"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

Sunday, April 20, 2014

MU Sets Record for NBA Players for 3rd Straight Year; 5 of them play in Playoffs

Two years after FIVE Marquette players played in the NBA in the same season, Marquette had FIVE players play in the NBA PLAYOFFS in one weekend including three starters and Jae Crowder, who had a +16 in just 12 minutes to help the Mavs almost upset the Spurs.

Marquette set a record for players in the NBA for the third straight year. For all the glory days of the past, the fact is Marquette never had more than three players in the NBA until Chris Crawford joined Tony Smith, Amal McCaskill and Jim McIlvaine to make it four in 1998, and then never topped that figure until FIVE played in the NBA. Then it was SIX in 2013 and EIGHT this season:

MU in NBAYears
82014
72013
52012
41998-2001, 2010-2011
31971-1975, 1980, 1984-87, 1992, 1995-1997, 2004, 2007-2009

In 2012, Jimmy Butler joined Dwyane Wade, Steve Novak, Wesley Matthews and Lazar Hayward to make it five for the first time in Marquette history.

In 2013, those five were all still there and one of the greatest duos in Marquette history, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, set a new record with SEVEN Marquette players seeing action. DJO just had a few minutes on the court, but Crowder made the Mavs rotation.

This year Vander Blue joined DJO in getting a few minutes on the court and Dwight Buycks pocketed a nice $700,000 contract and got some real court time with Toronto (including 22 minutes in the season finale Wednesday) to set a new record with EIGHT Marquette players seeing action.

Buycks has the best chance of those three to play against next year. On the flip side, Marquette has three playoff STARTERS on the court this weekend in Dwyane Wade (Miami), Jimmy Butler (Chicago) and Wesley Matthews (Portland).

Steve Novak played only briefly Saturday for the Raptors but hopefully can continue to find a team that needs a tall three-point shooter for situations.

And that leaves Jae Crowder, who went from not being in the Top 100 prospects prior to his senior season, to finishing as the 2nd ranked player behind Anthony Davis at www.valueaddbasketball.com, to the Mavs rotation. In 12 minutes Sunday, Crowder was a +16 - meaning the Mavs won by 16 points while he was on the court, as he made the most of his quarter of play by hitting both three-point attempts and grabbing four rebounds, a steal and blocking a shot.

The +16 is not everything - 2nd team players mainly face other 2nd team players - but Crowder seems to be establishing himself as a player who could be around for a while.

Eight could be the peak, as it is unlikely all eight will play again in 2015 and the next two Marquette players listed in the Top 100 prospects in their class are freshman JuJuan Johnson (53rd) and Deonte Burton (67th). However, Crowder's line makes it look like MU has four solid players until whenever Wade retires and we can hope for the other four to find a steady spot.

Mavs vs. Spurs+/-MINFGM-A3PM-AFTM-AOREBDREBREBASTSTLBLKTOPFPTS
Jae Crowder, SF16122 of 32 of 20 of 0134011036
















Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wojo signs with CAA Sports. Jimmy Sexton will represent, one of the most powerful figures in college sports

New Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski has signed with CAA Sports for representation.  Jimmy Sexton will be the lead agent for his affairs.

Sexton currently represents John Calipari, Erik Spoelstra, and Mike Anderson on the basketball side.  He is known more for his representation of college football coaches, including Alabama's Nick Saban, Auburn's Gus Malzahn, Florida State's Jimbo Fisher, UCLA's Jim Mora among others. 

Sexton is considered one of the most powerful people in college sports as he represents some of the most sought out candidates in college football.  When college coaching football rumors are swirling, one of Sexton's guys is often mentioned as a candidate on the move.  He has been called "the SEC's true power broker."  Some cynics have argued that Sexton helps to seed those rumors to get better pay day for his clients.  At times, Sexton will represent multiple coaches for the same job opportunity which he leverages to the hilt.  Others, including many Athletic Directors, have generally high praise for Sexton's down home charm and personal relationship building, even if he just extracted a few million extra dollars from them.

