The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

GROVER: Men’s season a beautiful letdown

There were a bunch of degenerates at my high school who used to gamble on coin flips. These guys would be betting 10, 20 bucks and sometimes more on just the toss of a quarter, and they would do it anywhere: at the lunch table, in the hallways, even in the middle of class. Stay classy, guys. At least you get free soda at Potowatomi.

Did you know that this season, Marquette men’s basketball played more games decided by four points or less than any other team  in the NCAA? It’s true. Sixteen games. They went 8-8 in them. That’s great effort, but in the real world of Division I sports, there is no partial credit.

So when Washington’s Quincy Pondexter, a 53 percent shooter on the season, got isolated on Jimmy Butler as the seconds slipped away, Marquette’s advancement was a 50/50 proposition. Pondexter got a step and beat Butler to the left block, and that was that. Season over.

It’s easy to point fingers. Darius Johnson-Odom should have caught the ball. Lazar missed an open three. Defensive rebounding turned transparent. And these things, while true, are unfair. No one person is to blame. Winning or losing is a team effort, always.

This might have been the most interesting — and improbable — Marquette team ever. Look at the dynamics. An unproven coach, riding high off the silver spoon of three of Marquette’s all-time statistical leaders, finally getting a chance to develop his own talent. An undersized leader, the last vestige of the Crean era, putting a team on his red, rusted Radio Flyer and lugging them around all season long. The smallest starting five you’ve ever seen. A large group of unknown juco transfers. It’s surprising that Marquette was so competitive in the first place.

The voters gave Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim the Big East Coach of the Year during the conference tournament, and what a bunch of crap that was. He is a great coach, but that is a team built for a national title. They have it all. Hell, I could coach them successfully enough.

On the contrary, I could not be more impressed with the work of Buzz Williams. His accomplishments this year far overshadow last year’s, despite college basketball’s noticeably weaker overall talent pool. He deserved Big East Coach of the Year. Imagine what he’d be able to do with healthy players and the best recruiting class since 2005.

After the Washington game, my friend Billy said it best: “Great season, one I’ll remember for a long time.” He was right. The memories are infinite. The heartbreaking losses. The unbelievable wins. The emergence of DJO. The maturation and game-winners of Jimmy Butler. And my favorite, Buzz walking it out against Louisville.

One of the floors they will use in the Final Four was built by a local Milwaukee company, and they unveiled it yesterday morning on campus. Naturally, I overslept. But as I walked to class later, there was the floor, loaded in a truck behind the AMU. And as I stared at the truck, envisioning its contents and the destination it was soon headed, it made me think.

College basketball is about the journey you take. There are so many teams, things aren’t supposed to go your way, and they hardly do. That’s what makes it so special when it actually happens. Let me put on my Billy Pilgrim hat:

“So it goes.”

It was another first-round loss that wasn’t supposed to happen in the first place. It was a great season. And as I turned my back on the truck and walked away, I thought, if only the coin had landed the other way.

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