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16 is Sweet. But 8 is Elite.

I’m quite conflicted with the campus response to our basketball team’s recent triumph. On one hand, it’s good to see the school rally around the team. The cafeteria applauded DJO upon his entrance, the Sweet 16 shirts are selling, and I cannot move without seeing the “3 goggles.” However, I have got to ask, are these the same fans that were booing Marquette during losses to Cincinnati and St. Johns? Although our season has been an unusual roller coaster ride, it is important that we stand by our team during the good/bad, the highs/lows. No one likes bandwagon fans, except the Green Bay Packers. And who are they? Nobody.

Moving on.

In a little more than 30 hours, Marquette will take the court against the perennial powerhouse and ACC regular season champion North Carolina Tar Heels. In every facet of the game Marquette is seen as the underdog, as the Tar Heels front line has been nearly unstoppable coming into the tournament. Keyword: Nearly.

Even outside Duke’s demolishing of UNC in the ACC Championship game, North Carolina was largely outplayed during its conference tournament. Barring mental two collapses by University of Miami and Clemson, the Tar Heels would’ve been bounced early. What lessons can be learned from these teams and how can Marquette close out with the improbable W? I thought you’d never ask.

Wes’ Ways to Win:

1. Interior Defense- This is the obvious key in playing North Carolina, stopping their mega-threesome of Tyler Zeller (15.1 ppg), John Henson (10.2 ppg, 11.2 rbg), and freshman sensation Harrison Barnes (15.3 ppg). This presents a real problem for Marquette, as the 7 foot Zeller has real post moves that can create half-court offense even out of broken possessions. The logical assumption is that Marquette will imploy Otule/Gardner on Zeller, Eric Williams/Jae Crowder on Henson, and Jimmy Butler on Harrison Barnes. Pushing these three to the perimeter and away from easy baskets near the hoop will be the key for the Warriors defense. Recently, Barnes three-point shot has been dropping; however he experienced a serious drought from long-range earlier this year. Marquette must force UNC into slow-half court sets, where Clemson and Miami found real success.

Since a large portion of this game will be played inside the paint, we must reinforce the importance of staying out of foul trouble for Otule and Crowder, the usual victims of ticky-tack fouls. UNC excels from the foul line, and has hit critical free throws late in games during close ACC contest. + Marquette has NO CHANCE without Otule or Crowder on the floor, the former provides interior defensive pressure through blocks and Crowder can stretch the defense with his shot.

My prediction: Harrison Barnes will be irrelevant in this game, it will come down to Zeller and Henson. Butler will do his job.

2. Tempo- UNC and Marquette are both high tempo teams, whose big men can get up the court and provide easy assist opportunities for point guards. Buzz Williams, who will look at tape of UNC’s troubles during Clemson and Miami’s slowed down offense, must decide whether he wants to reign in his Eagles to play to the weaknesses of North Carolina. I do not believe that he will, or that he should, change his team this late in the season. What that means is that we’re all in store for a run-and-gun bonanza style basketball game. We all know UNC PG Kendall Marshall is among the fastest and best distributing point guards in the country, yet Marquette must try to cause turnovers in transition defense. No one is better than MU at creating fast breaks after made baskets, and Marquette should test UNC’s ability to do the same. Creating good shots will severely hamper their ability to push the ball and allow Marquette the opportunities to switch defenses (different zones to man-to-man).

3. Fear- This is not a UNC team that has experience in big moments, the NCAA tournament, or even close games. Marquette is the older, and more prepared team due to their Big East schedule. Roy Williams will have his team prepared, however, Marquette has absolutely no pressure or expectations to live up to. If they come out hungry, keeping the game close or even taking an early lead, the burden will far hard on UNC. Make Harrison Barnes earn every “diaper dandy” screech of Dick Vitale. We stand on the plateau of greatness, there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

Wow, that was mildly inspirational. Lolz.

I screamed at people buying Sweet 16 shirts, because I believe we’re going to the Final Four. Prove me right boys.

Also, check out this video of Buzz reading an email from a Marquette alum currently in Afghanistan.

Go Warriors!!!

Facebook: Wesley Herndon
Follow me on twitter: @wild_wesley
Email: astead.herndon@marquette.edu

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