Marquette's Surge a Surprise?
The UConn Huskies are not the same championship team they were last year. In fact, with their home loss to the Golden Eagles last weekend, they're in jeopardy of not making the NCAA tournament this year. This doesn't take away from Marquette's recent beat down of Uconn in Storrs and more recently, against Rutgers in Milwaukee. Any road game in the Big East is going to be a difficult task, especially this late in the regular season.
Sure, the Huskies went down early and had a nice comeback in the second half, but Buzz Williams' guys looked as if they had this game pretty much under control. Rutgers didn't really stand a chance and Marquette didn't really look worried from the opening tip off, but let's not mistake this solid play as a mere regular season surge.
Despite a serious disadvantage in size, which one could argue almost every game in which Marquette takes the court, the Golden Eagles did not let the Huskies exploit that. Jae Crowder and Jamil Wilson manned the front court almost the entire game and neither of them is taller than 6'7". What they lack in size, they more than make up in speed and athleticism.
This was evident in the domination of a 12-16 Rutgers team. The Golden Eagles speed and athleticism was just too much for the Scarlet Knights. Marquette looked like it was on cruise control in the Bradley Center the other night. These last two wins are prime examples of just how well this team is playing at the moment.
Is Williams' squad "peaking" too early or are they a legitimate, dominant squad from the Big East poised to enter the tournament as a juggernaut?
They are playing about as well as any team in the nation, so I don't think this is some kind of regular season apex that they will eventually come down from. And even though they will not be a #1 seed in the tournament, I certainly believe they have enough talent and coaching to beat any team in the NCAA.
Before this season, Buzz Williams always looked strained and jaw-clenched while the game was going on. For some reason, this year he looks relaxed and free on the sidelines and its being passed on to his players, who are feeding off it and playing a style that looks like controlled, disciplined, school yard basketball.
Sure they could run into a team that matches up well with their athleticism and also a lot taller and longer than they are, but their team chemistry and flow to the game is so incredibly strong right now that it will be a challenge for other teams to beat them.
Crowder is playing as well as anyone in the nation and will be a solid candidate for Big East Player of the Year. Wilson, probably the most athletic guy on the team next to Vander Blue has certainly stepped up in a big way to fill the vacancy left by Gardner and Otule.
But the guy who needs to play a bigger role for them is Blue. The talent Blue has should make him one of the best players when he steps onto a court. If Blue can play a bigger role for Marquette on the offensive end, I could see the Golden Eagles making it to the Elite Eight and beyond. That's how well Buzz has this team playing and I don't think they show signs of slowing down anytime soon.