|Maybe next year.|
It doesn't take much searching at all on the internet to find the breed of fan who is looking to tear down the people he perceives as responsible for his disappointment. They abound in the comments section on the Enquirer, and sometimes run their own blogs. Frankly, this kind of analysis disgusts me, especially when it masquerades as an attempt to be fair and impartial. It's the lowest denominator of fan that pans their own team rather than actually analyze the game. Since these people are equal parts vitriolic and ignorant, I thought I'd take a moment to address some of their assertions. Dana and Victory was running point for them last night, so it is his (her?) work that comes under the microscope here.
I think we all agree that Mark Lyons' foul trouble was one of the pivot points of the game, but to call his decision-making "bone-headed" is just wrong. His first foul wasn't smart, but his second was neither a foul nor particularly dumb. If you knew Lyons' game, you'd know pulling up for a jumper doesn't suit his style. He was right to drive the ball all the way to the rim, and the official was wrong to call him for a charge when the defensive player hadn't established legal guarding position.
Where things really get goofy is the idea that the coaching staff somehow let the team/school/fans down. Okay, everyone knew Marquette was going to go after Tu hard; how should Mack have addressed that? To punish a team for doubling off a high screen, a team needs at least one of several things. The first would be a screening big man who can put the ball on the floor from 19 feet and be an offensive threat. That's not Big Kenny or Jamel McLean. The second would be to have a guard big enough to fight through the double team; Tu is 6' even and the defenders both often had at least three inches on him. The third would be a spot-up shooter who can punish defenses for having to rotate. Dante wasn't able to consistently fill that role this year, Brad Redford tore up his knee before the season began, and Justin Martin was ruled a partial qualifier. Should the staff had made McLean and Frease more coordinated, Tu taller, Redford healthier, or Martin the owner of a better transcript? When you are a coaching a team that goes seven deep, your strategic options are few.
At the end of the day, it always hurts when your favorite team loses. Considering what the expectations for this team were at the beginning of the year, it's a testament to the work of the coaches and the buy-in of the players that anyone is disappointed in another A-10 crown and a first-round tourney exit. Xavier got paired up against a team with five (now six) RPI top-25 wins that Jeff Sagarin, Ken Pomeroy, and the Massey Ratings all had as equal to or better than the Muskies. The proper reaction to last night's game is to recognize Marquette as a good team with a great game plan that was always going to be a tough matchup for X. It's one thing to fail in an attempt to be critical and insightful in the face of a season ending loss; to look for reasons to point the blame towards a team that overachieved all year is petty, foolish, and wrong.