Sexton has stated, "I always felt like the best negotiations are where you get what you want, but no one hates you for it."  Both sides feel good about the outcome.  His clients trust him and those he negotiates with (at least some) don't view him in an adversarial manner.  At the age of 20, Sexton convinced Reggie White to sign with him as his agent.

For Wojo to go from no representation at Duke to powerhouse agent like Sexton is interesting.  If one were to look at Sexton's client list of players and coaches in the NFL, NCAA football, NBA, etc, MU would likely rank near the bottom.  What does that mean for the future?  Well, not surprisingly if Wojo is successful, MU will be paying a lot of money to keep him around and I suspect more than a few rumors of his name being mentioned for other jobs.  It's how the coaching carousel game will be played.

First things first, he has to do well with MU or it doesn't particularly matter.


List of some of Sexton's clients

Nick Saban
John Calipari
Jim Mora
Erik Spoelstra
Ndamukong Suh
Tim Tebow
Bill Parcels
Will Muschamp
Mike Gundy
Steve Spurrier
Gus Malzahn
Frank Beamer
Rich Rodriquez
Bobby Petrino
Butch Davis
Phillip Rivers
Jason Witten

Chris Samuels
Aaron Glenn

Jason Sehorn
Michael Oher

DeAngelo Williams
Patrick Ramsey
Jerome Woods

Scottie Pippen
Horace Grant
Mike Anderson
Quinn Snyder
Rex Ryan
Don Capers
Jim Haslett
Lane Kiffin



Saturday, April 05, 2014

2003 Value Add Rankings Released as Final Four tips off

For the first time I am releasing Value Add Rankings for the 2003 season due to Ken Pomeroy (please subscribe at www.kenpom.com!) calculating tempo free stats for three additional years (2003-2005). As the Final Four tips off this let me run the program on all players from 2003 to 2014 to finally see just how good Dwyane Wade ranked during the last MU Final Four run.

Below for the first time are the top 25 Value Add players of 2003 and all of the MU players who added value in the Final Four season.

Of the almost 50,000 player seasons during the 12 seasons now going into www.valueaddbasketball.com, Wade's 2003 campaign ranks as the 7th most valuable performance. He did it in a very special year - of the 30 best seasons during that span SEVEN occurred during the 2003 campaign - more than double any other season. Chris Bosh had the 25th best season, Carmelo Anthony surged even more than the Kentucky freshman have this year to get up to seventh.

Unfortunately two Kansas players I would like to forget made it into the top 20, but going a little further down the list we see Travis Diener already at 39th (remember that is close to the top 1% of all players), Robert Jackson almost gave MU the rare trio of Top 100 players, and Scott Merritt gave us an even more rare four top 200 players.

Steve Novak was already in the top 10% of players, and he and Diener would take it to new heights.

The fact that Novak and Diener joined Wade with NBA careers is a truly rare feat, as many great players cannot get to the next level. The two players ahead of Wade in helping their team slightly more than Wade over the course of the season barely played in the NBA. Troy Bell was a dominant Consensus All-American among the top few players in scoring and assists, and Mike Sweetney dominated inside at Georgetown, but it was Dave West of Xavier who finished just behind Wade and is now more of a factor in whether or not Wade takes another NBA title.

I know it has been a down year - so getting an unexpected chance to look back at 2003 and what an incredible year and team it was was quite a treat for me as the Final Four tips off.

