It’s not even September and we are about to get a taste of Marquette basketball in a competitive setting. No practice whispers, no Pro-Am myths. Real, live basketball. Giddy doesn’t begin to describe my interest level.
Reading this all-access primer from Sports Illustrated’s Brian Hamilton took it to another level. If there was ever a team that could use extra practice, hands on coaching, and unmitigated team building, it’s this one. This paragraph could be its own post, but with so many new faces in new roles projecting to play important parts, getting extra reps this early may be enough to lessen the growing pains that are sure to plague Marquette.
However, as is the case with most rabid fan bases, there will be a tendency to over analyze every possession and box score to make broad assumptions about the year to come. It is August and the season does not begin until November. Don’t be that guy/girl.
With that being said, here are eight simple rules to keep in mind as you take your extended lunch break tomorrow and beyond.
1) Final score is not an indicator of how well a team played
This should be tattooed on the back of all fans’ hands to remind them, it’s that important. This goes for regular season games as well, not just August prep work in Italy, but it takes on added importance when you take into account that the quality of oppositions will fluctuate greatly and the coaching staff is not simply looking to win games. There are lessons to be taught. Margin of victory or defeat is not one of them.
2) Don’t pull a Rothstein
3) Stats don’t matter
We used to drill this into every lead paragraph of our Pro-Am coverage a few years ago and you should too. Remember when Junior Cadougan dropped 70 points in one of those “games” and remember how it led to him being a 20 point-a-game scorer? Exactly. STATS DON’T MATTER.
4) Forget the boxscore
This is basically carrying over from tips 2 and 3, but it merits its own point. If the games are run like the games for other teams currently abroad, there will be a full boxscore. It will be very tempting to look at it, dissect it and paint broad strokes, positively and negatively. Frankly, it does more harm than good. Henry going 2-10 for 6 points will have apocalypse shouters making it rain on Twitter. Henry going 9-10 for 26 points will have worshipers kneeling at the king’s throne. Neither will be indicative of what’s to come.
5) The starting lineup is not a fixed entity
Wojo has already told a few outlets that he will be looking at multiple lineups in different situations. That may mean having a different starting lineup each game. Don’t read into it too much. Injuries happen, players get cleared, game plans get altered. Starting lineups are fluid, particularly so early in the year.
6) Process matters more than result
While it may not matter how many treys Jajuan Johnson drains in a particular game, how many he takes and how he looks taking them does matter. He has been re-working his shot this summer with the coaching staff in an attempt to improve consistency and accuracy. It’s things like this that you can keep a keen eye on. Does it look better? Is he hesitant? Does the release remain consistent? Whether this results in making or missing all of his shots doesn’t matter as much. Look for the concepts, not the results.
7) Where are the leaders?
Being such a young team (no scholarship seniors on the roster) with only four returning players, it will be very interesting to see who is most vocal on the floor and who has the ball in crunch time. That’s not to say this trip will definitively answer those questions, but it will give us hints as to who might step up. Going back to the pro-am example, Jamil Wilson coasted at 50% any time I ever saw him. He didn’t light into teammates or become aggressive at any point. That alone didn’t tell us he would never grab the leadership reigns, but it made it clear his instinct was to let others take that role. Wojo has been asking Duane and Luke to step up in this regard. Will they?
8) Enjoy it
At most, this happens every four years. There is no pressure to win and nothing really at stake. A new era in Marquette basketball is beginning. Enjoy it for all it’s worth.
Below are the dates, times and streams for the upcoming games: