This is Jae Crowder, by the way. Fear him.
Just like we did last week with Streaking the Lawn, we swapped questions with Anonymous Eagle, SB Nation's Marquette blog, ahead of Florida's Sweet Sixteen matchup with the Golden Eagles. Thanks to Brewtown Andy for answering our questions!
Buzz Williams has become one of the hot names in coaching, but all an outside observer (like me!) knows about Williams is that he's built Marquette in part on great junior college transfers and has a team that plays very hard for him. What typifies Williams' Marquette teams?
What you're going to get from a Buzz Williams team on the floor at any time is a point guard, a big man, and three other guys who are largely interchangeable, or as Buzz puts it, switchable, on the defensive end. With the season ending injury to center Chris Otule and the hampering injury to forward Davante Gardner, Buzz is relying on a point guard and four switchables most of the time now.
Buzz's coaching focus is 1) largely on getting Marquette to do what they do best and not worrying about the other team and 2) defense. If you miss your shot, you'd better get back on defense, because Marquette's definitely crossing midcourt with more than 30 seconds left on the shot clock.
Jae Crowder has been one of the best players in college basketball this year, but he's also seemed somewhat underrated. What makes him so good, why might he have been under the radar, and does he have any flaws?
It's his versatility that makes him dangerous. He'll defend any of the five opponents on the floor, keeping guards in front of him and poking balls away from big men. He can hit threes from anywhere on the court and has great hands around the basket, which means defenses have to keep an eye on him at all times and helps give his teammates more space to operate.
As far as under the radar goes, technically speaking, Crowder wasn't a "returning starter" this season. He had a nasty habit of picking up early fouls last year, so Buzz "solved" this problem by starting games with Crowder on the bench for five minutes. He's figured out how to defend without fouling this year, so that's played a big part in his explosion this year. Flaws? For what Marquette wants to do on the floor and needs him to do for that to work, I can't think of a single one.
Florida's diminutive lineup has been a problem for the Gators more than a few times this year, and Norfolk State's length was a thing Gators fans feared about the Spartans. Marquette's got some bigger players in its backcourt. How do they use their size?
This comes back to Buzz's switchable philosophy. It's not about how do they use size to their advantage in one particular match up, but instead, they don't care what the match up is. That's on the defensive end, though. On the offensive end, that's where Murray State head coach Steve Prohm's observation that Marquette looks like a football team comes in to play. Marquette's going to use their size and strength to get to the rim and either finish or draw a foul.
On the flip side, Marquette seems to lack a lot of size inside. Florida isn't particularly big in its frontcourt, but Patric Young and Erik Murphy would seem to have an advantage down low. Are you worried about them?
Patric Young's definitely a threat, but Marquette has seen a lot of guys like him this year. I'm more concerned with Erik Murphy. It looks like rebounding isn't one of his priorities when he's on the floor, but he's going to have an advantage on any Marquette player on the floor if the Gators decide to try to use him that way. I'm actually less concerned about keeping track of Murphy as he steps out to shoot than I am about the possibility of him getting bunches of rebounds because I know Buzz is going to have it drilled into their heads that Murphy's going to hit the shot if you let him have it.
Of the teams remaining in the NCAA Tournament, Marquette and Florida are outliers, in a sense, because both have faced tough schedules with lots of rugged defenses. Has this helped or hurt y'all?
I'll be the last person who will ever complain about the difficulty of playing in the Big East. Marquette hasn't missed the NCAA tournament since joining the league. What I particularly liked was that Marquette has gone out of their way in recent years to improve the strength of the non-conference schedule. Marquette had three SEC teams, a Big Ten team, and a Pac-12 team on the schedule this season, and I have to think that having big time competition on the slate before the Big East season started helped Marquette be ready for what it took to finish second in the Big East this season.
Marquette played and defeated Norfolk State twice in the regular season. Be honest: You're glad the Gators eliminated the chance of the Spartans' third try being the charm, right?
Early last week, I realized that Norfolk State had been paired with Missouri and there was at least a slight chance of a Sweet 16 matchup. I joked at the time about Norfolk State stalking Marquette and I'm quite pleased that NSU's Brandon Wheeless got a laugh out of it. But I wasn't actually worried about it until halftime of their game against Missouri. At that point, I realized that both of Marquette's games against NSU were both before Chris Otule got hurt and Kyle O'Quinn was playing out of his mind.
So yes, I was quite excited to see that the Gators started out with a huge lead and never looked back against the Spartans.
Marquette is well-known for having some of the coolest uniforms in college basketball. What's your favorite thing about them?
Can I share a secret with you? I wasn't a huge fan of the side striped style of uniforms when they debuted several years back. Since then, I've really come around on them, and I'd be lying if I said seeing all sorts of national writers talk about how great they are didn't help dispel my reservations about how outlandish they looked. I think the subtle changes made to the unis when Marquette switched from Converse to Jordan Brand are great. I'm also a huge fan of the Aerographics design on the back.
My favorite thing about them is that they might actually be helping with recruiting. Here's a picture of current freshman Juan Anderson when he was still in high school. Looks kind of familiar, doesn't it?