For those of you that come here for Marquette coverage

>> Sunday

Late last night I said to myself, "Vinnie, you know what I could go for right now? A huge annoyance. It's been a while since I intentionally levied a big pile of irritation on you. Why don't we click over to Cracked Sidewalks and check out some postgame reaction to the MU loss."

And of course, I listened to the manipulative bastard. What I read in the comments section of the postgame thread was exactly what I expected--boorish critics with a delusional sense of entitlement coming out of the woodwork to bash Crean, bash the players, and second-guess.

I decided to leave a comment, which I figured I'd repost here--partly because it turned out longer than a lot of our posts. And since we post so little as it is, I'd hate to have any of my precious few sports-related words not appear on this blog.

But mostly, I wanted to post it as a pre-emptive rebuttal to any of the Crean-bashers / player-bashers that might show up here. (The first part, actually, is a direct rebuttal to people who criticized Crean/Burke for letting Lopez get too easy of a shot on the last play.) And even if you're not a Marquette fan, I think the comment makes a point that's relevant to a lot of college basketball fanbases. So here it is:

Ummm... Since when is anyone's "favorite spot on the floor" falling out of bounds toward the baseline and shooting from behind the plane of the backboard? And apparently, some of you were too busy proofreading your list of Tom Crean grievances to catch Burke forcing Lopez into a couple wild fallaway jumpers late in the game. Going by the reactions here, I'd have guessed Lopez shot 90% from the field if I hadn't watched the game.

Was I baffled and frustrated by Jerel's threeball at the end of regulation? Of course. But he's also the biggest reason we had a chance to win there. Also consider a) it was a pretty good look, b) it eliminates the chance for a buzzer heave to beat us, and c) we'd been offensive rebounding very well, so a putback off a long rebound was a plausible outcome. And of course, if the shot drops, we're all running the streets kissing strangers and clicking our heels instead of criticizing the decision.

That's not to say I entirely condone the threeball, nor the fact that we chucked up 29 others, but I also like to think that they treated us to a phenomenal game and a tremendously entertaining and successful style of ball all year. (The Georgetown game was the best live game atmosphere I've ever been a part of, and if that counts for nothing in your mind, you should stop watching sports.) Honestly--Why can't it ever just be, "The circumstances didn't pan out as I hoped, and I'm sad over the outcome." Why does someone always have to be blamed? Not everything in life is someone's "fault." It's ok to admit you're sad over something you can't control. Go have a good cry or play with your dog or whatever it is you need to do. But don't get all hostile toward Tom Crean or toward whomever else on the team because it's unfair to them, and it's bad for your health.

And guess what--You know how many teams appear in the Final Four each year? That's right--four. But I don't know... Maybe the committee should be, like, "Hey, your school won a championship in the '70s. For that, you get a 1-seed and a free pass to the Final Four each year." In fact, they should do that for all teams with any history of success whatsoever. Especially UTEP. I mean, shit, they had a movie made about their championship team. Every year, we could have 57 teams in the Final Four, all coached by Rick Pitino. They'd play one huge game with 30 basketballs (plus 5 moneyballs) in a six-acre warehouse. There'd still only be two baskets, but you'd have "safety pods" at different spots on the floor, and the team who occupied the most pods when "Pop Goes the Weasel" ends would win. I think then, and only then, would every college fanbase get what they "expect" from their program.

My point being: We should totally fire Crean and bring in Coach K. I'm sure he'd leave Duke in a heartbeat. Plus, he's an awesome game coach. Just look at his last four tournament games. I mean, if we're willing to judge Crean that way, why not Coach K? Wait--he's 1-3 with that only win being a one-point win over Belmont? Well, shit. Fire him too then, and hire Belmont's coach.


Henry Sugar 11:02 AM  

What I read in the comments section of the postgame thread was exactly what I expected--Crean-bashing, player-bashing, second-guessing, a delusional sense of entitlement, and other general nonsense.
There's a lot of that going on, and frankly, I hate it. But please don't characterize all of the comments from Cracked Sidewalks that way.

Iain 11:32 AM  

I don't know how you can say Crean should be fired after that game. This has been an imprssive season for MU, hopefully leading to bigger and better things in the future. Like you said MU can't really make a coaching change that would be an improvement, and would lose the school credit in the eyes of recuits. One drunk in the bar I was at said Crean would probally leave soon, suggesting Notre Dame as a possible place to move to. I don't see this a a move up for him, nor do I see any place opening up that would be a better situation for Crean. I for one whould be happy to see Tom Crean around for many years. I think he has become a better in game coach in the past couple of years, he is better able to recuit the players he is looking for thaks to the recent successes and the move the to Big East. The place the school is at and is a good position, not going to be top of the conference every year, but that isn't a big deal being in one of the top 2 conferences every year.

Vinnie 12:36 PM  

Henry--I definitely did not intend to insinuate that your readers are a bunch of over-reactive clowns--especially since almost all of the people leaving ridiculous comments were "Anonymous" commenters who've probably never commented on your site before but were just looking for a sounding board to vent their anger. But the way I wrote it definitely reads like I meant it that way. My apologies, Mr. Sugar. (Out of curiosity--Are you always wearing a fedorah and chomping on a huge cigar like ESPN boxing historian Bert Sugar? That would be awesome.)

