"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Friday, January 22, 2021

Resume Builder's Last Call

When Marquette left an open slot in their 2020-21 non-conference schedule, the impression given was that it could be used later to add to scheduling flexibility. Now that we're half way through the season, there are two very important things to note as we think back on what that flexibility means:

  1. Scheduling Changes: The open game and subsequent cancellations give teams more mid-season flexibility than we've ever seen before.
  2. Known Quantities: With NET and kenpom rankings having more data set, teams could schedule games now with more knowledge of both the NET value and measurable risk/rewards.

What that means is that a program like Marquette, which now has the ability to add three games (the vacant non-con slot and the Villanova/Georgetown "postponements"), could bolster their NCAA resume by adding non-conference games with teams that have high NET and low kenpom rankings, giving the best odds of adding a high-value win with minimal loss potential. It's also worth looking at playing these on the road, either as individual games or as home-and-homes or 2-for-1 situations. Without fans, home court has never meant less, which again increases the reward while minimally increasing the risk, and it could lead to improved home games in the future as some of these programs would be solid buys in a normal year.

Shanquan Hemphill & Drake need Q1 games to build an at-large resume

Photo from godrakebulldogs.com

A game like this wouldn't only benefit the high-major team, however. Teams that are in smaller leagues also don't have the number of high-profile opportunities (read: Q1 games) to bolster their own resumes, so in addition to gaining a larger audience against a team that can guarantee a national broadcast, they would also get the chance to pull off a victory that would improve their own NCAA at-large resume. So who are the best candidates for these games? Let's take a look:

Drake Bulldogs (13-0)

NET: 11 / kenpom: 60

The Bulldogs are undefeated and would be a Quadrant 1A opponent on any floor. They also haven't played a single Q1 game or any opponents in the top-100 of NET or kenpom. Drake has been blowing out inferior opponents, averaging an 18.5 ppg margin in conference wins, and is favored in every remaining game. Their NET may drop, but at worst they will almost certainly remain a Q2 opponent. But if they lose in their conference tournament, their soft resume will likely keep them outside the NCAA at-large field. However, if they added a Q1 road win, they might have enough ammo that a 1-2 loss resume would get them in. Potential Date: February 4 or monitor for future mutual cancellations.

Colgate Raiders (5-1)

NET: 19 / kenpom: 106

The Raiders NET will likely drop due to their Patriot League schedule, but they are favored in every remaining game and favored by 9+ in 8/10 games. Further, because they are playing a League only schedule currently (not all Patriot League teams did that) it would only take 2 COVID cancellations on their part or opponent's part to bring them below the 13-game threshold to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. They need games. In addition, the Patriot League is playing Saturday/Sunday every weekend, so Colgate is available during the week every week. The best way to insure it's a Q1 game? Play on the road, and do so back-to-back like the Patriot League right after one of Marquette's road trips east. Potential Date: January 28 after Providence or February 28 after UConn.

Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (11-3)

NET: 30 / kenpom: 25

The huge risk here is that the Ramblers do really well in efficiency metrics like kenpom, which indicate they are a high risk opponent. That said, they are only 1-3 away from home against top-150 teams per Pomeroy. This would be a potential Q1 or Q2 home game, or a certain Q1 road game if Marquette wanted to drive down to Chicago or frame it around their roadie at DePaul. The Ramblers are favored in every remaining game on their schedule and a win against them would look great on the resume. Potential Date: February 10, February 23, or March 3.

Winthrop Eagles (13-0)

NET: 53 / kenpom: 105

Marquette fans with long memories might get antsy when they hear Winthrop mentioned due to their upset of Marquette in the 2005 Blue & Gold Classic. Winthrop is one of just two top-60 NET teams with a sub-100 kenpom ranking, joining Colgate in that regard. The drawback here is they aren't local, so this would have to be more of a traditional buy game. Winthrop is a double-digit favorite in 8/10 remaining games and the 20.1% odds kenpom gives them of finishing their season undefeated is second best to Gonzaga. Even if they slip in the NET a bit, this is a likely Q2 home game and high risk/reward. Potential Date: January 30

