scott is a New Orleans native and isn't quite convinced we are top 10 material...someone send Scott the Wisconsin game and a box of Usingers. On the other hand Steve Grinczel of Booth Newspapers in Michigan is a guy that "gets it". This week Steve picked us as the 8th best team in the country. Steve's a real basketball guy, when he's not picking his Top 25, he's busy tracking down Coach Izzo as Michigan State's beat writer. Love those Spartans.
Other notable voters and where they selected the Golden Eagles include...Dick "Hoops" Weiss (11), CBS's Seth Davis (11), Season on the Brink's, John Feinstein (12) and the man himself, Dick Vitale (11). Looking for a little local flavor amongst the voters? Look no further than the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's very own Todd Rosiak..."Rosey" had us #12 this week. Shouldn't our very own beat writer pick us #1 every week, no matter what our record is?...just kiddin' Todd.
My favorite voter of the week `tho is straight off the set of The Sopranos...Bradford, Pennsylvania's own Vinny Pezzimenti.
OFF TO THE `VILLE...
Nothing comes free at "Fredom Hall". That place is a veritable graveyard for visiting basketball teams. 22,000 basketball-bent thoroughbreds clad in red...it truly is one of college basketball's greatest venues. A national television audience is in for a treat on Thursday night...the last 14 times Marquette and Louisville have hooked up, the games have been decided by an average of 5 points. The Cardinals are on a roll...won 6 of their last 7...a fully loaded and healthy roster...we will no doubt get the `Ville's best shot. Keys? Low turnovers and high rebounds...Louisville will press and swarm the boards...they are the absolute best in the country at turning offensive rebounds into made 3 pointers.
WHAT'S IN STORE IN STORRS...
Gets a whole lot easier Sunday afternoon at UConn. Yeah right. The Huskies are one talented, talented bunch. The Huskies are the benchmark for success in the Big East. No coach or program has won more than Jim Calhoun and Connecticut. A 7'3 center, 6'8 power forward and "uber" quickness in the backcourt...the keys in Storrs will be very similar to the ones we carry with us to Kentucky. Defend, rebound and take care of the ball...do those 3 things and you always give yourself a chance on the road.
Did you realize Lazar Hayward is leading the Bi East in 3-point field goal percentage at 60%? We need a big road trip out of `Zar ~ considering that last year in two games versus Louisville Mr. Hayward TOTALED 6 points and 5 rebounds. Jerel McNeal and Dominic James are both in the top 10 in Big East thievery. And don't look now, but who is sitting on top of the Big East in free throw percentage...must be the new uniforms. The Irish rebounded nicely with a double digit win over Cincy...and how about those Pitt Panthers? Minus Mike Cook and LeVance Fields, The Panthers convincingly took down the Hoyas on Big Monday. This conference is brutal.
Hey Packer fans BEWARE - the New York "football" Giants will go to no end to get the "W"...follow the link
DWade was on the cover of yet another magazine...this time ESPN the Mag, here is the link to a great story
Travis Diener recorded his NBA career high the other night in Sacramento scoring 19 points in 29 minutes of action.
And finally, I am so glad I coach a safe sport like basketball. Who invented YouTube...I love that guy!!
Keep your fingers crossed for some solid play on the road. Until next time...keep up the support on the outside, I'll keep you "blogged" on the inside.
Entry #31 -- January 14, 2008
Became a "primadonna".
Forgot where I came from.
How else can you explain not writing a "blog" in 3 weeks. I'm embarrassed and ashamed. Shortly after cranking out "A Marquette Fan's Night Before Christmas", Luke Winn (college basketball writer for Sports Illustrated.com) comes out with his end of the year awards...
"The year-end award for Best Blog By a Director Of Basketball Operations goes to the Golden Eagles' Jason Rabedeaux, who writes In Rab's Words on Marquette's official site. His Dec. 23 entry was an epic poem entitled A Marquette Fan's Night Before Christmas. It included these choice lines:
And what to my wondering eyes should appear, But the Marquette Golden Eagles a wandering near. And their cagey head coach, so lively and free, I knew in an instant it must be TC.
TC, of course, refers not to Tevin Campbell or the chopper pilot from Magnum P.I., but to Rab's boss, Tom Crean."
"Rab's Words" wins its first award and the author fails to fire up his key board for the next three weeks. Don't bother patronizing me with excuses..."But Rab, we understand, the Big East Conference opener was upon us"..."you deserve a break, re charge your batteries"..."none of your readers sent you a Christmas card, they deserve not to be "blogged"...I've heard `em all. Quite frankly there is no excuse. "Rab's Words" reaches the pinnacle of "blogdom" and I take a hiatus...disappear...fade into the wood work...harder to find than the 30 yard line yesterday afternoon at Lambeau.
So, from the bottom of my lap top, please accept my heart felt apologies. 2008 is upon us and we are 4 games into the Big East...let's go blogging.
3-1 START...LET'S RE-CAP:
MARQUETTE 96 PROVIDENCE 67: DEFENSE IS DOMINANT IN BIG EAST OPENER
The Big East season tipped off versus the Providence Friars in front of 17,041 Bradley Center faithful and the Golden Eagles did not disappoint. This game served as a bench mark of how our defense has matured over the past year. "Double-double" machine Geoff McDermott was held in check with 7 points and 4 rebounds and 6'11 center, Randall Hanke, played just 2 minutes had 2 points and no rebounds...two years ago Hanke left the Bradley Center with 24 points and 13 rebounds. Scoring balance, 22 assists and a + 12 advantage on the boards were the keys in our Big East opener.
WEST VIRGINIA 79 MARQUETTE 64: ALL DUE RESPECT JOHN DENVER - WEST VIRGINIA IS NOT ALMOST HEAVEN
We had to suffer through a few broken bones and sprained ankles as people around the country jumped off our band wagon after our 15 point loss in Morgantown. NEWS FLASH: the Golden Eagles won't be the only ranked team to depart Jerry West's alma mater with an "L"....in fact as I "blog" away, the `Cuse is down 20. But to fall 5 spots in each poll, c'mon voters.
MARQUETTE 61 SETON HALL 56: BIG HEADS AND "BIG SHOT" DAN
Our 3rd Big East game proved to be a challenging test versus a very talented Seton Hall team. The game was in the balance up until the final moments when junior Wes Matthews found senior Dan Fitzgerald in the corner for a game clinching trifecta. We haven't seen the last of "The Hall" as we travel to "The Rock" (Seton Hall's new home the Prudential Center) on February 12th to square off with Eugene Harvey and his band of Pirates.
MARQUETTE 92 NOTRE DAME 66: 109TH MEETING IS ALL GOLDEN EAGLES
18,906 turned out to witness the 109th meeting of these two storied programs. What they saw was the most lopsided margin of victory in the long standing rivalry. An 8 point halftime lead ballooned to 30 points in the closing moments as the Golden Eagles avenged an 85-73 loss to the Irish last year in south Bend. Think Luke Harangody is enjoying the rivalry? The 6'8 sophomore has posted 51 points and pulled in 27 rebounds in his two meetings with the Golden Eagles. February 9th's rematch in South Bend will be well worth the price of admission. Notre Dame currently owns a 30 game home court win streak...the last team to win at the Joyce Center...you guessed it, the Golden Eagles, February 25th, 2006.
UP NEXT - "THE `VILLE AND UCONN AWAIT:
You start the season 3-1 and just finish knocking off your most long standing rival...your reward...back to back road games at Louisville and Connecticut.
First, the Cardinals. The Louisville-Marquette series has quickly become one of college basketball's best rivalries. Since the dawn of the new millennium, the Golden Eagles and Cardinals have "hooked it up" 15 times with the Cardinals winning 8 and Marquette 7. On average the games have been decided by 5 points and 3 have ended in OT. Freedom Hall is one of the most hostile environments in all of college basketball, but don't tell Tom Crean that...he has led the Golden Eagles to 5 wins in Muhammad Ali's hometown. The `Ville is healthy and at full strength and Thursday nights showdown will have early Big East conference championship implications. You can catch all of the action and in intensity in HD live on ESPN2.
A quick turnaround will find us Sunday in the "unfriendly" confines of Gampel Pavilion on the campus of the University of Connecticut. We're talking just plain old nasty hospitality...UConn is 113-17 all time at Gampel including 59-13 versus Big East foes. You will re-call that we entered Big East play on January 3rd, 2006 with a 94-79 victory over the #2 ranked Huskies and then last year, on the heels of an 0-2 Big East start, Tom Crean led his Golden Eagles to a 73-69 win at Gampel over the #24 ranked Huskies. UConn is as talented and athletic a team as there is in our conference...rest assured Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun will have Hasheem, AJ and Jerome ready to roll.
IN MEMORY OF TONY:
I sure have fun writing this blog, but I wanted to share with you a rather sad and bizarre story that made news last month involving a former young man I was fortunate enough to recruit and coach during my stop at Washington State University.
Tony Harris was unique...happy go lucky off the court and a straight up assassin on the court. At 6'3 he was a combination of Dominic, Jerel and Wesley all rolled into one...tenacious defender, uncanny ability to get to the rim and always stuffing the stat sheet with assists, steals and rebounds. He was a state champion at Garfield HS in Seattle. A junior college All American and National Champion at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls (when JUCO basketball was serious business and prep schools were not in vogue). He signed with Washington State, became a unanimous All Pac-10 selection and led Kelvin Sampson and the Cougars to the "Big Dance" in 1994 (their 1st trip since 1983). Tony was special.
I had kept in touch with Tony from a distance, but he was always on my mind on the recruiting trail as I tracked down back court players. For me, Tony was the standard of excellence.
In a bizarre turn of events this past November, Tony, at the age of 37, returned to Brazil where he had enjoyed a spectacular post collegiate professional career. What followed was a sad and twisted story. I have included the link to the story "The Last Days of Tony Harris" which recently ran on ESPN.com. I encourage you to read it. http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page=tonyharris
This edition of "Rab's Words" is dedicated to Tony. Now free of all the adversity and drama that surrounded his life, Tony is finally at peace...leading the break with a "no look" pass or breaking down his defender with that devastating cross over of his. I'll miss you Tony.