Patrick 1:43 PM  

Iain, I totally have to agree with you. One, Mike Brey isn't going anywhere anytime soon and two, why would Crean leave Milwaukee for South Bend???

If Tom wouldn't take the Illinois job or the rumored Kentucky job, I highly doubt he is going anywhere in the near future especially with the players that will likely return next year. They are a bona-fide top 5 team in 2008-09 if the three stay.

Now, everyone on this board knows how aggravated Crean's in-game management at-times cost them big games in the past. But he has gotten much better over the past couple of years. Remember he is still a young guy still essentially learning the vast intricacies of the game. Is he a Coach K? No, but he certainly could be in the future especially with the way he recruits.

People need to stop bashing this team and realize that this is COLLEGE basketball played by 18-22 year olds. Its not like they tried to lose that game. They played their asses off and lets applaud that effort instead of tearing them down. Granted we were on the wrong side of the coin flip and it is in essence heartbreaking, but think how the players, especially seniors feel about the loss. Lets praise them for a fantastic and intriguing season and give them credit for playing what will likely be one of the most memorable college basketball games that we will ever see.

Henry Sugar 1:59 PM  

Thanks, Vinnie. And that would be excellent indeed if I always wore a fedora and had a big cigar (in fact I may just do that).

I always figured people thought I looked like Herbert Kornfeld...

Matt 2:20 PM  

Mourn ya till I join ya, Henry.

Also, you're right. I was as pissed off as anyone at the end of the game, but when it comes down to it, we played our balls off against a team that on paper should have run us out of the gym. Burke, James, McNeal and Mattthews played about as well as they ever have and we fell juuuuust short in an attempt to knock off a better team. Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you.

Also, fuck Brook and Robin Lopez. Those two seem like real fucking cocknockers.

Mike 7:31 PM  

The thing that I think we're seeing is a lot of people who jumped on board when the team went to the Final Four. People have come to expect performances like that, irregardless of where MU was 10 years ago or even three years ago (Flaming out in the first round of the NIT at home against Western Michigan).

But five years out from the Final Four run, let's take a look back at history. That Marquette team was far from a great team. It barely got by Holy Cross in the first round, needed overtime to beat Mizzou, only beat Pitt by a possession or two, admittedly whomped the shit out of Kentucky, but what goes around comes around and they got killed by Kansas.

In conclusion, one great win, three nailbiters, and one of the more humiliating losses in MU history.

As bad as it felt watching the last shot drop through Saturday night, and realizing that a Christian Laettner-style miracle was probably not going to happen, even the most rah-rah team spirit MU fan has to admit that 64 out of 65 teams in the NCAA tournament lose their last game. You don't bitch and moan and point fingers when your number doesn't come up in roulette, and that's with nearly twice as good a chance of winning.

Zuch 11:42 PM  

That 2003 team was actually really damn good Mike (in fact, I'd argue better than Kentucky, as SEC was just as bad as C-USA that year). You have an NBA star, another guy who has started a lot in his third season, and probably the best shooter I have ever seen in college basketball. Also, you had two big guys who have played solid professional ball (Jackson in Europe, Merritt in D-League). After winning at Freedom Hall, I predicted a Final Four run and going through Pitt and Kentucky did not surprise.

However, we were spoiled to have that good of a team in Crean's second season with primarily his guys, and actually I think these last three years have been the true foundation of our program becoming a consistent top 25 team most years. While next season could be a transitional one if James leaves (think similar to Nova this season, minus the improbable luck they've had in NCAA's), I think we should be a consistent upper division Big East club with Crean most years.

Patrick 11:17 AM  

Yeah that 2003 team was pretty damn good and probably wouldn't have gotten smoked by Kansas had they not partied all weekend. They beat a very good Holy Cross team, a dangerous Missouri team, and a 2 seeded Pitt team. That Marquette team a very good, and could be argued for underachieving by not making the Kansas game more competitive.

That said, I doubt James will go the NBA. What team wants a 5-10 guard who can't shoot very well? Expect all three back next year.

Mike 11:23 PM  

I'm not saying the 2003 Final Four team wasn't good or that their accomplishment was to be diminished. Far from it. Looking at that team, a lot of schools similar to MU would be thrilled to have three future NBA players on the same roster (Wade, Diener, Novak).

That being said, I think what I was trying to illustrate is how that year was such a perfect storm, that the team, while good, was far from dominating.
That team had the combination of...
*** a lottery draft pick,
*** three future NBA players
*** a 1-year transfer at center who averaged 15 points per game,
*** freshmen (Novak and even Karon Bradley and Joe Chapman to an extent) stepping up to the plate,
*** a season almost entirely free of injuries (If I recall correctly, MU had the same 5 starters for all 33 games)

Not saying the team wasn't good. Just saying that the '03 team was exceptional when compared to other recent MU teams.

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