So, How We Doin'? Marquette

Nov 15, 2021

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So I'm on this hike today. Up in the mountains in Idaho. Football bye week... my son's birthday... Tyler covering the ASU and Marquette games... that's why I'm in Idaho right now. We decided to hike this mountain trail today. I believe it was 1.9 miles up to a lake, so 3.8 miles overall. Elevation change around 900 vertical feet. Fairly gradual, really. BUT, we were at 9,000 feet. I'm not sure if you've heard but there's less oxygen at 9,000 feet.

I knew this, of course, and my wife, son, and daughter-in-law all knew that I'd be bringing up the rear. They were patient with me. But there was one thing we didn't plan on: the snow getting deeper as we neared the top.

When we started the hike there was some snow on the ground - maybe 50% snow, 50% rocky trail. So the first mile was fairly easy. But then we spun around to walk up the north side of this ridge, and the north side doesn't get much sunlight, and the snow was twice as deep. We're halfway there, but now every step is sinking 10 inches into the snow.

We consider going back - now it's like 3:30 in the afternoon and it gets dark at 5:30 - but we decide to soldier on. They'd go about 200 yards, wait for me to catch up, go another 200 yards, wait for me to catch up, and so on and so on. I have this map that shows me the trail and my location on the trail, so I see we have about half a mile (and maybe 350 additional vertical feet) to go.

Then, we reach this point where the snow is suddenly waist deep. My son - the one in front stomping down the snow for all of us to step in his footprints - announces that we're turning back. The snow is just too deep to walk through. I check the map. 0.2 miles to go. Basically the length of five football fields. I tell everyone that they can turn back, but I tried to quit 18 times in my brain already and I pushed through so I'm not going to get 500 yards from the summit and turn back. I'm going on. They decide to go on with me (mostly because they didn't want to have to be in the helicopter when the Forest Service searched for my body).

This was a mistake, of course. I don't know if you've ever walked through deep snow (it was only "waist deep" in spots - I'd say it averaged around two feet deep), but I can't think of a more exhausting exercise. It's not just that you're walking up a hill (at 9,000 feet where there's not enough oxygen for all of us). It's that you have to lift your leg out of the snow and swing it forward like a hurdler. The final stretch - let's say 400 meters so that we can use a track as the example here - was like setting up hundreds of 28" hurdles around the entire track. One every 18 inches or so. And then you have to walk over each hurdle - first the left leg, then the right leg. All the way around the entire track. Oh, and the track is at 9,000 feet.

I finished the course. Barely. Got to the edge of the frozen mountain lake. Took some pictures. Sat on a stump. Patted myself on the back.

But now it's like 4:30. And it's getting cold. And all of our pants are soaked. And we have to walk back through the snow. We start to get a little worried (I mean, I started doing the math about when it gets dark in Champaign and figured it would be pitch black by the time we got back), but we had two things going for us:

1. Idaho is in the far western end of the Mountain Time Zone. So it doesn't really get dark right now until around 5:45 or so.
2. Walking down hill is a lot faster than walking up hill.

The first half mile was a little rough. Still walking over hurdles, but a little easier going down the hill. Once we got out of the deep snow, though, it was super fast. And once we got around that bend from the north side to the south side of the ridge (where the sun had melted the snow), we did the last mile in less than 20 minutes. Still light out when we got to my son's truck.

Oh, and I got this picture of the sunset right when we spun around from the north face to the south face and looked west:

Totally worth it.

ANYWAY, that's why I'm totally unprepared to write this Marquette preview. I haven't watched an ounce of Arkansas State. I see a lot of twittering tweets on Twitter talking about Coleman Hawkins, but I don't know what he did to earn these twittering tweets. I know that Trent played in a brace, so I'm worried about that as well. And, of course, Kofi is out.

So while you're quite confident that we can go on the road and win quite easily, I still have the same fears that I had before the Arkansas State game. Is Trent healthy? Can we really count on BBV for 10 rebounds? Does this team have what it takes on the road yet? Especially without Kofi?