2003 RnkFnameLnameCollegeOffenseOvr Value Add
1TroyBellBoston College9.2612.17
2MikeSweetneyGeorgetown7.1211.5
3DwyaneWadeMarquette6.4911.4
4DavidWestXavier6.3911.05
5JameerNelsonSaint Joseph's5.110.48
6JoshHowardWake Forest6.1710.19
7CarmeloAnthonySyracuse6.079.79
8RyanGomesProvidence5.859.56
9HollisPriceOklahoma6.358.97
10MarquesGreenSt. Bonaventure5.728.92
11MarquisDanielsAuburn4.428.79
12BrettBlizzardUNC Wilmington5.688.77
13EmekaOkaforConnecticut3.548.46
14NickCollisonKansas5.088.43
15KyleKorverCreighton6.238.42
16TJFordTexas4.277.86
17ReeceGainesLouisville5.097.76
18ChrisKamanCentral Michigan4.117.57
19KirkHinrichKansas4.97.52
20MarcusHattenSt. John's3.147.44
21LukeRidnourOregon4.537.42
22BenGordonConnecticut4.917.41
23CraigSmithBoston College5.947.4
24DevinHarrisWisconsin4.267.38
25ChrisBoshGeorgia Tech4.57.27
39TravisDienerMarquette4.226.53
115RobertJacksonMarquette4.364.77
199ScottMerrittMarquette2.333.73
306SteveNovakMarquette2.972.85
491ToddTownsendMarquette2.31.67
853TerrySandersMarquette0.520.52
974JoeChapmanMarquette0.30.27
1066ChrisGrimmMarquette0.260.14
1158KaronBradleyMarquette0.050.02

Thursday, April 03, 2014

The Wojo era begins

To borrow from a favorite cartoon show of ours....yeah, MU fans, that month sure sucked last month. March just plain sucked. I've seen months suck before but March was the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked. So we quickly pivot from that to the dawning Wojo era. Side note, I can't spell words let alone Wojciechowski, so Wojo will be the nom de guerre for Scrambled Eggs. Anyway, we talk Wojo, what we think his impact on MU will be and what are our expectations. We walk through some of the reasons to like the hire despite Phil's and some fan's initial reluctance. We also talk about the current players, if they stay, and some very interesting quotes that came out. Lastly we talk incoming recruits and the new university president. So we welcome our new basketball overlord in Coach Wojo and wish him the best of luck! Download this episode (right click and save)

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Forgotten Assistant? Let's Talk Wojo

When I wrote about current assistant coaches as candidates for Marquette, I didn't include Steve Wojciechowski for a reason. After playing at Duke for 4 years, Wojo played one year professionally in Poland before returning to Durham, where he has spent 15 years on the bench, the last 6 as Coach K's associate head coach. While other Duke assistants have moved on, Wojo has seemingly been groomed to simply move up a chair when Coach K steps down.

After today's announcement that Steve Wojciechowski would take over as the 17th Head Coach of the Marquette Men's Basketball team, I decided I should correct the error of leaving him off the list. I felt when I wrote that he was arguably the best assistant in the country, but unattainable. Clearly, the latter part of that wasn't the case. So here goes:

Offense Average: 6
Defense Average: 62
Top-25 Classes: 9/12
NCAA Wins: 34
Final Fours: 3

Steve Wojciechowski: The former McDonald's All-American played for 4 years under Coach K and after one year in Poland, returned to the Duke bench as an assistant. He has been there since he was 22 years old and in his 15 years has seen the Blue Devils cut down the nets at the Final Four twice. Despite playing point guard for Duke, Wojo was their big man coach for years, helping instruct the likes of Shane Battier, Elton Brand, Carlos Boozer, and numerous other NBA players. The past 3 years Wojo transitioned to instructing the guards, so he has experience instructing at all positions, with guys like Austin Rivers, Quinn Cook, and Rodney Hood benefiting from his tutelage. Wojo also has 2 Gold Medals as an assistant to Coach K on the USA Olympic teams. He's a proven recruiter and likely already has a relationship with some of Marquette's higher profile targets like Diamond Stone and Ahmed Hill. While many will say Duke recruits itself, no school competing for recruits against Kentucky, North Carolina, and Kansas could really say the job is easy.