Until next time...keep up the support on the outside, I'll keep you "blogged" on the inside.
Entry #30 -- December 23, 2007
`Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
The game scores were posted on the web page with care,
The Blue and Gold faithful were all snug in their beds,
And mamma in her kerchief and I in my cap,
When out on 4th Avenue there arose such a clatter,
And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
More Rapid than Eagles and Warriors they came,
"Now Dominic, now Dwight, now Jerel and Coobi.,
Into the Bradley, let's practice some ball,
Onto Al's court the players all flew,
Around him they gathered to hear of his plan,
He shouted and whistled, cheeks rosy and red,
"More ball screens, more free-throws, more rebounds, more treys
Come on, you're loafing, come on move your feet
In the doorway I perched all quiet and shy,
Wes Matthews then leaped and soared high off of the ground,
He fired it out to a waiting D James,
I saw Tommy B try to guard Jerel McNeal,
They sweated and toiled all that Christmas day eve,
And then in a twinkle TC said they were done,
He sprang to the bus, and to the team gave a clap,
But I heard him exclaim, ere they drove out of sight,
Entry #29 -- December 19, 2007
I love sports analogies. Like the one which theorizes that teams suffer from "hangovers" or "let downs" after big wins.
I think Sacramento State and IPFW may beg to differ.
Within a 72-hour period, and a week after a convincing road win at Wisconsin, the #10 Golden Eagles "let their hair down" and "Kris Kringled" their way to two convincing wins over their visitors from Sacramento and Ft. Wayne to improve to 8-1 on the year.
Head coach, Tom Crean, has his Golden Eagles on a roll. Marquette has posted 80+ points in 5 of their last 6 games, with the only blemish being a 77-73 loss at the hands of Coach K's "Karolers" down in Durham.
Balance, a running game that would make "Donner, Prancer and Blitzen" proud and a relentless, "Scrooge like" defense have been the keys.
Put these numbers on your Christmas list; not a single Golden Eagle is averaging over 30 minutes per game... and in our nine "elf" rotation no one is averaging less than 13 per game with "four elves" tinkering out 10 or more points per game - there's your BALANCE. 80+ points "hung by the chimney" in 5-of-6 games, including a 51-point "stocking stuffer" in the 2nd half on Monday night - there's your RUNNING GAME and a suffocating defense that has held our last two opponents to a "Grinchy" 39% and 34% from the field respectively - there's your DEFENSE. Some holiday host you are Mr. Crean.
But here's the "star on top of your tree"...it can get so much better. We are still not rebounding (offensively or defensively) at a Tom Crean level...our running game has another 2 or 3 gears it can still shift into and, I know...I know, the free throw shooting hasn't been exactly "rosy". There is so much more to improve upon...trust this "jolly old blogger"... Coach Crean is making his list and checking it twice...he's gonna find out who's naughty or nice. In other words, have faith, no one is wandering around the McGuire Center looking for things to do. We make Santa's workshop look like a retirement home. Settling for average or mediocrity is something that head coach Tom Crean simply will NOT tolerate...and he echoes it to his team on a daily basis.
"But Rab, relax...have another snickerdoodle...go Christmas shopping...take in a movie...get a massage...head on down to the spa at Bedford Falls. We're ranked 10th, top 20 in the RPI and "Bracketologist" Joe Lunardi has the Golden Eagles a #3 seed in Omaha playing the University of Texas Arlington." (No offense Mr. Lunardi, we appreciate the #3 seed, but it is 25 degrees outside and there is enough snow piled up to cover Maurice Acker...you can do better than Omaha)
"What's there to worry about?"
Let's see...starts with a "B", ends in a "T" and rhymes with "Roast Beast".
Somebody say Big East? Right you are...re-gift" some presents and go get yourself another egg nog.
Mountaineers, Panthers, Hoyas, Cardinals and Pirates await. The Big East has been quite naughty to it's non-conference foes. And with three Big East teams ranked in the Top 10, that's enough tip dunks, loose balls, zone presses, tomahawk jams and NBA 3's to make the "Ghost of Christmas Past" run for cover. That's right folks, the Providence Friars will be boarding their "sleigh" at TF Green International Airport in just 15 days, point "Rudolph" towards Milwaukee and slide in just in time to ring in the New Year with a 8 PM January 3rd gathering at the Bradley Center. I'll bet you can't wait...I know we can't.
But first things first, no peeking at the packages all wrapped neatly under the tree...we've got some Eagles to take on.
"Intrasquad scrimmage Rab?"
"NO, no...the COPPIN STATE Eagles, you silly little toy maker."
Yes, the very Coppin State Eagles who have won an unmatched 10 MEAC regular season championships, have produced a league record 41 all MEAC Award Winners and pulled off one of the biggest "Christmas miracles" in NCAA Tournament history when, on March 14th, 1997, the #15 Eagles of Coppin State shocked the #2 South Carolina Gamecocks 78-65 (only the 3rd #15 seed to record such a feat). Oh, did I mention their head coach, Ron "Fang" Mitchell has a staggering 572 career wins. Coppin State is no stranger to the road as the Eagles have already taken flight to Hawaii, Dayton, Arizona State, Ohio State, Kent State and Xavier..."Fang" has piled up enough frequent flyer miles and Marriott points over the years to go on a seven-year vacation. But be certain of this...Coppin State has tough, hard nosed and road tested young men that will compete for 40 minutes. Tip off is 7:30 PM Friday, December 21st at the Bradley.
That's enough holiday "blogging" and sarcastic references for this "Bob Cratchett like" apprentice...I've got trees to trim and packages to wrap. Hope to see you on Friday night.
Until next time...keep up the support on the outside, I'll keep you "blogged" on the inside.
Entry #28 -- December 13, 2007
Marquette 81 Wisconsin 76.
How do you silence 17,000 men, women and children all clad in red?
"Cancel Christmas, Rab?"
"Well, maybe, but here's a better idea."
How about scoring 81 points on a stifling defense that was surrendering just 50 points per game. Or maybe out rebound the Big 10's leading rebounding team 41-36 (21 of which were offensive). What about great point guard play...ok...we'll toss in 20 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and suffocating defense from Dominic James. And go ahead make the most of your minutes, Dwight Burke, 12 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks and countless hustle plays in 17 minutes of action. Throw in an all around outstanding team effort, give head chef, Tom Crean, a week to prepare his game plan...stuff it in the Kohl Center for 2 hours and "voila"...an ESPN Classic served up just in time for the Holidays.
Saturday afternoon, the eyes of the college basketball world were focused squarely on the great state of Wisconsin, as America's Dairy land served up her two major college basketball programs for the entire world to see. The millions that tuned, as well as the thousands on hand, were certainly not disappointed. In what was undoubtedly one of the Golden Eagles most impressive road outings in recent memory, the #11 Marquette Golden Eagles upended the #23 Badgers 81-76 in front of the sold out "Unfriendly Confines" of the Kohl Center...a venue that has been just plain nasty to its visitors over the past 7 years. Just how impressive and dominating has the Badgers home court advantage been? 102 visitors have pulled their charter bus into the Kohl Center and only 5...yes 5 have left the 17,000 plus seat arena with a smile on their face. That is an incredible 95% rate of winning. It may be a rivalry, but make no mistake about it, there is nothing but respect for what Coach Ryan and his band of Badgers have accomplished in Madison over the past 7 years.
While in some circles the Marquette/Wisconsin rivalry is viewed as "just another game"...the emotions, intensity and energy inside the Kohl Center on Saturday afternoon certainly begged to differ. Looking for some key moments in the game? How about Wesley and Lazar's two huge offensive rebounds down the stretch or maybe Dwight Burke's two clutch free throws with the Golden Eagles clinging to a 73-70 lead... and what about the little guy...two huge 3's by sophomore, Maurice Acker. Or maybe your favorite was when Mr. Hughes and Mr. James got together to discuss "after the game dinner plans" mid way through the second half. Regardless, the game was filled with phenomenal basketball on both sides of the ball.
So, while the weather outside was frightful...the celebration inside the Marquette locker-room was so delightful. It had been 10+ years since a Marquette team had left Madison with a "W" under their belt...it was an afternoon of basketball our players, coaches, staff and fans won't soon forget. After 114 meetings between the two storied programs, Head coach Tom Crean summed up the rivalry best... "I hope it continues to be this way long after myself and long after Bo. But long after us, long after the Dominic James' and the Marcus Landry," Crean said. "Just like the Tuckers and the Wades and all those guys. This is a rivalry that is really, really great, and the fact that the nation has picked up on it over the last few years is even better."
Worried about your Golden Eagles having a let down after the Wisconsin win? Post Badger Victory Syndrome? Fear not...you can rest easy knowing that head coach Tom Crean has moved his team forward and has their attention focused squarely on our next opponent, Sacramento State and the brutal Big East conference schedule that lies ahead.
You break college basketball's 3rd longest home court winning streak and only move up one spot in the polls? Not that being ranked #10 is anything to sneeze at, but c'mon voters, you don't just waltz into Madison and come out with a "W"; however we did move from 33rd to 13th in the RPI, the computer knows a great road win when it sees one.
