BULLOCK: Lessons learned from an early loss

Can losing ever be a good thing? It's an age-old question in the sporting world. Let me give you my opinion: No.

No matter how hard some people may try, there is never an angle that you can approach losing from that makes it more beneficial than a win. Never.

That does not, however, mean that there cannot be valuable lessons learned from a loss. But it is possible to learn those same lessons and still come out victorious.

This being established, no matter what anyone tells you, the Marquette men's basketball team would have been better off with a victory over Dayton on Saturday. But let's look at how the 89-75 loss could have helped the Golden Eagles – or at least how it didn't hurt them as much as you might think.

The most immediate and apparent consequence of the loss is the drop in the Associated Press poll from No. 15 to No. 25. But since the loss wasn't to a conference opponent, and is so early in the season, Marquette will have plenty of opportunities to redeem itself.

This isn't college football. One loss won't sink a season. Is it embarrassing? Yes, but come Selection Sunday, Marquette's postseason future will be determined by much more significant games.

Now let me interrupt for a short anecdote. Last Monday I was at the Marquette University High School fall and summer sports banquet (don't ask why) when the Hilltoppers' State Champion baseball coach, Jim Wilkinson, gave his spiel as to why the team was so successful.

Wilkinson said that his team lost its second game of the season – a game it shouldn't have lost – but as a result, learned the hard way what its weaknesses were.

Although I thought the Golden Eagles already knew this, it appeared otherwise. But, I'd be willing to be they now know what their weaknesses are.

There are some things that are out of coach Buzz Williams' control. To put it politely, he has a very pedestrian frontcourt. Not his fault. Dwight Burke has been a complete disaster, Patrick Hazel has filled in nicely, but let's face it, he doesn't quite have the skill set to steal the job outright.

On top of that, injuries to newcomers Chris Otule and Joseph Fulce limit Williams' options. The most important statistic that I take out of Saturday's loss is that Marquette's bench was outscored 48-5.

Clearly injuries are hurting the team, but injuries are part of sports. They happen. What Williams has said before, that apparently had not yet registered with his players and will only get worse come conference play, is that they need to defend without fouling. That is what is hurting the Golden Eagles more than injuries.

If Marquette can't get more than 27 combined minutes from Burke and Hazel, then forward Lazar Hayward has to slide over to the five spot. And as made apparent by Saturday – Hayward fouled out after only 24 minutes – playing the five is something he hasn't figured out how to do without fouling.

So maybe the point wasn't quite driven home through the team's first five wins. But maybe it takes something drastic, like losing, to open the players' eyes.

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