Welcome back to Marquette Courtside’s COVID-19 act of escapism, the “Millennium Bracket.”
Quick refresher: We’re using WhatIfSports to work through a bracket of the three-point era Marquette teams the site has available for simulations. In the last blog, Jake Thomas led Buzz Williams’ 2014 team over Steve Wojciechowski and Henry Ellenson’s 2016 squad in a First Four matchup, while Wojo’s first-year 2015 team got a win in the first game of a best-of-three series against Tom Crean’s 2000 group.
We resume by picking that matchup up again.
First Four Matchup #2
#15 2000 Marquette (Tom Crean, 15-14, 8-8/4th of 6 Conference USA American, Brian Wardle 16.6 ppg) vs. #18 2015 Marquette (Steve Wojciechowski, 13-19, 4-14/T-9th of 10 BIG EAST, Matt Carlino 15 ppg)
Game #2: Matt Carlino was a volume shooter, which means he took a lot of shots, whether he was hitting them or not. It was problematic, in 2015, when they weren’t falling. In this series, however, they were. Carlino finishes the two-game set 8-for-16 from outside as he ends up being the top scorer in both games of a sweep. The ’00 team goes on a game-opening 11-3 run and is up five with two minutes left in the first half. However, an 11-2 run in the second half for the 2015ers sees Carlino hit two of his three treys in the contest. Tom Crean’s team just doesn’t have the firepower to answer back. 2015 Wojciechowski/Carlino 79, 2000 Crean/Wardle 68. (Box scores & game play-by-plays here)
Post-Matchup: Carlino is named series MVP. Brian Wardle looks at a bracket while he’s being asked questions by the media and says, “I wish we could have had a shot at that 2013 team. I think Brian Barone and I could have beaten them. If only.”
Thus concludes the First Four. For the Round of 16, we’ll bounce around the bracket. Let’s start with 8/9.
Round of 16 Matchup #1
#8 2010 Marquette (Buzz Williams, 22-12, 11-7/T-5th of 16 BIG EAST, Lazar Hayward 18.1 ppg) vs. #9 2007 Marquette (Tom Crean, 24-10, 10-6/T-5th of 16 BIG EAST, Dominic James 14.9 ppg)
About 2010: Marquette didn’t instill confidence with a 2-5 BIG EAST start, but roster retooling led to MU winning nine of its last 11 regular-season games, including three-straight February OT road wins. Marquette couldn’t beat Sweet 16-bound Washington in the NCAA’s first round, but what the squad learned proved helpful in subsequent years. No. 1 song: Break Your Heart, Taio Cruz ft. Ludacris.
About 2007: This was the sophomore year for Dominic James, Wes Matthews and Jerel McNeal as well as the freshman campaign for Lazar Hayward. No surprise, then, this team won eight-straight at one point during BIG EAST play, including three over ranked opponents. Crean drew mentor Tom Izzo and Michigan State in the NCAA first round; Marquette lost, 61-49. No. 1 song: This Is Why I’m Hot, Mims.
Overlap: Hayward and David Cubillan were freshmen in 2007 and seniors in 2010.
Pre-Matchup: Both Crean and Buzz Williams debate letting their Haywards wear number 24 as a tribute to George Thompson; Hayward wore it briefly as a freshman before anyone remembered the number had been previously retired. George, who wasn’t happy with the situation in 2006, hears Hayward will make over $3 million in for his three years in the NBA, then says, “Maybe we can work out a deal.”
Game #1: This series starts with a bang. Crean’s group goes on a 26-7 run to take a 38-18 lead near halftime, which Williams’ crew not only erases in the second half but turns into a 57-52 advantage for itself. Freshman Hayward takes over late, though, entering NBA Jam on-fire mode with eight-straight points to turn a 60-58 deficit into a 66-60 lead with over three minutes left. The 2010 team commits five turnovers as it goes from up five to down eight, unable to handle McNeal’s stellar defense. Williams is irked at himself and Jeronne Maymon afterward. Maymon goes 1-for 5 with a bad turnover to start the ’07 team’s winning run. “I gave him a second chance,” Williams says when someone notes the freshman transferred after just nine games in 2009-10. “He’s probably sitting Game 2. I like Jeronne, but that didn’t work. Blame me for that one.” 2007 Crean/James 72, 2010 Williams/Hayward 65.
Game #2: After the wild first game, the second starts is more of a chess match. However, the freshman Hayward again scores eight-straight points late to turn a 65-all tie into a 73-65 ’07 lead. The younger Hayward outplays his older self, posting a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. With Williams making good on not playing Maymon, Crean’s team cleans the glass, outrebounding the 10ers, 48-24. The ‘10 team does post 51 second-half points as it tries to stay afloat, but it’s not enough. 2007 Crean/James 93, 2010 Williams/Hayward 85.(Box scores & game play-by-plays here)
Post-Matchup: Matthews pounds his chest and screams before embracing McNeal and James after Game 2. “They had ‘Zar (Hayward) and Cooby (Cubillan),” he says. “I think the difference was the three of us … We play those young guys in practice and we trash talk some. We tell them we’re better and we always will be. I guess we proved it here.” The younger Hayward’s hot streaks earn MVP honors, though.
There’s only enough space to preview the next matchup:
Round of 16 Matchup #2
#3 2012 Marquette (Buzz Williams, 27-8, 14-4/2nd of 16 BIG EAST, Darius Johnson-Odom 18.3 ppg) vs. #14 2018 Marquette (Steve Wojciechowski, 21-14, 9-9/T-6th of 10 BIG EAST, Andrew Rowsey 20.5 ppg)
About 2012: With Syracuse vacating its 2012 BIG EAST title years later, this Marquette team was the best legally-built squad in the conference (as far as we know). Ranked as high as No. 8 in February, it was led by BIG EAST player of the year Jae Crowder. MU didn’t lose a home BIG EAST game and reached the Sweet 16, falling to a pesky Florida team. No. 1 song: We Are Young, Fun ft. Janelle Monae.
About 2018: As good as Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey were at hitting threes — the team hit the fifth-most in the nation — they started a trend of Wojo letdowns, notably an unthinkable late-season loss at DePaul that sank any NCAA chances. This team ended up playing three NIT games at the Al McGuire Center, reaching the quarterfinals before falling to Penn State. No. 1 song: God’s Plan, Drake.
Find out what happens … and trust me, you’ll want to find out … in the next blog.
ACTUAL NEWS: If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware Wojo’s top assistant, Stan Johnson has left for the head coaching job at Loyola Marymount. Coaches with Johnson’s recruiting ability aren’t common. There’s lots of time for more hires, but, objectively, losing a guy like Johnson isn’t a plus.
LOOKING FOR HOPE: On one hand, the National Guard is in Grafton. On the other, we’re weighing the value of the economy versus lives. These are not pleasant times. But try to do both what’s safe — for everyone, not just yourself — and make the best of your current situation. More later this week.
Photo: Getty Images