For the first time since Nov. 15, your No. 23 Wisconsin Badgers (6-1 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) are at the Kohl Center for a game! Hopefully they get a rousing ovation as they return home with a Maui Invitational championship and a win over Georgia Tech in the B1G/ACC Challenge on the books.
On Saturday morning, the Badgers will welcome a little school from down I-94, better known as the Marquette Golden Eagles (7-1 overall, 0-0 Big East), so that they can renew their annual rivalry game on the hardwood.
Marquette has, basically, an entirely new team from last year and definitely an entirely new coach, so we had a bunch of questions. Thankfully Anonymous Eagle took some time out of their week to answer them for us! You can find my answers to their questions right here.
Shaka Smart is back home in Wisconsin and coaching Marquette, in case you didn’t know. What have been some of the differences between him and Wojo? I noticed that they’re playing with the third fastest tempo in the country...that’s new!
Energy! That’s the big difference. Steve Wojciechowski was never going to be accused of the most publicly engaging personality in the history of the universe, but Shaka Smart has been a world of difference over him. Not just as a public facing coach, but also how engaged he is with his team during games and practices. That energy translates to how he wants the team to play, and that’s how you get the high tempo.
Are Marquette fans happy with the hire? Do they like how the team has looked so far?
MU fans are glad to be rid of Wojo and the general trend of the program under his direction, so by default, they’re automatically happy with the hire. Given the win over Illinois (admittedly without Kofi Cockburn, but still) and snagging the first two in the Charleston Classic before falling to No. 21 St. Bonaventure, it’s hard to argue with the results, that’s for sure.
If anything, things are going almost too good right now in terms of mindset. It’s easy to get caught up with the ever so slightly gaudy record through eight games. The results don’t quite match up to how the team has looked (we’ll get to it in a second) while recording the wins, but when the guys are high-fiving at the end of the night, everyone wearing blue and gold is happy with what’s going on and the general trajectory as well.
Despite having a couple of nice wins already this year, the Golden Eagles aren’t really rated highly by KenPom. Why is that?
Part of it is just starting behind the rest of the pack at No. 86 at the start of the season since those preseason ratings don’t disappear all the way until January or so. The other part of it is that Marquette has been following one of the mottoes that Shaka Smart has hanging up in giant letters in the practice gym: Win Anyway.
They’re struggling to shoot the ball from behind the arc, they turn the ball over a little too much, even for a team that’s playing fast and maybe trying to create transition opportunities, they don’t rebound well on either end of the court, and they haven’t quite figured out how to play Smart’s style of defense without fouling quite yet. All of it leads to a not particularly efficient style of play, and so KenPom’s efficiency algorithm isn’t a big fan quite yet.
What has Maryland transfer and former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Darryl Morsell brought to the team?
Guts! If you’re trying to get a bunch of strangers – and MU’s roster were essentially all strangers when the school year started – to try to learn how to play a particular defensive structure, then going out and adding a guy who knows how to lock down his man as your cornerstone is a pretty good plan. It’s a work in progress in terms of MU’s overall defense so far this season, but it always was going to be that way at this point of the year, so merely having Morsell around to help light the way is a big boost.
In addition to that, Morsell has already shown that he’s willing to/wants to be the guy that Marquette calls on when they need a bucket. Take the Jackson State game on Tuesday night. Tied at 29 going into halftime, and yeah, you generally don’t want to be tied under 30 points with a buy game opponent even if they’re looking like a contender in the SWAC this season. Morsell fixed that coming out of the locker room and scored the first seven points of the second half, and it was pretty much over from there.
This team has, conservatively, 10,000 freshmen on it and is one of the least experienced teams in the country. Who should Badgers fans be on the lookout to dislike for one day a year the next couple of years?
Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to Tyler Kolek.
MARQUETTE FANS STARTED SINGING COUNTRY ROADS AND TYLER KOLEK SANG ALONG LMFAOOOOOOO pic.twitter.com/7flE8WQq9B— Nathan Marzion (@nathanmarzion) November 20, 2021
If y’all want the explanation as to why Marquette fans in Charleston were busting out Country Roads with less than 30 seconds left in a win over West Virginia, holler in the comments and I’ll walk you through it, because it’s too long of a story for this. BUT THE POINT IS that Marquette was down 12 at the half against the ‘Eers and was in the process of closing out what ended up as an 11 point win and Kolek was so excited about the win (and his 18/6/8 performance, by the way) that he started singing along while his teammate was shooting some freebies.
Man, if that’s not “I’m going to annoy the holy hell out of everyone Marquette plays for the next several years while making Marquette fans cackle in enjoyment” energy, I don’t know what is.
Now that Giannis Antetokounmpo knows about dunking Oreos in milk is he destined to lead the Bucks to back-to-back championships? I, personally, think that he may have become TOO powerful now but I want the perspective of a Milwaukee native.
Okay, so full disclosure time: I am a 100% lifetime Wisconsin resident and all of that time has been in the southeast corner of the state with the move to the Milwaukee area starting in my college years. I am not, however, a Bucks fan. The combination of Dad’s family is from Chicago, Mom didn’t particularly care about sports, and Michael Jordan being A Thing in my adolescent years means I am a Bulls fan.
WITH THAT SAID, I greatly enjoyed watching the Bucks win a title last season, and watching Giannis develop from pipe cleaner sized kid from Greece to Global Phenomenon while not losing a single drop of his sense of humor or playful nature or whatever you want to call it is delightful. I watched the video clip of him explaining the whole thing about the Oreos three times in a row. ASIDE: His girlfriend is a saint.
With the addition to the Oreos in milk thing, I don’t see how he doesn’t win MVP and another title and another Finals MVP. It’s like giving Thanos a second Infinity Gauntlet.
Are you pro or anti egg nog during the holiday season AND if you’re pro, do you add anything to it so that family gatherings are more tolerable?
Time to put you on game here. I am pro-egg nog. HOWEVER, I am not pro-egg nog as a beverage unto itself, whether with or without alcohol mixed in. I am pro-egg nog as a coffee creamer. You have to stir it up because the nog is thick, but otherwise it’s wonderful and adds a whole different sensation to the coffee drinking experience.
My wife and children think I am a maniac, of course.
This is Marquette’s first true road game of the season. How do you see this War on I-94 going? Who will be the difference maker for the Golden Eagles and which team will claim in-state bragging rights for the next year?
Going into the year, given the relative situations for both teams, I thought that if Marquette caught some breaks and the team was coming together a little faster than Shaka Smart expected, then the Golden Eagles had a chance to win this game.
And then Wisconsin got out to the start that they’re on. It’s hard to win in the Kohl Center, even harder when the Badgers are worthy of being ranked, and even harder yet when your team hasn’t quite figured out what they are as a group yet, and especially when they haven’t played in front of a road crowd yet. That’s the situation Marquette finds itself in, so if I’m making a pick, then I’m picking the Badgers to win the game.
I don’t think I’m stepping out of line to say that if Marquette does figure out a way to walk away victorious, it’s going to be because of Morsell. He’s going to be the one assigned to lock up Johnny Davis, and he’s one of just two guys on this roster to ever play in the Kohl Center before. The defense and the veteran leadership will be crucial to MU’s chances.