Finals at Marquette this week...some odd practice times, but head coach Tom Crean's work outs are just as focused and intense. Dominic James was named Big East Player of the Week for his efforts on Saturday afternoon in the state's capitol...it was without question one of the "high flying juniors" best all around career performances. By the way, "Neek" now leads the Big East in steals at 2.6 thefts per game. Anybody witness the Pitt/Washington game on Saturday? If so, you saw one of the most vicious dunks of the year by Pitt's junior forward Sam Young...yikes! Pitt is a different ball club without Mr. Gray patrolling the paint, but they are still "tough as nails"...be sure and mark February 15th on your calendar, that's when the Panthers invade the Bradley Center...WARNING, that game is NOT for the faint of heart. Pitt/Marquette makes the WWF look like Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. How about Villanova's comeback effort vs. LSU? Down 21 with 7 minutes to play the `Cats pulled out a big one for the Big East. If you have been looking for Steve Novak in the Houston Rocket's box scores...scroll on over to www.nbdl.com and click on the Rio Grand Valley Vipers of the D-League...the Rockets sent the former Marquette gunslinger to Hidalgo, Texas to get some quality minutes. In fact last night vs. the Tulsa 66'ers, Steve poured in 20 points, hauled in 9 rebounds and logged 43 minutes in the Vipers 106-99 win. Hidalgo may be small (7,322 inhabitants as of 2000), but it is big on minor league sports as Hidalgo is home to the Rio Grande Valley Dorados of the arena football league, the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees of the Central Hockey League, and, Steve's team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA Development League. Hidalgo is also a pitching wedge from the Mexican border...so not only is Steve busy draining 3's but he is also throwing down some tasty authentic Mexican cuisine as well. The first person to send a congratulatory text after Saturday's win...Travis Diener,.."Gr8 wn tl da tm I sed cngrts".
Remember to pay a visit to my friends at www.marquettehoops.com and the good folks over at www.crackedsidewalks.com. They have all the articles, quotes, notes and post game analysis for your reading pleasure.
More later, but for now, enjoy the Holiday bragging rights Coach Crean et al were so gracious to bestow upon all of us.
Until next time, keep up the support on the outside...I'll keep you blogged on the inside.
Entry #27 -- December 7, 2007
"Welcome to Marquette, can I take your order, please?"
"Uh...yeah...I'd like 12 McSteals, 21 McAssists and 12 McOffensive rebounds. Oh, and throw in a .528 McShooting Percentage."
"Wow, big appetite tonight. So you'd like a number 22?"
"Yeah, the McNeal McDeal."
"Anything to drink with that?"
"Ok...yeah...um, I'll have an extra large Diet Deflections."
"Thanks for your order, please drive around...that'll be 49 career victories at the first window."
Jerel McNeal is off to a fast and furious "McJunior" season. The 6'3 "do it all" guard from Chicago's south side is leading the Golden Eagles in scoring, offensive rebounding and assists...shooting an outstanding 53% from the field and, as usual, leading the Golden Eagle's parade to the free throw line with 27 charity attempts.. In the past, if you had to file a complaint against Jerel, it would have been in the area of decision making and turnovers. Not the case six games into his junior campaign...Jerel has coughed it up only 14 times this season, is shooting an incredible percentage from the field and in his last outing posted his 3rd career "double-double" by handing out a very "Christmasy" 10 assists vs. UW Milwaukee. His deflections still lead our team in practice and games...his defensive presence is as ominous as ever...yes, Jerel has been a very good little Golden Eagle this Holiday season...he can expect a stocking over flowing with "goodies" on Christmas day.
Like those before him...Diener, Novak, Henry, Wardle and Wade...Jerel is experiencing what happens to ALL those who walk the halls of the Al McGuire Center...he is improving. Pay attention people...assists are up, TO's down...shooting percentage up...scoring up...rebounding up (can get better `tho) and day in day out leadership that is off the charts. Rab has said it before...Rab will say it again...Diener, Wade and Novak did NOT arrive at Marquette as sure fire, bonafide NBA prospects, but they definitely graduated to a high paying first year job. That same transformation is happening right before your eyes in the form of #22, Jerel McNeal.
So what's up next for the "Marquette Marauder," "The Thief of 4th Street"..."The Beowulf of the Big East"? Winning that's what. This young man has a thirst for championships and he approaches each day as if he has been wandering the Sahara for days without water. Individual accolades are nice...no one will ever take away last year's Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors...but Jerel wants to win and win big.
Anyone out there like to compare scores as the season progresses? C'mon...get your hand up there. We love to saunter into the break room and brag on our favorite team. OK, here is one that is right up our alley...take this to the barber shop with you. Our season opener was a 76-68 win over an experienced and pesky IUPUI Jaguar squad. Recently UMass, of the Atlantic 10, went into the Carrier Dome and posted a 107-100 win over the Orange...and just days ago, UMass pulled the charter bus up to the IUPUI Natatorium in Indianapolis and exited with an 89-77 loss ...so, if my math is correct, that makes the Golden Eagles.....better than the `Cuse. Nice try, but this "blogger" is NOT falling into that trap. I will, however, note that IUPUI cracked the www.collegeinsider.com Mid-Major top 25 this week checking in at #25.
No your eyes did not deceive you, the gentleman sitting court side at last Friday's game versus UW Milwaukee that had a strikingly similar look to that of Packer's head man, Mike McCarthy, was indeed Coach McCarthy. When he is NOT busy trying to win the NFC, Coach McCarthy is as die hard a Marquette basketball fan as there is out there. Coach McCarthy spoke to the team after Friday night's victory and preached a simple message..."Smart and tough rise to the top." Good advice as " smart and tough" are playing out quite nicely a short ride up I-43.
Prior to Friday's 100-65 win over UW Milwaukee, the Golden Eagles were #11 in ESPN.com's Power 16 poll...Jay Bilas will provide color commentary for "The Duece" Saturday in Madison...folks around the country are seeing first hand what we experienced in our scrimmage versus Kansas State...Michael Beasley is the "real deal", "a PTP'er", "he's special", "class personified", "an absolute star in the making"...pull out the Dickie V imitations when you read that sentence.
Entry #26 -- December 4, 2007
Nestled within the bowels of Newark, New Jersey at 550 Martin Luther King Blvd...a short cab ride from Penn Station, lies St. Benedict's Preparatory School, home of the Gray Bees. St. Benedict's (an all boys school) has been a part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark for well over 100 years...it is run by monks...and for the past 30 years the headmaster has been one basketball lovin', pistol Pete in the pulpit monk by the name of Fr. Edwin D. Leahy, O.S.B...just picture a spiritual George Steinbrenner...a saintly Mark Cuban if you will. At St. Benedict's the monks preach the development of virtue, character, community and talent, but something tells me that 3 point shooting and tenacious man to man defense are built into the Benedictine's doctrines as well.
2,315 miles due south of the Garden State and Newark's concrete jungle, on the shores of Lake Maracaibo, in the state of Zulia, lies the city it's natives refer to as "The Land Loved by the Sun"... Maracaibo, Venezuela. A city of 2,800,000 inhabitants, Maracaibo truly is loved by the sun...the average year round high temperature is 88 degrees and to make you feel really good...the average temperature in December is a balmy 89...Toro snow blowers aren't exactly flying off the shelf at Maracaibo's Home Depots. Maracaibo has produced it's share of major leaguers...most notably the spray-hitting, slick-fielding, speedy Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio, who dazzled fans on the south side of Chicago in the late 50's and early 60's. They start `em young in Maracaibo...In the 2000 Little League World Series, the Sierra Maestra Little League of Maracaibo took down Bellaire, Texas to win the 54th Little League World Series. No wonder Venezuelan Presidente' Hugo Chavez and President Bush don't see eye to eye.
So what do these two spots so far removed from one another have in common?
And where, exactly, are you going with this "blog", Rab?
"I'll take Marquette guards for $800, Alex".
You guessed it. Both are home to Marquette's sharp shooting, defensive dynamo...Mr. David (Dah-veed) Alejandro Cubillan Leon. Maracaibo to Newark to Milwaukee...logical, right? One minute you're hangin' out at the Plaza Bolivar in Maracaibo the next minute your driving Big East coaches crazy. Cubi has become so popular in Maracaibo, that www.wikipedia.org has David sandwiched between Patricia Velasquez (actress/fashion model) and Ninibeth Leal (Miss World 1991) as one of Maracaibo's most "Notable Natives"...impressive company.
Cubi...you gotta love him.
In "coach speak", David has an unbelievable motor...an uncanny ability to play at a very high rate for an extended period of time...coaches love a great motor. And coaches love these kind of numbers, as well...22 minutes per game...a team leading 12 three's...an amazing 9-11 from inside the arc...hasn't missed a free throw...16 assists...6 steals. In Maracaibo they call that "producción grande de tiempo" or what head coach Tom Crean would call..."big time production". Keep it up Cubi...
Big East Notes...
With his 19 points, 11 rebounds and 61.5% shooting effort in Marquette's 100-65 win over UW Milwaukee, sophomore Lazar Hayward made the Big East Honor Roll for the week of December 3rd...'Zar finished runner up for Player of the Week honors to DePaul's Draelon Burns who went an amazing 8-8 from the three point line in the Blue Demons 85-70 win over Texas AM Corpus Christi. Thus far the Big East is 78-23 collectively vs. non-conference competition with 5 teams ranked in the top 25...Pittsburgh and Georgetown are both undefeated. Must be rivalry week in the Big East, not only do we visit Wisconsin, but Rhode Island visits Providence (Battle of the Ocean State), Pittsburgh visits cross town rival Duquesne (Battle of the City of Bridges) and Saint Peters takes the train across Jersey to square off with Seton Hall (Winner takes home season 4 of the Sopranos on DVD). Since we're "bloggin'" we might as well take a look at the RPI, where we currently sit at #31...Joe Lunardi, resident "Bracketologist" at ESPN.com, has the Golden Eagles listed as a #3 seed in the South Region playing #14 seed Siena in a game that will tip off at the Jefferson Civic Center in Birmingham, Alabama...don't but your tickets yet...in other words, the season is only 6 games young...there is so much basketball left to be played.
Gotta run...big week ahead. Remember...Saturday's 5:00 PM tip off vs. Wisconsin will be nationally televised on ESPN2. Should be a whale of a game.
Until next time...keep up the support on the outside, I'll keep you "blogged" on the inside.
