"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

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ready or not, MU opens BIG EAST play

Marquette opens BIG EAST play on New Year's Day when they host the 13th ranked Villanova Wildcats (12-1). The 25th-ranked Golden Eagles begin conference play with a record of 11-2 and loads of questions about bench strength and a weak defense.

Through the season's first stanza, Wesley Matthews set the pace for Marquette. Matthews' explosive senior season has drawn comparisons to Tony Smith's final campaign in blue and gold, though Matthews' outstanding play might be more laudable given the talented veterans surrounding him. Matthews is fifth in the BIG EAST in scoring at more than 19 points per game and is second in the nation in both free throws attempted and made. The Marquette senior is shooting a career-best 50% from the field and 84% from the line.

With Matthews leading the way, Buzz Williams can count on four consistent contributors every night. Lazar Hayward (17 points, 9 boards), Jerel McNeal (17 points, 5 boards) and Dominic James (11 points, five assists) form one of the BIG EAST's best four-man gangs. Unfortunately for MU, the production usually ends with the Fantastic Four as nobody else on the roster averages more than four points per outing.

Are the Fantastic Four enough to carry MU to an upper division finish in the BIG EAST? As Rob pointed out yesterday, the answer may be a resounding 'No.'

The Golden Eagles lack of depth heading into conference play might be the single biggest factor in determining whether or not Buzz Williams' first vintage matures into a March surprise. In particular, lack of depth on the baseline is certainly contributing to Marquette's embarrassing team defense this season -- among BIG EAST teams, only Seton Hall and Providence offer a more porous defense than the Golden Eagles so far this season.

Despite proclamations by coach Buzz Williams that injured newcomers Joseph Fulce and Chris Otule have been 'pitiful' in their returns, their presence and talent provide hope for a team that has become overly reliant on role players forced into prolonged stints on the floor. Still, despite the optimism of a healthy roster, integrating two newcomers who have yet to practice extensively into a mature rotation will be no small feat.

Nevertheless, the BIG EAST will shed no tears for Marquette, and the Villanova Wildcats shape up as a tremendous challenge for the Golden Eagles.

The Wildcats head into Milwaukee after blowing out Temple earlier in the week, 62-45. The Wildcats are paced by 6'8" senior Dante Cunningham who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding (17 and 7). Talented guard Scottie Reynolds kicks in 14 points a game, and is knocking down 37% of his three-point attempts. Sophomore guard Corey Stokes has elevated his play this season, averaging better than eleven points per game --nearly double his freshman average. In addition, Stokes is hitting 45% from deep.

As with most teams in the BIG EAST, Villanova has played a modest schedule to date falling at Texas last month while beating up on their local neighbors St. Joseph's, Temple, Pennsylvania and LaSalle.

Tipoff is scheduled for 1:30pm. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2. Just in case, here's a look back at the pre-season predictions from the Cracked Sidewalks crew.

Media Updates
Marquette official game notes
Rosiak's pre-game blog

Villanova Bloggers are out in force
VUHoops.com checks in with a preview
I Bleed Blue and White previews the game
Let's Go Nova previews the tilt

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Resolution: Expect Less from Marquette

I love New Year's Eve. Even if it's a "one-second holiday", it's one of my favorite calendar events of the year. After all, each New Year is an opportunity for renewal and fresh optimism. Didn't like the last year? Make some resolutions and work to make the next year even better. Weird as it may seem, this post falls in line with making 2009 better. Frankly, I have come to believe that people are expecting too much from Marquette this year. Yet if you look at the projected Pomeroy schedule predictions, we presently see a projection of Marquette finishing 9-9 in conference. The numbers are telling us something different than expectations.

Going 9-9 in conference may be a shocking scenario to some, even inspiring an interesting thread on MarquetteHoops.com. I wanted to take my own look at things because of a few concerns with the way that Pomeroy does his predictions. First, I don't think that his numbers take into consideration such factors as home versus road. It's no surprise that teams play better at home, but the statistics back it up. For example, Marquette averaged 1.06 points per possession of offense last year at home and on the road. However, the defense at home (0.91 ppp allowed) was much better than on the road (1.07 ppp allowed). In fact, only three teams in the Big East last year had winning road efficiency margins (UL, UConn, and Georgetown), and their statistics were still worse on the road.

In addition, I'm pretty sure that Pomeroy also doesn't account for matchup-specific situations. In other words, what if two winning teams match up, but one is good at forcing turnovers and one is lousy at protecting the ball? What if a team is great at getting to the Free Throw line, but it doesn't matter for the other team's defensive efficiency?

