Marquette coach Buzz Williams always has Eagles ready for March Madness
BY HERB GOULD email@example.com
Marquette guard Vander Blue (13) reacts in the second half of a third-round NCAA college basketball tournament game against Butler Saturday, March 23, 2013, in Lexington, Ky. Marquette won 74-72. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
WASHINGTON — Could these programs be any more different?
The lore about Marquette goes on and on. Al McGuire and Dwyane Wade. Sixteen Sweet 16s. Three Final Fours. A national championship. The program is one of four making its third consecutive Sweet 16 appearance, joining Kansas, Florida and Ohio State.
Miami, best known for football, is making only its second Sweet 16 appearance and never has advanced beyond this point.
And yet, even without center Reggie Johnson, who sustained a knee injury against Illinois, the Hurricanes, the No. 2 seed in the East, are a solid favorite over
No. 3 Marquette.
With good reason.
The Golden Eagles, a popular pick to be upset by Davidson last week, nearly were bracket-busted, escaping the 14th-seeded Wildcats 59-58. Thoughts that Butler would bounce Marquette back to Milwaukee barely evaporated in a 74-72 decision.
‘‘The margin of victory in two games combined, three points, jumps out at you,’’ Miami forward Julian Gamble said. ‘‘They can win close games. They’re not trying to blow you out, but they can win at the last second. They have that great poise. They have seniors and that great coach [Buzz Williams] as well.’’
On the other hand, Miami has thoroughbreds.
‘‘One less wide-body. I don’t think it will change how they play,’’ said Williams, who’s even more impressed with Hurricanes guards Shane Larkin and Durand Scott. ‘‘They’re as good as any backcourt in the country, bar none. Statistically, playing time, defensively. Those guys are both pros. I would say probably both longtime pros.’’
It will come down to Marquette’s peskiness, which has become as much a program trademark as Williams’ buzz-cut. It also was in evidence two years ago, when the Golden Eagles were a No. 11 seed and took out No. 6 Xavier and No. 3 Syracuse.
Asked how he instills the remarkable ability to deliver a player’s best at the most important time of the year, Williams said it’s an ongoing, every-day process.
‘‘I don’t know that you can point to one or two things, but I do think that you can point to culture,’’ Williams said. ‘‘You can’t just wait till March. Your work is done in the silence, and that’s what’s so hard, because nobody sees it and nobody hears it. That work that you do in silence will come out, and it will be revealed positively or negatively, and so I think that in our tenure we’ve been accountable per day, not necessarily game day.’’
Silence not being one of the best traits of Williams, a translation is in order: On his watch, everything Marquette does, from recruiting to practice to tune-up games, is done with an eye toward dealing with crucible of March Madness.