Seeing as we're just a few short hours from poppin' the bubboli and venturing into a new decade, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on the roller coster ride that has been the past 10 years of Marquette basketball. Afterall, we have certainly come a long way from the Mike Deane era and the dribble-handoff offense that Brian Barone and Brian Wardle executed to perfection. Since then, we have witnessed a renaissance of Marquette hoops success thanks to the efforts of Tom Crean (err Dwayne Wade), who reversed the downward trend of the program and was able to bring in higher profile recruits which eventually lead to a Final Four run in the '02-'03 season. As a result of the program's success under Crean, Marquette was also recruited to take part in the realignment of the Big East. This move has greatly increased the exposure of MU on a national level and thus has increased the attractiveness of the program to some of the nations better high school prospects. Now in their fifth season in what is typically the nations best conference for NCAA hoops, Marquette has enjoyed much success in the league in it's first four seasons. MU has finished in the upper third of the conference all four years and is one of only three teams to have 10+ wins in conference over that span. Pretty impressive considering many outsiders thought MU was digging their own grave by joining such a competetive league. Well, the likes of Tom Crean and Father Wild were feeling lucky and decided to roll the dice and here we sit. That being said, here's a list of personal favorites from this past decade......
1. Best Team: '02-'03; was there any doubt? Final Four run and 3 NBA players. It's too bad they seemed to hit a brick wall against a very good Kansas team. I would have liked to see a best of 3 series there.
Runner Up: '08-'09; The 3 amigos senior season. After a 9-0 start to the Big East season, we all had high expectations and were thinking a possible repeat of '02-'03. Unfortunately Dom goes down early against UConn in the crucial stretch to the season and we lose our General for the season. In spite of this IMMENSE loss, the team takes a good Missouri team down to the wire with a Sweet16 matchup against Memphis on the line, but eventually falls short. Mizzou reaches the Elite8 after handling Memphis. Who knows how it would have turned out if we had all of our weapons? Tear
2. Best Player: Again, do I even have to say it? D WADE. Likely the best player ever to wear a Marquette uni even though he played only 2 years! I wonder how good they would have been if he decided to stick around for 1 more year? Is now one of Da League's premiere players and has already won an NBA title along with NBA Finals MVP.
3. Best Game: Elite 8 versus #1 ranked Kentucky; While it was never a close game, it's hard to top Wade's tripledouble performance (first in NCAA tourney history) which put MU in the Final Four.
Runner Up: UConn vs Marquette, January '06; A top ranked UConn walked into the Bradley Center overconfident against a young and what everyone thought was a timed MU team. MU's first appearance in the Big East. Result, Steve Novak bombs 3's from all over the Bradley Center en route to a 40+pt 15+ rbd performance. MU ventures into the Big East with style!
4. Worst/Most Heartbreaking Loss: Soooo many to choose from here, but it's gotta be a season ending tourney game. I'm going with 2nd round matchup vs. Stanford. Pegged as the worst possible 3 seed matchup due to the twin towers of Brooke and Robin "Sideshow Bob" Lopez, MU managed to take them into OT only to watch Brooke make a fading and falling out of bounds circus shot from the baseline. Ouch!
Runner Up: Mizzou in 2nd round of NCAA in '09; Final game to enjoy the 3, well 2, seniors. It was a good four years regardless!
5. Most entertaining Player: Entertaining, not best, so I'm going with Dominic James. The man is a freak athlete and has one helluva killer instinct! He's also great at talkin' shit but will completely back it up. If not for an inconsistent jumper, he's no doubt an NBAer.
6. Best Shooter: Steve Novak; We may never see another play don the blue and gold that can shoot like this guy.
7. Best Defender: Dominic James; He went against some of the best pg's in the nation on a nightly basis during his senior campaign and he shut them DOWN!
8. Best Rebounder: Marcus Jackson; All he would have to do is look at somebody and they would run away from the rebound. I will also award him with the "best big man that can impersonate a pg" award due to the year Diener went down with the season ending injury. Which brings me to my next category......
9. Worst Team of the Decade: It's easy to choose the winner here considering the amount of success that this team has had over the years. I may be wrong with the year, but I believe it's the '03-'04 squad when Diener went down which left Joe Chapman as our go to guy. Joe Chapman, seriously? No offense Reid, I know he was your boy.
10. Best Dunker: Dominic James; There's just something about a 5'10 guy with a 40+ inch vertical that makes dunking look just nasty. Especially when it was over Brian Butch.
11. Best errr Worst Gambler: Ryan Amoroso; It's too bad he had that gambling problem which forced him out of the program because he had the looks of a pretty solid PF.
12. Most consumed beverage: Diet Pepsi
13. Best Tan: And the winner is.........Tom Crean!
14. Shortest Tenure: Niv Berkovitz; It's too bad 'cuz this guy is TEARIN' UP the Israeli league!
15. Worst Transfer (as in "that was stupid"): Dameon Mason; Apparently he needed to be coddled and couldn't handle the harshness and intensity of Tom Crean. Afterall, he was a highly touted recruit. Transferred to LSU where he played limited minutes on a mediocre team in a mediocre SEC. See also, Odartey Blankson and soon to be Jeronne Maymon (I'm curious to see how this one turns out).
16. Best Rival: Louisville; Rivalry carried over from CUSA and most games seem to go down to the wire (I think 4-5 games in past 7 years have been decided on final possession). Plus Slick Rick is a tool!
Runner Up: Since Big East inception, I'm going with Pitt (ND a close 3rd). They're notoriously a tough team which has resulted in a number of close and "chippy" games.
17. Biggest Shot: Tough Call here, but I'm going with Steve Novak's fade away dagger from the corner over Notre Dame in the Bradley Center. All 18,000+ bombarded Turners that Saturday night and drank every last ounce of booze within 4 city blocks.
18. Best Roadie Trash Talking Moment: Cincinnati, '08; Scott Christopherson reports to the scorers table late in the first half........
UC fan sittiing across from D3: "Scott Christopherson, typical Wisconsin farm Boy"
D3: "Donald Little, typical Cincinnati thug"; (Donald Little beat up his on-campus roommate)
19: Best Roadie "moment": Hoffbrauhaus, Cincinnati, '08; As the MU clad road warriors entered the giant beer hall and made their way through the crowds, a large eruption of cheering and clapping towards us ensued followed by a "We are Marquette" chant. The commotion caused everyone in the bar to look our direction, which caused Reid to turn to me and say, "Dude, do they think we're the basketball team? You're Scott Christopherson tonight."
20. Best Roadie celebrity sighting: Pauly Shore, Louisville '09; Louisville is a good time to say the least! As per usual, the MU alums were enjoying a few beverages and talking a little smack with the locals. Shortly after the DJ singles us out for being MU fans, he announces the judge of the drinking contest about to ensue on the bar. We of course were standing at the bar, when the spotlight swung behind us illuminating the WEASEL! He proceeded to judge the dozen or so female contestants on their drinking abilities and awarded the winner with a "FUCKIN' SNUGGIE! PUT IT ON! YOU'VE GOTTA WEAR IT ALL NIGHT!"
There you have it. It's been pretty solid 10 years and lets hope that Buzz can maintain or exceed the most recent levels of success. Feel free to make contributions to the list in the comments. Happy New Year, and as always, Ring Out Ahoya!