It's been a little more than 24 hours since YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles claimed a share of the Big East regular-season title with a last-second, 69-67 win over St. John's in the world's most famous arena.
I still don't know what to say.
After the game was over, Coach Buzz made headlines when he told reporters that he feels the media coverage afforded the team is completely out of proportion vis-a-vis its accomplishments. In the past, I know he's been cheesed off when people focus acutely (or, to be more accurate, exclusively) on how hard Marquette plays. The thing is, though: it's kind of hard to write (or speak) at length about this year's MU team. I think that's true for a couple of reasons: for one, and with all due respect for Vander Blue's evolution this season, there's no singular star in this unit -- no Otto Porter, no Russ Smith, no Shabazz Napier or Bryce Cotton or [insert wildly talented and grossly underachieving Syracuse player here]. For another, there isn't really an easy way to explain, statistically or otherwise, why Marquette has been so successful this year -- Marquette doesn't have Georgetown's boa constrictor defense, or Louisville's swarm-of-gnats press or limitless depth, or Pitt's ridiculous efficiency on both ends of the court.
Nope: Marquette just finds a way to win game after game after game, which reduces people to talking about heart and guts and toughness and the other cliches you trot out when you can't figure out another way to put "I'll be damned, they did it again" into print.
In that way, it's probably fitting that the game against St. John's played out the way that it did: with the Johnnies threatening to run Marquette off the floor in the early part of the first half, and Marquette clawing its way back to claim a three-point halftime lead, and then giving away all of a nine-point advantage in the last minute and thirty, and finally having Vander Blue hit that gorgeous, brilliant, inspired, rabbit-from-a-hat-only-he-totally-planned-it-that-way bank shot that touched every part of the rim before dropping through the net. It was, when you looked back at it, the latest and greatest damndest-thing in a season chock full of them.
I understand how all of the "how in the hell did they do this?" talk comes across as disrespectful, and why it would put a hefty chip on the shoulders of Coach Buzz and Company. It makes it seem like Marquette fluked its way into 14 Big East wins, like they somehow didn't earn the trophy that came back to Milwaukee yesterday. But that's not it (not for me, anyway). It's just ... it's just amazing, in the purest sense of that word, and when we ask: "how in the hell did they do this?", it's only because we're having a hard time believing it's real.
Anyway, we don't have to worry about finding a convenient shorthand to describe this whole-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts squad, the one that wins even when we can't figure out how to explain how they're doing it.
We can just call 'em CHAMPS now.
NEW TO THE RECAP: Vander Blue Grown Ass Man of the Game: Take a wild guess.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: If we're really just scratching the surface with Steve Taylor Jr., who scored six points and snared SEVEN rebounds in just 12 minutes of run yesterday, we are in for a treat of ice cream cake proportions over the next three years.
Davante "Big Smoove" Gardner Smoove Play of the Game: Go watch the video again, but this time, listen to Homer's call while you do.
Up Next: A well-deserved double-bye through the first two rounds of the Big East Tournament, and then the most wonderful week of the year: the last go-round for the Big East v.1.5 at the Garden, and then the Dance.