Let's just rip the band-aid right off, shall we?
"The light switch turned on" is a metaphor that we like to use a lot in sports. Most often, we use it to refer to that moment when a talented-but-previously-rudderless group *finally* got oriented in the right direction, when the group collectively realized: "This is how we have to play ball. This is the only way it's going to work."
We've trotted out this metaphor a few times during Marquette's agonizing 2013-'14 season, seizing on those few happy occasions when the team seemed to put things together for a handful of minutes, or for a half of basketball. We thought the frantic final minutes in Madison might have been the start of something new, and when that proved not to be the case, we thought maybe the switch flipped in the last 10 minutes against DePaul. Or maybe Xavier. Or maybe the first half against Seton Hall.
But, as they proved once again in their latest debacle against Butler on Saturday, this particular metaphor doesn't work for YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles. There's no light switch here. There's only a tire with a slow leak.
That's the best metaphor I can come up with: Marquette can mask its problems for short stretches of time, but that's all the extent of the fix. The holes are still there, and given enough time, the wheel is going to go flat again -- just like it did against Ohio State. And Arizona State. And San Diego State. And Wisconsin. And Xavier. And just like it will against Georgetown on Monday, and Providence after that, and probably DePaul on the road.
The really disconcerting thing, of course, is that Marquette has Buzz Williams, someone who's proven himself incredibly adept at working with whatever parts he's given to create a serviceable team. This year, for whatever reason, that's not the case. This is easily Coach Buzz's worst coaching job in his five-plus years on the job; I'm not sure what other conclusion you can reach after watching the team attempt and miss 10 (TEN!) three-point shots in the second half a week after putting up a similar goose-egg in the second half against Seton Hall a week earlier.
I mean, honestly: what the hell does this crew work on in practice? We don't run an offense. Inbounds plays consist of chucking the ball to the halfcourt stripe, then bleeding 25 seconds off the clock. We feed the post (at least in the first half), but then generally forget about moving when Gardner or Otule have the ball. Our end-of-game play against Butler was a contested 3-pointer from Todd Mayo with 12 seconds left, and let's ignore the fact that Mayo got hacked on that attempt and remember that OUR END-OF-GAME PLAY AGAINST BUTLER WAS A CONTESTED 3-POINTER FROM TODD MAYO WITH TWELVE SECONDS LEFT.
And that is to say nothing of the display we saw in the last minute of overtime, when Coach Buzz inexplicably insisted on fouling with 30 seconds left and his team down 10, when Jake Thomas intentionally fouled (as in was whistled for a flagrant foul, not the usual end of game fouling) Butler’s worst free throw shooter when he was nowhere near the ball, and when Jamil Wilson, in what was perhaps the perfect vignette of his season, fouled out of the game with four seconds left by picking up a technical foul and a common foul after pushing Marshall out of bounds with two hands in the back on a free throw. This was DePaul-level Clownfraudery, and to see Coach Buzz encourage it was distressing, to say the least.
So the tire with the slow leak rolls into Washington, D.C. next, and I imagine the script will be much the same: Derrick Wilson will play close to 40 minutes, and so will Jake Thomas, and Ox and Otule will get the ball a bunch in the early stages of the game and then we’ll stop looking in their direction with about 12 minutes to go, and we’ll wonder what Deonte Burton or Juan Anderson or Steve Taylor has to do to see 10 minutes of action.
And Coach Buzz will refuse to use a timeout to try to snuff out a run, because he’s apparently the last one to realize that this isn’t a crew that’s programmed to "play through it." And we’ll score like six points over a ten minutes stretch and wonder: "What else does he need to see? Why are we playing the same broken record again and again?"
Maybe we should just start drinking now.
Jae Crowder Player of the Year of the Game: Jake Thomas made two free throws with 4 seconds left to force overtime. That represented the closest thing to clutch that Marquette’s shown this year. So: bully for Jake, I guess.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Chris Otule didn’t have one of his more impressive games, but he gets the nod here for giving a brief bit of business to Jim Burr after the Drunken Hobbit whistled a phantom foul. Burr either barked or burped something in Chris’ general direction, which was by far the most entertaining thing that happened in the second half.
Davante "Big Smoove" Gardner Smoove Play of the Game: With Butler having "roared" (and we use that term in the loosest possible sense as it took them nearly six full minutes to go on a 10-2 run) back to tie the game, Marquette called a timeout to set up Thomas for a three-point look from the wing. He airballed the shot, Derrick Wilson got the rebound, and somehow decided it would be a good idea to quickly give Jake another attempt from the same spot. He, um, missed again. Badly.
Up Next: The road doesn’t get any easier, as YOUR Golden Eagles venture to the District of Columbia to battle the equally-starcrossed Georgetown Hoyas, who spent their Saturday blowing a second-half lead to Seton Hall.