Entry #25 -- November 28, 2007
Serious case of jet lag Rab? Oh, you only "blog" after wins? You stayed over in the islands a few extra days to set up Chaminade's "blog" program? Post Maui depression?
No, no...they asked me to, but the blue print for Rab's Words is a product solely for the consumption and use of Marquette University and their loyal supporters...and maybe just a little bit.
Apologize for the lack of "blogness", I actually had a Maui diary working, but I wasn't crazy about the ending...so I scrapped it. Call me a sentimentalist, but I hate a story that doesn't have a happy ending. So in lieu of my "would be" diary, let's take a look back at our 7 day, 6 night and 3 game excursion to the to the breath taking island of Maui and the 24th EA Sports Maui Invitational.
Chaminade - Monday, November 19th - 9:30 AM: By nature I am a morning person, but a nationally televised basketball game before "Regis and Kelly" have finished their second cup of coffee, is a bit much. Still, we tipped off the 24th EA Sports Maui Invitational with a win over the Chaminade Silverswords. While some may say the Silverswords were on the brink of another "Virginia-esque" upset, the truth is, the game's outcome was never in question. Now, while it was certainly NOT the type of effort Head Coach Tom Crean was looking for...A "W" is a "W" and we moved on to the semi-finals to face perennial Big 12 power, Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma State - Tuesday, November 20th - 2 PM: "Bedlam"...that is what assistant coach Bennie Seltzer and I think of whenever we here the words Oklahoma State. The annual rivalry between the University of Oklahoma (Rab and Bennie) and the Oklahoma State Cowboys is one of college basketball's most bitter rivalries and is referred to upon the plains of Oklahoma as "Bedlam". While the Lahaina Center was not exactly the Lloyd Noble Center and Maui a far cry from Norman, Oklahoma...it sure seemed like "Bedlam". In one of the most impressive 40 minutes of basketball I have been a part of in my 4 years at Coach Crean's side, the Golden Eagles crushed the Cowboys (score)...giving Oklahoma State one of their worst defeats in their programs storied history.
If we could "bottle up" a performance, this would certainly be one to put away for safe keeping. Defense was tenacious...execution spectacular...and our running game would have made former UNLV head coach, Jerry Tarkanian proud...wait a minute it did, "Tark the Shark" was on hand, sitting on the baseline within an arm's length of Fr. Kelly. Coach Tark admired our effort as he nibbled on popcorn, chocolate covered macadamia nuts and Kona coffee.
On to Duke and a re-match of last fall's CBE championship game in Kansas City...
Duke - Wednesday, November 21st - 5 PM: Duke is improved. While most will say a roster of 8 McDonald's All Americans is good enough to challenge for the national championship, year in and year out, the truth is the Blue Devils had a non "Duke like" 2006-2007 campaign. Give credit to Coach K, his staff and players...they spent the summer months working to improve and improve they have. But so too had their counterparts, the Marquette Golden Eagles. Both teams a year older and a year wiser...the finals of the Maui Invitational played out like a "Sweet 16" match up in March. In the end, the Blue Devils prevailed, but it was a fantastic game. Outstanding individual match ups, highlighted by the Jerel McNeal - DeMarcus Nelson "tet-a-tet"...talk about two guys that can get to the basket...I'd pay serious money to watch those two go at it on a daily basis.
So...two years...two championship games...Marquette wins one...Duke wins the other...something tells me these two storied programs are destined to meet again. Here's hoping it's in late in March...hec I'll even take San Antonio.
Maui Comings and Goings...
Thanksgiving in Maui isn't probably what the Pilgrims had in mind...80 degree weather...waves crashing into Maui's sandy beaches...Don Ho crooning in the background...spending the Holidays in Hawaii is something everyone should experience. And thanks to the generosity of Head Coach Tom Crean and the Marquette administration many did. It was great to see so many Marquette fans and families gathered to enjoy the Maui Invitational and all that Hawaii had to offer...make no doubt about it...family comes first at Marquette.
OK...Maui is officially behind us...I know, because when I walked in the doors of the Al McGuire Center this morning, it was a balmy 32 degrees outside...winter has found Milwaukee...and with winter comes great basketball...do you realize it is only 33 days `til New Year's Eve? More importantly it is only 72 hours before we hit the court again after an eight-day layoff. It will be good to be back on the court. Can't wait.
Until next time...and I promise it won't be as long...keep up the support on the outside, I'll keep you blogged on the inside.
Entry #24 -- November 15, 2007
A little less than 36 hours prior to our departure for the Islands...let's take a moment to look into the 23-year history of college basketball's ultimate early season gathering. EA SPORTS, the world's leading interactive entertainment software company, enters its seventh year as title sponsor of the Maui Invitational.
So how did this November basketball extravaganza all get started? December 23rd, 1982 a day that will live in infamy...at least if you are a Virginia Cavalier fan.
Truly, it was a game that wasn't supposed to mean anything, a Hawaiian layover for top-ranked Virginia, led by 7-foot-4-inch perennial All-American Ralph Sampson, on its way home from defeating Houston and Utah in Japan.
Legend has it that shortly after the amazing 77-72 upset, Virginia head coach Terry Holland congratulated Chaminade's Athletic Director, Mike Vasconcellos, and suggested to him that he might consider beginning a Hawaii tournament at some point. Two years after that, the Maui Classic, today's EA Sports Maui Invitational, had begun for the first time, with Chaminade reaching the finals and losing to Providence.
Today, each participating team is reimbursed 100 percent of their travel-related expenses, enabling small conference and mid-major schools the rare opportunity to compete on a neutral court with the top basketball programs in the country. AP college basketball editor Jim O'Connell calls the EA Sports Maui Invitational, "the best in-season tournament in the country - the standard by which all others are compared."
Want more? How about these Maui nuggets...
The 12 officials assigned to the Maui Invitational Tournament are perennially among the best in the country, with most having officiated in the NCAA Tournament for many years. I'm sure we'll see some of our favorites. Maui Invitational participants have won an astounding 51 of 67 NCAA championships, 51 of 67 national runner-up spots and comprise 199 of 268 Final Four teams. Those are amazing numbers and incredible competition. Each year, more than 4,000 out-of state visitors - boosters, players, officials, team and game personnel, media representatives, sponsors, production crews and basketball fans in general - travel to the Maui Invitational and boost the local economy by more than $12 million. Or maybe you are looking for a little Marquette flavor...in 2001, Head Coach Tim Buckley led his Ball State Cardinals on a magical three-day ride at the Lahaina Civic Center ... wins over UCLA and Kansas vaulted the "Cinderella Cardinals" into the finals vs. the mighty Duke Blue Devils. The Dukies prevailed, 83-71, but Tim and the Cardinals were the talk of college basketball as Coach Buckley and his team turned the tiny Muncie college into a household name. Now Tim is back on the Marquette sideline and we couldn't be happier or more fortunate to have him on board.
Our first round opponent, the Chaminade Silverswords, have made the finals only once...losing a 60-58 "nail biter" in 1984 to the Providence Friars.
The Big East Conference has won five Maui championships in the tournament's 23-year history with Syracuse (twice), UConn, Villanova and Providence all hauling home the championship hardware...which by the way is called the Wayne Duke trophy.
It is a four-hour time difference for the Golden Eagles in Maui...our Monday tip-off is scheduled for 9:30 AM local time and 1:30 PM Milwaukee time. Good day to call in sick.
Want to win a trivia contest? Ask your local basketball "know it all" who coached the Silverswords to the 77-72 upset of Virginia referred to in the Islands as the "Miracle on Ward Avenue"? That would be coach Merv Lopes...now retired, rumor has that coach Lopes has never paid for a meal in Maui since 1982.
The locker rooms at the Lahaina Civic Center are on the second floor with windows looking down on the court allowing the teams in wait to take in the action.
What makes Maui, itself, so unique? Well...Named year after year Best Island in the world, Maui offers you three destinations in one. Maui, Moloka'i and Lana'i are all part of Maui County or Maui Nui. So, what makes Maui Nui so special? Maui County offers everything you are seeking in a vacation destination. This includes world-class resorts, professional staff, exceptional cuisine, beautiful scenery, miles of sandy beaches, exciting activities, championship golf courses, and whale watching (December to May). It's all in an environment that stimulates through its dramatic scenery and unique Hawaiian hospitality. This hospitality, called "Hookipa," comes naturally from people whose rich cultural heritage calls for all guests to be welcomed with "Aloha". Those aren't "Rab's Words" those are the Maui Visitors Bureau words. But rest assured the Bradley Center will not be providing any "Hookipa" during Big East play.
But we're there for hoops and to win a championship. Head Coach Tom Crean will have his Golden Eagles focused and on point for our 72 hour basketball bonanza. FOCUS has been the battle cry throughout the preseason...we have the pieces and we have proven we can win BIG in the early going. But that was then and this is now. Scouting reports are flying off the copier faster than Dominic on the break...tendencies...personnel...sets...BLOB's - SLOB's being created and installed...walk into our offices and you would think we are preparing to play Louisville for the Big East title.
And why not? That is the Tom Crean way...The Marquette way. Coach Crean does NOT believe in "off seasons" or early season games to get you ready for conference play. Coach Crean is about winning championships...April, May, August or November...it is his edge and what makes him, in this "blogger's" opinion, the MOST competitive coach in college basketball. Alright, so let's talk "Keys To Victory":
Rebounding - must win the "Battle of the Boards" - not just in Maui,. But ALL season long.
Defend - we will be facing some unbelievable individual and collective offensive talent in Maui. 9 out of 10 times, good defense beats good offense.
Share the Ball - when we are on the fly and "kicking the ball ahead", "penetrating and finding open teammates", "dropping the ball off in the alley" - NOT caring WHO scores, but that MARQUETTE scores - man, are we fun to watch.
Those are a bit generic, but I think you get the idea of what Tom Crean is preaching to his Golden Eagles.