Maybe I need to look up Marquette's schedule. Let's see, they've played SIUE and won by 11 (only led by one at halftime) and they played New Hampshire and won by 5. And looking up the play-by-play, that was a one point game with 27 seconds left. So if they're beating New Hampshire by 5 at home they should lose to Illinois by 15 at home, right? With Kofi, yes. Without Kofi, man, call me Nervous Nellie but I still can't get a good feeling about this one.

Remember the Missouri game last year? We freaking lost on the road at Missouri last year. There's no way that team - a team that finished #2 in the final poll - should have lost to Missouri. But we did. Because road games suck and every call will seemingly go the other way and then suddenly no one can hit a shot to save their lives and I CANNOT BELIEVE WE LOST TO MISSOURI LAST YEAR.

I fully realize that 2020-21 Missouri was a lot better than 2021-22 Marquette. Shaka takes over at Marquette and basically has a brand new roster. They dropped from 87 to 90 to 95 on KenPom with two fairly awful showings last week. This is not a good team. Likely a sub-.500 team.

But it still feels like we lose? I wish it didn't, but that's all I can think right now. Maybe it's the thin Idaho air messing with my brain or something. Maybe I just needed to watch the Arkansas State game and I'd feel much differently. But there's all these things piling up in the bad column for me:

  1. Darryl Morsell (Maryland transfer) is their one good player. And my anger over him winning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year over Trent last year means that's he's going to have some crazy "29 and 9" game tomorrow night.
  2. It's the first time we'll play against hostile fans since the Ohio State game in early March of 2020. Just feels like there will be something to that. It's going to be jarring for the players when the crowd cheers their missed three-pointer.
  3. Lockdown Trent in a shoulder harness perhaps limited defensively? Trent locking down the other team's scorer is a big part of why we're a Final Four contender.
  4. Kofi Cockburn will not play.

Everything piles up in that column for me. So I just can't predict a win. I looked like an idiot when I said that Illinois would only beat ASU by seven (assuming Trent and Belo were out), so let's go for "idiot" again. As much as I want to see a win, I see a loss tomorrow. Must be altitude sickness.

Marquette 74, Illinois 73


ktcesw on November 15, 2021 @ 06:06 AM

Very enjoyable read! Thanks!

Gamefan49 on November 15, 2021 @ 08:14 AM

Please watch the Arkansas State game, it may ease your mind. Trent was the lockdown defender as usual. Plus the energy Coleman Hawkins brings is outrageously fun to watch!

IlliniJoe81 on November 15, 2021 @ 01:05 PM

I thought you were going to have a cool metaphor with us having four guys out being like the waist-deep snow and now we are heading downhill into the rest of the non-conference schedule.

The thing I'm seeing with this group is that they play mean. They aren't going to cheap shot opponents, but this is not a finesse group. The things we are best at like defense and rebounding should travel very well. Usually you'd worry about going on the road and missing 3-pointers and free throws. Well, we did that last game and we won by 39.

I do see a concern where we rack up too many fouls playing a fast-paced game and live-ball turnovers hurt our defense. All the length clogs up our offensive sets and we just can't score. I think that was last year's team though. This year's team might just bully these guys.

TheDukeUIUC on November 15, 2021 @ 02:06 PM

I'm worried that we've shown that we're a little immature with some of the antics (technicals, etc.) and that's fine when you are up 15 on a triple-digit kenpom team, but as Robert points out, our first road game against a high-major will be a different kind of test; we've allowed the opposing players and coaches get under our skin, and that won't fly here.

tgb on November 15, 2021 @ 03:50 PM

I'm so glad you made it down from the hike. Reading your post, makes me feel like being an Illini fan my whole life ( 65 and counting ), is well worth it.

danny on November 15, 2021 @ 05:54 PM

A top 10 ranked team vs. a team than struggled against SIU-E. And a team with a 1st year HC, Illini by a dozen or more. This team could rank w the 89 n 05 team in talent. Enjoy the game.

IlliniJoe81 on November 15, 2021 @ 09:12 PM

You called it. Spot on.

DB50 on November 16, 2021 @ 07:14 AM


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