NCAA Division I Sports
NCAA Division I Sports
With the Marquette Golden Eagles' exhibition opener a little more than a week away as of this writing, things are predictably starting to get busy on campus.
First up is MU's practice/scrimmage session with Virginia, which will take place in two sessions on Saturday at the Al McGuire Center. This is the fifth consecutive year the Golden Eagles are foregoing one of their two allowed exhibition games to take part in the workout with the Cavaliers.
The practice has caught on around the country in recent years, with coaches finding that the amount of work and film they can get out of these things inherently more valuable to the process of building their teams than the beatdowns they wind up handing out to Division III opponents.
“I think the best thing about scrimmaging, no matter who you scrimmage, is you have unlimited time. And of all the things that the NCAA legislates, time is probably the No. 1 thing,” said coach Buzz Williams. “So for us to be able to be with our guys, compete against someone else unlimited – that's very healthy.
“You can pre-arrange situations. It's reps where everybody is seeing how an opponent will handle it. And that's difficult to quantify the value of.”
In his first year as coach at MU, Williams took his team to Nebraska to practice against the Cornhuskers, with the connection being coach Doc Sadler. Last year, Williams' relationship with coach Tony Bennett's top assistant, Ritchie McKay, led him to take his Golden Eagles down to Charlottesville.
Bennett – the former UW-Green Bay standout and son of former Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett – and his crew are returning the favor this year, and will face off with MU in both a morning and an afternoon session at the Al.
“Coach Bennett's been there two years; they have an unbelievable recruiting class – one of the best in the country,” said Williams. “He does a phenomenal job. It was good for us last year because it was the second year in a row we had taught our guys, 'This is what we do on the road,' and then you work six hours the next day.'
“What we're going to do tonight is stay in a hotel as if we're on the road – eat a meal, scouting report, film, wakeup in the morning is at 6, chapel's at 6:15, breakfast is at 6:30, film is at 7 and then we'll leave and go to the training room and get ready, and we start at 9:30.
“I just think that there's a lot of elements to a scrimmage that you can't manufacture in an exhibition.”
Williams said his team will be able to gain some positives from MU's exhibition game next Saturday against St. John's (Minn.) at the Bradley Center as well.
“There will be value next week,” he said. “We have yet to practice at the Bradley Center. So, getting in the Bradley Center, putting on uniforms, playing in front of fans, hearing their names called on the loudspeaker – there's other elements you get from an exhibition. But I do think that in a scrimmage, you're going to find more teaching opportunities not only that day, but for the next three weeks.
“We've practiced 12 times. Our guys want to do something different. They need a day, a chance of pace, and they're excited. It'll be good. One way or another, it's going to be good. Because if something goes bad, it's good, too, because we get to make it good.”
It's all part of the process of getting ready for the regular season, which opens Nov. 12. The Golden Eagles took another small step toward that in practice earlier this week, Williams said.
“We brought officials in on Tuesday, and just having officials changes the ambience, just because the kids aren't looking around saying, 'I want you to call that. That's a foul,' ” he said. “Our kids are great because I don't ever call anything, so the old guys don't ever pay attention to it. But having officials, just that changes the flow.
“This will be the first time that, instead of having Blue and White teams, we're going to have a Blue team. We'll sit over here together, and I think that's good. I'm excited. We've done a lot of stuff to prepare for it – not from a technical standpoint, but from a rhythm standpoint.”
Two MU players, Joe Fulce and Chris Otule, won't be able to take part in the early session with Virginia because of class commitments, while two others, Jamil Wilson and Dave Singleton, won't be able to take part at all because of their status as transfers.
One key player who returned to this week was Jimmy Butler, who had missed time after suffering a concussion and a gash over his eye after hitting his head on the court. The senior forward has been given the green light to take part in some of Saturday's workout, which is good news for both the Golden Eagles and Butler.
“Jimmy will be limited. (Thursday) was his first practice,” Williams said. “He did individuals on Tuesday and Wednesday. He'll be able to participate in much of the scrimmage, but as of yesterday he was allowed 15 minutes of 'real' movement. He'll be able to get in a lot of work. He looked good.”
Williams said after Butler initially went down with the concussion that he'd be ultra-cautious before letting him return to full speed. He continues to stick to that, much in the same way he handled Darius Johnson-Odom's foot injury last year around the same time.
“I would say he probably could have been 6-7 days ago, but there was no purpose in that,” he said. “He's been working out with Todd (Smith), he's been doing indivduals. But there's no need for (practicing full-go).”
Unlike normal practice sessions, which can be opened at an individual school's discretion, these workouts with fellow Division I teams are closed to both the media and the public due to NCAA regulations. Scores can't be kept, reports can't be given and only team personnel from both schools are allowed in.
I'll try to get some sort of general update on the Virginia workout up on the blog this weekend.
As it turns out, the Al won't be the only facility on campus being utilized on Saturday for such an event, either.
In addition to the MU women working out against Illinois State, UW-Green Bay's and Northern Illinois's men's teams will meet up at the Old Gym to work out against one another as well.
The obvious links here are new UWGB coach Brian Wardle, his assistant Brian Barone and Northern Illinois assistant Todd Townsend, all of whom are former MU players and served in some capacity on MU staffs under Tom Crean.
The location made sense in that it was roughly halfway between both Green Bay and Dekalb, Ill., which allows the schools to save a bit of money on travel expenses, and you've got to think that Wardle, Barone and Townsend will all have all sorts of memories come flooding back as they re-enter the very same gym in which they spent countless hours practicing in as Golden Eagles.
And finally, MU is hosting 6-foot, 205-pound guard Derrick Wilson on an official visit this weekend.
Wilson, who plays at Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn., is from Anchorage, Alaska.
MU has two remaining scholarships in the Class of 2011-'12, with California wing Juan Anderson having already committed. The early signing period begins Nov. 10 and runs through Nov. 17.