Al McGuire used to say that before getting into a fist-fight, don't worry about the guy that takes off his jacket, worry about the guy that takes off his watch. He recruited players with that requisite toughness in mind.
Buzz Williams seems to have channeled the venerable Marquette coach's recruiting philosophy by recruiting players with a similar type of chip on their shoulder going to the juco-ranks for talented yet tough players like Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder. Unlike McGuire, Williams seems to covet face up players with range out to the arc and he can deploy up to four of these types in any given personnel group and sometimes five if he's feeling particularly ornery.
Versatility and depth are just a couple arrows in Williams' quiver going into the 2011 NCAA Tournament. He will play up to 10 players for significant minutes, mostly guards, and they'll look to create a frenetic pace so opponents better get back in transition and identify shooters early. Marquette's Achilles heel is a lack of size so the battle of the glass is often the determining factor in the outcome of games. This tournament should be no different but this Marquette club will fight you regardless of its size deficiencies. Al wouldn't have it any other way.
Key wins: UConn, Syracuse
Key losses: Duke (5 point loss), Wisconsin (5 point loss), Pitt
Player(s) to watch: The most important player may be 6'11" center Chris Otule. He's the only true big man on the roster and his ability to play productive minutes allows the uber-talented Jae Crowder to play his dynamic inside-out game on offense at the four spot without having to worry about being banged around on the defensive end by an opposing center. Jimmy Butler fits in nicely with the rest of the front court because he can shoot it and put it on the deck like the prototypical swingman. Darius Johnson-Odom is the explosive combo guard and perhaps the Golden Eagles' best player at nearly 16 ppg.
Top 25 Matchup Wheelhouse: BYU, Wisconsin. Teams with plodding bigs that can't float on the perimeter with Marquette's face up front court and don't pose a back to the basket offensive threat to punish the Golden Eagles on the other end would struggle with Buzz Williams' group. If you can't punish Marquette for playing small, you'll have a tough time winning. Teams like Brigham Young and Wisconsin would struggle in a second round tournament matchup with Marquette.
Teams in the Top 25 to fear: UNC, Kansas. North Carolina's front court would be a nightmare for Marquette. Henson and Zeller could play volleyball on the glass, while a back court of Strickland and Marshall could keep tempo to UNC's liking for the most part. Kansas'deep frontcourt would also spell doom for Marquette.
-- Kevin Berger
See our printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.