Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK –– Maybe it is Jae Crowder’s hair.
Maybe it is Marquette’s history of success with junior college players.
Maybe it is coach Buzz Williams’ own background as a JUCO coach.
Or maybe it’s some combination of all those factors that has inextricably linked Marquette to the word “toughness” in recent years.
Yes, they are tough. But after improving to 8-0 with a 79-77 win over Washington in the Jimmy V Classic at MSG, maybe it’s time to recognize that the No. 11 Golden Eagles are skilled, too.
After all, Crowder, a former junior college player at Howard, did win the game on a 3-pointer from the corner with 6.3 seconds to play.
“That makes us one-dimensional, and that’s not what we are,” Crowder said of all the toughness talk.
“We practice our skill work and things like that just like everyone else does, and it shows because we know how to put the ball in the hoop. So I think we get overlooked in that category for sure.”
Williams is known for his folksy, yet philosophical, insightful talk.
And he’s wants his team to be perceived as tough.
“I think we’re pretty good,” he said. “We don’t want toe be tactical. We don’t want to be technical. We just want to be tougher than anybody we play.”
Still, Williams feels the media has missed the boat on his team’s overall skill level.
Between Crowder, Darius Johnson-Odom, Todd Mayo and Vander Blue, the Eagles have quite a collection of skill players, players virtually any team in the country would like to have.
Marquette is averaging 83. 5 points per game, while holding opponents to 61 points a game.
“At some point you have to give it up that our program is much deeper than just being the toughest team,” Williams said. “At some point the problem with it is because I don’t say it, nobody writes it.
“I don’t want to talk about what we do. I want our character to be revealed….It’s more than they’re just tougher than the opponent.
“At some point, somebody has to have enough guts to say that.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.