Therefore, I ran a model that looked at these two issues in particular with the following results.

Unfortunately, using this model, the end result is pretty much the same as Pomeroy's. The model that was run also comes up with a prediction of 9-9. With a deeper look, the expected win percentages seem about right to me. Look at the percentages in the following categories:

Home wins (high confidence) - Cincy, DePaul, St. Johns
Home wins (tougher games) - Villanova, WVU, Georgetown, Seton Hall, UConn
Home loss - Syracuse

Road wins (high confidence) - NONE. It's the Big East, dummy!
Toss-up games - USF, DePaul
Winnable road games - Rutgers, Providence
Unlikely wins - Notre Dame, Villanova, Georgetown, Louisville, Pittsburgh

Seems about right. Probably the only quibbles I have right now are the likely win against UConn and how low the percentages are for ND, @GU, @UL, and @Pitt. With more data, those percentages should get better, but does anyone really expect us to win those games, except maybe in South Bend?

However, the second area where Pomeroy's prediction is missing is a confidence interval. In other words, a prediction of 9-9 is useless without some sort of range. Therefore, I ran a monte carlo simulation with the predictions that are above.

This story is more doom and gloom. According to the monte carlo simulation:

  • There is almost a 2/3 chance that the team ends up with nine wins or less
  • Eighty percent likely that the team only gets ten wins
  • That means only a 20% confidence that the team even matches last year's win total of eleven wins
  • Hoping that the team ends up with thirteen wins and a shot at the Big East Championship? 2.8% chances are the odds.
  • Or, if you really want to get freaked out... there's a one in four chance the team finishes with seven wins or less.
Better said, as the team is playing now, the most likely scenario is that Marquette finishes 9-9 in conference, with a final record of 20-11 and hoping they get an NIT berth. Or worse.

Personally, this is a tough pill to swallow. With four 1000-point scorers plus Lazar Hayward on the roster, I had high expectations as well in October, calling for
22-24 regular season wins (we were 22-8 in regular season last year), finish somewhere between 2nd and 5th (11-13 wins) in the BIG EAST, and win their first game in the NCAA tournament.

However, once I began looking at the numbers and prediction model with last year's data, my expectations were reduced to a record of 22-9 (11-7). This was still far less than the MUSCoop community.

Why is Marquette on a trajectory towards a worse finish this year, despite all that experience? I don't have the answer to that question. Our defense is clearly worse, but it's unclear if it's coaching, the transition of systems, the lack of height, or any combination. It's also clear that Marquette (#47 Pomeroy ranking) has not kept pace with the rest of the Big East. There are five teams in Pomeroy's top 10 ranking, and seven teams in his top 30. The rest of the Big East has gotten better, while Marquette is playing worse. It should be no surprise, then, that the predictions are for MU to finish worse.

Sure, maybe there's a chance that the team will start playing better. The team is adjusting to the new system, and we'll get 13 min per game from Otule and Fulce (combined). I haven't given up hope on the 20%, but for now, my New Year's Resolution is to expect less.

Happy New Year

edit: evidently I can't add

Monday, December 29, 2008

MU clobbers Presbyterian

In its final tune-up before BIG EAST conference action, the Golden Eagles rolled past the Blue Hose 84-45 yesterday at the Bradley Center. Lazar Hayward took advantage of the matchup to deliver another double-double, this time leading the team with 22 points and 11 boards. Wesley Matthews scored 21 points. With the win, MU is now 11-2 on the season.

Coach Buzz Williams used the game to his full advantage in a desperate attempt to develop more depth for the upcoming conference season. Chris Otule played 14 minutes and Joe Fulce played a dozen. Still, Buzz was not impressed calling both players "pitiful" after the game (check out Rosiak's post game blog for details).

Rosiak's recap
Rosiak post-game notes blog
MUScoop post-game comments thread
Box score

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Marquette hosts Presbyterian College

MU will look to shake away the downtime from Christmas break when they host the Presbyterian College Blue Hose at 1pm today at the Bradley Center.

The game is available FREE as a Web stream today via this link at CBS College Sports All-Access.

Here's Rosiak's preview.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Matthews Explosion Very Similar to Tony Smith’s Senior Year

Guest Blogger John Pudner has been itching to write about Wes this year. Merry Christmas:

Wesley Matthews 33 game pace

Tony Smith final total













1st 3 yrs.













Sr. year


























Like Smith, Matthews in on pace for 37% of his contributions his senior year.

An already very good guard gets a new coach for his senior year and explodes. Certainly the best example of this in Marquette history is Tony Smith, who put up very solid numbers through his first three seasons, then set the all-time scoring record with 23.8 points per game in his All-American senior year (1989-90). Smith was then taken in the 2nd round of the NBA staff, where he became a great advocate for Marquette.

