Greska: TBT brings Marquette Forever to life

Nostalgia is as powerful a drug as any I’ve tried. (Editor’s note: does Tequila count, because that’s about it.) It takes you to a place you desperately long for, shooing away all of the bad stuff that may have been happening at that time to leave pure, unfiltered joy in its place.

Sports in general is like the rawest, most potent nostalgia factor in the lives of most of the people perusing this blog. You live and die through terrible seasons, boring games and unfulfilled dreams, but even in the darkest of seasons, can always latch on to a previous high to bring you back to that happy place.

And for Marquette fans in particular, The Basketball Tournament has dropped a heaping load of nostalgia year after year, through some of the most trying seasons in the past 2 decades.

That’s not to say following the recent Marquette teams wasn’t fun or rewarding in its own way. I still haven’t been able to complete my goodbye to Markus Howard, and will be down the well of his astronomical scoring outputs plenty of times this year and next.

But this isn’t about Marquette as it is, this is about Marquette forever. What Dan Fitzgerald and Joe Chapman have been able to do the last 5 years is package that nostalgia we pine for, and bring it to life in front of our very eyes.

I can still tell you everything about Marquette’s first venture into the TBT back in 2016. With the opening rounds hosted just 10 minutes from my parent’s house in the South Suburbs of Chicago, my wife and I ventured to St. Xavier University and witnessed the passion that makes the MU fanbase so special, in an epic comeback win, as We Are Marquette rained down from the overwhelmingly partisan crowd.

And no, this isn’t nostalgia blinding my memory. Twitter was there to preserve it in real time.

Since then, the Golden Eagles Alumni have been able to push their way to elite status, bringing us fans along for the ride each and every year, making summer that much more enjoyable.

Somehow, some way, this group of players has been able to take the nostalgic version of the players we revered while they were on campus, and have them not only live up to those memories, but flat out exceed them.

Dwight Buycks had more personal success in the NBA than at MU, so it’s no surprise seeing him light up weaker opposition in the TBT. But his game has improved more than any player not in the NBA of any MU alum that I can recall. It feels unfair to watch him crave through teams and get to the basket unimpeded whenever he chooses.

Mo Acker will always be admired for that glorious 2010 season, when nothing was expected of him and yet he delivered above and beyond even Buzz’ wildest expectations. He’s made a hell of a career for himself overseas and has been the bedrock of this alumni squad year after year.

Joe Chapman preceded me, so I can’t say much about his time at MU. And yet, seeing him morph from an obscure league hero to wily TBT vet to successful TBT coach to Youth Training Academy impresario has made him a bigger legend among the chattering Twitter class than his actions on the court. No, he shouldn’t replace Wojo you idiots, but his ability to create something out of nothing, and the coaching acumen he has displayed, should be making a lot of programs curious about feeling out his interest in moving up to the college ranks.

Derrick Wilson has befuddled fans through three coaching tenures. Why is Buzz starting him? Why is Wojo so insistent on playing him? Why is Chapman pitting him over DJO? And yet, each and every time he proves that while his offensive skills won’t make him a 1st, 2nd or 3rd option, the tangible defensive impact and intangible attitude he brings each possession truly make a difference.

DJO may have shocked me (and most) with his decision to play for another team in 2019, but the prodigal son will always have a warm embrace upon his return. Leading the team in scoring doesn’t hurt either.

Travis Diener has absolutely nothing to prove to anyone on or off the court at this point. He is a legend, end of story. And yet there’s a reason he was the face of TBT’s marketing alongside Joe Johnson. He is as real as it gets in interviews, amazingly approachable, and still able to provide key plays in clutch moments. TBT has allowed the world to see why he is so revered in Wisconsin (and Italy).

Jamil Wilson is too good for this team. He’s too good for this tournament. Every time he steps on the court he proves that he is a level above and this year is no different.

But damn I’m glad the NBA hasn’t taken him away from us. His infectious personality has made way to a killer mentality on the court, making him the all-time leader in 3s in this tournament and (I believe) the player with most Elam Ending winners.

Rowsey and Fischer and Cook and Charlo and Jarvis have also played their roles. I’m not trying to diminish their contributions, but what the group above has done in consecutive years really has to be applauded individually.

2017: Quarters
2018: Semis
2019: Finals
2020: Finals

They have brought a touch of levity and normalcy in these dark times. And done what not even the 100 years of MU basketball could not: unite Crean, Buzz and Wojo for a single cause.

It will be of little satisfaction to this special group if they come away empty handed yet again, but they should know that they continue to add layers to their already impressive Marquette history. Being able to top someone’s best memories of you just doesn’t happen very often.

Marquette calls itself a family, and these players have embodied that and then some. The result tonight won’t change that.

But for real, go win the damn thing and get the $$$ you deserve.

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One Comment on “Greska: TBT brings Marquette Forever to life”

  1. Bill MacPherson
    July 23, 2020 at 9:02 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more. What is awesome about this group is that they cover 3 eras of Marquette players (i.e. Crean, Williams, and Wojo eras). So the commonality is not necessary former teammates/classmates, but Marquette alums. If D-Wade comes an plays next year (after watching Diner hit that shot, would not surprise me), then watch out.

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