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Marquette vs Ohio State Carrier Classic Preview

The setup of the court won’t leave much room for players to chase lose balls without needing a lifejacket. (Courtesy of Mike Broeker via Twitter)

Marquette will travel to Charleston, South Carolina, to take on No. 4 Ohio State on the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier Friday night in it’s season opener, but for Buzz Williams’ squad, it will be much more than your average college game.

“The honor of doing something like this is way beyond something words can explain,” junior Jamil Wilson said. “It’s for all the people that have fought and served, the veterans that have served. They sacrifice their lives for us to play a ball game.”

Buzz noted the pop-up lighting will also pose a challenge for his squad on Friday. (Courtesy of Mike Broeker via Twitter)

Two of those people are Derrick Wilson’s parents. His father served 20 years in the army while his mother put in two years herself, giving the game a little bit more meaning for the sophomore.

“It means a lot,” Wilson said of what it meant to honor the troops by playing in the Carrier Classic. “They did a lot for our country. I don’t think people realize everything they go through during their service so its an honor to play for something like that.”

While his parents will not be able to make it to the game itself, Jamil noted that Derrick’s father was going to be featured in a special segment during the broadcast. Derrick’s noted his parents’ excitement, and his father’s words of wisdom to have fun during this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

As for the game itself, there might not be much to have fun about once the whistle blows. In last season’s inaugural aircraft carrier game between two eventual Elite 8 teams in North Carolina and Michigan State, made shots from the perimeter were hard to come by. The teams combined to shoot 6-of-32 from behind the arc, and shot a combined 37  percent overall.

The different environmental surroundings—like the wind, the cold, and the pop-up lights— add a level of difficulty to the already difficult task of shooting against a different backdrop.

Not a bad seat in the house. (Courtesy of Mike Broeker via Twitter)

When asked if the team’s game-plan would change at all due to the conditions of playing outside, Jamil responded it probably would, adding that, “just the scenery behind the backboard, you’re not inside. You’re not used to looking at an ocean or a lake behind you. Everything will be different, but how quickly we adapt will dictate how we play and how the game will go.”

Buzz had planned on practicing his team outside a few times in September and October, but said he couldn’t  find courts that weren’t concrete and didn’t want to risk his players’ already fragile knees. As such, the team’s first experience shooting outdoors would be on Thursday.

As for the opponent come Friday, that in itself would be quite the challenge, with or without an airplane carrier. Ohio State comes into the game after a Final Four appearance last season and ranked No. 4 in the country.

“I think they’re good enough to win a national championship,” Williams said of the Buckeyes. “Aaron Craft is an All-American. DeShawn Thomas is an All-American. Sam Thompson was a top-30 recruit coming out of high school.

“They have really, really, really good players. I think if Coach (Thad) Matta talked about himself more like most coaches in our industry, he would be revered in a much different light than he is.”

A special focus will be placed on Craft, one of the “peskiest” and most tenacious defenders in the country. Derrick saw a few similarities in Craft’s approach to defense saying: “I would say we’re both tenacious, we both like to get after it. Pesky defenders that people don’t really like to play against. The kind of player that gets up in your body and don’t let you get any space trying to get to the basket.”

Jamil Wilson said he was looking forward to being measured up early against one of the country’s best teams. “To be the best you have to beat the best, and that’s one of the best teams out there.”

We will have a complete scouting report on Ohio State and its players tomorrow so make sure to be on the lookout for that.

A win over the Buckeyes would be Buzz Williams’ first ever regular season victory over a top-5 opponent while a loss would represent the first time Marquette was under .500 since Nov. 14, 2000 when it lost the season opener to Alabama.

At the end of the day, this game will go down in the annals of Marquette history, win or lose, because of the momentous nature of playing in a game on a carrier to honor the nation’s troops.

“I’m very humbled by it all,” Williams said. “Just to be in that environment and on that stage, with that purpose for that reason, to help the wounded warrior program.”

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