One more note on Marquette's new head coach. I've already heard some grumbling that he will be another guy looking to move on as soon as possible and will simply angle to get the Duke job when Coach K retires in a few years. While that's entirely possible, if Duke did pluck Wojo back from Marquette, it would undoubtedly be a sign that he had a lot of success in his time here. In addition, he will be competing with guys like Johnny Dawkins, Mike Brey, Tommy Amaker, and Chris Collins, all also former Duke assistants that would likely return to Durham if give the chance, so Wojo is hardly a shoo-in for that role, especially considering other high-profile coaches like Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart could try to get the gig as well. Finally, Wojo has shown a ton of loyalty by staying at Coach K's side as long as he has. It seems that he knows a good thing when he has it. If Marquette treats him well and he returns the favor with a successful program, he could be here for a long time.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Can 36,000 Volunteers Be Wrong?

Earlier this year, 36,000 Tennessee fans signed an online petition hoping to get the school to fire basketball coach Cuonzo Martin & bring back Bruce Pearl. Martin's team responded with 5 straight wins before a loss to #1 Florida in the SEC Tourney & followed that up with an improbable Sweet 16 run that prompted one Vol fan to write an open apology letter.

After Tennessee's thrilling 73-71 loss to Michigan in the Sweet 16, his name has emerged as a possible replacement for Buzz Williams. After #ShakaWatch, it's to be expected that Warrior fans are lukewarm to just about any candidate. Names like Howland, Wardle, & even Bennett have been mentioned, among others. Yet the more I watched Martin's Tennessee team, especially in the tournament, the more I feel he would be a good fit at Marquette.

I am not at all a fan of basing a coach's resume on one March run. Does anyone really believe that Buzz Williams' 2013 Elite 8 team was better than the 2009 or 2012 teams that lost earlier in the tournament? But last night, Martin's Volunteers trailed 70-60 with less than 4 minutes to play. They stormed back to trim the lead to 72-71 & had the ball in the final seconds with a chance to win. That wasn't the first time UT refused to give up. In the play-in game in Dayton, Martin's team didn't take their first lead until 2:40 left against Iowa. They hung in, forced overtime, & dominated the Hawkeyes in the extra frame, following that up with similarly dominant performances against UMass & Mercer.

Some may wonder why Martin would want to leave. Tennessee AD Dave Hart was hired after Martin & showed little public support for his coach. Martin also likely understands that fans & boosters are fickle, & the fans & boosters praising him now are the same ones who wanted him fired a few weeks ago & refused to fund his recruiting efforts. Martin would become a viable candidate on April 1, when his buyout drops from $2.6 to $1.3 million. After paying Buzz Williams a base of $1.8 million, Martin is definitely affordable for Marquette.

Recruiting

Before dissecting this, the most important recruiting job Marquette's next coach has is to retain current players. Many coaching changes bring massive roster overhauls. That hasn't been the case for Martin. At Missouri State, he was able to retain all 5 significant returning players. The only 2007-08 player not to return was freshman Tomas Brock, who never played another minute of D1 basketball. When Martin took over for Pearl, Scotty Hopson & Tobias Harris declared for the NBA Draft, but he retained every other player from the 2010-11 roster. At Marquette, it is vital to retain talented players like Deonte Burton, Duane Wilson, Luke Fischer, & Jajuan Johnson (who Martin recruited at UT) to keep the program running at a high level. Martin has proven he can do that.

Martin has also successfully recruited 5-star players. Jarnell Stokes was a blue-chip big man that was the first recruit to play for Martin at Tennessee. Robert Hubbs was another five-star Martin recruit Martin. He didn't land 4-star players with Buzz Williams consistency, but he also didn't see constant transfers, with the exception being graduate transfer Trae Golden. Martin also offered Marquette commit Ahmed Hill & target Diamond Stone. Those relationships would give him a shot at retaining Williams' highest rated 2014 signing & landing the coveted Stone, especially with the ability to sell a staff that developed the Volunteers' front line of Stokes & former MU player Jeronne Maymon. Martin was also a solid recruiter while an assistant at Purdue, bringing in players like Robbie Hummel & E'Twuan Moore.

