Golden Eagles talk Sweet Sixteen, Miami and Hamburger Helper

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Marquette coach Buzz Williams has claimed his team “isn’t very good” throughout the NCAA basketball season. Today before local media at the Al McGuire Center, he finally shed some light on that logic.

“I don’t think I’m very good, but that’s part of my edge,” Williams said. “Maybe your opinion of good is different from my opinion of good. I’ve had Hamburger Helper before, and I’ve had filet before, and I prefer filet, but I’m definitely not scared to have Hamburger Helper. It depends on what your perspective is on those two things.”

Williams referred to outside perspectives of his team by chronicling its journey to a third straight Sweet Sixteen appearance.

He reminded his audience that at the beginning of the season, Marquette was picked to finish seventh in the Big East. The Golden Eagles ended up winning 14 conference games and taking a share of the conference title.

He reminded his audience that though Marquette was granted a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament, their 14th-seeded opponent, Davidson, was widely considered a “Cinderella update.” The Golden Eagles would go on to beat the Wildcats and Butler in the second and third rounds.

He stated that “everyone’s picking them (Miami) to win” Thursday’s contest in Washington, D.C. Junior guard Vander Blue later mentioned a “Sweet Sixteen reseeding” column on that ranked the Golden Eagles last.

“And so, are we good?” Williams said. “I guess it depends on who you ask. I guess it depends on what you think ‘good’ is.”

Williams compared this year’s sweet squad to the last two.

“I think the togetherness and the chemistry of this group is superior to the other two,” Williams said. “I think we were better against Florida (in 2012) than we were against North Carolina (in 2011), and I hope we’ll be better against Miami than we were against Florida.”

Williams said his team has displayed a different attitude from last season’s group due to a better understanding of what to expect.

“I think the reaction of our guys after the Butler game was much more mature than it was last year after beating Murray State,” Williams said. “When you get where there are only 16 teams left playing…everybody is at an elite level, and everybody’s playing for a national championship. Everybody understands that you’re 16 media timeouts away from playing in the Final Four.”

Blue spoke to that change in mindset. As a player who saw time in both the North Carolina and Florida games, he showed an understanding of what’s at stake.

“This opportunity that we have right now is not normal; it’s rare,” Blue said. “We really have a chance. I’m just breaking it down, like, eighty minutes to the Final Four. I just don’t want to go home. I know our team doesn’t want to go home.”

Senior forward Trent Lockett echoed Blue’s desire to advance farther than Marquette has since 2003.

“By no means are we content with the Sweet Sixteen,” Lockett said. “I think that’s the biggest thing we have to carry into this game. Yes, the Sweet Sixteen is great, but it’s not our goal.”

The Hurricanes, meanwhile, advanced to their first Sweet Sixteen since 2000 in their first NCAA appearance under Head Coach Jim Larranaga. Williams was quick to praise Miami’s performance and talent.

“They’ve been the story of the year and rightfully so,” Williams said. “The job that their coach has done since he took over there with the players that were there; signing Shane Larkin in late summer, winning 13 games in a row in the ACC, winning the league, winning the (ACC) tournament. I think it’s incredible what they’ve accomplished in the time that they’ve been there.”

Blue said the Golden Eagles’ advantage over Miami comes from the work they’ve collectively put in from the very beginning of the season.

“I feel like no team does ‘boot camp’ the way we do, and no team works in individual workouts the way we do,” Blue said. “We all know that Buzz is a different type of coach in that regard. It all comes out during the game. We don’t bow down. Buzz put all that in us.”

Lockett talked about the team’s conditioning, and its presence in the previous two rounds.

“It’s shown in the tournament that we’ve really worn down teams late in games,” Lockett said. “That’s because of the work we were doing in October and November. It feels good to see it pay off in that way.”

Being the tougher, better conditioned team has served Marquette well in a string of recent down-to-the-wire finishes. Williams said his team’s tendency to come from behind and succeed in high-pressure scenarios could help it going forward.

“I think that the more of those situations that you’re in, the more comfortable you feel,” Williams said. “We’ve played in more of those in our tenure here than any other team. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to win, but it probably trends in the right direction that you understand what’s at stake.”