I gotta run...gotta pack...gotta practice and gotta an early morning flight to catch. Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday and be sure to get the gang together for some Hawaiian themed "Marquette Watch" parties while we are away.
Until next time, keep up the support on the outside...I'll keep you "blogged" on the inside.
Entry #23 -- November 13, 2007
It's the key to life, right? Eat right, exercise, don't over indulge, handle stress, etc., etc.
Easier said than done for most, but it is certainly something we all strive for.
Basketball coaches love balance. On the basketball court if you can develop a team with balance you are really on to something...something BIG.
Our basketball team has demonstrated an incredible amount of balance through our first two games. And while it is only two games, the balance is worth noting. Four players in double figures...six players averaging over 3.5 rebounds per game...and assists are spread across the board as well. Head Coach Tom Crean has talked about the incredible amount of competition he wants created in practice...that competition has built depth and it has created balance. Through two regular season games, the Golden Eagles have nine players averaging double figures in minutes played and that includes Maurice Acker at 10.5 per game...a number we all expect to go up.
Balance and depth will be critical in our next three-game stretch....traveling thousands of miles, change in time zones and three games in three days is a stern test for any ball club. Throw in LSU, Duke, Oklahoma State, Chaminade, etc. and you have yourself one "doozy" of a road trip. A road trip you can tune into each and every day on ESPN.
IUPUI and UVSU...
That's a wrap, but there will be so much more to "blog" about over the next week...so keep www.gomarquette.com in your "Favorites" and click on "Rab's Words" over the next few days.
Until next time, keep up the support on the out side...I'll keep you "blogged" on the inside.
Entry #22 -- November 12, 2007
What in the world is going on in the wild and whacky world of college hoops?
Rab: I'll take the Atlantic Sun Conference for 800, Alex."
Mr. Trebek: "These three teams have already sprung upsets over USC, Cincinnati and Kentucky."
Rab: "Who are Mercer, Belmont and Gardner-Webb."
Mr. Trebek: "You are correct, Rab."
If you are not convinced parity is at an all time high in college basketball, wake up and smell the Nike's. Cinderella is alive and well and she is not waiting for the NCAA Tournament to make an appearance. In our season opener Saturday night, Cinderella tried to sneak into the Bradley Center in the form of the IUPUI Jaguars. Fortunately, the glass slipper didn't fit. Head coach Ron Hunter easily has his best team in 13 seasons at the downtown Indianapolis campus and George Hill can flat out play. Make no mistake about it...the Jaguars will provide IUPUI's opponents in the Summit League some long winter nights.
Tonight we face another talented, "under the radar team" in the form of the Utah Valley State Wolverines. Like IUPUI, these guys can play too....and entering his fifth year at the helm of the Wolverines, Utah Valley State head coach, Dick Hunsaker, knows his way around a grease board. A telling example of Hunsaker's success was the 2001 University of Utah basketball team. After only one game, the Utes head coach, Rick Majerus, took a leave of absence from coaching. Utah administrators turned to Hunsaker to take over the team. He led the team to an 18-12 record, winning the Mountain West Conference, which garnered local and national attention.
Hunsaker was named Mountain West Coach of the Year and Los Angeles Times National Coach of the Year.
Hunsaker has brought attention and success to Utah Valley State in transitional years when some teams struggle. Utah Valley is coming off a 22-7 season, the best record by a Division I Independent since Notre Dame's 1985-86 year. And up until Saturday night's OT loss at Boise State, Utah Valley had won nine-straight games. Keep an eye on 6'4 shooting guard Ryan Toolson...the junior from Gilbert, AZ. could start for anybody in the country.
Then next Monday morning at the Lahaina Civic Center in Maui we meet face to face with Cinderella herself...Chaminade. You'll remember a few years back when a certain #1 ranked team and their 7'4 center, Ralph Sampson, ventured to the islands only to be the victims of college basketball's greatest upset. Hawaii isn't always fun in the sun.
So here's the point...Head Coach Tom Crean has his Golden Eagles respectin' all and fearin' none as we head into our next two ball games.
More "blogs" to come...I do some of my best work when completely surrounded by water.
See ya tonight at the Bradley. Until next time, keep up the support on the outside...I'll keep you informrd on the inside.
Entry #21 -- November 5, 2007
You don't just wake up one morning with 862 wins. That is how many wins Northern State head coach Don Meyer carried with him into the Bradley Center on Sunday night, fifth on the all time list of active college coaches...best winning percentage of all active coaches...impressive stuff. The bus ride home to Aberdeen had to be a little longer than the "Google Maps" estimated time for Coach Meyer and his Northern State Wolves. Rarely do Don Meyer teams suffer 28-point blowout losses. The defensive numbers for the "good guys" were impressive...we forced 31 turnovers, had 20 "McSteals" and held the Wolves to 36% from the field and a paltry 9% from the 3 point line. Lazar Hayward had a game-high 17 points and Wesley Matthews added 16 to lead No. 11 Marquette to the 83-55 exhibition victory. Hayward was 6 for 10 from the floor to go with four rebounds, three assists and two steals in only 15 minutes. "That was a lot of fun out there," Hayward said. I have to agree with you `Zar.
Northern State is going to win a lot of games. In fact I fully expect Don Meyer's veteran band of Wolves to contend for the Division II National Championship. I love Don Meyer, I have known him since I was a freshman in high school when he coached me at the Snow Valley Basketball School in Monticello, California. He's eccentric, unbelievably smart and perhaps the most sought after speaker on the clinic circuit. Did I mention eccentric? Did you notice Coach Meyer talking into his hand held tape recorder throughout the game? He does so to capture his "real time" game thoughts as the game progresses. I talk to myself too...just never bothered to record the conversation...not sure I need or want to hear some of the things I say to myself throughout the game
The Trials and Tribulations of Trevor...
Trevor Mbakwe has got to catch a break sooner or later. After waiting months for clearance to play from the NCAA, the prized 6'8 power forward out of Minnesota learned late last week that he was going to have to undergo season-ending knee surgery. To know Trevor is to love him, the likable gentle giant is a terrific young man and a favorite of his teammates. He was fast becoming our best rebounder and had already laid claim to being our top shot blocker. It was a tough blow to Trevor personally and a collective "punch in the gut" to our team as a whole. But injuries are an unfortunate part of sports...it is adversity that every team in the country will deal with and be forced to overcome throughout the season. One thing is certain, no one will feel sorry for the # 11 Golden Eagles...it is a fierce, win or get out of the way world out there. We are fortunate to have some of the best medical care in college basketball, you can rest assured that Jayd Grossman and our team of physicians will have Trevor on the path to recovery in no time at all.
Recently, respected basketball journalist, Adrian Wojnarowski, (NBA columnist for Yahoo! Sports. His book The Miracle of St. Anthony: A Season with Coach Bob Hurley and Basketball's Most Improbable Dynasty), was a New York Times best-seller and currently is in development at Walden Media to be made into a major motion picture.) had this to say about Coach Crean in his column "The Last Shot" at yahoosports.com... Tom Crean, Marquette: "Some of the most intense workouts that I see anywhere. It reminds you a lot of (his mentor) Tom Izzo. To me, Crean and his staff do as much as anyone in skill development. I don't think he gets the big-time recruits, but his guys always develop. You come back every year, and they've improved. Who was Dwyane Wade before he went to Marquette?"
Travis Diener is averaging 14 minutes a game through three regular season games with the Pacers...Steve Novak remains in flux with the Rockets and the doctors have cleared Dwyane to play, but the NBA mega star will take the court on his terms...
Doctors say Dwyane Wade is ready to play. Wade isn't completely convinced quite yet.
So that's why the star Miami Heat guard said Saturday that he doesn't have a specific game in mind for his return to the lineup, following nearly six months of rehabilitating his surgically repaired left shoulder and left knee.
The reason: He wants to make absolutely certain that his shoulder is ready for the rigors of NBA play.
"That's why I'm not coming back tomorrow," Wade said Saturday at an event promoting his newest Converse shoe. "I'm cleared, but I know that will be on my mind. It's not like I'm not going to think about it at all, but when I'm on the court I just want to be thinking about the game." ESPN analyst and fellow "blogger" at espn.com, Fran Fraschilla, is spending a few days around the Al. Always great to get Coach Fran's insights.
Next up for the Golden Eagles are the IUPUI Jaguars on Saturday night at the Bradley Center. You won't want to miss one of college basketball's best side line shows in IUPUI head coach Ron Hunter...he makes Red Bull nervous.
Until next time...keep up the support on the outside, I'll keep you "blogged" on the inside.
Entry #20 -- November 1, 2007
Can we really only be 72 hours from our exhibition season opener? Time flies when you're having a good time...and for us that "good time" would be practice. Yeah that's right, I'm talking about practice...19 practices to be exact. The work outs have been intense, competitive and physical. What else would you expect out of a quaint get together inside Kasten Gymnasium under the direction of Tom Crean?
So this week it is "Back to the Bradley"...where we were last seen on ESPN's College Game Day knocking off Pitt in front of a sold out house and a national television audience. Coach Crean loves the Bradley and why not? In Coach Crean's eight years at the helm, his teams are a collective 111-25 at the Bradley Center.
But what Coach really enjoys, is playing host to all of our friends, fans and supporters that venture to the Bradley Center throughout the winter in support of his Golden Eagles. Fans, that in this "blogger's opinion, are amongst college basketball's elite (remember Rab's Words has been a few places...PAC-10, Big 12, WAC, etc.)...I've seen my share of "home court advantages". But what makes Tom Crean most proud is how our support, enthusiasm and ticket sales have grown since his arrival in Milwaukee in 1999. You want to talk "Bull Markets"? Consider the fact that when Coach Crean hit town for the 1999-200 season, Marquette's average attendance was 11,800. Last year the Golden Eagles averaged a whopping 15,345 per contest. That's progress folks...serious progress. Outside of his son, Riley, belting a three-run homer...there may be no sweeter sight in sports for Tom Crean, than walking through the curtains at the Bradley Center to a sea of 19,000 faithful clad in Blue and Gold.
