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Can Toughness Be Taught?

Instead of writing some standard preview of the game tonight, I'm instead going to go ahead and vent about the display last night and include a prediction for tonight's game at the end. So, if you are reading this preview hoping to learn more about Marquette, I want to encourage you to stop reading at this point.

What I am hoping to discuss and figure out in this post is whether a culture of a program can be adjusted in a manner of weeks. While I was watching the game last night, I found myself growing continually disgusted with the attitude and mentality I saw from this Gonzaga team. One issue that immediately jumped out at me was the lack of enthusiasm and passion throughout the 40 minutes. For example, late in the first half, Elias Harris took a charge while Gonzaga was putting together one of the numerous mini-rallies it had throughout the game. The only reaction I saw from the team was one guy come over and help Harris off the floor. It was at that moment I truly began questioning what this team was made of. When a player sacrifices his body and takes a charge, every teammate on the court should be running over to help him up, and every player on the bench should be off his chair applauding and cheering.

The only time I saw anything close to resembling excitement from the bench or court was when Manny dove to the court to pickup a loose ball and call a timeout (more on Manny in the next paragraph). I guarantee when you watch Duke, Washington, Kentucky and every other elite team play in the next couple of days, you will notice a level of excitement and passion that is clearly missing from this group.

The other moment that is firmly ingrained in my mind from the game was a conversation that was briefly caught on camera. Like many other Gonzaga fans, I have been clamoring to see more Mangisto Arop. However, if he doesn't adjust his attitude in the next couple of weeks, he doesn't deserve to play. After blowing a defensive assignment following a Gonzaga basket, which allowed K-State a wide-open three-pointer, Arop was subbed out immediately. The camera immediately flashed over to the Gonzaga bench and happened to show Coach Few chewing out Manny. Instead of looking his coach in the eye and responding to what was being said, Manny was looking away and practically ignoring the fact that his coach was talking to him. I know this might be something small, but if you ask any coach (hopefully Mike chimes in on this), that is a clear sign of disrespect and can't be tolerated.

So many of you may be curious what I would have preferred to see from Manny, and my response is that I would have been happy with two different responses. The first response I would have been happy with would have been if Manny took responsibility for completely blowing his defensive assignment and was paying attention to what Few was telling him on the bench. The other response I would have been fine with would have been Manny bringing some attitude back at Few. I'm not calling for some rebellion or anything like that, but it would have been nice to see Manny let out some of the frustration he should have from sitting on the bench the majority of the season. I believe a good yelling match between coach and player can be incredibly beneficial for everyone involved.

After focusing on these two points I want to open up a question to all of our great readers. Do you believe that a team is capable of developing passion and adjusting its mentality in a matter of hours? For example, do you think we will see a team that appears to care and play with heart tonight? I know it's early in the season for something like this to be discussed, but I just can't get over seeing a team playing against the No. 4 squad in the country with so little heart.

Oh ya....Marquette 80, Gonzaga 66