Buzz Williams may not like to come across as savvy, or even brilliant, when it comes to his coaching techniques. He often says his players are smarter than himself, and his coaches. But every now and then the Marquette University head coach shows he knows a little about something.
The Rule of 7 – or the Rule of 72 in Williams’ dictionary – for instance.
It’s a mathematical rule used in determining the number of years it takes for an investment to double in value, and Williams applies it to his players. There was a reason why Junior Cadougan was on the floor long enough to take a shot against Washington in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
It’s why Vander Blue played 30 minutes in three tournament games in 2011. There was a reason Derrick Wilson and Juan Anderson pulled off the warmups last March.
Because in the 2013 tournament, which finds the Golden Eagles in the Sweet 16 for the third straight year, all of those players are doubling Williams’ investment in them.
"It’s kind of like how you save money," Williams said. "If you’re not consistent in saving money, at some point in time you’re going to go broke. Saving money here, in our program, is continuing to reinvest in the people that are in the program."
To Williams, success in the NCAA Tournament (he is 7-4 heading into tonight’s contest against Miami) isn’t just about being able to scout and game plan for an opponent on a short turnaround. That’s an important part of the process, but the fifth year head coach feels the most important element to deep tournament runs is the emphasis placed on your own.
"You can’t give all your money to the opponent," Williams said. "You do have to pay your tithe, but you better make sure you that take care of your kids because as much as (the media) and our fans think it’s about today, today was created because of what we did a year ago. Today was created by what we did two years ago. It should be the rule of 72 in investment – every seven years your money ought to double."
Cadougan will be playing in his 10th NCAA Tournament game. Blue and Davante Gardner will play in their ninth. Derrick Wilson, Jamil Wilson and Todd Mayo? Their sixth. Chris Otule will play in his sixth as well, but he’s been with the team for six others. Juan Anderson will play in his fifth.
Conversely, the entire Miami Hurricanes starting five will be playing in their 15th collective game – all played this year.
Senior guard Trent Lockett has only played this season with the Golden Eagles, so this is just his third tournament game. But even in that short window, where he laid out the heaviest sum of his collegiate career six months ago during Williams’ now-famous boot camp and individual workouts, he’s seen how valuable that initial investment is – and how big it can pay off down the road.
"I definitely think you can say that," he said. "It’s shown in the tournament that we’ve really worn down teams late in games and that’s because of the work we were doing in October and November. It feels good to see it pay off in that way."
Looking at the roster as a whole – one where the Miami game represents the 63rd tournament game played by his team – Williams hopes the big ROI is the first Elite Eight appearance for the program since the magical Final Four run of 2003.
For the players, they believe it will be.
"I’ve had enough of Sweet 16 and now I want to get over the hump," Blue said. "That’s why we haven’t celebrated much about this. We’re happy we won but we just got back to work, got back to doing what we do – keep grinding and we just gotta win now. We’ve been here far too many times not to get over the hump this time."
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.