Earlier in the week, I asked my buddy and fellow Marquette alum Gonzo if he thought Wisconsin losing a close one to the No. 1-ranked UNC Tar Heels on Wednesday was a good thing or a bad thing for Marquette, a team that had been dormant with an academic week.
I still don’t know the answer to that question, but I did get a firm answer to another one on Saturday—a question that was punctuated with a scorching last-minute Todd Mayo dunk to continue Marquette’s undefeated season in an upset against No. 9 Wisconsin and the Kohl Center Grateful Red.
The question was whether or not we can safely say that coach Buzz Williams has crafted a dynasty in downtown Milwaukee.
And in case the subtext didn’t tip you off, the answer was “Yes.”
Yeah, I get that it’s a little premature in the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball season to start making predictions, but Marquette will likely break into the Top Ten after this game, their first real test of the season—and rankings are by no means the only thing the Warriors have going for them right now.
I call Marquette the “Warriors,” not with any disrespect to the institution or any parties involved in their mascot and name change from the Warriors to the Golden Eagles years ago. I call them “Warriors” because of the tenacity of this team; I call them “Warriors” because it’s truth that seeing such a young men’s basketball team gel so early in the season is mighty rare.
I call them “Warriors” because all I can think of when I watch Marquette play is that if the NBA lockout continued, these guys could have all been signed to one franchise and made a run at becoming the first SCAB champions of our time.
I call them the “Warriors” because of their fierce, bald and chubby leader Buzz Williams and the tenacity he brings to the organization with every self-inflicted hoarse voice after a competition. The fierceness that comes with a coach so in love with contact sports that he refers to shooting free throws as “special teams.” (See the video.)
No, Saturday’s win wasn’t the only thing Marquette has going for them this season despite it being their first 2011 limelight matchup against a top-ten team—a top-ten team with a mind-blowing 155-12 record at home over the past 11 seasons under coach Bo Ryan.
Buzz Williams has already lined up a tremendous recruit in Steve Taylor, a 6'8" forward from Chicago's Simeon High School who’s considered one of Illinois’ top high school players. A recruit who will likely join Madison native and Madison-booed Vander Blue, Junior Cadougan, Davante Gardner, Todd Mayo and the rest of the outstanding, young Williams-wooed Warrior squad who won’t graduate in 2012.
Not How Your Mom Would Raise a Basketball Team
Speaking of Cadougan, Marquette chose to dominate Wisconsin without their point guard. Coach Williams suspended him for one game because of an unnamed team violation, a violation Williams described as a “mistake [that] didn’t hurt anyone, but it’s not how his mother raised him.”
Mayo or Miracle Whip?
But for now, the story is Todd Mayo.
While ever-reliable senior Darius Johnson-Odom (DJO) led Marquette with 17 points and a steaming jump shot, the freshman Mayo, brother of O.J., contributed 14 of his own, including one pivotal score in a high-arching layup that sucked all the steam out of a desperate charge lead by Wisconsin guard Jordan Taylor that was the Badger’s best chance of getting back in the game.
Bring out the Hellman’s. Bring out the Best.
I’d say Mayo is playing like butter, but it’s a bit more like Miracle Whip.
Nothing in this contest was as creamy, smooth, fatty and decadent as his exclamation-point dunk that murdered any hope in the hearts of the Grateful Red after a Ben Brust three-pointer brought the Badgers within four points with a minute left on the clock.
That’s right, ring up two comeback killers in one contest, in one of the toughest stadiums, in front of one of the loudest home crowds, in spite of one of the most amazing home records in all of college basketball and against a No. 9 ranked Wisconsin team.
Bring out the Hellman’s. Bring out the best.
With such a young team gelling so well and so quickly, and with contributions from Mayo, Vander Blue and team-leading seniors DJO and Jae Crowder, Marquette has a lot to look forward to the rest of the 2011 season and certainly in the future—at least for the next few tournaments and likely as long as Buzz is in charge.
The Warriors will face off against Washington on Tuesday night in New York at the Jimmy V Classic. Wisconsin will take on Green Bay on Wednesday in an attempt to improve their 11-season Kohl Center home record to 156-13.