As Samuel Gerard said, "What. A. Mess."
What is with MU's offense?
Earlier this year TC indicated that MU's offense would be decidedly up-tempo, perhaps pouring in upwards of 80 points per game consistently. Something is amiss because in four of MU's last five games the Golden Eagles have failed to reach 70 points. In fact, MU has not topped 80 since the convincing win over Texas Tech in November.
One-third of the way into the season, coach Tom Crean's higher octane offense is MIA. Other than a few Dominic James dribble drives around the right side of the lane, the bulk of MU's offense revolves around the old stand by: one pass, many dribbles followed by a curl and or one-on-one move from the left of the free-throw line exteneded. In Saturday's game, I stopped counting the number of times MU's guards forced the ball into the middle of the lane only to force up errant shots against taller, wider defenders in half court sets. What's the point?
Inexplicably, sophomores Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews have endured season-long sophomore slumps. Neither player has taken a major step forward this season, particularly offensively. McNeal continues to struggle on offense, shooting a lower percentage from the field and free throw line than last season. Also, his failure to protect the basketball can no longer be dismissed as simply a consequence of his frenetic style of play.
In addition, at 20% shooting from 3-point land this season one has to wonder why McNeal is allowed to shoot from that distance at all. Afterall, McNeal is a respectable 45% from the field inside the arc where he can out-quick just about anybody. Let's play to our strengths, it tends to work. Realize that Grant Hill, yes that Grant Hill, attempted a total of three 3-points shots in his first two seasons at Duke. As a junior, he was 4 for 14. As a senior? He made 39% of his shots from deep - - on 100 attempts.
Time is on Jerel's side. So is talent. Reigning in his offensive game is overdue.
Freeing up David Cubillan and Dan Fitzergald to shoot more -- from any distance -- would be a wise move. These two are among MU's most efficient offensive players who simply do not get enough field goal attempts. Food for thought - - - Cubillan has made twice as many three pointers as McNeal this season, though sophomore has hoisted nearly 25% more attempts than the freshman.
Still, neither Cubillan, Fitzgerald nor the highly-touted Lazar Hayward, who appears to be a fine player though not the shooter we were led to believe, can replace the sublime Steve Novak. But you have to wonder why these players don't have their numbers called more often.
In an offense that is all too comfortable chipping the paint off the rim from deep, Marquette will not touch 80 points consistently again this season unless the focus shifts to pressure defense. The fast break is MU's best offensive play, half court sets are not working.
Thankfully, MU is one of the nation's best when it comes to forcing turnovers, collecting steals, and defending the two-point shot. Crean's squad is stout and intense, with quickness and length on the perimeter which are difficult to simulate in practice. Just ask Coach K.
So why doesn't TC force this team to play to its strengths? Here's hoping TC hits the remix button and realizes what it is not - - last year's team.
For the first time in Crean's career at Marquette the trifecta is not a given, at least not for the guys who are hoisting up the most attempts. Unless the shot distribution changes (even that might not work), this squad can't shoot the 'three' well enough to force defenses to spread the floor, which negates any advantage MU's quickness and speed can create.
Wanna beat MU? Pack it in and wait for the long rebound.
Its time for a change. Its time for insane pressure defense which can create a faster pace, its time for larger roles on offense for Cubillan, Fitzgerald and Hayward, its time to pull the three-pointer from McNeal's repertoire, its time for ball reversals, its time for Lott, Barro, Blackledge and Burke to fill the lanes........its time to press and run, press and run, and run some more.
We've seen the alternative, and its not working. As a wise man once said, 'the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.'
Sunday, December 10, 2006
As Samuel Gerard said, "What. A. Mess."
Written by TB at 9:52 AM