After watching Matthews once again rise to the occasion and score 30 points against Tennessee, I checked his numbers compared to Tony Smith and was amazed at the similarities through their careers.

  • Through three years Smith had scored 999 points to Matthews 1,032 in a few more games.
  • Steals are even closer, with Smith having 118 through three years to 112 for Matthews.
  • When you add all the total contributions (points, rebounds, steals, assists and blocked shots), the two are almost identical through three years – Smith 1,798 to Matthews 1,776.
  • If Matthews continues on his current pace for a 33-game season, his senior stats would be almost identical to Smith’s with nine fewer points than Smith (680 to 689) and only eight fewer total contributions (1,056 to 1,064).
  • That would mean that Matthews would have recorded 37% of his total contributions (1,056 of 2,832) during his senior year – the exact same percentage as Smith (1,064 of 2,862 his senior year).
  • The contributions are about just as valuable this season as they were in 1989-90, as Marquette gave up 68.5 points per game that season and MU is giving up 68.6 points per game this season (in other words, it takes just as many points to win a game this year as then so each point is just as valuable).

What’s even more amazing is that they are doing it the same way. As I noted on page 68 of the Ultimate Hoops Guide: Marquette University (www.collegeprowler.com/basketball), Smith’s scoring shot up as a result of increasing his three-point attempts to three a game – exactly what Matthews has done this year – and almost doubling his free throw attempts per game and hitting 87% of free throws – again exactly what Matthews has done this year. From page 68:

“Smith took only 12 three-pointers in 1989, hitting eight of them. Under O’Neill, he put up 87 three pointers, or three per game, hitting 41%.” (post script: Matthews has increased his 3-point attempts from less than 2 per game to the same three per game as Smith’s senior year, though he is slightly less accurate with 33% made.)

“He (Smith) was getting only four free throws per game in 1989, and obviously he started driving to the hoop because he almost doubled that and hit 87 percent of his free throws once he was at the line.” (post script: Matthews has more than doubled his free throws per game from 4.7 to 9.7, and is hitting exactly 87% of them, the same percentage as Smith).

Don’t get me wrong – Smith put up these numbers over a 29 game season and Matthews is matching his figures based on a 33 game projection, so it’s kind of like comparing Babe Ruth’s home run record in a 154-game season to Roger Maris’s record in a 162-game season. Also, Smith did not have to face the Big East like Matthews will have to starting January 1, so his pace certainly could fall off.

The only other similar case of a player starting with three very good years and then improving dramatically to a new level his senior year was Jim McIlvaine, who also made 37% of his contributions in his senior season partly by blocking 142 shots to be named National Defensive Player of the Year. However, it’s hard to compare centers and guards, and that explosion was partly the result of McIlvaine’s stats being held down the first three years due to his having to share time with the great Ron Curry at center.

In scanning through the 667 players in Marquette history, Smith, Matthews and McIlvaine are the only three examples I can find of players improving this much their senior year after having already been a good starter during their previous THREE seasons. I did find seven other examples of a player having TWO strong seasons (sophomore and junior year) and then exploding to another level his senior year: Gene Berce in 1948 (5th in nation in scoring his senior year); Rube Schultz in 1955, Mike Moran in 1959, Joe Thomas in 1969, Ron Curry in 1993, Chris Crawford in 1997 and Steve Novak in 2006.

John Pudner, Journalism ’88, was Editorial Editor and then News Editor for the Marquette Tribune. He was named top sports news writer in Virginia in 1991 while working for the Charlottesville Observer and wrote a weekly column on his rankings of baseball pitchers for the New York Post before leaving journalism for a career in politics and government affairs.

John's book Ultimate Hoops Guide: Marquette University can be ordered here: (www.collegeprowler.com/basketball)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from Cracked Sidewalks


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The spirit of Christmas - Dwyane Wade donates house to displaced family

Former Marquette star Dwyane Wade did the ultimate in the name of Christmas spirit. After hearing about a family in South Florida who had their house accidentally burnt down by a nephew, Wade decided to provide a bit of Christmas cheer. Wade gave a house to the displaced family. A HOUSE!

The family was overcome with emotion and has a chance at a new beginning. We salute you Dwyane Wade. That goes above and beyond. Merry Christmas everyone, especially to you Mr. Wade.

Dwyane Wade donates house to displaced family

Still bored at work? Two more videos from the Buzz Show

Marquette Basketball Team Children's Hospital Visit

Homer's interview with Jimmy Butler:

Working on Xmas Eve? Here's a time killer.

