Marquette basketball: Golden Eagles attempt to turn season around

Marquette at Butler

Indianapolis, Indiana

January 18, 2014

1:00 PM CT

CBS Sports Network


If there was one movie to describe the 2013-2014 Marquette basketball team, it would be the legendary 1993 flick Groundhog Day. In the movie, Bill Murray’s character Phil relives the same day over and over again. What he sees once, he has to watch happen day after day. Even if he changes the outcome with the advanced knowledge he gains, the same result always occurs: he goes back to the beginning of that day.

The endless cycle of scrutiny Phil had to endure is what it is like to watch Marquette  this season. Whenever it appears like the Golden Eagles have turned the corner and will pull off an upset, they commit a mistake that has plagued them all season.

At Xavier last Thursday night, Marquette seemed poised to steal one in Cincinnati. However, Buzz Williams’ team began to break down in ways that fans have seen countless times this season. Jake “Racine Rainmaker” Thomas dropped six three pointers, but disappeared in the closing minutes. Point guard Derrick Wilson continued to be apprehensive to attack the basket. Jamil Wilson, labeled as the most athletic player on the team, finished with as many points (five) as he did fouls.

There were some positives that came out of the conference clash for the Golden Eagles. Freshman Deonte Burton continued to show that he can develop into a future go to scorer. Burton, who scored thirteen points, hits jumpers with his silky smooth outside shot while also being unafraid to take it to the rim.

Freshman backup point guard John Dawson displayed what he could do when given more minutes. Playing in more than sixteen minutes for only the second time in his career, Dawson hit two threes and showed some toughness defensively. However, it was not enough.

After the loss to Xavier, Marquette had an opportunity to bounce back and beat up on the Seton Hall Pirates. Due to the lack of size and scoring threat on Seton Hall’s roster, an NCAA tournament worthy team would have beat up on the Pirates. Instead, the Golden Eagles struggled down the stretch, failing to slam the door on Seton Hall, only squeaking by to a one point win.

This game showed another issue that has continuously hampered Marquette all season: even inferior opponents expose Marquette’s weaknesses.  Buzz has mixed and matched his lineup countless times to try to find the right combination of players on the court. Just like Phil in Groundhog Day he continuously attempts to fix past flaws to no avail.

Marquette continues to fail to pull an upset or blow out a second-rate major conference team. Instead, their sloppy ball handling and erratic shooting has resulted in a 10-7, 1-2 Big East record entering Saturday’s tilt at Butler.

(Warning: Spoiler Alert)

At the end of Groundhog Day, Phil is able to break out of the cycle he undergoes by completely changing who he is as a person. He transforms from a grouchy meteorologist, to a compassionate humanitarian. This sort of transformation must take place if Marquette is going to turn their season around.

The first step for the Golden Eagles is not only to beat a scuffling Butler team (10-7, 0-5 Big East), but to do so while correcting the fatal flaws that have plagued them all year. If they cannot do this, a loss to the Bulldogs means another step closer for Marquette to playing in a postseason tournament, not known as March Madness.

Kap’s Keys to the Game    otule

Burton’s Buckets

Davante Gardner is the only solidified scorer on this team. Eight out of the ten Marquette victories have come when Gardner has scored more than ten points. With Jamil Wilson digressing from a lights out shooter to a role player at best, someone needs to assist Gardner in carrying the load. One of the ways that opponents have been able to score on Butler was by having an athletic ball handler drive to the basket  repeatedly. Burton has shown that he can do just that. If his outside shot is also on, look for Burton to torch Butler for more than twenty points.

Forcing leads to failure

Marquette’s three point shooting is atrocious. Ranked 301st in three point field goal percentage, one of the biggest problems on this year’s team is that they force too many shots from downtown. Once one or two fall for Jake Thomas or Jamil Wilson, they feel invincible. Ill-advised, contested shots get thrown up constantly throughout the game. This unorchestrated shooting has disrupted the rhythm the Golden Eagles have created when they have gone on offensive runs. The three point shooters are not all to blame for this. If Derrick Wilson could drive to the basket to have the guards crash down on him, it would leave someone wide open for a three. Starting against Butler, Marquette must stop taking threes early on in the shot clock, or when a defender is draped on top of them.

Keep the ball out of Dunham’s hands late

Last year in the NCAA tournament, Marquette was able to beat Butler in a rematch of an early season contest. In both battles, the game was decided in the final moments. It took the last second heroics of Rotnei Clarke for Butler and Davante Gardner’s clutch free throws to insure the victory for each of their teams. If there is one man on Butler that can shock Marquette with a late game punch in the gut, it is Kellen Dunham. Dunham leads the Bulldogs with 18.4 PPG and has the knack to have the ball in his hands at the end of the game. This contest is expected to be close, and could be decided on the final shot once again. While it is important to shut him down for all forty minutes, Marquette must make sure Dunham does not even get to sniff the ball when the game is on the line.

Prediction: Marquette 71 Butler 66

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