On Saturday afternoon, Marquette pulled off what I believe is one of the five best wins of the Wojo era. It wasn’t necessarily the number next to Kansas State’s name that convinced me of this, though, as I think the Wildcats will be around the back end of the Top 25 by the year’s end. What cemented this as such a statement win for me was the way the entire team played. The gameplan was executed to perfection in all phases of the game, and Marquette clearly showed that they were the better team. This wasn’t the case in the Louisville win a couple weeks ago. What this team showed on Saturday was a perfect vision of our preseason expectations.
One more thing: Bruce Weber just sucks. Dean Wade at his best is our pipe dream of Joey Hauser as a senior. He’s a lights out shooter (over 40% from three in his last two seasons) in addition to being an elite ball handler and passer for his 6’10” frame. Weber has completely neutered him and this game was a perfect example. Marquette wasn’t necessarily obsessed with denying him touches and the ball still barely found his hands. Even when Wade had isolation opportunities with space he’d just pass it out. Part of that is his lack of a killer instinct, but the coaching is doing him zero favors. I just had to rant on this before anything else because K-State’s offense should be so much better than what it actually is, but I’ll talk about Marquette’s role in this later.
1. We Finally Found Last Year’s Version Of Sacar Anim
Markus Howard was the belle of the ball on Saturday, make no mistake. I can’t expand on this, because when I was knighted as an official writer of this prestigious blog I took a solemn oath to only write about things we learned in this format. As much as I would love to drool over yet another dominating performance by the greatest Marquette scorer since Dwyane Wade, he didn’t do anything that we haven’t seen before.
What we did see for the first time this year was a guard not named Howard or Hauser who could create his own shot. Kansas State’s defense from the opening tip was centered on not letting Howard get any space. As has been the case in every game so far, the offense needed someone else to step up. For the first time, that was Sacar Anim.
Anim had a disappointing start to the year, to say the least. Despite a major gap in the scoring department leaving with Andrew Rowsey, Anim hadn’t taken any steps to take what’s his. He took a major step in the right direction with his performance on Saturday, scoring 16 mostly unassisted points. Once he showed that he can still effectively drive to the bucket and finish strong, the K-State guards were forced to pay attention to something other than Howard. Markus played out of his damn mind, but a good chunk of his points came as a result of other options existing on the floor. If this continues, the offense will look mighty similar to what we were used to last year.
2. This Team Is Good
For the time being, I’m comfortable saying that the Indiana loss is an exception. Since that game, they played Perfectly Fine against Kansas, gutted out a win against a Better Than Expected Louisville, and undressed an Overrated But Still Quite Good Kansas State. To me, that washes out the Embarrassment In Bloomington and the team is performing as we expected them to in the preseason.
While the offense still needs work finding their supporting cast, the defense continues to impress beyond what any of us could have hoped for. Joseph Chartouny has proven himself to be a lockdown defender at the point of attack and attempts at the rim are being choked out all over the place by the interior bigs.
Against the legitimate non-conference threats this team has faced so far, they are 2-2. With Wisconsin and Buffalo left, winning at least 1 makes a Big East title run and a good seed in the tournament a legitimate possibility. The way they played against Kansas State gives us a good gauge of how they can perform at their best, which is good enough to beat any of the teams left on the schedule.
3. LOL College Refs
My god. Just....what was that? I get calling a game tight, but that was unbearable to watch. The game lasted close to 3 hours because simple dribble handoffs were called offensive fouls for some reason. While Kansas State fans appear to have more to gripe about since 2 of their starters fouled out, both teams were hit hard with fouls.
I can’t even begin to describe the absurdity of the two technical fouls called in the first half, so I will now begin to describe the absurdity of the two technical fouls called in the first half. While Barry Brown definitely grabbed onto Markus Howard for his initial foul call, nothing about his jump afterwards indicated anything but standard frustration towards a call. I just don’t understand how a profession designed to employ thick-skinned people can employ people that are so thin-skinned. Even if Brown did employ the 12 letter expletive, as long as he wasn’t starting directly at the referee while saying it, it probably shouldn’t have warranted ringing him up.
Fine, whatever. Maybe the heat of the game got to the refs’ heads. It happens. If they were to just call the rest of game like normal then we’ll forget about it by halftime. It wasn’t. It was called tighter. Tighter to the point that Sam Hauser was called for a foul on an attempted alley oop in which approximately -1% contact was made. It was such a clean play by Sam that if the refs had called goaltending, it would have been a better call. Hauser’s frustration was a little more muted than Brown’s, but frustration was shown nonetheless and an equally absurd technical was called.
The craziest concept in sports is the make-up call. Officials are not that important to the game, and whistles don’t cause the ball to go in the basket. To think that one horrible call in the first half so massively turns the tide of the game to the point that a separate horrible call must be made to restore the balance in the universe is egotistical and asinine.
This doesn’t even get into the shouting match that one of the referees got into with people in the stands when they went to the monitor for a replay in the second half.
The way the game was called definitely did change the course of the game, but not in a way that teams can’t be expected to adjust. While it doesn’t de-legitimize the win, the game still wasn’t called properly and it made for a terrible product. If I didn’t have a rooting interest I would have turned it off at the half.