Here's the last 6 minutes of the MU vs. NCSU game in high quality.

Damn, I love YouTube.

How did we ever live before the internets? I'll tell you how: like animals.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

NC State Numbers Recap

or - Winning the game while only having an advantage in one area

Four Factors Breakdown

Kind of crazy that NC State ended up with advantages in three of the four factors, but Marquette still won. The key here was actually two areas. First, Marquette ended up with a significant advantage on Turnover Rate. Second, an under-rated key is that although MU lost on eFG%, they actually did fairly well at that area. Our eFG% was higher than the season average. In addition, if you look at our eFG% from the other key non-conference games (Dayton, UW@Madison, and Tennessee), our eFG% was much lower than average. Good news there.

One area of concern, however, is how low the Free Throw Rate was for Marquette. Keep in mind that Marquette is #8 in the country at getting to the line. In this game the actual rate was much lower, which is probably a more accurate reflection of how life will be on the road this year. Just something to keep in mind.

Individual Player Ratings

No surprise that Dominic James was the most productive player on the court, both in terms of points produced and net points added. James did it on the offensive end of the court, because his defensive rating was worse than team average. Also, the stats don't account for one clutch shot at the end of the game.

McNeal was the flip side of this approach, where he highlights the nature of McNeal's game. Despite his offensive rating being worse than team average, McNeal had the highest usage (31%) on the team. Still, McNeal was net positive on the strength of his defense.

I'd also like to highlight that for another big game, Patrick Hazel was a productive player in limited minutes, with performance better than team averages on both ends of the court. Finally, rough game for Wesley.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2008

DJ's shot puts MU in the victor's circle

My update will be limited as I missed most of the game traveling today. I was able to catch the last 16 minutes of the second half in the freezing cold outside while viewing the broadcast online via a wireless connection (not sure who's connection I borrowed in the neighborhood, but it was open and password free....maybe someone in the bandwidth giving mood for Christmas) with my son...painful...and beautiful all at once.

In a nutshell, this was a below average ACC team from last year who has looked pretty good this year, including a narrow loss at Davidson. The Wolfpack were 7-1 heading into the game, including 6-0 at home. The game marked Marquette's first road game of the season, less than two weeks before BIG EAST play.

MU trailed by three at the break, and the game was close for most of the second half until the seniors took over...all of them. In the last eight minutes it was the seniors' time to shine.

It started with MU trailing 52-50 with 8:44 remaining when Dominic James found an open Wes Matthews in the corner for a three pointer. The senior nailed it putting MU up 53-52. After NC State tied the game, DJ juked the Wolfpack defender badly for a layup to put MU back up two points. A few moments later, senior Jerel McNeal was fouled but made both free throw attempts to open up the a four point lead. After an NC State bucket, another senior, Dwight Burke, was not to be outdone. Burke went hard to the basket only to be fouled. The 40% free throw shooter stepped up to the line and rattled home both shots to push MU back up 59-55 with 5:16 to play.

The next 90 seconds would be the DJ show as he made back to back three-point bombs to put the Golden Eagles up 65-59 and forcing a timeout by NC State with 3:26 to play. The game seemed to be in MU's control but the Wolfpack resfused to back down. An NC State three-pointer out of the timeout cut the lead to three. Then a missed MU jump shot led to another Wolfpack three-pointer, tying the game was tied at 65-65 with under two minutes to play.

The next minute was not one the seniors should hang their hat on. After a foul on junior Lazar Hayward, another foul was called on Jerel McNeal giving the Wolfpack two free throws. State did not take advantage by bricking both attempts. Soon, the Wolfpack would be given another opportunity after DJ was called for a travel by sliding his pivot foot, but again State could not take advantage.

Now with less than a minute to play, MU moved the ball to Lazar Hayward on the left wing where he missed a mid range jump shot to take the lead with :48 remaining. NC State rebounded and tried to go down low for the lead. A great defensive play by Dwight Burke and James forced a turnover with 25 seconds left. Buzz Williams took a timeout to setup the final play.

On the inbounds play, DJ was given the ball. He yo-yo'd the ball back and forth down to 15, down to 10, down to 7 and still nothing. He made a break toward the right sideline and was cutoff, he then reverse dribbled to the left and launched a three-pointer that was golden with 0.4 left. MU up 68-65. WOW. Not exactly the most elegant play but DJ made it work. What a spectacular moment for the senior, clutch.

NC State had to make a miracle play to go to OT and almost did. The Wolfpack threw the inbounds pass to the top of the key where they turned and launched a near three-pointer....GOOD. Fortunately for MU, the shooter's foot was actually on the line and the shot was not released until after the horn sounded (edit: thanks, commenters).

