Buzz Williams should be Big East Coach of the Year


By: David Kay

It is hard to argue against Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim for not only Big East Coach of the Year, but also National Coach of the Year.  Syracuse is the #1 ranked team in the country after not even being included in the pre-season Top 25 due to the losses of starters Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Paul Harris.  This may sound like pure homering, but Buzz Williams deserves to be the Big East Coach of the Year.

Here is the thing about the ‘Cuse… Yes they lost three very valuable starters who were all major contributors to the Orange’s success last season.  However, the cupboard was far from empty for Boeheim as his two starting bigs (Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson) and two key reserves (Andy Rautins and Kris Joseph) all returned.  Add in super-transfer Wesley Johnson, red-shirt sophomore Scoop Jardine, and talented freshman Brandon Triche, and as Boeheim has stated several times this season; he really has seven starters on his roster.

That was far from the case for Buzz Williams.  Unlike last year when the first-year head coach was handed the keys to an experienced, extremely talented squad, Williams was going to be put to the test during the 2009-2010 season.  Marquette lost four starters who accounted for 66% of the team’s scoring last year.  That group of course includes the trio of four-year starting guards Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, and Dominic James who were the heart and soul of the team.

That left Williams with just three returning players who saw significant minutes from a year ago and the challenge of incorporating seven new recruits onto the roster.  That number decreased to five before the season even began as freshman forward Brett Roseboro decided not to play for the Golden Eagles and top-100 recruit and likely starting point guard Junior Cadougan ruptured his Achilles during conditioning before the season even tipped-off.

The circumstances got even worse for Buzz when the team’s only true returning big man, Chris Otule who had improved exponentially from a year ago and was supposed to be some sort of inside presence for MU, was lost for the season due to a broken foot.  Follow that up with the surprising transfer of freshman Jeronne Maymon and all the drama that went along with that mess of a situation and the injury that was to sideline 7-2 freshman Youssoupha Mbao for 4-6 weeks, and it appeared the season of re-loading was going to be even rougher than expected.

Nobody, NOBODY, myself included, picked Marquette to finish higher than 10th in the Big East this season.  In fact, they were ranked 12th in pre-season by the media and coaches.  They were down to eight healthy scholarship players and were by far the smallest team of any major Division One school, boasting nobody active above 6-7 which can be a very daunting challenge in a conference filled with at least one talented big man on every team.  Now look at Marquette; headed back to the NCAA Tournament thanks to an 11-6 record in conference with a slim chance at finishing in fourth place thus earning a buy to the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament.

What really stands out about Buzz’s coaching job this season is how Big East play began.  Marquette dropped five of their first seven conference contests by a total of 11 points, with four of those games coming against the top three teams in the conference; Syracuse, West Virginia, and Villanova (twice.)  While some teams may have packed up shop and let that be detrimental to their season, MU did no such thing.

They have responded and reversed that trend of being unable to close tight games by winning nine of their last ten.  Five of those victories have come on the road by a combined 11 points including three straight overtime wins in an eight-day span.  Marquette has been in every ballgame they have played, not losing by more than nine points this season.  If that is not a direct result of solid coaching, I am not sure what is.

All of that is a true testament to the leadership abilities of second year head coach Buzz Williams.  His enthusiasm and passion for his players is contagious.  Oh, and he is a pretty darn good coach as well despite his daily confession of being out-coached on a game-in, game-out basis.

Buzz has taught his team how to value each possession, take care of the basketball, and play unselfishly.  They give one-hundred percent every time down the floor on the defensive end and of the 115 college basketball teams I have watched this season, there is no group that plays better help defense than Marquette which is absolutely crucial considering the fact they are under-sized every time they step onto the court.  That is what it takes for this team to be as successful as they have been and every single player wearing the “AL” on their jersey has bought in and executed Buzz’s game plan to perfection.

I am conceding the fact that Boeheim will likely earn Big East Coach of the Year honors with Pitt’s Jamie Dixon also being in the discussion with the job he has done with a Panther squad that lost four starters, but Buzz Williams needs to not only be in that conversation but crash the party.

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  1. Melissa W. says

    Nicely written, David, solid argument!

    Buzz’s work speaks for itself and the close win streak after the close loss streak is rare and wonderful. Marquette made lemonade out of lemons this years, that’s for sure! Buzz gets my vote!

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