"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, December 10, 2006


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.'


a.fish said...

I'm baffled why Fitz and Cubillan aren't getting more shot attempts. Even if Crean doen't have complete confidence in them yet, they can't shoot a worse % than McNeal and James form deep.

As for Hayward, I yell "I though he was a 3pt shooter!?!" at the TV every time he misses. He still has lots of time to improve, but frustrating nonetheless. His nose for the ball around the basket has been a pleasant surprise however.

Gene Frenkle said...

Could not agree with that assessment more. I too have wondered since the fourth game why they aren't running any plays for Fitzgerald on the offense. Is he a world beater? No. But d@mnit, he can knock down an open three better than the majority of this team.

McNeal is turns the ball over way too much. And, although I'll commend his fearlessness at times to go to the rim, he never learns from his mistakes.

"o.k., last time I drove the shot was blocked...this time....ah what the heck, let's do it again." That's what it seemed on Saturday. In fact, it was the Cincinnati game of last year all over again.

Matthews struggles are also painful to watch. One other thing for Matthews is, even when he does score, he usually does it within the first five minutes of a game. Then, the opposing coach switches up the D on him, and he's relatively harmless the rest of the game. Bad trends.

And I'll keep harping on Crean running James at the 2. This team looked much better with him at the point.

Hayward has potential, but for him to be labeled a "shooter" in h.school and to come in and lay the foundation for a house with all his bricks...I don't know. But, he is a freshman and only 19 years old.

Lastly, if you told me last year that Jamil Lott would bring less to the table than Marcus Jackson, I would have told you you were crazy.

Anonymous said...

This team is really starting to make me pull my hair out.

1.) We can't shoot from the perimeter at all...it's pathetic

2.) We can't hit free throws

3.) D. James IS NOT going pro anytime soon, if at all. He's been a non-factor in alot of games (Valpo excluded)

We're in for a VERY long season if MU can't start hitting perimeter shots & knocking down free throws. They can drive & draw the foul...but if you can't convert those talents are WORTHLESS.

Anonymous said...

I think the biggest problem we have is that we have *no* interior offensive presense. We haven't had a good interior scorer since Robert Jackson. Good defenses play our guards tight at the three point line and quickly collapse on any drives because they know there is no one really difficult to stop on the inside. Watching how Wisconsin uses their interior guys and how they pass the ball was really an eye-opener. It almost looks as though TC has one option - to use the defense to force a turnover because their half-court game is severely lacking.

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem is that we have no serious inside scoring presense. We haven't really had one since Robert Jackson. Good defenses play the guards up tight at the free throw line and collapse on any drive. TC's main strategy seems to be to score off of turnovers because the half court game is severely lacking. Watching Wisconsin, and how they move the ball and score on the inside, was really an eye-opener.

Anonymous said...

What about the fact that D James is touted as one of the top two point guards in the country but Tom Crean refuses to play him at point. If you watch the games, DJ is playing the two guard and Matthews is playing the point. We push the ball a lot less when Matthews takes the ball up. Crean needs to get back to basics and play D James where he belongs - at the point.

Anonymous said...

the wheels haven't fallen off yet, people. Remember, the Badgers are a legitimate top 10 team and MU is probably more of a top 35 team at this point.

If you live by the three, you die by the three, and I expect to see nothing but packed in zones the rest of the year.

Duke was way overrated, and TT will probably finish 4-5 in the Big 12....MU is probably a 4-5 finisher again in the Big East....and that will be very good year with this team.

Gene Frenkle said...

Regarding MU's lack of a scoring threat down low.

I don't think that bothered Villanova much last year. And, if the team is running and gunning and moving when they don't have the ball on offense, they can find someone open.

Ousmane is a pretty good guy to have down low and I think he's more than adequate if the "big three" are playing to their potential.

One point that hasn't been mentioned is Matthews terrible defense the other day. Not that the fouls are the reason they lost, but not having McNeal in to defend Tucker was brutal. He absolutely abused Matthews.

Anonymous said...


Found that article interesting by Clark Kellogg. For winning come Big East time, he says the following are necessary:

1. A 60/40 blend of experience and talent.
MU seems to be around 30/70...

2. Toughness -mental and physical.
We're pretty strong there for the most part.

3. A go-to player.
If Crean would play James at the point in the first half of games we would have one for more than 16 minutes in the second half of every game.

4. Winning on the road
The one road game was a struggle. Against the Big East we might have some problems. I'd probably be satisfied with 3 conference road wins.

5. Make shots
We're in deep trouble.

6. Balance and versatility
There are a lot of players who can play multiple positions, not hurting here.