No matter what your level of cynicism is toward college basketball—if you insist on pointing to the corruption, coaching salaries, or belabor the fact that Kevin Durant would be a junior right now and it's a shame the college game has turned into a factory of sorts—you still had to feel for Marquette senior Dominic James last night.
During a 92-83 loss to UConn, the senior point guard snapped a bone in his foot during a sequence that he's been involved in similarly thousands of times. It was a fluke, but potentially a dagger to Marquette's Final Four hopes.
Or…maybe there's still something there.
We'll be honest, we saw the James-McNeal-Hayward backcourt as one of the better reasons to turn on college hoops this year. Imminently fun to watch. Slashing, running, shooting. It kinda reminded us of the Bibby-Simon-Dickerson guard-dominated Arizona team that won a National Championship over Kentucky.
Despite this loss, we still think Marquette has reason for hope. For one, UConn played one of their best offensive games in the last two years, and A.J. Price simply shot out of his mind. Not every week will Marquette run into such an opponent, and come the Madness, wouldn't have to stop a performance like that until a Saturday or Monday in April. More, the Marquette backcourt is still dynamic.
If you read this piece about Jerel McNeal and Maurice Acker, you'll know that this team has a chemistry that extends off the court, which is exactly what they'll need in the absence of James. Secondly, Marquette may have just eliminated themselves from winning a 7-game series against any other team in the top five. But this is still a group with the ability to blow you away on the perimeter, and their ability to get in the lane and cause headaches for defenses, while hampered by the loss of James, isn't going to stop.
If teams overlook them based on the loss they've suffered, better yet. It's a shame for the senior, but James' injury just also gave every team an excuse, and Marquette a reason to play inspired. It can be a special combination.
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