Bryant Bulldogs (10-3)

NET: 94 / kenpom: 173

This would be a risk/reward play. Bryant gave Syracuse all they could handle in an 85-84 loss at the Carrier Dome on opening night, but the Orange let themselves get into a shooting contest with an opponent that's better at shooting. With more tape out, Bryant should be an easier opponent for a high-major roster at this point, and there are few top-100 NET teams that are this low in kenpom. It would likely have to be a road game to be worth it (Q2 on the road, only Q3 at home) but Bryant is located just 15 miles from Providence, so Marquette could play on back-to-back nights once like the mid-majors are doing. Potential Date: January 26 or 28

In all honesty, I don't expect to see many, if any, teams add non-conference games at this point, so this may be more a thought exercise than anything else. But for teams on the bubble, like Marquette, there is a huge opportunity due to scheduling flexibility. Further, knowing that games like these could offer exposure and resume-building upside that these teams may not be able to arrange in the middle of a normal season makes for viable reasons for both parties to embrace some COVID creativity.

Here's a look at our updated NCAA Tournament projection:


2-Seeds: 8-HOUSTON 7-Iowa 6-Tennessee 5-Texas

3-Seeds: 9-ALABAMA 10-Wisconsin 11-Kansas 12-Texas Tech

4-Seeds: 16-Minnesota 15-Illinois 14-Ohio State 13-VIRGINIA

5-Seeds: 17-Florida State 18-West Virginia 19-Creighton 20-Clemson

6-Seeds: 24-UCLA 23-Oklahoma State 22-Colorado 21-Missouri

7-Seeds: 25-Purdue 26-Oregon 27-Usc 28-Virginia Tech

8-Seeds: 32-BOISE STATE 31-Lsu 30-SAINT LOUIS 29-Connecticut

9-Seeds: 33-Florida 34-Byu 35-Xavier 36-Oklahoma

10-Seeds: 40-Arkansas 39-Indiana 38-Seton Hall 37-Louisville

11-Seeds: 41-Rutgers 42-Stanford 43-DRAKE 44-Richmond

12-Seeds: 50-TOLEDO 49-WINTHROP 48-Pittsburgh 47-San Diego State 46-St. Bonaventure 45-Marquette

13-Seeds:  51-UAB 52-BELMONT 53-WOFFORD 54-SIENA





NIT 1-Seeds: Maryland, North Carolina, Colorado State, Providence

NIT 2-Seeds: Michigan State, Utah State, Georgia Tech, VCU

Multi-bid Leagues

Big 10: 9

Big 12: 7

SEC: 6

ACC: 6

Big East: 6

Pac-12: 5

Atlantic 10: 3

Mountain West: 2

WCC: 2

Monday, January 18, 2021

Scrambled Eggs is back and we're catching up on the season

We've been away for a bit, so we have some catching up to do. We talk #mubb over the last couple of weeks and how much or little negativity we should fill ourselves with. We also talk about line-ups, what would we change or not change to get more out of the roster. We also talk about who the best overall and offensive options are Marquette going forward. Lastly we talk about the tournament picture and we bring back the super popular bubble talk segment. Note, Joe's end at a bit of an audio glitch at the beginning and again in the last 15 seconds, but other than that it's a typically average episode. Enjoy!  https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/xfrxya/ScrambledEggs_Editted_011721.mp3

Friday, January 15, 2021

Her Time is Now

Imagine that tomorrow, Marquette was in the market for a head coach and I told you they could not only go after a sitting high-major head coach with a National Championship, two additional Final Fours, and 14 bids in the past 15 NCAA Tournaments, but could give that coach a raise? Or they could target a former high-major head coach with 11 years at the D1 level, a Final Four appearance, 7 NCAA bids in 8 seasons at their last high-major job, and was currently sitting on a NBA bench as an assistant coach, and could similarly offer that coach a significant pay raise? Or they could bring back a Marquette alum that had multiple conference championships and NCAA bids while coaching in the Big East?

