Where do we start when we're talking about this?
Do we start with this fact: there are 351 teams that play Division I college basketball, which means that (as a conservative estimate) there's somewhere around 3500 Division I college basketball players, many (if not most, if not damn near every one) of whom were stand-outs for their high school (or prep) teams. Of those 3500 players, let's say (again: conservative estimate) that 1500 or so are guards, those players who typically make their living 10+ feet from the basket. Logically, when one spends a good chunk of his time 10+ feet away from the basket, you'd figure that one might be capable of, y'know, occasionally throwing the ball into the hoop from a distance. At the very least, you'd figure, there should be a couple dozen players every year who possess that skill.
So how is it that Marquette, high-caliber program that it is, hasn't been able to find a single guy out of the thousands who sign up to play Division I basketball every year WHO CAN MAKE A ****ING JUMPER for two years now?
Do we start with this? Marquette, perhaps because the voters saw all the returning faces on the roster, perhaps because the voters have seen the wonders Buzz Williams has worked with misfit crews before and figured he was certain to do it again, perhaps because the voters drew names out of a hat, was picked to finish at the top of the reborn Big East this season. And yet: by a comfortable margin, YOUR Golden Eagles appear to feature the worst starting backcourt in the conference.
Coach Buzz's "the team he's on always wins in practice" laurels notwithstanding (and by the way: did anyone think to ask Coach if that's because the other point guard's leg is cracked?), a team that starts Derrick Wilson at point guard seems destined to tread water. That became strikingly -- and terrifyingly -- evident in the second half of the Ohio State debacle, when the Buckeyes gave every MU opponent the blueprint on how to guard Wilson: sag into the lane, don't bother coming out near the three-point line, dare him to shoot, and then play 5-on-4 when he misses and stops looking for his shot and has no room to even attempt coming into the paint.
And that's not even to mention the other side of the court, where (we're constantly told) Wilson does his best work. Because even if that's true, the value of having an excellent on-ball defender is largely cancelled when you play zone for 75% of the game (because, again, nobody in the game can make a goddamned jumper). Zone defense, you'll remember, is for cowards. Zone defense is for the lazy, unthinking Boeheim drones in Syracuse. Zone defense is where you're able to hide weak links.
And do we talk about the weak links now? Do we note, as we're contractually obligated to do, that Jake Thomas seems like a terrific young man who'd help you change your oil or rake your lawn or grab your toddler by the scruff of the neck if he tried to run into the street, as if that has something to do with the persistent and pesky fact that he can't play high major Division I basketball? Do we point out that Thomas, after going 0-6 against OSU, is now shooting TWELVE PERCENT -- an astounding 4-33 -- on 3-point attempts against non-pastry opponents in the last two years? That his primary skill is right there in the description of the position he plays -- shooting guard -- and yet, we've now reached the point where we have toss in some scare quotes -- "shooting" guard -- to make it accurate?
Do we start talking about the coach now? Do we acknowledge, again, as we're contractually obligated to do, that Coach Buzz always has a method to his madness, that although we probably can't see the reason why Jajuan Johnson didn't get a minute of run when Thomas and Todd Mayo imploded on Saturday, he must know what he's doing? Or do we wonder if maybe, for the moment, he's in the weeds right now, just as lost as we are, and he was dumbfounded and awestruck and maybe a little paralyzed on Saturday when his team turned in the clunker to end all clunkers? (Also: do we point out of the simple math that's required to solve the "I don't know how you're supposed to play 11 guys when there's only 200 minutes in the game" dilemma that he mentioned in the post-game presser?)
Do we question whether the game's always been a little too easy for Jamil Wilson, a cat who's more athletic and more talented than 90% of the kids in DI but too often plays like he knows it? Do we ask: how in the hell is Davante Gardner going to score the 15+ points his team needs from him on a nightly basis when he's being swarmed under by opponents who don't have to worry about him kicking the ball out to open shooters? Do we tell ourselves not to make too much of Steve Taylor, Jr. getting the Juan Anderson in 2012-'13 treatment in the second half?
Where do we start, then? Or do we just start by thanking God that it ended?
Jae Crowder Player of the Year of the Game: When the best thing you can say about any of the nine players who saw action was "well, at least Todd Mayo played really hard while he shot and turnover'd us out of the game," it's probably time to leave this award vacant.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Steve Taylor had nine rebounds. So we've got that going for us. Yaaaaaay.
Davante "Big Smoove" Gardner Smoove Play of the Game: I haven't mentioned it yet, so now's as good as time as any: Jim Burr is still a college basketball official, a fact which is made all the more breathtaking by the NCAA's decision to enforce freedom of movement rules and to crack down on defensive players sliding under offensive players in attempting to draw charges. Simply put: Jim Burr had no idea what a charge was before they changed the rules, and, as I said on Twitter during the game (and which I'll slightly amend now), asking him to figure out what a charge is now is asking someone who has shown that he can't do long division to take a crack at calculus.
This has all been a very long way of saying: Burr's charge call on Davante Gardner, where Ox backed down an Ohio State player who then flopped the floppiest flop of all time, might have been the high point in the comedy of errors that was the first half. That or the Ohio State player missing a layup in the warmup lines before the second half.
Up Next: New Hampshire, better known as That State In The Northeast That I Always Forget About. I hear they've got uniforms and everything, and if we're lucky, maybe they'll bring a wrench to pry the lids off the baskets at the BC.