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Dear Marquette, Grind Now. Shine Later

Case Study: Marquette’s Jimmy Butler and Kansas State’s Jacob Pullen. Two senior superstars trying to lead their team to a close victory in the NCAA tournament; time is running out, and the game hinges on a final possession to send your team to the Sweet 16. Both stars have earned their way to take the final shot, and both teams’ opponents were cluing into them as the shot clock wore down.

However, this is where the similarities end.

Jacob Pullen, the brilliant point guard from Chicago(best city in America nbd), takes a rushed three-pointer with two men guarding him, only to be rejected by the outstretched hand of Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor (BOO). He missed his wide open backcourt partner Spalding, who was completely open and calling for the ball. Butler, on the other hand, penetrates the zone and passes out of the double team to an open Darius Johnson-Odom.

The rest is Marquette history.

The unselfish play of Buzz’s bunch has seen the Marquette Warriors transition from bubble team to bracketbuster, taking down 6th seeded Xavier and the 3rd seeded Syracuse Orangemen (for the second time this year). Enter Marquette and the Sweet 16, our first appearance from the DWade era of 2003. But less important than returning to national prominence is how teams such as Marquette, VCU, Richmond, Florida State, and Butler are reclaiming the glory of the five man basketball team.

Let me explain. In an era of individual superstars, the 2011 NCAA tournament has seen the true team game. Before the tournament, the talk was centered on the weakness of the bubble teams, and the real individual prowess of college basketball’s upper echelon. This year carried a different tone than tournaments of the past. There was a disbelief that upsets would even happen. Meaning JaJuan Johnson of Purdue, Austin Freeman of Georgetown, Ben Hansbrough of Notre Dame, Tu Holloway of Xavier, and Cuse’s Jardine would be too much for the “little guys” of college basketball. Yet these “little guys” have all sent the previous big boys back home quick.

Tourneybubble.com said, “What a few weeks it's been in the world of college basketball. Pretenders on the bubble are getting seperated out (Maryland, Marquette, Washington State, VCU)…”

Funny. Half those teams are in the Sweet 16.

The NCAA tournament reminds me every year of the power of team play, coaching, and effort. In a seven game series, Morehead State would probably be successfully defeated by Louisville. But that’s not what it’s about, one game and one day.

Nevertheless, these kinds of upsets are annual occurrences. It’s simple: to become tournament legends, such as George Mason and Davidson, you must move past the Sweet 16.

Marquette cannot be satisfied with what they have achieved currently. Yes, people are surprised you make it this far, however, I hope the eagles themselves have a larger goal in mind. A championship.

Sweet 16 teams go home and experience different types of receptions. North Carolina and Roy Williams will not be complacent in their current wins, but remain focused and ready to beat Marquette. Buzz Williams must make sure his team has that same sort of attitude.

“Grind together, Shine together” is not my favorite motto ever, but it truly does embody this Marquette team. Just think of the different heroes who’ve stepped up this year. Junior Cadougan solidified our tournament chances with a win vs. West Virginia in the Big East tournament, Butler and DJO combined their defense and offense respectably to shutdown Xavier, and Jae Crowder was sighted in the win vs. Syracuse. There’s no question: Marquette’s got the grind.

But since the shine has arrived; the ESPN interviews, the anointing’s of Cinderella, and the grandeur of the Sweet 16, will Marquette continue its run?

I picked them in the Sweet 16. No expectations have been exceeded for me, and I hope the same remains for the team.

The grind is only beginning. The shine comes after a championship.

Go Marquette!

(LOOK FOR WES’ WAYS TO WIN VS. UNC COMING SOON)

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

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