Friday, August 22, 2014

Marquette the Moribund

Did you know Marquette is a moribund program? For the 1st time since the 2005 season, Marquette failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament. Two years removed from an Elite 8, Seth Davis of SI.Com has declared Marquette a moribund program. For those unsure what moribund means, Merriam-Webster defines it as: "no longer active or effective; close to failure; very sick; close to death."

Yes, Marquette is basically DePaul.

Let's FJM some key passages from Seth's piece:

This program is on shaky footing, which is largely why Williams left for Blacksburg. Last season, the Golden Eagles finished sixth in the Big East with a 9-9 record (17-15 overall) and failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament for the first time in nine years.

No, Buzz left because he created expectations he didn't feel he could continually match. The going got tough, so Buzz got going.

And let's talk about why the program is "on shaky footing." The recruiting classes Buzz assembled in 2011 and 2012 have been pedestrian at best. PG Derrick Wilson and F Juan Anderson have been quality role players at Marquette. Both can serve a role on a good team but neither has shown the capabiliy to be All-Conference type players. The other member of that class was the maddening Todd Mayo who left the program this summer to pursue a pro career. The only player left from 2012 is Steve Taylor, Jr. who almost certainly would have transfered had Buzz stayed. The 2013 class only saw limited minutes for JaJuan Johnson, a top-50 recruit, PG John Dawson and F Deonte Burton, who Buzz wouldn't trust on defense. Duane Wilson had a medical redshirt and JUCO Jameel McKay transfered shortly before the season. Things would probably be less "shaky" had the previous coach developed his freshmen and not lost yet another player in McKay transfer.

The task of replenishing those losses was made more difficult when two of the school’s recruits were released from their commitments so they could follow Williams to Virgina Tech, while a third backed out and signed with Kansas State.

Really? The coach who left a program on shaky footing, totally justifying a move, I guess, took 2 recruits with him? As for Malek Harris, who signed with Kansas State, he never signed his LOI. Had he enrolled, Buzz would have had to lose a scholarship player. All signs pointed to JaJuan Johnson and Steve Taylor moving on had Buzz stayed. Mayo was probably gone, too. Wojo did a damn good job keeping everyone sans Mayo aboard. As for the lost recruits of 2014, the players Buzz was bringing in never would have fit the style of play Wojo will try and implement. I'd argue keeping Sandy Cohen was far more important, as was adding BYU transfer Matt Carlino.

Ellenson averaged 8.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in just 12 minutes while playing for the USA Basketball squad that just captured the gold medal at the Under-17 championships in Dubai. He’s big, he’s skilled – and he’s local. He is exactly the kind of breakthrough recruit who could jumpstart a moribund program.

Rice Lake is closer to Minnesota than to Madison or Milwaukee.

Landing Ellenson is pivotal, but Wojciechowski has done well to lock up verbal commitments from two of the top high school seniors in Wisconsin: 6-2 point guard Nick Noskowiak and Matt Heldt, a 6-10 center. “We can recruit nationally, but we need to have a base in the Midwest,” he said. “Fortunately, there are a lot of players there.”

Seth conveniently fails to mention both players are Top-100 players nationally. For a program in such rough shape, seems shocking they'd choose a school like that.

So yes, Marquette will probably lose its share of games next season. You might think that will be hard on Wojciechowski because he came from a championship-level program, but he reminded me that when he was a freshman at Duke in 1994-95, the Blue Devils won just two ACC games because Krzyzewski missed most of the season while recovering from back surgery. “We went 31-31 my first two years,” he said. “For us to make the NCAA tournament my sophomore year was incredible."

Yes, the program is near death like Duke in 1995. And they somehow overcame near death to make the NCAA Tournament a year later! 

Thus, the territory he now travels is not as unfamiliar as it may seem. For Marquette and its rookie head coach, the season will present an opportunity for a fresh start, as well as a new attitude. In case you haven’t noticed, Steve Wojciechowski is not a boy anymore. He wants his guys to man up. “There’s some uncertainty and not a lot of proven commodities, but if the players and staff embrace it the right way, it can really be an important year in the history of the program,” Wojciechowski said. “Our fan base and our program have a lot of pride. They tend to remember things. Our players have a chance to be remembered.”

Sounds awful, doesn't it.

As for the narrative, Buzz is what made Maqruette go, well, Matt Norlander of CBS pushes that narrative along with this article today. The man who built it, lessened it and left instead of trying to live up to "expectations" and rebuild after his first rough patch. Fascinating how the national media sees Marquette and the coach who "built the program".