The win marks only the fourth in MU history in the state of North Carolina, moving MU's record to 4-25 all time.

Buzz Williams
is the ONLY MU coach with a winning record in the state of North Carolina at 1-0.

With the victory MU moves to 10-2 on the season. MU's next game is December 28th against Presbyterian at the Bradley Center.


Rosiak's recap article

Rosiak's excellent recap blog detailing James' history as a clutch performer and much more.

Raleigh News & Observer on MU's buzzer beater stunning the Wolfpack.

AP Recap with video


The Carolina Curse very much alive for Marquette

Three wins in 28 chances. A winning percentage of .107. That is the dismal record of Marquette men's basketball when playing in the state of North Carolina. The curse has spared no one. Not Tom Crean, not Al McGuire, not Hank Raymonds, not Mike Deane, not Kevin O'Neill, not Bob Dukiet....nobody. In fact, McGuire only won one game in North Carolina. Tom Crean's clubs won the other two. Nobody else was able to scratch out a victory and every single MU coach has a losing record in that state.

The last win came in 2005 against East Carolina when a Steve Novak 3-pointer forced overtime. In the OT period, Travis Diener hit the game winner with under three seconds to play to give MU the 71-69 win. MU has only played in North Carolina one time since that game, a blowout loss to Michigan State in the NCAA tournament as guard Jerel McNeal looked on in a cast.

Tonight, MU is a 2 point favorite over the Wolfpack. Yours truly believes that NC State wins this game, but I'm happy to very wrong if it goes to Buzz and the boys. NC State is hungry, we have not played well on the road yet with tonight's game a true road test and not on a neutral court.

The Carolina Curse in all it's glory

Dec 14, 1964 loss at Wake Forest 62-95
Mar 23, 1974 win vs #6 Kansas 64-51 (NCAA Tournament in Greensboro)
Mar 25, 1975 loss vs #1 NC State 64-76 (NCAA Tournament in Greensboro)
Jan 28, 1979 loss at #7 Duke 64-69
Jan 31, 1981 loss at #6 Wake Forest 60-83
Feb 17, 1981 loss at Charlotte 58-61
Feb 6, 1983 loss at Wake Forest 65-78
Feb 15, 1987 loss at #3 North Carolina 74-83
Feb 4, 1989 loss at Wake Forest 67-70
Nov 14, 1990 loss at #6 Duke 74-87
Jan 21, 1991 loss at North Carolina State 76-89
Jan 25, 1996 loss at Charlotte 69-79
Feb 15, 1997 loss at Charlotte 46-66
Mar 14, 1997 loss to Providence 59-81 (NCAA Tournament in Charlotte, NC)
Jan 13, 1998 loss at Charlotte 53-66
Jan 21, 1999 loss at Charlotte 61-67
Jan 29, 2000 loss at Charlotte 54-60
Jan 13, 2001 loss at #9 North Carolina 54-84
Mar 3, 2001 loss at Charlotte 62-85
Dec 29, 2001 loss at #25 Wake Forest 59-64
Jan 5, 2002 loss at Charlotte 68-76
Feb 26, 2002 loss at East Carolina 46-51
Dec 30, 2002 loss at East Carolina 70-73
Jan 18, 2003 win at Charlotte 67-64
Jan 20, 2004 loss at Charlotte 76-84
Feb 13, 2005 win at East Carolina 71-69 (OT)
Mar 15, 2007 loss to Michigan State 61-49 (NCAA Tournament in Winston-Salem, NC)

Still searching for answers in the state of North Carolina. Tonight won't be easy.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Save the Date: 2nd Annual Warrior Day Golf Outing

Hey -- a quick heads up Warrior fans.........The 2nd Annual Warrior Day Golf Outing will be held on Tuesday, July 21 at the Grand Geneva in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

As a reminder, the event is hosted by Bo Ellis to honor his daughter, Nikki, a 2000 MU graduate who passed away from a rare liver disease. The golf outing in Nikki's memory will benefit the Nicole Ellis Foundation. All proceeds will benefit the American Liver Foundation, Marquette Men's and Women's non-revenue sports, and the proposed Hank Raymonds Educational Center. Last year the event raised more than $37,000.

We'll share more information as it becomes available -- so please do mark your calendars and strongly consider attending if you are so inclined.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. Beware of Gorgon

It's that time of year and we wanted to wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday season. We've decided to have a little fun with our seasons greetings in the videos below, including a special, rare find of Tom Crean that we have unearthed....beware of the Gorgon.

So Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all of you in Marquette land.

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

MU blasts WCU, Otule and Fulce see first action of the season

The Marquette Golden Eagles topped Western Carolina last night 94-77 on the strength of a career-high 27 points from Lazar Hayward. Jerel McNeal contributed 19 points and Wesley Matthews added 18. The game was never in doubt as MU raced out to an 11-1 lead and cruised to a 53-27 halftime lead.

Nevertheless the night's most significant development was the season debut of both Chris Otule and Joseph Fulce. Otule played 11 minutes winding up with three points, all from the free throw line. Joseph Fulce also saw 11 minutes of action, chipping in a bucket and four boards. With less than two weeks to go before the conference opener, a healthy roster is a welcome development for the program. Talk about it on MUScoop.

Next up for Marquette -- a visit to North Carolina State on Monday night.

Friday, December 19, 2008

MU returns to Cupcake City

It's a Marshmallow World in Milwaukee today and Marquette (8-2) hosts another resident of Cupcake City, the Western Carolina Catamounts. Despite the heavy snow, tipoff remains scheduled for 7:30pm tonight at the Bradley Center.

After falling to Tennessee in a high-profile out-of-conference matchup and with a road game at NC State early next week, WCU has the makings of a classic trap game for Marquette. WCU (5-3) has played a difficult schedule in the early going this season, getting rolled at UConn but topping a series of respectable programs like Kent State, Louisiana Tech and Northern Illinois.

6'8" junior Jake Robinson paces WCU at 15 points and 5 boards per outing. Robinson is a gunner, leading the high-scoring Catamounts in three-pointers made and attempted while hitting nearly 38% from deep. 6'6" guard Brandon Giles chips in 14 points and 3 boards, while 6'4" guard Harouna Mutombo delivers 12 points and five boards. WCU is coached by Larry Hunter, one of the winningest active coaches in the country, who will go for win number 549 tonight.

Here's Rosiak's blog preview
Here's the Scout.com preview
Official MU game notes

(BTW, the Phil Spector Christmas Album remains one of the best)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Two more vids from the Buzz Show: Mo and Buzz Mic'd during TS Game

Mo Acker:


Tennessee Numbers Recap

Before digging into the numbers, I want to add some of my own comments and build on the great original recap by Tim. Personally, I'm really not all that surprised by the fact that we lost at Tennessee. We were an underdog going into the matchup and it went kind of as expected. Sure, it was disappointing to lose, but it's not like it was surprising.

One key for me right now is that I've just lowered my expectations. With only four consistent contributors, I have a hard time seeing how this team gets to more than 21 wins and 11-7 in conference. That is not something I would have said in April or even August. However, in a few days, we'll re-run the numbers on season predictions to see what the numbers say in comparison to intuition.

Team Numbers

Offensive efficiency was much worse than normal (110.9 – or 1.11 points per possession), and so was defensive efficiency (93.7 – or 0.94 points per possession). Marquette lost on three of the four factors, but three of those factors were essentially toss-ups. The actual pace of the game was played at 72 possessions, which is much slower than the predicted pace of 83 possessions. In the preview for the game, we called the matchup a 39% chance of Marquette victory.

Unfortunately, Marquette wasn't able to get a significant advantage on turnovers. As for Tennessee "winning the rebounding battle", I just don't see it. OR% was pretty close. Finally, if anyone really is griping about the refs, the FTR was close for both teams, but the difference was the Marquette lack of depth.

This game, more than anything else, hinged on the effective field goal percentage. As highlighted by Tim, Marquette only made ten 2-point field goals. So which players helped the offensive and defensive performance?

Individual Player Information (check here if you want a refresher)

Not that fancy stats are needed to demonstrate this, but Wesley was by far the most productive player on the team. In fact, he was the only net-positive contributor. In addition, Wesley did that while using 29% of all possessions. That is a really high usage, and highlights how well he did. As a reminder, typically players become less efficient with more usage.

Coming in right behind as a little surprise is actually Patrick Hazel, who was better than team average offensively and defensively in limited minutes. After that, everyone else on the team was worse offensively than the team average. However, Lazar, Butler, and Burke at least made positive defensive contributions. In addition, Lazar was the second contributor for Points Produced. Finally, I won't continue with any poor comments about James or McNeal, but I would like to note that McNeal was actually less efficient than James. The key difference was that James was on the floor an extra 12 minutes.

Time to move on. There's a game on Friday!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Chism's career night leads Vols over Marquette

Wayne Chism keyed a decisive Tennessee second half run as Marquette fell short on the road tonight, losing 80-68 in Nashville. With the loss the Golden Eagles fall to 8-2 on the season.