To be clear, this is not an article about replacing Steve Wojciechowski. There is more than enough discussion of that on Twitter and message boards, and in all honesty, I don't think anyone with legitimate connections to the program believes Marquette will be in the market for a head coach in the coming off-season. However when these discussions do occur, I find it increasingly odd that we never hear a woman's name mentioned not just for Marquette but for any job. The premise here is born out of a tweet I sent earlier this month:

I deliberately put Jennie Baranczyk's name in there for two reasons. First, I was hoping by name-dropping a former Marquette assistant for the women's team it would spur some discussion. Second, I think it's a truly valid question as to why when openings in men's basketball come up, we NEVER hear women mentioned for those jobs. The conversation that began there also led to a companion piece by Patrick Madden of The Big Big East Blog that also came out today in which he digs deeper into some of the trailblazers mentioned below, places where women have already shown the ability to break through, and other candidates that might eventually take on the challenge I alluded to regarding Baranczyk.

It's somewhat amazing that Edniesha Curry and Corin "Tiny" Adams are the only female assistant coaches in NCAA Men's Division I basketball. Curry at Maine and Adams at Loyola-Maryland are just the fourth and fifth women in Men's Division I history, dating back to Bernadette Mattox, who was hired by Rick Pitino to join the Kentucky bench over 30 years ago, in 1990. Meanwhile, with less than 1/10th the teams, the NBA has nearly double the number of ACTIVE female assistant coaches with 9 women currently sitting on NBA benches.

Edniesha Curry handling a practice for the Maine Black Bears

Photo Courtesy of the Morning Sentinel

It seems inevitable that in the next few years, San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon will become a NBA head coach. Hammon interviewed for the Milwaukee Bucks opening a couple years ago and already became the first woman to take the head coaching reins when Greg Popovich was ejected from a Spurs game on December 30, 2020. It seems to be only a matter of time before Hammon takes the role full time, whether that's in San Antonio when Popovich retires or sooner if another team hires Hammon to break the gender line.

Basketball is ultimately a game about math. Whether it's the simple equation of determining which team's points are greater than the other team's when the horn sounds or the advanced analytics that drive NCAA Tournament Selection through the NET, kenpom, and other advanced metrics, this game is about math. It's rather silly in 2021 to imagine that there aren't women out there that can do math just as well as men. Let's not forget, Hidden Figures was based on a true story.

In addition, there are already women who have proven they can coach basketball. Consider names like Pat Summitt or Muffet McGraw. Both are household names among college basketball fans, even those who don't closely follow the women's game. Even names like Tara Vanderveer, Kim Mulkey, and Dawn Staley are familiar to most who follow D1 hoops. There's no reason to think coaches like Summitt, McGraw, and others couldn't have been incredibly successful in the men's game as well. The only arguments against them, such as whether they would be respected by male players, could recruit male players, or can keep up in a male-dominated world are the same arguments used against black coaches 40 years ago.

The skills required to succeed as a coach in Division I basketball are rather similar, regardless of gender. Coaches need to know how to recruit, how to coach X's and O's, how to manage egos, and how to work within the numbers of NET and scheduling. So why on earth have we not seen a woman get a chance to run one of these programs? Not only get a chance, but has there ever been a woman interviewed to coach a Division I Men's Basketball program? I can't find any evidence of it, and if the answer is no, the level of misogyny coming from that is through the roof. It's hard to imagine a program like Marquette not entertaining minority candidates, so why on earth would they not consider female candidates for their job as well?

Eventually, a woman will cross the coaching gender line. I fully acknowledge not everyone would want to be that first, but the program that eventually makes that hire could be getting someone far more established than they could realistically target if they stick to the misogynistic stance of only interviewing men. The reality is that coaches with the track records of Bill Self, Tony Bennett, and Jay Wright don't change jobs very often. The only established blue blood coach to leave for another college job without being pushed out the door in the last 20 years was Roy Williams. Yet there are a crop of elite college coaches at women's programs like Baylor, Stanford, and South Carolina that are never considered when men's programs are looking for a new head coach.

With that in mind, I decided to consider five candidates that I feel would be worth calling if Marquette suddenly found themselves in need of a head coach.