His current assistants are well-rounded but feature many local ties. Associate Head Coach Tracy Webster coaches the guards & played at Wisconsin, with assistant stops at Kentucky, DePaul, & Illinois. Kent Williams has been with Martin since MSU & works with the wings. A likely local favorite would be big man coach Jon Harris, who played at Marquette on the 2003 Final Four team & had stops at MU & Green Bay before joining Martin's staff at MSU.

Play-style

Martin's teams have improved every year in terms off offensive efficiency according to kenpom.com. In addition, he has had a top-100 rating in eFG% defense each year at Tennessee & a top-30 overall defensive rating in two of his three years with the Vols. His teams don't play at a fast pace, but that could very well be a positive. If you look at the teams that are playing this weekend, 13 of the 16 teams to make the Sweet 16 played at a tempo outside the top-100, & of the remaining teams in the Elite 8, only Michigan State (#196) is in the top-200. Like it or not, playing at a slower, more methodical pace seems to be a recipe for success in March. In the past 3 years, only 3 teams have reached the Elite 8 with a tempo in the top-100, & of those, only the 2012 Ohio State team reached the Final Four. Martin's teams have trended in the right direction & play a style that generally leads to March success.

Winning

In Martin's six years as a head coach, his teams have won 20 or more games 4 times, just narrowly missing that mark with a 19-15 record in his first year at Tennessee. He took his Missouri State team from a last-place MVC finish in his first year all the way to a regular season title just two years later before being upset by Indiana State in the conference final. At Tennessee, he averaged 21 wins in 3 years & went 32-20 in SEC play.

Another impressive note about Martin's teams is that in the last 4 seasons, his teams have gone 30-10 in the last 10 games of the season including conference tournaments. That's a strong indicator that his teams trend upward at the most important time of the season.

Bottom Line

Martin may or may not be the right man for the Marquette job. It wouldn't be at all surprising to see Wake Forest, Boston College, USF, or even his alma mater Purdue get in the running for him. But those that knock him simply because he hasn't shown enough, I would encourage them to look at the resumes Billy Donovan, Bo Ryan, Tom Izzo, or Mike Krzyzewski had before they arrived at their current stops. Martin is more accomplished & experienced as a head coach than all four of them were combined. Most legendary coach hires aren't situations where a school lands a Roy Williams, Rick Pitino, or John Calipari that already have had success at the highest levels, & when those hires are made it is only at the bluest of blue-blood institutions.

Martin is a Midwest guy, has recruited current Marquette players & targets, & has proven he can win. He was unfairly treated at Tennessee & could do wonders at a program that offers the budget, facilities, & dedication to basketball that Marquette has. If nothing else, today is the 20th anniversary of the day Tennessee signed away Marquette Head Coach Kevin O'Neill on the heels of a Sweet 16 run. It may be time for the Warriors to even that score.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Top Assistant Coach Options

EDIT: ***When I wrote this, I considered briefly including Steve Wojciechowski in the article. But seeing that he's been at Duke for 19 of the last 20 years as a player and coach and has never garnered much attention as a head coaching candidate, I assumed he would simply stay at Duke until Coach K retired. Because of that, despite his illustrious background, I left him out because after ShakaWatch, I didn't want to get people excited about someone I didn't think would possibly consider leaving for Marquette. I'll put together a Wojo capsule later, but in my personal opinion, Marquette landed the most capable assistant coach in the nation.***


The crazy train for Shaka Smart pulled almost every corner of Marquette nation into it this week right up until Marquette officially went on record and said Smart was out. Since then, we've heard established names like Ben Howland, up-and-comers like Saul Phillips, coaches still coaching like Cuonzo Martin, and the hometown hero name in Brian Wardle all mentioned as possible replacements for Chris Otule's coach.

What amazes me that through all of this the only assistant coach that has been mentioned is Mike Hopkins. He has been Jim Boeheim's number two since 1996 & is generally considered the Orange heir apparent. Yet every time someone puts a mic in front of a national guy, Hopkins' name comes up. Considering Boeheim just inferred that his retirement may be coming sooner rather than later, Hopkins may not be the best choice for Marquette. He spent over 20 years playing and coaching at Syracuse. When that job opens, he will take it, no matter where he is coming back from.