The teams were tied at the break. After exchanging baskets early in the second half, MU went on a 6-0 run to push ahead 48-46 with 10:44 remaining thanks in part to the swarming 1-3-1 defense that worked equally well against Wisconsin earlier this season.

This time the momentum was short-lived.

Following a desperate Tennessee timeout, Dominic James bailed out the Vols when he fouled 6'9" Wayne Chism in three-point territory with just four seconds left on the shot clock. Chism hit a pair of free throws kicking off an 8-0 Volunteer run, pushing the Volunteer lead to 54-48 with nine minutes remaining. Marquette was never able to get closer than two points for the rest of the game.

Lazar Hayward's three-pointer with 2:20 remaining capped another 6-0 MU run which cut the Volunteer lead to 70-68, but Tennessee responded with a Josh Tabb three-pointer to extend the lead to five and the Vols soon salted the game away.

Surprisingly, during the key second half run by Tennessee, Buzz Williams declined to go back to the 1-3-1 zone which worked so well earlier in the game, opening the door for Chism's huge second half. Chism finished with 26 points, 21 in the second half, more than double his season average of 10. Marquette surrendered 48 second half points to the Volunteers.

Marquette wasted a Yeoman's effort by Wesley Matthews who wound up with a career-high 30 points. Matthews was a one-man wrecking crew, scoring 20 of Marquette's 36 second half points.

Jerel McNeal turned in his worst performance of the season finishing with 10 points before fouling out with 5:33 to play. Dominic James finished with 8 points on 3-13 shooting. Lazar Hayward had 14 points.

A few other observations:

  • Wesley Matthews not only gets to the line, but actually sinks his free throws (Matthews was 15-18 from the line). The rest of the team combined for a disappointing 9-17 from the charity stripe. Here's the box score.
  • In today's Journal-Sentinel, coach Williams explained that foul trouble as a major factor in the game. It was, but his decision to put Jerel McNeal back into the lineup late in the first half where he promptly collected his third foul contributed to the problem. McNeal played only 25 minutes before fouling out.
  • Tennessee connected on 49% of their shots for the game. MU's lack of depth and height is clearly a factor in the team's porous defense so far this season.
  • As problematic as the defense appears to be, MU's offense was ineffective last night as the Golden Eagles routinely settled for jumpshots. A startling 52% of Marquette's field goal attempts were three-pointers (25 of the team's 48 attempts). Marquette connected on 32% of those shots (8 for 25), and shot only 38% for the game overall.
  • For the game, Marquette made only ten two-point field goal attempts (five in each half).
  • Despite McNeal's foul trouble, David Cubillan played just one minute. Considering he blew two defensive assignments, it was one minute too long.

Marquette takes on Tennessee on a "Neutral Court"

Marquette (8-1) faces its most difficult test of the season to date when they square off tonight against the Tennessee Volunteers down in Nashville. The game, televised on ESPN at 8:30pm CT, marks MU's first appearance in the BIG EAST/SEC Invitational.

The 16/19th ranked Volunteers (7-2) return to their home state after an 88-72 trouncing at Temple over the weekend. As usual, Bruce Pearl runs one of the nation's most innovative rotations -- no fewer than 10 Volunteers average at least 10 minutes per outing so far this season, with eight of those players averaging at least six points per game. As Rosiak points out, UT is deeper, taller and more athletic than MU. Once again Lazar Hayward's effectiveness against a wave of athletic forwards will figure heavily in the final outcome.

UT is paced by 6'7" junior forward Tyler Smith at 17 points and six rebounds per game. Starting guard J.P. Prince missed the Temple game with an injured leg, and he is doubtful for tonight's game. If Prince is out, the Volunteers have more than enough depth to compensate, particularly with 6'7" guard Scotty Hopson nailing 50% of his three-pointers.

Meanwhile, Buzz Williams has become increasingly reliant on the Fantastic Four while the thin Marquette bench continues to struggle. Only backup point guard Maurice Acker averages more than four points per game. In a game that promises a brisk pace, perhaps the bench will find a bit of magic on the road tonight.

While depth and athleticism are hallmarks of this UT squad, the team is loose with the basketball and has been an up and down rebounding team at times this year. Here are the Top Five Numbers to know for this game. Numbers for this section come from Pomeroy's Scouting Report and Game Plan, as well as from Rob's own calculations.

39% - That's a model prediction on the chances for a Marquette victory. Hey, it could be a lot worse. Pomeroy only gives us a 15% chance of winning the game. One item of concern is that we are ranked ridiculously low in the Pomeroy Rankings (#67). Some may say that this is attributed to our strength of schedule (poor), so hopefully our team will rise as the season moves along.