Keeping Pace With Travis...
Who was that sitting in Gucci Row Wednesday night at the Indiana Pacers home opener vs. "Agent Zero" and the Washington Wizards? Marquette head coach Tom Crean, that's who. Always the efficient traveler, Coach Crean combined a recruiting trip to Indiana with a stop over at Conseco Field House to see his former point guard play his first regular season game for the Pacers. Timing is everything. With a little over 4 minutes to go in the 1st quarter, (hey, recruiting comes first) Coach Crean walked into Conseco just in time to see Marquette's 2nd all time leading scorer connect on his 1st regular season basket in a Pacer uniform...a "nothing but net" three from the right hand corner. Travis is doing fantastic...backing up starting point guard, Jamal Tinsley, Travis has fast become a Pacer fan favorite. Those Hoosiers love a kid that can knock down the open jump shot...Steve Alford of IU fame comes to mind and who could forget Jimmy Chitwood of Hickory High...run the picket fence and don't let the paint dry.
Same ol' Travis after the game...he and Coach hugged, talked hoops, Travis autographed some collectibles and asked about this year's version of his alma mater...and, of course, Coach had to make a few points on Travis' game...always coaching. The evening was just another reminder of the deep loyalty and bond shared by Tom Crean and his former players.
The Wolves of Northern State University invade the Bradley Center this Sunday at 6 PM. Pay close attention to the man in charge at Northern, Head Coach Don Meyer. This guy can coach. In his 35 years as a head coach, Don Meyer has posted 862 wins overall, good for 5th place on a list that includes guys named Knight, Smith and Rupp. His overall winning percentage, .745, is number one amongst the top 10 all time winningest coaches in college basketball. His Wolves took both Vanderbilt and North Carolina State to the wire last year and his top rebounders and scorers return for their senior year. Yeah, yeah Rab, whatever...OK, http://www.coachmeyer.com/ left "click" and see for yourself.
Who caught the ending of the Trinity (Tx) vs. Millsap's football game last weekend...if you didn't, check it out. Unbelievable. You gotta feel for Millsap's defensive coordinator...that dude may never get a good night's sleep again...trade rumors continue to swirl around former Golden Eagle, Steve Novak...Kobe for `Novie? Our new uniforms have a chance to be some of the best to hit the fashion scene in college basketball...director of College Basketball for Nike, Martin Newton, spent a couple days around the team last week, what an unbelievable guy...we all know Nike swings a big stick in college hoops and Martin is their "go to guy"...great to see you Martin. In just two short weeks we take flight for the Islands and the Maui Invitational, Christmas comes early for Golden Eagle fans...Rab's Words can't wait to get out and see "Fred Claus"...can't get enough of Vince Vaughn...
Who puts movie trailers in their basketball blog? I love this job!!!!
See ya Sunday at the Bradley...until next time...keep up the support on the outside, I'll keep you "blogged" on the inside.
Entry #19 -- October 25, 2007
Two short years ago, the Marquette Golden Eagles were picked to finish 13th in the Big East Conference. The critics and skeptics thought it was a huge leap of faith for the tiny Jesuit school in downtown Milwaukee to enter college basketball's most prestigious conference. That was then...this is now.
Yesterday at Madison Square Garden, the "World's Most Famous Arena", the Big East coaches picked Marquette to finish third. Now that's a leap worth "blogging" about. 13th to thord...pretender to contender...hunter to the hunted. The respect that Head Coach Tom Crean and his Golden Eagles has gained in two short years is remarkable. In our "what have you done for me lately" society, "Rabs Words" says it's time to take a moment and reflect upon Marquette's ascent to the top of college basketball's most vaunted and competitive league. And the respect is not just a "Big East thing"...it is national. Take a look at these preseason polls:
Blue Ribbon - 10th Dick Vitale - 11th CBS Sportsline - 10th Sporting News - 14th Lindy's - 13th (By the way, who is Lindy...where does he live?) MSNBC - 10th SLAM Magazine - 11th SI.Com - 9th
Word is out people. Expectations are high. And isn't that what we all want?
Coach Crean coached teams (say that five times as fast as you can) are notorious for playing with a chip on their shoulder, but that doesn't mean Coach drives to work every day to coach at "Underdog U." His focus, our collective focus, is to win championships, coach champions, develop champions and recruit champions. So now, three years later, after all the nay sayers, skeptics and critics said it couldn't be done...Tom Crean has built a program which has garnered the respect and attention of the entire college basketball world. I get "goose pimples" just "blogging about it.
News and Notes From The Garden...
Dominic, Wesley and Jerel accompanied Coach to New York...Dominic and Jerel were picked to the preseason All Big East 1st team, Scottie Reynolds of Villanova and "Big Roy" Hibbert of the Hoyas were unanimous selections...people are sleeping on Wesley, expect a big year from the 6'5 junior, we do...Georgetown and Louisville were picked as co-favorites to wear the Big East crown...they each received 217 votes, we received 191 and Pitt garnered 170...the rookie duo at Syracuse, Donte' Green and Jonny Flynn, were picked as Co-Rookies of the Year.
You can get the "skinny" on all the media day festivities at www.bigeast.org
Our annual "Fish Fry" scrimmage set to tip off at 8 PM on Friday, October 26th at the Al. It is also our annual "Haunted Hoops", so gather up the kids and head on down to the Al McGuire Center. Yours truly will provide the half time entertainment with a little "Rab Sez"...haven't decided on my costume yet.
Until next time...keep up the support on the outside, I'll keep you "blogged" on the inside.
Entry #18 -- October 18, 2007
Did we not deliver on Marquette Madness or what?
Everybody was Kung Fu fighting...those cats were fast as lightning...in fact it was a little bit frightening (like Coach Crean nearly turning over his ATV)...but they fought with expert timing...
And that was just the introductions. The "cat is out of the bag," Coach Crean has had his Golden Eagles in full martial arts mode since the beginning of the fall semester. Talk about thinking/coaching outside the box...Coach enlisted the help of Grandmaster J.K. Lee and his associates for a little preseason Tae Kwon Do action, which has turned out to be a...well...knock out. The Grandmaster accompanied by five or six other black belts make a bi-weekly trip to the McGuire Center to engage in an hour's worth of Tae Kwon Do training...our guys love it and the Grandmaster is the absolute best.
So we dressed up in gees, broke some boards, drove around in an ATV, flames, video, music, dunk contest...and then to top things off "you know who" dropped in for a little surprise visit. That's right ol' number 3...fresh off of a jet from Miami, Dwyane Wade entered the Al McGuire Center Arena and the place was literally , figuratively, absolutely and undeniably up for grabs. DWade grabbed the mic and told the capacity crowd that the last time he participated in a Marquette Madness, he wound up in New Orleans in early April playing in a little something called the Final Four. He signed autographs, cell phone cameras were popping, kissed babies and even showcased his coaching skills in a "nail biter" vs. his Final Four teammate Terry Sanders.
Shortly after the dunk contest, won by the acrobatic Jerel McNeal, Coach Crean had me escort the NBA All Star to his office to get #3's signature on a few collectables. Just me and one of PEOPLE magazines 50 most beautiful people all alone in Coach Crean's office...talk about a mismatch. So while Dwyane signed away (shoes, posters, jerseys, FatHeads) I tried to make a little small talk with the former NBA Finals MVP...
Rab's Words - "So, D, how are your kids?"
DWade - "Good, real good, thanks for asking."
Rab's Words - "Man our guys love your new line of shoes and clothing from Brand Wade."
DWade - Yeah, it's tight, right?"
Rab's Words - "Real tight. Almost as tight as that skull and cross bones diamond studded belt buckle you have on. Where can I get one of those?"
Dwade - "Ah, I don't know Coach, I had this custom made...might be a little out of your price range. You outta just stick to Dillard's or Target...or wherever you shop at."
Rab's Words - "Good point...not to mention the NCAA has instituted a strict bench decorum rule for this season...the whole diamonds and skulls thing may be a bit over the top."
The point is this. Is there a more humble, generous and down to earth mega star in the universe? Rehabilitating from off season shoulder and knee surgery, the NBA pre-season in full swing...Dwyane finds time help out his former coach and return home to where it all started. I checked...no Carmelo at Syracuse, A.I. didn't show up at Georgetown, Rip Hamilton was no where to be seen at UConn...nope, the only NBA superstar in play to help tip off the 2007-08 basketball season was our very own Dwyane Wade. And you know what? There was not a happier or prouder person in Milwaukee than Dwyane...for a couple of hours Dwyane was a kid again. Shortly after 9:30 PM, Dwyane was whisked out of the McGuire Center and boarded a jet back to the land of corporate tickets, eight-dollar hot dogs and no traveling violations. As his plane disappeared into the night, something tells me a smile crossed Dwyane's face...a smile that said..."it was good to be back home. We Are Marquette."
Until next time, keep up the support on the outside...I'll keep you blogged on the inside.
Entry #17 -- October 11, 2007
mad-ness - (mad-nis) - noun: senseless folly: frenzy: intense excitement or enthusiasm
37 years ago in College Park, Maryland on the campus of the University of Maryland, legendary coach Charles "Lefty" Driesell had an idea. "Lefty" needed to get his players attention. So as the clock struck midnight on October 15th, 1970 (the earliest time to start practice under NCAA rules at the time) ...Driesell summoned his "Terps" to Cole Fieldhouse and had them run laps into the wee hours of the morning...Midnight Madness was born.
What was once an attention getting motivational ploy, has now turned into a mega, blockbuster, techno thrill ride to celebrate the official start of college basketball practice. Smoke, mirrors, costume contests, skits, rappers, DJ's, a Dickie V look alike contest and half court shots for a free year of schooling...throw in a dunk contest, a 3-point shootout and a 30-minute scrimmage and you have yourself an evening of college hoops to rival the best that reality TV has to offer.
