by Daniel Pfeifer
We’re a few days removed from Sunday’s charitable exhibition between Marquette and Milwaukee, a 78-63 win for MU at the Al McGuire Center. Those of you who were truly interested probably saw the game for yourself, but if you were still smarting after the Packers’ loss, or unwilling to walk along Wells Street in the rain, here are a few of the takeaways still in my mind a few days later.
- The big winner was the American Red Cross. The main purpose of the event was to raise money for hurricane victims, and it did to the tune of over $31,000. Granted, it’s difficult not to have a little cynicism. The Al was well short of full, and when we’re talking about college basketball and large sums of money, even for charitable purposes, it’s easy to furrow one’s brow right now. But for hurricane relief, every bit helps.
- The next-biggest winners were the City of Milwaukee’s college basketball fans. One post-game topic was Steve Wojciechowski and Pat Baldwin’s existing relationship. They like each other enough to talk on the phone and arrange such a game. That wouldn’t have been so with Tom Crean and Bruce Pearl. That doesn’t necessarily make a regular-season Marquette/Milwaukee game more likely, but it also doesn’t hurt.
- Look out for Sam Hauser. Hauser was the star, not just leading all scorers with 27 points but showing a strong dribble-drive and getting way up for a couple rebounds. We knew Hauser could hit the three, and it was his ability to do so early that kickstarted a cold Marquette offense. He’s improved physically and appears to have become a much more complete player over the summer.
- There may be some early rotational challenges. One issue last year was nobody seemed to shine for more than a game or two before defenses took them away. The inconsistency was maddening and guys’ faces would go from posters to milk cartons, sometimes within a half. Early shuffling may keep things unsettled for a while this year. Haanif Cheatham has a shoulder injury, and while it’s “nothing serious,” he’ll need “a few weeks.” Harry Froling has to sit out the fall semester after transferring from SMU. And while officials are known to call early season games tight in order to make teaching points, Marquette’s big men still found foul trouble, even with notorious mass-fouler Luke Fischer now in Spain. Expect to see Wojciechowski showing different looks early, in addition to trying to get his expanded slate of young bigs some experience.
- Speaking of new big men, there’s talent, but it’s raw. We saw more of Theo John than the other new faces on Sunday. He’s built like a man among boys, but he also accumulated four fouls and had a moment of frustration that concluded with him staring down UWM’s Vance Johnson after a physical sequence underneath the basket. With John, Jamal Cain and Ike Eke, there’s still work to do, but that was to be expected. There is a net effect, though: We shouldn’t see Marquette get outrebounded much, and there was an expanded effort to both get to the basket and get offensive boards Sunday. Against a Milwaukee team that will lean on its size, Marquette was the dominant rebounding team. When Marquette is getting threes, boards and points in the paint, they’re going to be tough to beat.
- UWM’s headed in the right direction. Baldwin might not have Pearl’s charisma, but he’s likeable and demands hard work. Baldwin said he approached the game like a regular-season or even postseason contest. It showed, as the Panthers played with heart, got an early lead and showed the respect for the rivalry a Milwaukee Panther team should. If he’s at Milwaukee for a while, he will improve the program.
Of course, this is the moment when I remind folks: If you care about college basketball in this city, you’ve got to support it. It doesn’t happen by magic. Marquette fans might note the upper reaches of The Al are surprisingly far away from the floor, while also saying they had other things to do, didn’t have enough notice or just don’t want to add to their season-ticket costs for an exhibition. Still, it was hard to argue with the charitable purpose, the Packers are now less-than-Super Bowl worthy, and there’s young talent you should be eager to see. Also, the right of Panthers fans to complain when Marquette doesn’t want to play UWM revolves largely around putting your money where your mouth is when they do want to play. While the scrimmage wasn’t exactly cheap, it was still Marquette/Milwaukee, and again, it was for a good cause.
Just sayin’ — long term, the quality of basketball is often correlated with the amount of interest. I would have been there if I was still just a fan. It’s not too early to be interested. Marquette plays Lindenwood in another exhibition on Nov. 4 at 1 p.m.
FANS OF COLLEGES WITHOUT FOOTBALL SHOULD LISTEN TO HIGH SCHOOL GAMES: We’re back again for more WIAA playoff coverage tomorrow night, with a nice matchup between neighboring communities, Greendale and Whitnall. The battle for bragging rights at Southridge Mall will have Tom Swittel and me on the call, starting at 6:45 p.m. here on The Big 920.
ANONYMOUS GRATITUDE: Speaking of Anonymous Eagle, I owe them a mention for sending 10 or so new Twitter followers my way for the game. With former Marquette-game stalwarts Matt Velasquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jack Goods of the Marquette Tribune and Scott Wegener of another media outlet that will remain nameless all moving onto other assignments, I was the only holdover from last year in the building Sunday, with even new Journal Sentinel beat man Ben Steele unable to attend. It was up to me and former Journal Sentinel beat guy Todd Roziak to hold down the fort, and Eagle sent a lot of the folks paying attention my way. I hope I served them well.
MECCA MEMORIES: The Bucks will be play on a replica of the famed Robert Indiana floor tonight when they “Return to the MECCA” to play the Celtics as part of their 50th-anniversary season. Marquette will not play on the floor, which will supposedly be repurposed for Oshkosh’s Wisconsin Herd. But this is as good a time as any to remember there were more than a few Marquette memories created on the original floor. For those looking for a flashback, here’s our Courtside conversation about Marquette’s NIT history from a while back, including their most notable return to the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena since it was their regular home. By the way, as long as that name is on the building, don’t expect Marquette host any nostalgic home games of their own there.