Preview: UW at Marquette
Next game: Saturday, December 6th - Wisconsin at Marquette
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Marquette coach Buzz Williams knows he's nothing like his Wisconsin counterpart, Bo Ryan.
"I know that Coach Ryan is a Hall of Fame coach. They have an incredible program. They're deserving of anything that's said or written or talked about," said Williams, with 20 career wins and in his first season coaching the Golden Eagles.
Williams got a firsthand look at the rivalry last year as an assistant for Tom Crean, who left for Indiana, but the coach's veteran team knows all about what Saturday's game at the Bradley Center means.
"We'll be ready for Saturday, that'll be a fun game," Dominic James said. "There's going to be a lot of hype surrounding it."
James said there's more urgency for the 25th-ranked Golden Eagles (6-1) because of a non-conference loss to unranked Dayton in the Chicago Invitational. Wisconsin (6-1) lost to No. 2 Connecticut 76-57 on Nov. 24 and dropped out of the rankings.
"We already have a loss, so we feel like it's get-back time," James said. "We really need this win and with the schedule that we have coming up, especially in conference, it's one of those games that looks great on your resume. I know it's early to start talking about that, but as seniors and mature guys we know what's at stake."
While it might be early, the Golden Eagles will go to Nashville on Dec. 16 to play No. 10 Tennessee before they open up a Big East conference schedule that currently has eight teams ranked in the Top 25.
But Wisconsin's play has affected Williams already. While the Golden Eagles were preparing for Central Michigan, which they won 81-67, Williams sneaked a peek at the Badgers' last-second victory over Virginia Tech on Monday.
"I saw the last five minutes of the game and you have to be incredibly mentally tough to play Wisconsin because they're not going to beat themselves," Williams said.
The teams have split the last six meetings, but Marquette's senior guards -- James, Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal -- won for the first time in the series last year and are looking to even their record against the Badgers, who no longer have Brian Butch or top defender Michael Flowers, but still have plenty of guys who know their roles.
"We know that this is not the same Wisconsin team we've played in the past as far as like talented players, but they're a great team. The thing that they do best is execute," James said. "They always play well as a team and we know that we're going to have to guard. It's a game that we're really going to have to have our mind-set right and play great defense because that's what it's going to come down to."
Wisconsin guard Trevon Hughes, whose shot with 0.9 second to play beat Virginia Tech, said there was a simple reason the Golden Eagles beat the Badgers a year ago.
"I remember that they were hungrier than us and we can't let that happen again," Hughes said.
The Virginia Tech game gave the Badgers an important road win, he said.
"That's good momentum and a good monkey off your back, especially going to Marquette," Hughes said. "We have momentum going into the game and hopefully we can feed off of that. We have to be aggressive from the opening tip because we know they are going to get after it with their three senior guards."
In each of the last three meetings against Wisconsin, Marquette has committed 16 turnovers, but against Central Michigan, the Golden Eagles committed 18 mistakes. Williams said there's no way that'll work playing the Badgers.
"They're going to grind out every single possession. And that's why the value of a possession, no matter who you're playing or what their name says, is monumental and that's the way they play. We'll have to be at our absolute best," Williams said.
But the new coach also displayed his self-deprecating charm, which is something he actually shares with Ryan, who has 542 more wins than Williams does.
"I think everybody's excited. I appreciate it. I'm excited to coach," Williams said. "I'm glad that I'm still employed here. Wins are hard to get."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)