Lindsay Gottleib has Final Four and NBA experience

Photo by Tony Gutierrez, Associated Press

Here are the first 5 calls I would make:

1) Lindsay Gottleib, Cleveland Cavaliers: Gottleib is currently an assistant with the Cavs, which means bringing NBA experience that will carry immediate credibility with collegiate players and recruits. She was also a successful college coach, having spent 11 years as a D1 coach, including 8 years as coach of the California women's team. In that stretch, Gottleib took the Lady Bears to the NCAA Tournament 7 times and also to their only Final Four appearance. She is responsible for as many NCAA bids at Cal as all the previous coaches in the 38 prior years of program history combined. In addition, Gottleib's reported salary in Cleveland is around $500,000, which any high-major program could eclipse with relative ease. She has already proven a trailblazer by going from Women's D1 Basketball to the NBA so there's reason to think she might be interested in also being the first woman to coach a Men's D1 team. I think any program would be hard-pressed to find another 43-year-old coach with experience in both the Final Four and the NBA. I mean, even Brad Stevens is older than that. Men's Comparison: Juwan Howard in that she brings immediate NBA credibility and experience while having a track record of success.

2) Brenda Frese, Maryland: I feel like if Marquette were to make one of these hires, the woman would need the potential to become an icon, which means longevity. At 50, Frese is the oldest candidate on the list, but certainly young enough to coach for 15-20 years, if not longer. In addition, Frese's resume is phenomenal. She is the youngest female coach in D1 basketball with 500+ wins. She also has a National Championship (2006), two additional Final Fours (2014, 2015), three more trips to the Elite Eight, and a National Coach of the Year award. Her teams are frequently ranked in the top-10 as are her recruiting classes. Frese has also shown a willingness to borrow from the men's game, reconfiguring her defense after watching Chris Beard's Texas Tech team reach the National Championship Game. Her estimated $1,300,000 salary would be more to outbid, but there really aren't any mountains she hasn't already climbed in the women's game, so if she wanted to take on the men's coaching establishment, it would be worth the call. Men's Comparison: Jay Wright because she has been doing this for a long time at the highest level and has nets she cut down to reinforce her resume.

3) Adia Barnes, Arizona: The Wildcats had fallen from grace when the now 43-year-old Barnes took over, but in five years she has transformed them into a top-10 team. This all came on the heels of her work as an assistant at Washington, where she helped them to the Final Four in 2016. COVID cost her the chance to break a 15-year NCAA Tournament drought but her team rebounded phenomenally and now looks like one of the best in the country. Barnes was a star at Arizona decades ago and played in the WNBA, but what really revolutionized her coaching was spending time playing in Europe. She used those connections to improve her recruiting once she got the Arizona job and was credited with helping Sean Miller improve his European recruiting on the men's side. While she is an alum of UA, we have already seen how those ties aren't always that strong (see below), especially when Barnes was in the mix for the Duke women's job last year and when she's making just $400,000/year with the Wildcats. Men's Comparison: Chris Beard because like Beard, she has imposed a strong defense, found immediate success at a place not known for it, and was competing at the top of her sport within the first couple years on the job.

4) Nicki Gross, Vanderbilt: At age 31, Gross is the youngest coach on this list. She also has perhaps the least likely path to high-major basketball. Gross was a soccer player for Seton Hall, but after graduating went to Monmouth for her MBA and was a graduate assistant for the men's basketball team. From there, she got the coaching bug. After her time at Monmouth, she moved on to the G League where she started as the video coordinator for the Iowa Energy in 2014-15 before getting a full assistant coach position in 2015-16. From there, she spent two years working for Jerry Stackhouse with the Toronto G League affiliate before following him to Vanderbilt as Special Assistant to the Head Coach. Her duties include scouting, practice plans, and staff management. While she may not have the resume of some of the others on this list, she already has a foot in Men's Division I basketball and has experience coaching pros. Gross's career path has been on a meteoric rise every since she was at Monmouth and she has earned praise from her employers. She seems like a certain future head coach, so why not give her a shot now? Men's Comparison: Buzz Williams not because of any easy comparison, but because of the surprising path she took to where she is, having not played college basketball but working hard at the typically overlooked levels of the sport before latching on to a Division I program.