As the 2007-08 season approaches, "Lefty's" legacy lives on in college arenas and gymnasiums across the country. McKale Madness, Mountaineer Madness, Hoosier Hysteria, Bearcat Basketball Fan Jam, Late Night Madness at Providence and, of course, the "crown jewel" of them all...Marquette Madness with head coach Tom Crean and his band of Golden Eagles. Our die-hard fans love it...it has become the ultimate pep rally and team promotion...it is a time to dream...who will be this year's Cinderella story...who will get hot in March and run the table?
This Saturday, October 13th, Coach Crean and his 2007-08 Golden Eagles will once again take to the floor of the Al McGuire Center for our annual basketball bash. There will be slams, jams, autographs, a scrimmage and some really cool throwback t-shirts. You can expect a standing room only crowd at the Al...so get there early...the festivities get under way at 7 PM. Who will Wes jump over at this year's dunk contest?...and what about the new guys? This Saturday you'll find out.
Madness News and Notes...
ESPNU will televise 3 ½ hours of Midnight Madness coverage beginning Friday, October 12th at 7 PM EST...the 24-hour college sports network will feature Georgetown, Davidson, Memphis and Southern Illinois...two of the more "glitzy" Midnight Madness schools are shutting down their Madness operations as Florida and Arizona have each opted for a fan appreciation/open practice get together later in October...Madness weekend is a huge recruiting tool across the country as respective programs jockey to get their top targets on campus...CBS analyst, Bill Raftery, will be on hand to get things started with the Hoyas...a hip-hop theme at Providence where the Friars will play host to rapper, Jon Hope, while disc jockey, DJ Finesse, spins the tunes...St. John's is not celebrating MM, but they are celebrating 100 years of Red Storm basketball...Seton Hall's "Madness Before Midnight" is being sponsored by GEICO, no word if the Gecko will be on hand...the Cavemen are for sure out, they have their own TV show this fall...in the words of Oklahoma State football coach, Mike Gundy, "are you kidding me?"...I love the press releases for Midnight Madness which state, come out and join Coach Johnson and his staff as they "KICK OFF" the 2007-08 basketball season...in basketball we "TIP"...in football we "KICK", c'mon people....in a "SIX DEGREES OF KEVIN BACON" sort of way, I have my own connection to the origins of Midnight Madness, here you go...Midnight Madness originated at Cole Fieldhouse at the University of Maryland, in 1966 Don Haskins led Texas Western to the national championship over Kentucky in a game played at Cole Fieldhouse, Texas Western later became the University of Texas - El Paso and in 1999, yours truly, replaced Coach Haskins at UTEP...and then to top things off, Billy Gillespie who followed me at UTEP is now the head coach at Kentucky, where Midnight Madness is NO BIG DEAL...they only draw 23,000...and last but not least, not only does "Lefty's" Midnight Madness legacy live on across the nation, but it lives on at Maryland as well where "Lefty's" son, Chuck Driesell, is an assistant to head coach Gary Williams.
Hey, see you at "the AL" this Saturday...until then, keep up the support on the outside...I'll keep you "blogged" on the inside.
Entry #16 -- October 10, 2007
Even though the NCAA has put the "kabosh" on text messaging to recruits, that doesn't mean that "textin'" is still not a huge piece of the communication puzzle when it comes to athletes connecting with their teammates and coaches. We all text message...Coach Crean text messages, he can fire them off as fast as any blackberry equipped head coach in the country. I used to talk to Indiana head coach, Kelvin Sampson, EVERY day...now we text. It's fast...it's non invasive and everyone is doing it. Texting does have its pitfalls `tho...we once thought that the roads were more dangerous because of people driving while talking on their cell phones...now they're TEXTING and driving. And if you are not up to speed with the lastest "text lingo"...some messages can leave you dazed and confused. Read on below and you'll see what I mean.
A while back I wanted to check in on Travis Diener (a fine texter himself) and see how life with the Indiana Pacers was treating him...
Rab: TD... ?4U...?NU w/U&DA PCR's? (Travis, question for you...what's new with you and the the Pacers?)
Travis: ADAD...BAU... (Another day another dollar...business as usual)
Rab: PXT (Please explain that)
Travis: BM&Y...ILUV CCHOB SYS (Between me and you...I love Coach O'Brien's system)
Rab: XLNT!! (Excellent!!)
Travis: I LV PCT EVYDY SETE (I leave practice everyday smiling ear to ear)
Rab: LKS LKE UL B BCK'N UP JT (Looks like you'll be backing up Jamaal Tinsley?)
Travis: PROLLY (Probably)
Rab: SLAP (Sounds like a plan)
Travis: ?RU & MUBB DOIN? (How are you and the team doing?)
Rab: TM LKS GR8...DJ, WM & JM R DOMN8NG DA ACTN (The team looks great...Dominic, Wes and Jerel are dominating the action)
Travis: AIGHT...ILL KMFC (Alright...I'll keep my fingers crossed)
Rab: DQMOT BT WE HVA CHNC 2 MK SM NSE N MAR (Don't quote me on this, but we have a chance to make some noise in March)
Travis: ?BG N DA BE...ND, CUSE, PITT, GT @ VILLE? (Who will be good in the Big East? Notre Dame, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Georgetown and Louisville?)
Rab: DNT FGT UCONN & DP (Don't forget Connecticut and DePaul)
Travis: @TEOTD NOVA WL B A FCTR 2 (At the end of the day Villanova will be a factor too)
Rab: FYI...MM IS SAT @ AL (For your information...Marquette Madness is Saturday at the Al McGuire Center)
Travis: GL! (Good luck!)
Rab: THX...?DUTHK...PCKR's 2 SB? (Thanks...what do you think...Packers to the Super Bowl?)
Travis: DEGT...U NO IMA CHIBR's FN (Don't even go there...you know I am a Chicago Bears fan)
Rab: ME2...GMTA (Me too...great minds think alike)
Travis: AIGHT RAB IGTG (Alright Coach Rab, I got to go)
Rab: OK...GL/HF...H2CUS IN MKE (Ok...good luck and have fun...hope to see you soon in Milwaukee)
TTYL...UNTL NXT TME, KP UP DA SUPORT ON DA OTSDE...IMA KP U "BLGD" ON DA INSDE.
(Talk to you later...until next time, keep up the support on the outside...I'll keep you "blogged" on the inside)
Entry #15 -- October 9, 2007
Our incomparable athletic trainer and Coordinator of Student-Athlete Performance, Jayd Grossman, pulled me aside at an individual workout and asked..."Rab, what is the name for phrases like...a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?" I thought long and hard...surely a "blogger" could regurgitate the answer to this quandary instantly. "Metaphors," I proclaimed proudly as if someone were about to dash into the Kasten Gym and pin an award on my chest..."Yep, metaphors."
Jayd's question bothered me all practice. So when I returned to my office later that afternoon, I "googled" - "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush"...metaphor was no where to be seen...like an idiot, I had confused metaphors with idioms. Humbled again... shame on me...my father was a high school English teacher.
So this whole idiom thing got me to thinking. I mean nowhere are idioms more prevalent than in the sporting world...and it reminded me of a recent conversation I had with Coach Crean. See if you can spot the idioms.
Rab: Good morning coach, how was the recruiting trail?
Coach: Ah, you know Rab, another wild and woolly trip to the Windy City. Coach Buckley drove and I don't mean to be a back seat driver but we end up getting lost and Tim gives me this cock and bull story about losing the directions. Anyway, to make a long story short, we somehow manage to make it to the gym on a wing and a prayer.
Rab: Well maybe Tim was just feeling a little under the weather?
Coach: Regardless, we finally walk in the gym...and you know me, I got my mojo working, but the high school coach, a real doozy, has this chip on his shoulder...like he has some axe to grind with Tim and I.
Rab: Kinda like he was ready to knock someone down a peg?
Coach: Yeah I guess...but cooler heads prevailed, Tim offers to run out and grab the coach a cup of Joe and we are finally are able to get down to brass tacks. I tell the coach that his kid is a real diamond in the rough...I mean this isn't my first rodeo.
Rab: You got that right. You've been around the block a time or two.
Coach: Exactly, so I ask the coach how close this kid is to making a decision. I told him, make no bones about it, we love the kid. We just don't want him to make a knee-jerk decision. So I go into my spiel about how much we need this kid...I'm giving it to him word for word...the whole nine yards. By the end of the conversation I'm confident we are sitting in the catbird's seat.
Rab: Yeah, not to mention he's getting it straight from the horse's mouth.
Coach: True. I think the coach sees the handwriting on the wall. If nothing else we have leveled the playing field with the competition. But then, out of the clear blue sky, in walks Coach Johnson of State to spend a little quality time with the coach. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in that conversation. I look at Tim and say, Houston we have a problem. So we leave the gym...it's raining cats and dogs and Tim is running around like a chicken with his head cut off trying to find our rental car...a car I might add, that is so small there is no room to swing a cat.
Rab: Well, hang in there Coach...I mean there's more than one way to skin a cat...no pun intended.
Coach: I don't know Rab, I'm ready to wash my hands of this whole deal and eighty-six the kid...pull the plug.
Rab: Coach...hold your horses...you've been down this road before.
Coach: You know what? You're right...it's time to pull on the old thinking cap...push the envelope...pull out all stops...work `til the cows come home...back to basics...twenty three skidoo.
Rab: That's the attitude coach...before you know it everything will be copasetic...we'll be back in business.
Coach: Thanks Rab...I really needed that.
Rab: No problem coach...I may be a little wet behind the ears...but I believe in you. And one more thing...until next time, keep up the support on the outside...I'll keep you informed on the inside.
Last but not least...Elvis has left the building.