Moving on... bringing back the quote from Rosiak's IPFW Blog Recap, there's the following quote from Buzz:

"Tennesee will probably have more than 12," said Williams when asked about the 12 offensive boards. "Probably double it."
15% - If Tennessee gets 24 offensive rebounds (which would be an OR% of about 50%), our chances of winning the game drop to fifteen percent. Marquette needs to hold the Vols to about thirteen offensive rebounds or less (or an OR% about 26%). Bad news... Tennessee is #29 in the country at OR% with an average of 39.5%.

5 - Tennessee's average height ranking. Marquette's average height ranking? 315! However, much of the advantage for TN comes at the PG, SG, and SF positions, where hopefully Marquette's experience (#10) will provide a counterweight against TN (#298). (Hat tip: Pardner).

21 - This is approximately the number of turnovers that Marquette needs to force in order to win. This would mean Tennessee ending up with a TO% of about 25%, or one in every four possessions. Right now, TN is about average (20%) for turnover rate. Can the Marquette defense deliver?

13 - Marquette needs to protect the ball exceedingly well, by getting thirteen turnovers or less. Marquette is a pretty good team at protecting the ball (#56), but this would involve protecting the ball even better than normal.

In summary, we see a fairly close matchup, with Tennessee ending up with advantages on eFG% and OR% and Marquette winning the TO% and FTR battles. The prediction is TN wins with an efficiency of 1.03 points per possession vs Marquette's 0.98. The question is if Marquette can keep Tennessee off the offensive glass and enjoy a significant advantage at turnovers to turn that efficiency around.

Media updates
*joint collaboration between Rob and Tim.

Monday, December 15, 2008

IPFW Numbers Recap

Or... do traditional rebound figures tell the whole story?

Numbers Recap

Here is the breakdown for efficiency and the Four Factors against IPFW. In the IPFW preview that we did, I said that my prediction was for a 95% chance of Marquette victory, with the offense a little stagnant and the defense better than normal.

Turns out pretty close to expectations. The key here was that MU ended up with a season-best in defensive eFG%. Certainly, Marquette was sloppier with the ball than they should have been, and they didn't get to the line nearly as much as they usually do (avg FTR of 36.2%). However, the defense was pretty good, especially considering that IPFW was the best cupcake (queen of the pigs?) that MU has played so far.

Is it a bad thing to give up 12 offensive rebounds?

Here is another opportunity to dig into tempo-free stats a little bit more. In the Rosiak Blog recap, there's the following comments and quote from Buzz

On the flip side, the Golden Eagles allowed a similarly-sized team in the Mastodons to grab 12 offensive rebounds, and IPFW actually scored more points off turnovers -- 15 off 14 compared to 13 off 12 for MU.

"Tennesee will probably have more than 12," said Williams when asked about the 12 offensive boards. "Probably double it."

Setting aside the comment about Tennessee's offensive rebounds (which we'll get to in our TN preview), it probably wasn't that bad of a thing for IPFW to get 12 offensive rebounds. If anything, there should be a little concern because IPFW is a pretty poor offensive rebounding team, so MU should have actually held them to a lower percentage. However, Marquette dominated on offensive rebounding percentage (50% vs 27.9%). In addition, IPFW missed forty shots, so there were a lot of rebounds to grab! Despite the 12 offensive rebounds, this was the fourth best defensive performance on the defensive glass.

How good is it to get 19 points and 18 rebounds?

Finally, the official story after the game was about Hayward's big game, especially on the glass. Rightly so, because frankly, those are big numbers, and it was the most rebounds since Amal McCaskill grabbed the same number in 1995. However, I'd like to note that those factors alone don't tell the whole story. In fact, Wesley quietly had a game that was almost as productive in five fewer minutes.

Lazar - ORtg (106.8) ; DRtg (67.1) ; Net points (8.3)
Wesley - ORtg (127.8) ; DRtg (57.6) ; Net points (7.9)

Wesley was more efficient both offensively and defensively. How so? Lazar missed 8 shots, had four turnovers, and only one assist. Meanwhile, on top of nine rebounds, Wesley had four assists, three blocks, two steals, and a single turnover (no - not making that joke).

I certainly don't want to take away from Lazar's rebound production. After all, tying a 13 year record is a big deal. It is definitely not a bad thing to get 18 rebounds. My point is that the whole story is somewhat different, and that net contributions can come in a variety of ways. I'd rather give credit to Wesley and Lazar, instead of just Lazar.