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'Hair'-Brained Plan Has Marquette Rolling

Feb 16, 2010 – 3:44 PM
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Brett McMurphy

Brett McMurphy %BloggerTitle%

Buzz WilliamsDarling, give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair.
Shining, gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen.
Give me down to there – hair! Shoulder length or longer – hair!
Here, baby, there, momma; everywhere daddy, daddy.
Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair.
Flow it, show it, long as I can grow it, my hair.


The above lyrics are from The Cowsills' No. 1 single "Hair" in 1969. It might be adopted as Marquette's theme song any day now.

Back on Jan. 23 after a five-point loss at Syracuse dropped Marquette to 11-8 overall and 2-5 in the Big East, Golden Eagles coach Buzz Williams decided he needed to do something drastic to snap Marquette out of its funk. And he did -- no more haircuts for the coaches or players.

From that point on: give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair. Shining, gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen.

On Saturday night, the Golden Eagles and their three-week old golden locks won their fifth consecutive game since Buzz banned barbers from his club as Marquette defeated South Florida 63-52.

The method to Williams' mane madness was simple: he wanted a reminder so his team would play Marquette basketball.

Williams explained after Saturday's win what led to his decision back on Jan. 23.

"I'm always the last guy off the bus and the last guy off the plane," Williams said. "Anytime I want to talk to our team when nobody's around, I let whoever's with us get off and I send a text message to Lazar [Hayward] and just tell him to wait. And so after the Syracuse game I sent him a text and said, 'Wait.'

"They blew us out at Syracuse -- they beat us by five. It was a tie ballgame at half and we went through a stretch in the second half where we were not 'us.' And that's one of the things we talk about every day in practice, every day off the floor – Marquette men's basketball is not for everybody. We don't need 'anybody,' but we need 'everybody.' And you have to be one of 'us' in order for that to be held true.

"So I told them on the plane, 'I'm not sure why you guys are forgetting that we have to be 'us' every single possession. So what we're going to do is you guys can't cut your hair. And I can't cut my hair. And hopefully we'll grow enough hair that there will be enough protection for your brain to not forget.' "

Five consecutive victories later, the Golden Eagles are playing up to Williams' standards.

"We've been 'us' a lot better," Williams said. "And it's not because of the hair, but I'll grow my hair down as long as it needs to go."

In his second season at Marquette, Williams was expected to pull out most of his hair this year trying to replace the Golden Eagles' senior guard trio of Wesley Mathews, Jerel McNeal and Dominic James.

Marquette lost four starters off last year's 25-10 team that lost to Missouri in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Not much was expected of the Golden Eagles this season as they were picked to finish 12th out of 16 teams in the Big East's preseason poll.

Yet, two-thirds through the Big East schedule, the Golden Eagles are 16-8 overall and 7-5 in the Big East. Marquette is in a two-way tie for sixth place in the Big East and with a 57 RPI through Monday, according to CollegeRPI.com. The Golden Eagles are projected as one of seven or eight teams from the Big East expected to receive an NCAA Tournament berth.

The scary thing is while the Golden Eagles have surpassed a lot of expectations so far, they easily could have 19-21 wins at this point. Of their eight losses, only one was by more than five points -- a nine-point loss at Wisconsin.

The other seven setbacks: one-point defeats to Florida State, West Virginia and DePaul, a pair of two-point losses to Villanova, a four-point loss to N.C. State and the five-point loss to Syracuse that started the barber ban.

Of the eight teams that have beaten Marquette, only two -- DePaul and N.C. State -- are not considered NCAA Tournament teams.

Hayward, who ranks No. 7 in the Big East in scoring (18.6 points per game), No. 7 in rebounds (8.1 per game) and No. 4 in steals (1.8 per game), is the lone returning starter from last year's team. The 6-foot-6 senior forward said the Golden Eagles' recent run is "real simple."

"It's corny, but every day we're working hard, doing the best that we can," Hayward said. "[On offense] we attack the basket and create for each other. When we attack the point and we're making guys help [on defense], we're a pretty hard team to guard."

After leading the nation the past three weeks, the Golden Eagles are the nation's No. 2 team in 3-point field goal percentage (42.4).

Senior guard Maurice Acker leads the Big East in 3-point field-goal percentage (50.0) and is sixth nationally. Sophomore guard Darius Johnson-Odom (49.5) is second in the Big East in 3-point percentage.

The Golden Eagles also excel at handling the ball. Marquette is fourth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio. During the current five-game winning streak, Acker has a remarkable 8-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

On Thursday, the Golden Eagles play host to Pittsburgh (19-6, 8-4) in a matchup of the league's two most consistent teams in the past four seasons. Marquette and Pittsburgh are the league's only teams to win at least 10 Big East games in each of the past four seasons.

A Marquette victory would be a sixth consecutive win and could pull the Golden Eagles into a third-place tie in the league standings.

Before the season, Williams was asked at the Big East's media days what he would consider a successful season.

"If we get one percent better every day, that's it," Williams said. "If we do that, we'll add it up and see where we are at. Our expectations are to get up early and work hard every day and we'll see where we are at the end."

As the end of the season -- and another NCAA Tournament berth -- draws near, Williams' formerly shaved dome looks more and more like a human Chia Pet.

Hayward said get used to Williams' new 'do.

"Sorry you're going to have to keep looking at him like that," Hayward said. "In practice the other day he asked some of us if we wanted to get it cut. In the back of his mind, I think it's because he wants to get it cut.

"I told him 'Nope. We'll keep this up.'"

So Marquette will flow it, show it, long as they can grow it, their hair.

Contact FanHouse senior writer Brett McMurphy at brettmcmurphy@gmail.com
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