Entry #14 -- October 5, 2007
Good "stuff" on ESPN.com. ESPN is beginning its annual tour of college basketball's major conferences in a segment called "Shoot Around". College basketball experts (exactly how do you get to be a college basketball expert), Andy Glockner and Jay Bilas, give their opinions, expert analysis and insights on this year's pretenders and contenders within the Big East Conference. Love it...love the shoes...love the bag...love it all, as it can mean only one thing...basketball season is upon us.
Let's "blog"...check in on what the experts think and compare notes with what "Rabs Words" thinks...a little "ying and yang"..."good cop bad cop". They may be experts, but that doesn't mean we have to agree with EVERYTHING Jay and Andy write.
So buckle up...16 teams in one "blog", that may be too much for other "blogspots", but not here...direct...to the point...no fluff...time to cover the Big East A-Z..
Cincinnati - 2-14 in Coach Mick Cronin's first year at the helm...second year...players more familiar with the Cronin system...one of the Big East's best kept secrets in 6'7 John Williamson...eight newcomers...a great home court advantage...year two, the Bearcats will be a tough out in Cincy. Bank on it...5/3rd bank...that's the Bearcats' arena.
Connecticut - Scary, scary, scary...too talented and too well coached. The Huskies are a prideful bunch...combine returnees AJ Price, Doug Wiggins, Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet and you have your hands full. All those teams that beat up on the Huskies last year...be warned...ancient Chinese proverb...championship programs and Hall of Fame coaches don't go quietly into the night.
DePaul - Our rivals down I-94 may have lost Wilson Chandler and Sammy Mejia, but Coach Wainwright has brought in two extremely talented freshmen in 6'9 Nayal Koshwal and 6'5 Darquavias "Dar" Tucker...this pair is special and will provide plenty of excitement at All State Arena.
Georgetown - "Hoya Paranoia" is back in full swing led by perhaps the nations premiere center, 7'2 Roy Hibbert. He may not be flashy, but point guard Jonathan Wallace is as good as it gets in college basketball. A coach's dream...low turnovers, knocks down open shots, defends and is an absolute maestro in conducting Georgetown's super efficient Princeton offense. Factor in 6'7 DaJuan Summers and, McDonald's All American 6'3 freshman Austin Freeman, and you have a legit Final Four contender on your (our) hands.
Louisville - Along with Georgetown, the Cardinals are the "sexy" picks to wear the Big East crown. A healthy front line of David Padgett and Derrick Caracter is a good place to start, which makes "the Ville" a safe pick to be one of the Big East's elite teams in '07-'08...throw in "T Wil", Milwaukee's own, Jerry Smith and that "sharp dressed guy" on the sidelines...Freedom Hall will be rockin' again in '07-'08.
Notre Dame - Everyone talks about the return of Kyle McAlarney and sophomore sensation Tory Jackson...but what about Luke Harangody? Last time we encountered the 6'8 265 lbs. sophomore he was posting a "double-double" in South Bend. Coach Charlie Weis may want to poke his head in on a couple Coach Mike Brey's practices...the Irish can flat out score.
Pittsburgh - The Panthers have fast become a bitter rival of the Golden Eagles...two teams that preach toughness, rebounding and defense...no wonder it's a rivalry. The Marquette - Pittsburgh match up has produced some of the Big East's best finishes over the past 2 years...expect '07-'08 to be no different. Gone are Gray and Kendall, but returning are Cook, Fields, Ramon, Biggs and Young...and that is plenty good enough.
Providence - You want a "sleeper" pick, then don't pick the Friars... they are no "sleeper"... they are just plain good. A backcourt of Sharaud Curry and Weyinmi Efejuku combined with arguably the Big East's most versatile player in 6'7 forward Geoff McDermott...The Ocean State (that's Rhode Island) will not be a friendly stop on the Big East circuit.
Rutgers - Head coach Fred Hill assisted Villanova head coach, Jay Wright, in building the famed Wildcat back court of Foy, Lowery, Nardi and Allen...translation...he can recruit. Enter freshman point guard Corey Chandler and 7'0 center Hamady N'Diaye and you get the point. Not that it matters, but did you know Fred Hill's dad is the baseball coach at Rutgers?
St John's - 3 words...Anthony, Mason, Junior...a superstar in the making...the versatile forward can score inside and out and put a team on his back. But "AMJ" is far from a one man show... Eugene Lawrence and sharpshooter, Avery Patterson gives the Red Storm a powerful "trifecta" to roam around the World's Most Famous Arena.
Seton Hall - The league's top 2 returning scorers in Eugene Harvey and Brian Laing, a frenetic style of play, new arena and a coach that makes caffeine nervous...if nothing else, the Pirates make for great theatre.
South Florida - Just what we need...more Michigan State influence in the Big East. Former Michigan State assistant and Arkansas head coach, Stan Heath, takes over in Tampa...waiting to meet him at the door was 6'8 "double-double" machine, Kentrell Gransberry...nice house warming gift...as we all know the "Izzo Blueprints" drawn up in East Lansing work...I'm sure Coach Heath remembered to pack them when he left Fayetteville.
Syracuse - Gone is the entire front line...returning is a loaded backcourt led by "Eminem" look alike Eric Devendorf...Devendorf can score like Mr. Mathers can "rap"...also returning is "linebacker in a tank top", Paul Harris and point guard Josh Wright...throw in one of the nation's top recruiting classes and no one should be feeling sorry for the Orange.
Villanova - Why do the Wildcats scare "Rab's Words" so much? Easy...great guards. Get a good look at sophomore Scottie Reynolds, his next visit to the Bradley Center after this year will be to play the Bucks...fans in Philly are going to love a couple of freshman Coreys - Fisher and Stokes - suiting up for `Nova...Stokes was a teammate of David Cubillan at prep school powerhouse St. Benedit's and Fisher led St. Patrick's to the mythical National High School championship...and don't look now, but Coach Wright's front line is vastly underrated.
West Virginia - "He's Baaaaaaaack"...head coach Bob Huggins takes the reigns of his alma mater in Morgantown. Let's see...toughness...defense...passionate, get out of my way rebounding and WINS...the Huggins' formula for success is setting up shop in West Virginia, Big East beware...oh yeah, Darrius Nichols, Joe Alexander and Da'Sean Butler...Coach Beilein didn't exactly leave the cupboard bare.
Entry #13 -- October 4, 2007
How many times has this happened to you? ... You're in your favorite store of choice to browse through the vast array of "gizmos," "gadgets" or other shiny material objects and the next thing you know you are walking out the door with a purchase you didn't need and had no intention of buying in the first place. Not to mention a truck load of buyer's remorse.
This happens to me all the time. Don't get me wrong, it's "Rab's Words" not "Rockefeller's Words', and while Coach Crean is unbelievably generous in his pay, it's not like I have money to burn. But, I do love to shop and if the right salesperson can get their "hooks" in me...well, I'm..."hooked".
Seldom has this phenomenon happened without a salesperson being heavily involved. Usually a gregarious individual, who I know has the job of selling me something, has played a major role in the encounter.
Which brings me to today's "blog"...sales or to be "blog" specific...recruiting. We are currently in the midst of an intense recruiting period...frequent flyer miles are piling up at "the Al" like some out of control basketball telethon...Coach Crean is out making his pitch...selling the merits of Marquette University...beating down the doors of gymnasiums "coast to coast"...a traveling basketball salesman the likes of which has rarely been seen before.
I am not biased when I proclaim Coach Crean to be one of the hardest working head coaches in the country, especially when it comes to pounding the recruiting trail. It's one thing to be hard working, it's another to be successful...and when it comes to recruiting, Coach Crean's track record is full of "W's". Wade, Diener, Novak, James, Matthews, McNeal and Christopherson didn't all climb on board because Blue and Gold were their favorite colors...they were recruited...they were sold on Marquette.
So what makes a successful recruiter? Good question. In the basketball world, as in the sales world, there are certain characteristics that separate the "pretenders" from the "contenders." Try these on for size....
Expert Knowledge of Your Product: Entering his 9th year at the helm of the Golden Eagles...is there a greater expert on the history of Marquette basketball than Tom Crean? But Coach is not flying solo...he expects and demands that all of his staff have an understanding of the proud and glorious history that is Marquette basketball. Can't sell what you don't know.
Enthusiasm: You gotta love your job...and a great recruiter turns enthusiasm into sheer passion. The unique ability to make someone "see the light". How could I have missed the obvious benefits and desperate need I have for Marquette...an institution I had no intention of ever attending? I like the Army's approach..."It's not just a job...it's an adventure." Hop on a recruiting trip with Coach Crean and you'll know what I mean.
Work Ethic: Recruiting is like shaving...if you don't do it every day, you'll look like a bum.
No Fear of Rejection: A great recruiter does not fear rejection...we've all heard the expression..."what's the worst thing they can say, no?"...it's true...don't take it personal...move on. There is an old adage in basketball...some of the best recruits are the ones we never signed.
The difference is that in basketball we are selling opportunity, not inanimate objects. The opportunity to attend one of the nation's most prestigious universities, play for and be developed by one of college basketball's top basketball minds, play and practice in the "Taj Mahal" of basketball practice facilities...the Al McGuire Center, compete in the very best college basketball conference in the country - The Big East, play on national television in front of sold out arenas and become a part of the unique tradition that is Marquette basketball.
Where do I sign?
Since most of you have probably exhausted your eligibility...until next time, keep up the support on the outside...I'll keep you "blogged" on the inside.
Entry #12 -- September 26, 2007
Yesterday, our basketball program had just that type of a unique and once in a life time opportunity ...face to face with a real hero...a war hero...a leader of men...a national treasure. General Harold "Hal" Moore, immortalized in the movie "We Were Soldiers" by Mel Gibson, made a visit to the Al McGuire Center to enlighten, encourage and inspire the 2007-08 Golden Eagles. But before I reflect on General Moore's message...a little background on this decorated military icon.
Harold Gregory "Hal" Moore, Jr. (born February 13, 1922) is a retired United States Army Lieutenant General. Moore is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross which is the second h