You need something to keep you from going stir crazy while we push into a second month of quarantine, right? So here’s some humorous, reality-based, sports-fantasy simulations and fiction for you to read up on as we continue our Marquette Courtside Millennium Bracket. The usual reminders: This is done using WhatIfSports using all its available MU teams from 2000 onward. Here’s the bracket. Matchups are best-of-three series. The first two games of the current matchup were described in the last blog, which you may want to re-read to help make some of this make more sense. Hold onto your seats for Game #3.
Round of 16 Matchup #7
#2 2013 Marquette (Buzz Williams, 26-9, 14-4/T-1st of 15 BIG EAST, Vander Blue 14.8 ppg) vs. #18 2015 Marquette (Steve Wojciechowski, 13-19, 4-14/T-9th of 10 BIG EAST, Matt Carlino 15.0)
Game #3: Steve Wojciechowski, in an effort to get his underdogs to embrace their first-game mentality, allowed his team to wear warm-up shirts before the third game that said “WHY SO SERIOUS,” riffing on his own pre-matchup quote. As the game went on, though, it became obvious the 2015 team was playing loose and with nothing to lose, while the 2013 team felt the weight of both Williams’ words before Game #2 and their supposed superiority. As a result, you started to see some of what plagued the 13ers in their Elite Eight loss to Syracuse. Literally everyone on the floor in a basketball uniform committed a turnover. Second and third chances came, but didn’t go. Vander Blue essentially withdrew from the offense. He took just three shots, one swatted emphatically by Luke Fischer.
With the Bradley Center crowd on its feet, 2013 Derrick Wilson failed to shrink his team’s three-point deficit, missing the front-end of bonus free-throws with 1:25 left. At the other end, the ’15 team ran clock before a simple screen freed Duane Wilson for a wide-open three off a pass from Sandy Cohen III. After it fell, Wilson gave a bit of a taunt to the ’13 squad, throwing up the “three goggles” Blue helped popularize. Down six and desperate, a Jamil Wilson jumper was tipped by Fischer. After the loose ball squirted about, Davante Gardner got it, but was stuck outside the three-point line. In the mad scramble, Junior Cadougan forgot his place on the floor. Hoping to be seen as wide open for an easy, quick bucket to conserve time, he instead got called for a three-second violation. That essentially sealed the game.
As Gardner flailed for a three-point try before the final horn, fans were left with an indelible parting image from the upset: Duane Wilson, a perfect 4-for-4 from outside after going 4-for-5 in Game #1, approached teammate Matt Carlino. Both engaged in a slow clap in front of themselves before smiling huge smiles and giving each other a huge hug that soon included their fellow 15ers joining in. 2015 Wojciechowski/Carlino 76, 2013 Williams/Blue 69. (Box scores & play-by-plays here)
Post-Matchup: Duane Wilson was named the unanimous series MVP by the local press, all of whom still had stunned expressions after Game #3. Wojciechowski, however, was not shocked. “This group played some good teams real hard. We gave Michigan State a run for their money. We competed with Wisconsin. We took Butler to overtime. You ask me if I’m surprised. Honestly, I’m not.” Meanwhile, Duane Wilson was quick to embrace his team’s new identity. “I’m an agent of chaos,” he said, laughing. “It’s a good thing we did that against another team that knows that  movie,” Wojciechowski added. “Against the 2000 team, they probably would have thought we were taking about 60s Batman.”
With that, the lowest-seeded team in the tourney stays alive. Can the highest-seeded do the same?
Round of 16 Matchup #8
#1 2003 Marquette (Tom Crean, 27-6, 14-2/1st of 7 Conference USA American, Dwyane Wade 21.5 ppg) vs. #16 2014 Marquette (Buzz Williams, 17-15, 9-9/6th of 10 BIG EAST, Davante Gardner 14.9 ppg)
About 2003: As solid as this team was up and down, simply put, this was the year the legend of Dwyane Wade was born. You almost have to put his name up there with Kirby Puckett and Randy Moss among those who had The Metrodome’s most electric performances of all-time when measuring how great he was to send Marquette to the Final Four against Kentucky. That win came just a few weeks removed from fans rushing the Bradley Center court after Marquette secured the 2003 Conference USA regular-season title. While a season-ending loss to Kansas was forgettable, make no mistake: Even if they don’t win this bracket, the 2003 team has no challengers for the title of most legendary Marquette team of the new millennium thus far. No. 1 song: In Da Club, 50 Cent.
2014: Buzz Williams’ final-year team got the job done in our very first matchup of this bracket, eliminating Steve Wojciechowski’s 2016ers in three play-in games (blog write-up, boxes/play-by-plays). A group that didn’t seem to live up to its talent in reality, the question is if they have what it takes to overcome a very talented 2003 team that also looked nothing but motivated on its Final Four run.
Pre-Matchup: Williams, oddly enough, stole the show in the pre-matchup press conferences. “My guys see that banner all the time and hear about this 2003 team all the time,” he says. “If there’s any team in this bracket with a target on their back, it’s the ’03 team. My guys are hungry for them.” He also, however, noted his failure to succeed in the tournament thus far. “I mean,  is my sixth year [at Marquette]. I’m looking at this and I only have one of my past teams left. Man, I must suck at this.”
Game #1: You want upsets at the top of the bracket? You got ‘em, though this one has controversy.
While the 2003 team had talent, the 2014 team had depth. That became a major factor when, with 5:14 left, ’03 down one and Travis Diener nursing four fouls, Diener took a step while trying to screen Derrick Wilson. Referee Gerald Boudreaux didn’t hesitate: Bam, foul number five. While Tom Crean joined the 2003 Marquette fans in berating the men in stripes for the call, the ’03 team was still without its third-highest scorer and best three-point shooter for the remainder of the contest.
The fall-off from Diener to backup Karon Bradley was big. Jake Thomas rubbed salt in the wound immediately with a three. Bradley answered with one of his own, but then Jajuan Johnson hit another for the 14ers. From that point onward, it seemed like the 2003 team sensed it truly was of a different era and couldn’t stop the ’14 team, never getting closer than a bucket again. An eerie silence filled the Bradley Center stands at the final buzzer. Is it possible the bracket could be without the 2013 Elite Eight and 2003 Final Four teams after one round? 2014 Williams/Gardner 90, 2003 Crean/Wade 82.
Might the one-seed disappear? You have to wait for the next blog to find out.
MORE REAL NEWS: Good news — D.J. Carton is transferring from Ohio State to Marquette. Bad news — he’ll probably have to sit out a year. “Eh” news — there might not be a next season, anyway. But again, I’m all for having patience with this thing. Staying safe & home is good for readership; dying is not, among other ways it’s bad. I recommend avoiding dying, which means staying home. More soon.
Photo: Getty Images