So why is it no other assistants are being mentioned? Tom Crean and Buzz Williams were both assistants when they took over at Marquette, and that resulted in 10 NCAA appearances, two Sweet 16s, one Elite 8, and one Final Four in 15 years. Archie Miller, Johnny Dawkins, Tom Izzo, and Kevin Ollie are all coaching this weekend and were coming from assistant positions. With that in mind, I wanted to look at some of the top assistants out there. I looked at five assistants from blue blood schools. First, I looked at the average offense and defense ratings over the past 4 years, the number of top-25 recruiting classes they had during their time as assistants back to 2003, and both the number of NCAA wins they've been a part of and the number of trips to the Final Four.



1) Dwayne Stephens -- How this guy isn't a head coach is beyond me. 13 straight years in the tourney, a ton of postseason success at Michigan State, and probably won't wait for his 59-year-old boss, Tom Izzo, to retire. He's worked with guys like Draymond Green, Derrick Nix, and Adrien Payne, turning them into stud big men. Sparty has been in the top-50 in terms of eFG% on offense twice and defense three times in the past three years, so Stephens knows where to focus his coaching efforts. Oh...and his first Final Four? It came when he was an assistant to Tom Crean at Marquette in 2003.

2) Orlando Antigua -- I'm sure any Kentucky assistant will make some MU fans squirmy, but Antigua could be a very good fit. As a recruiter, he's been lead on numerous McDonald's All-Americans and been involved with top-5 recruiting classes every year he's been in Lexington. Antigua is also the national team coach of Puerto Rico, which helped him land Puerto Rican stud recruit Karl Towns for Kentucky. His recruiting success stories read like a who's who of lottery picks -- Anthony Davis, Nerlens Noel, DeMarcus Cousins were all Antigua gets. And the guy has one of the best stories in college basketball. How many guys can claim to have been shot in the head at age 13, played Big East basketball (at Pitt) with a bullet in their head, and gone on to be a Harlem Globetrotter?

3) Steve Robinson -- It may be tough to pry Robinson out from under Roy Williams' thumb -- the guy has spent 19 years as a Williams assistant -- but it could be very worthwhile. Robinson has recruited the best players in the country over the past dozen years, following Williams from Kansas to North Carolina. He can recruit anywhere, landing recruits from Washington State (Marvin Williams) to Washington, D.C. (Ed Davis) and everywhere in between (#1 recruit from Iowa, Harrison Barnes). As a bonus, Robinson also has head coaching experience; in the 1990s he took Tulsa to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments and also got Florida State to the Big Dance.

4) Dave Dickerson -- He's been down this road before. Dickerson was voted the #1 assistant in the ACC before taking over the head coaching gig at Tulane in 2005. His Green Wave experience was a disappointment, going just 71-85 in five years without any postseason appearances. Since landing at Ohio State, the Buckeyes recruiting has been fantastic and Dickerson was elevated to associate head coach after just 4 years on staff. He has a ton of experience, including helping Gary Williams take Maryland to a national title in 2002.

5) Kurtis Townsend -- When it comes to recruiting, no one has been more consistent over the past decade than Bill Self at Kansas, and leading the way on many of those recruits was Kurtis Townsend. Last summer, ESPN rated Townsend as the best assistant coach recruiter in the country. He has landed the #1 recruit in the country on more than one occasion -- both Andrew Wiggins and Josh Selby were Townsend gets. Perhaps more important, he's done it everywhere he's been. Townsend was on staff at Miami, USC, Michigan, and California before coming to Lawrence.

Bottom line, we missed out on Shaka, but there are plenty of Final Four and national title-winning coaches still out there and available. The only question is if the powers that be at Marquette are prescient enough to pick those guys out ahead of time.