5) Carolyn Kieger, Penn State: This name is familiar because on a Marquette blog, I felt we needed at least one direct Marquette connection. Kieger played for Marquette, began her coaching career here under Terri Mitchell, then took over the program, returning from Miami (Fl) to coach her alma mater in 2014. In her five years here, she built the Marquette women's team into a top-25 regular, winning two Big East regular season titles and a Big East Tournament title. But the Big East in women's basketball is not the league it is in the men's game, so she left for a Big 10 job in 2019. Kieger is just 37 years old but has a keen understanding of not only Marquette University but the direction the modern game is taking. While I could see arguments for either Jennie Baranczyk (former MU assistant, now head coach at Drake) or Megan Duffy (current MU women's coach) I feel like Kieger is the most proven woman with a Marquette connection, and the one who has the best ability to hit the ground running at Marquette due to her time here as both player and coach. Men's Comparison: Brian Wardle because her name is familiar to the Marquette family and she brings immediate credibility from past programs she has ran, with the main difference being Kieger has already done it here.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Stop...Bracket Time!

While it's not actually a bracket today, we have the first Cracked Sidewalks S-Curve of the 2020-21 season. I've aimed for Christmas in recent years, but felt waiting was warranted considering we didn't really have much data to work with, and because it's hard to evaluate teams that have a 5-10 game disparities in games played.

Marquette begins just outside the field. It was close, as their resume at a glance is nearly identical to the last team in the field, Maryland, but Marquette simply doesn't have the computer numbers to offset their mediocre record. That said, they are favored on kenpom in 8 of their remaining 12 games, so they appear to be in position to make the field if they win the games they are supposed to win.

Overall, the Big East is weaker than it was a year ago. While Villanova and Creighton are still well-positioned, UConn is the only other team that would be favored to win a first weekend game. Part of the problem for that is a lack of non-conference wins over teams worthy of at-large bids (the top-48 teams). The Big East is 4-11 against those teams. No Big East team has more than one such victory and the lack of quality wins means the wins earned in league play simply don't carry the weight they normally would, especially against the bottom 5 teams (Providence, St. John's, Butler, Georgetown, DePaul) who went a combined 0-6 in those games.

Could the fate of Marcus Zegarowski's 2019 Creighton team
signal the future for DJ Carton's 2021 Marquette team?
Photo Courtesy of Marquette Athletics

That likely has two repercussions. First, having a winning league record may not mean as much as it has in the past, especially if a team ends up with an unbalanced schedule and the bulk of their wins against those 5 teams listed above. Consider a few past examples of teams that missed the NCAA field worth looking at:

  • 2014 Clemson (20-12/10-8): 9 of their 10 ACC wins vs non-tourney teams, 2 Q1 wins.
  • 2014 St. John's (20-12/10-8): 8 of their 10 Big East wins vs non-tourney teams, 2 Q1 wins.
  • 2014 Georgia (19-13/12-6): 12 of their 12 SEC wins vs non-tourney teams, 2 Q1 wins.
  • 2015 Miami (21-12/10-8): 8 of their 10 ACC wins vs non-tourney teams, 5 Q1 wins.
  • 2015 Texas A&M (20-11/11-7): 9 of their 11 SEC wins vs non-tourney teams, 1 Q1 win.
  • 2016 Ohio State (20-13/11-7): 9 of their 11 Big Ten wins vs non-tourney teams, 2 Q1 wins.
  • 2016 South Carolina (24-8/11-7): 9 of their 11 SEC wins vs non-tourney teams, 1 Q1 win.
  • 2016 Georgia (19-14/10-8): 10 of their 10 SEC wins vs non-tourney teams, 1 Q1 win.
  • 2017 Alabama (19-14/10-8): 8 of their 10 SEC wins vs non-tourney teams, 3 Q1 wins.
  • 2018 Mississippi State (20-13/10-8): 8 of their 10 SEC wins vs non-tourney teams, 3 Q1 wins.
  • 2018 Nebraska (22-10/13-5): 12 of their 13 Big Ten wins vs non-tourney teams, 1 Q1 win.
  • 2019 Creighton (18-14/9-9): 8 of their 9 Big East wins vs non-tourney teams, 2 Q1 wins.

