Nothing Is Illuminated: No. 17/17 Marquette 63, Southern 56

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette's less-than-impressive victory over Southern on Friday night didn't do very much to answer any of the questions facing YOUR Golden Eagles as they begin the 2013-'14 season.

You'll forgive us, we hope, for the slight delay in posting the officially unofficial recap of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles' decidedly underwhelming victory over the Southern Jaguars -- better known as The Good SWAC Team On The Non-Conference Schedule -- on Friday night. It's just that, even after looking at the tape a couple of times, there's not a whole lot to be gleaned from MU's season-opening effort; there were a whole bunch of question marks and very few known quantities coming into Friday's contest, and after two-and-a-half hours of (frequently whistle-interrupted) play, that really hasn't changed.

I'm not saying that all of the questions should have moved towards resolution in Game 1, nor am I suggesting that it's a good idea to make broad conclusions following 40 minutes of action. (I recall with a mild touch of embarrassment my "VANDER BLUE MIGHT BE THE MOST IMPACTFUL MARQUETTE PLAYER SINCE DWYANE WADE" line following Marquette's victory over another SWAC school -- I think it was Prairie View, but I honestly don't care enough to look it up -- three years ago.) But still: even if it's just for a couple minutes, you'd like to see something in the lidlifter to make you think: "Well, maybe [Problem X] isn't going to be such a big issue after all."

Instead, we got:

THINGS WE ALREADY KNEW

  • Davante Gardner was put on the earth to do two things: score buckets and crush Skittles. And even if his trimmed-down tummy suggests he's doing far less of the latter, the Big Baryshnikov's (that's a ballet reference) footwork and touch around the tin (5-7) and at the line (15-20) is in mid-season form.
  • Todd Mayo can be really good when the spirit moves him. Happily, the stranger who inhabited Todd's body for all but the second half of the Syracuse game in 2013 was nowhere to be found on Friday night. Instead we got Mayo circa 2011, hitting from outside, attacking the rim, cleaning up on the boards for good measure.
  • Jamil Wilson will be the most talented player on the floor in like 90% of Marquette's games this year, which is why I will always be shocked to see a line of 10-7-3 next to his name, because I could've sworn he went for 15 and 10, mostly because I figure he should always go for 15 and 10.
  • The emphasis on "freedom of movement" calls will make the sport almost unwatchable. That was 53 total fouls and 53 free throw attempts for Marquette if you were counting along at home, though if you started bleeding from the ears and went catatonic when MU was in the double bonus with like 12 minutes left in the first half, I completely understand. From where I was sitting, the only good thing about the parade to the foul line was that it gave me plenty of time to talk about the Verve Pipe's "The Freshman" on Twitter, and I was finally able to learn what the hell that song's about. (Young woman has an abortion, takes a bunch of pills, kills herself. Who knew, right?)
THINGS WE STRONGLY SUSPECTED, AND STILL STRONGLY SUSPECT
  • Derrick Wilson's never going to be more than a back-up point guard. (And, just so you know, I was about two seconds away from putting this one in the Things We Already Knew category, but I'm willing to extend the benefit of the doubt for a couple more games.) As his primary skill appears to be not turning the ball over, Derrick is the Game Manager Quarterback of floor generals, which is fine if you're spelling a more dynamic point guard for 10 (or so) minutes a game, but is kind of troublesome when you're being counted on for 25 minutes a night.
  • Jake Thomas isn't a high major player. And I've been racking my brain for two days trying to find a nicer way to say this, since Jake seems like a neat kid and all, but I can't, so here goes: he just doesn't do *anything* well. For those of you who've been following the MU program for a few years, the best analogy I can offer: he's freshman-year Scott Christopherson (can't create his own looks, can't play point guard, big liability on defense, looks like he's running in cement), only he can't shoot.
  • Juan Anderson doesn't really have a role. He was (I think) the fourth or fifth guy off the bench (and I'm not sure if that's an upgrade over last year's "starts each half, plays three minutes, gets subbed out for Jamil and never comes back"), bricked a three-point attempt, didn't score, and turned the ball over three times in 11 minutes. Eep.
THINGS WE DIDN'T KNOW AND STILL DON'T KNOW
  • Can any of the freshmen contribute? Deonte Burton's certainly got the body to play right away (and his cold-blooded, step-back 18-footer had visions of Darius Johnson-Odom dancing in my head), and JaJuAn Johnson (note: I'm calling him JaJuAn because nobody appears to have any freaking clue which letters in first name are capitalized; is it JaJuan, or Jajuan, or jajuan?) has the pedigree, and John Dawson's going to get run simply by necessity, but the lasting image from the Southern game is going to be the lot of them getting yanked off the court with a minute left when they couldn't bleed out the last two minutes of the clock and Southern cut the lead to seven.
The inaugural run of awards, then:

Jae Crowder Player of the Year of the Game: I'm sure the Ox will be on the receiving end of plenty of Crowders this year, so we'll note Davante Gardner's 25-point effort but give the nod to Todd Mayo's 20-point, 5-rebound, 2-steal, 1-block effort with the hope there's a lot more where that came from.

Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: We haven't mentioned Steve Taylor, Jr. yet, so we'll rectify that post haste. Any time you snag five rebounds in just 12 minutes of action (including two on the offensive glass), you're a shoe-in for the Fulce.

Davante "Big Smoove" Gardner Smoove Play of the Game: There's not a whole lot to choose from when the team scores half its points from the charity stripe and shoots 36% from the field, so we're forced to go off the court and give the Smoovie to the brave young man who proposed to his lady on the Jumbotron during a media time out.

Up Next: Remember how I said at the beginning of the recap that Southern was the Good SWAC Team on the schedule? Next up is the Magnificently Awful SWAC Team: Grambling State, which hasn't won a game in more than a calendar year and is fresh off a thirty-point dumptrucking by DePaul over the weekend.
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