Marquette had never been better than a five-seed at the Big East Championship.
It had never boasted the Big East Player of the Year.
It never had two players named first team all-conference since the program entered conference play in the 1989-1990 season.
But this season Marquette had it all. It was the consensus No. 2 team in the best basketball conference in the country.
Despite that, Marquette laid the biggest egg of the Buzz Williams era. This team was like the Titanic entering the Big East Championship: It was all hype that ended in an epic fail.
“I’ve never felt like this. I don’t even know how to explain,” Jae Crowder said after the 74-61 loss to Louisville.
It was the most disappointing loss of the season, and it started in the first six minutes of play. Marquette had five turnovers, went 3-of-9 on field goals, and allowed three offensive rebounds. Marquette went down 21-6.
“We didn’t bring enough energy in the first half and they just took us apart,” Darius Johnson-Odom said.
He’s completely right.
“We never got into that groove, that groove that we normally play with,” Jae Crowder said.
You got that right.
But that should have been nothing for Marquette. The Golden Eagles went down 18-2 to Louisville on Jan 16 and overcame that deficit. Marquette was the comeback king of the Big East.
“We’ve been in that situation so many times at the beginning so we were like, ‘it’s all right. We’ll come back,’” Derrick Wilson said.
At least they had the right mentality. But it was poor execution.
“I’m disappointed because we never played our best basketball,” Crowder said. “If we had played our best basketball and gotten beat, (then OK), because they made more plays. But we never got into a rhythm.”
Marquette looked unprepared, nervous and out of sync on the biggest stage of its season, allowing 26 offensive rebounds and turning the ball over 26 times. That’s not the way Marquette won 25 games this season.
“I did a really bad job. If your team has 26 turnovers, which is the most during my tenure as head coach,” Buzz Williams said, “and if your team allows 26 offensive rebounds, which is the most it has allowed since I’ve been the head coach, it’s on the head coach.”
Kudos to Buzz for taking the onus on Thursday’s loss. Marquette was never all there, something for which the head coach should take responsibility.
Beyond the team-high eight turnovers of Junior Cadougan it was Crowder who was the most off.
Crowder, playing in his first game since being named the Big East Player of the Year posted a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds). But it didn’t feel that way. The 6-foot-6 forward was in foul trouble most of the night, altering his style of play.
It came on a night when he went without the dreadlocks that distinguish him. Instead, he rocked cornrows after getting his haircut.
“I ain’t wearing this anymore. I’m going back to what I know how to do. You won’t see this (look) anymore,” Crowder said.
Like Samson, from the Biblical tail of Samson and Delilah, Crowder wasn’t the same player without his hair.
Nor was Marquette.