Will Marquette get in if they only beat the bottom tier of the Big East from here on out? Maybe. But past precedent shows it's certainly no guarantee that even if they beat every one of the bottom five from here on out while playing all their games that a 15-10 (11-8) resume with 10/11 league wins vs non-tourney teams will be enough. While beating the teams you are expected to beat is important, to be secure Marquette really needs to capitalize on their remaining games against Creighton, UConn, Seton Hall, and Xavier to truly feel secure.

Here's the first S-Curve:


2-Seeds: 8-Clemson 7-Iowa 6-Tennessee 5-Texas

3-Seeds: 9-HOUSTON 10-Kansas 11-Creighton 12-Illinois

4-Seeds: 16-Usc 15-Wisconsin 14-Colorado 13-Texas Tech

5-Seeds: 17-ALABAMA 18-Connecticut 19-Ohio State 20-West Virginia

6-Seeds: 24-Virginia Tech 23-ST. LOUIS 22-LOUISVILLE 21-Missouri

7-Seeds: 25-Oregon 26-UCLA 27-Minnesota 28-Virginia

8-Seeds: 32-Oklahoma 31-Lsu 30-Arkansas 29-Oklahoma State

9-Seeds: 33-Indiana 34-Rutgers 35-DRAKE 36-Seton Hall

10-Seeds: 40-Florida State 39-San Diego State 38-Xavier 37-North Carolina

11-Seeds: 41-BOISE STATE 42-Purdue 43-Stanford 44-Florida

12-Seeds: 50-FURMAN 49-TOLEDO 48-Syracuse 47-Maryland 46-Wichita State 45-Byu






Last Four In: BYU, Wichita State, Maryland, Syracuse

Last Four Byes: Florida State, Purdue, Stanford, Florida 

NIT 1-Seeds (First Four Out): Marquette, Richmond, VCU, Pittsburgh

NIT 2-Seeds (Next Four Out): Pittsburgh, SMU, NC State, Michigan State

Multi-bid Leagues

Big 10: 10

Big 12: 7

ACC: 7


Pac-12: 5

Big East: 5

Mountain West: 2

WCC: 2

AAC: 2

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Marquette vs. Georgetown - 2 Worst Turnover Differential Teams in Big 6 Conferences

Another great day shooting for Marquette led to a great start, but lopsided loss to Villanova. The one problem once again was turnovers. Yes, 7 of 16 free throws was a bad night, but on average a team hits 11 of 16 free throws so that only costs Marquette 4 points - less if they grab just one of the rebounds of those missed shots and score on the possession.

But turning the ball over 17 times while forcing only four turnovers is tough to overcome. Looking at national stats at www.kenpom.com a huge difference in turnovers (though not that big a discrepancy) was not completely unexpected. Villanova forces turnovers on 19.0 percent of opponents' possessions while only turning the ball over 11.6% of their trips - a +7.4 that ranks 15th in the nation in Turnover Advantage.

Unfortunately Marquette's 21.2 percent turnover ratio compared to turning opponents' over 14.8 percent of the time is a -6.4, the second worst difference of any team in the top six conferences. As you can see from the bottom of this table, only Georgetown is worst. The good news is that with one area being such a weak spot - and potentially somewhat explained by all the missed practice time, there is really only one problem that really needs to be fixed for this to be a very exciting team with a high ceiling. Here are the top 25 teams in Turnover Advantage, followed by the worst 10 teams among the top six conferences.

Georgetown and Marquette should both improve Saturday - when they play each other.

