Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Bet This Bracket & Get Filthy Rich! (Or something like that)


Well, here's my bracket. I told y'all which team I was picking, so at least those 6 lines shouldn't be a surprise!

Enjoy the tournament, everybody!


Sunday, March 12, 2023

We Are Marquette ... And We're Not Done Yet! (Also - wrapping up my first season coaching the Socrates Owls)


What a time to be a Marquette alum and basketball fan!

My Golden Warrior Eagles -- picked to finish in 9th place by Big East coaches in the preseason poll -- instead rolled to the first outright Big East title since we joined the conference in 2005. We were 17-3, two full games clear of the field.

And then, as if to prove to remaining doubters that we're for real, my guys went to Madison Square Garden and swept 3 games to win our first Big East Tournament title.

As if the on-court success wasn't enough, what's been great about this season's team is the way we've won.

Marquette plays an entertaining, ever-moving, high-octane offense, fueled by point guard Tyler Kolek -- the Big East Player of the Year and the conference tournament Most Outstanding Player -- and Oso Ighodaro, our slick passing "point center."

Throw in Kam Jones' 3-point shooting, O-Max Prosper's frenetic energy, Stevie Mitchell's incredible defense and 6th man David Joplin's instant offense, and you have an exciting, winning formula.

One of the great things about the team is that we can overwhelm opponents with our offense (as Marquette did to Xavier in the Big East championship game), but our defense is good enough that we can grind out close victories against tough teams (as we did against UConn in the semifinals).

It has taken Shaka Smart only two years to create a culture of passion, accountability, leadership and excellence. He's been the most welcome addition to the Marquette basketball scene in decades.

I have mostly been appreciating Marquette from afar, watching every game on TV, participating in online fan chat-rooms and getting in text chains with fellow alums -- not to mention with my kids, Ben and Katie, who grew up knowing they had better root for MU.

But thankfully, near the end of the season, I finally made it to a couple of games. 

Robbie, Ben and I were joined in Milwaukee by Marquette buddies John, Tom and Jim for our home victory over DePaul on Feb. 25.

And then Tom and I made the drive to Indianapolis for the Feb. 28 win at Butler that clinched the Big East regular-season title.

I'm the worst at taking selfies -- obviously -- so I'm glad I also got a pic of the scoreboard with the final score.

It's all been so incredibly fun, and I'm enjoying the interactions with fellow Marquette fans who are re-energized by Shaka & The Gang.

And, as Shaka said after MU crushed Xavier: 

"And we're not done yet!"

Spoiler Alert: My NCAA Tournament bracket will feature Marquette on the "champions" line ... and it's not just a fan crossing his fingers and wishing for the impossible. It really can happen.

As my grandson Jack says: "We Are Marquette!"


Meanwhile, in other hoops news ...

A few weeks ago, I wrapped up my first season as coach of the middle school girls basketball team at Socrates Academy.

I love the 11 kids I had the honor to coach. Probably the hardest-working group I've ever had, and that's saying something because I've been fortunate to coach several teams that left it all on the court.

Our Owls were 7-7 and reached the semifinals of the conference tournament. It's not the stuff of which legends are made, but considering that the program hadn't won a single game in at least 2 years, it was a pretty nice season.

The girls played with energy and enthusiasm, got along great with each other, wanted to be coached, and improved markedly throughout the season. It truly was a pleasure to have worked with them.

Making the experience all the more special was the fact that Katie was my assistant. It not only was wonderful to coach alongside my daughter for personal reasons, but she also was fantastic with the girls and brought great knowledge and experience to the team.

Most of the players are 8th-graders, and when they graduate in a few months they'll be taking 97% of our offense with them. So hopefully we'll have some newcomers who can hoop a little bit.

Maybe I can get Shaka Smart to do a little recruiting for me!