GROVER: Winds of change push MU to fast start

Welcome back. Winter is a strange time around Marquette University. There’s a collective moment that occurs on campus sometime in the next few weeks where everyone wonders why they’re not studying dolphins or something in Hawaii instead. Me, I’m just in it for the wind chill.

Yes, conference play has started for the men’s basketball team, and it would be fair to say the Golden Eagles have experienced some unfavorable winds. Currently sitting at 2-3 and 12th in the Big East, this is a team that just as easily could be 5-0 right now and ranked top 15 in the nation.

But it isn’t. Marquette has suffered such a heartbreaking run of losses to top-10 teams that there’s already talk of turning it into a daytime movie starring Sir Ben Kingsley as coach Buzz Williams.

Free throws and turnovers. Free throws and turnovers. You see, it bears repeating because of how critical these things have been. These losses have not happened because of a lack of hustle. Or size disparity. Or Jeronne Maymon’s departure (more on that later). Or any other distraction. Marquette has proven that it can run with just about anybody for 39 minutes. But in that final minute, it has paid for mental missteps.

Do I think Marquette will finish in 12th place in the Big East? Certainly not. If anything, the team has proven how good it is. If only you could go up in the polls for losses. The Georgetown win and the dismantling of Providence show that this team is clearly in the upper echelon of the Big East. The Golden Eagles have run through the toughest part of their schedule and almost came out smelling like roses. Sure, there are some tough games still ahead, but that’s the Big East. No worries, victories will be had. And before it’s all said and done, this rotation of seven or eight players that has greatly exceeded expectations will likely be an NCAA tournament team. And a team that no one will want to play.

Back in December while everyone was busy with finals, Williams’ already-too-short rotation took another hit when freshman Jeronne Maymon unexpectedly decided to leave Marquette for greener pastures, which I guess are found in Tennessee, because that’s where he’s going.

The problem arose over Maymon’s playing time and preferred position. Apparently, he was not playing enough and wanted to play a 2-guard or a 3 instead of being used as a 4. What Maymon failed to realize is that an undersized Marquette team doesn’t really have positions. Everyone is about the same size, and without any established big men, everyone plays every position. Oops.

Maymon was always going to be a project, and going in I think Buzz knew that. He reminded me of a young, unpolished Lazar Hayward-type, a guy that could become an interior presence and boss people around in the lane. He did NOT remind me of an outside shooter who could play the 2 or 3. For the life of me, I cannot even remember one time where he made a basket from outside of eight feet.

But it doesn’t matter now, anyway. Shortly after a loss to rival Wisconsin Badgers, Maymon quit and walked out on his teammates. Plain and simple. And now the unpolished guy who wanted more minutes at Marquette is heading to a Tennessee team that’s currently ranked eighth in the nation and is bringing in a top-10 recruiting class.

Best of luck getting those minutes and playing the off-guard, Jeronne. I think you’re going to need it.