RnkTurnovers Forced - TOConfTO advantageOff TO%Def TO%
1Wake ForestACC14.818.233
2N.C. StateACC13.215.929.1
4Texas TechB1212.316.528.8
6Eastern KentuckyOVC11.21728.2
9Florida AtlanticCUSA9.415.524.9
11Sacramento St.BSky8.317.425.7
13Arizona St.P127.615.423
19Abilene ChristianSlnd721.828.8
23UT Rio Grande ValleyWAC6.618.324.9
25St. John'sBE6.317.223.5
 Worst 10 Major ConfConfTO advantageOff TO%Def TO%
4Notre DameACC-4.716.712
6South CarolinaSEC-4.326.522.2
9Michigan St.B10-31815
10Iowa St.B12-2.823.520.7

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Rumors of good defense for MU are greatly exaggerated

It's been a whirlwind week for #mubb and we're back to talk about it. We talk about the three games since last we posted. We spend time talking about what is going on with the defense and if the concern is overblown or not. We then talk about the new faces on the team and how we are starting to see them blossom. We then turn to future Top 10 victim, Villanova and whether we think #mubb can win. This will be the last pod for 2020, so we wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year! Enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/zvmyi5/scrambledeggs_edit_12222020.mp3

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Defenseless Again

Adam Kunkel sinks Marquette with a late three | Photo Courtesy of CBS Sports

It wasn't long ago that Brian Hamilton at The Athletic was writing about the improvement of Marquette's defense. With veteran players like Theo John and Jamal Cain that had years in the system, guards with lockdown defensive ability like Koby McEwen and D.J. Carton, and freshmen with length in the rotation like Dawson Garcia and Justin Lewis, it finally seemed that Marquette had all the elements to turn Steve Wojciechowski's defensive reputation into a reality that had yet to be realized in Milwaukee.

While the defense started well, it's starting to look like those early numbers might not have been indicative of what we will actually see this season. After the Oklahoma State game, Marquette's defense was ranked #24 on kenpom.com, having held their first three opponents below 0.900 points per possession. The eFG% was a suffocating 35.6%. Since then, the defense has gone in the opposite direction. Every opponent has managed over 1.000 points per possession, including more than 1.250 for both Creighton and Xavier. The eFG% is down to 46.3 for the season, but that's because they have allowed 52.2 defensive eFG% in the past 6 games, which is 213th in the country over that span.

Opponent PPP eFG%
Arkansas-Pine Bluff 0.750 29.5
Eastern Illinois 0.694 32.0
Oklahoma State 0.897 45.8
UW-Madison 1.032 43.8
UW-Green Bay 1.015 46.0
UCLA 1.062 46.4
Creighton 1.254 60.3
Seton Hall 1.045 51.9
Xavier 1.319 65.2

Obviously no segment of the season is played in isolation, but looking at T-Rank from December 2 until now, Marquette's adjusted defensive efficiency is ranked #195 in the country. That's worse than any complete season in the Steve Wojciechowski era. It's worse than the 2017 team that was his first NCAA bid and it's worse than the 2018 team with Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard limiting Marquette's perimeter size. To Marquette's credit, the first three games of the season still count, which puts the overall ranking at #71 nationally, but it's starting to look like those performances were more the outliers than an actual indicator of defensive improvement.

Further, while the season is young, the idea that this team will automatically improve because they are young may be unfounded. Marquette starts three seniors who have 13 years of D1 experience between them. They have another fourth-year junior on the bench and two sophomores in what appears to be an 8-man rotation. While there are also two freshmen in the rotation, Pomeroy rates Marquette #181 in experience and #161 in minutes continuity (the returning minutes that are continuing to play this year). Even with only 328 teams playing so far this season, that is still about middle of the pack in terms of experience. Not an old team, but not a young team either. At this point, the UAPB and EIU games are doing a lot of work in terms of this defense looking marginally respectable, though that marginal respectability is sliding backwards on a game by game basis.

The question is, if this team isn't as offensively gifted as the teams we've had in recent years and the defense isn't the calling card it looked to be a couple weeks ago, what is this team's path to success this year? The coaching staff will need to come up with an answer fast, because with Marquette already in the thick of Big East play, the schedule won't be easing up any time soon.